INSPIRED BY MATERIALS

INSPIRED BY MATERIALS

 

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Ronald Reagan’s Egg, 1987        Lee Malerich, 2016

The making of a work of art involves searching in many ways:  searching your soul, your opinion, your surroundings.  And then organizing this information in the way it must be.  The best work takes advantage of an expressive shape, and sometimes moves it into a foreign context.  This is what I want to do.  Connect unlike things.  Connection is powerful; I watch my 22 month old grandson connect and sort and arrange often.  It is his work.

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Lots of materials are given to me.  Some I buy, but won’t pay too much.  It’s a game.  I always wanted to do this while still teaching, but never did.  Give each student the exact same group of materials, and have them put them together.  Set the compositions up in a gallery and view the relationships and connections between the finished works.  There, the artist exists.  In that indefinable space.

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My search for materials is always exciting.  It is with the odd inspirational shape that the pieces begin.  My windows are the canvas, only they have more than two dimensions.  See the blue legs above?  A great find from last Sunday.  Have to hold myself back from cutting in to them.  Must live with them for a while to make sure they end up in the correct piece.

Not many of the shapes in the works have I actually owned beyond as art materials.  The piece above, Ronald Reagan’s Egg 1987, contains an exception and a story.

 

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Ronald Reagan was in office at the time when he sent 249 other artists and me wooden eggs.  Five from each state.  We were to use the egg and work in our characteristic way to embellish it.  We were given two.  The exhibit was to accompany the annual egg roll which was celebrated each Monday after Easter on the White House lawn with children.

I was a stitcher at the time, and you can imagine my terror of having to do something with this surface.  Spray painting them both black first seemed to be a smart thing as a stitching frenzy began.

Ended up stitching on my typical surface, cutting the stitched part off the frame and gluing it in a certain area of the egg.  Then over and over again.  A satin-stitched egg.  Don’t even have a picture of the thing except in a flashy newspaper article done in “The State” on the five  artists in SC that contributed.  That was worth the trouble.

On a rampage through my studio for some elusive thing last week, I found the black egg that (laid) unused in a drawer.   A yellow sticker on the flat bottom read “1987”.  Raw material!

And an egg was currently a symbol/shape that I had been using, only the black egg was bigger.

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F. Scott, 2015

This piece featuring the wooden roadster sinking into a surface has two eggs in it: one representing East Egg from “The Great Gatsby” and one representing West Egg.  Just love it when the Universe provides the correct materials.

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Some works fall a bit out of the norm for any number of reasons.  They could fail.  They could examine a compositional point that the artist has nothing more to say about.  They could feature one of a kind materials.  They steadfastly refuse to be grouped.  Some of these satisfy those guidelines.

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This was the first piece in the series on which I am currently working; the first to use an upright rectangular window frame and chair legs.  I thought, when working, that it was beginning to look like a mantel.  It looked like a fake mantelpiece we had in our family room way back when. Associated with that mantelpiece is a great story.  We adopted our Siamese Polly from a house in Blackjack, Mo.  Brought her home.  Later, my mother bought our fake family room mantelpiece from the same home.  Polly and the mantelpiece were reunited, and she happily surveyed her domain from the top shelf of it.

Another personal thing about this work is the use of the croquet balls and goal piece and wickets. A guy tried to give me this stuff at a flea market.  I refused and paid him.  Why would you go to all that trouble and just give stuff away? Anyway, one of the only things I have which belonged to my dad, who died so long ago are croquet wickets made out of old wire hangers.  Fashioned by him.  This piece reminds me of that.  The name of it is “From Blackjack to Florissant: Polly and her Mantel”, 2015.

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The piece above, “F. Scott”, 2015.  This piece was created in response to the fine little wooden touring car the universe sent to me.  As in the people that Fitzgerald writes about, this car is poised to crash and burn.  A slice of the passenger side of the car has been whacked off.  I also had fun playing with white painted lines on some of the elements, which is unusual.

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This piece is more about formal composition.  It is all about circles.  And it tilts to one side.  Unnerving.

This piece is about 6-8 inches shorter than the norm.

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The following piece was reviewed for my current exhibition at USC Sumter.  It was created very early in the chair series and I wanted to see if the chair could be cut up and basically reconstruced  within three rectangular windows.

http://theitem.com/stories/evocative-creative-usc-exhibit-also-timely,257175

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LAYERS

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It would be so easy to start with a blank canvas and create a work of art.  Many do.  I have to sneak in the back door and react to some product or pattern made by another and then make it my own.

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What interests me is the spaces between things, how they relate or how they merge.

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This sculpture is very new for me.  I have always respected artists who make statements in a thinly orchestrated way.  These are the beginning of my effort to do that.

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The work above is more what one would expect from me, but looser and including no female figures.  There are those damn eggs though.  Here I am trying to use a very anal method to create an atmosphere.  I use color and value to position shapes in their correct space.  Some wool is used to contrast in texture.  Two elements,  printed fabric and stitches are layered together to arrive at a visual statement.

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The same is true in the above.  These works contain only machine stitches on the surface, and they are simply decorative.  The piece was made by merging very different fabrics physically together with a special machine, strangely called an “embellisher”.

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I am going to talk about all this stuff on Tuesday, March 18, and bring some works in progress.  Hope to see you there.

SHIRLEY TEMPLE BLACK

More than a generation removed from Shirley Temple in age, we watched her movies over and over again on Saturdays.  First was our morning cartoon time.  After that, the old movies kicked in.  Heidi.  Rebecca.

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We saw Shirley dancing with Bill Bojangles Robinson up and down those stairs.   Many times as an orphan, or searching for a father who had amnesia, or living in a boarding school,  or living in a lighthouse,  she was  mistreated by bad people.  They physically pulled her away from the people she loved.  She howled.  It was awful this quest for parents and happiness.   The movies often ended with a beautiful and smartly-dressed young couple who would fall in love, adopt her, and the world was set straight again.

Throughout all these trials and tribulations, she had the most fabulous set of blond curls you could imagine.  And the dimples.  When we went to the Flaming Pit for dinner, we would order Shirley Temples to drink.  My mother had a doll packed away somewhere.

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This was the entertainment fare of the “Greatest Generation” during the Depression and we were their kids.  The stories were basic enough, and she was cute enough, that we could step aside of the older fashions and older ways.

We continued to follow her on Saturday mornings as she aged.   Was she ever “Junior Miss”?   No, her teen self was not a movie success.   As she changed that face remained iconic but twin sets and saddle shoes?  It didn’t work.   It was difficult for me to imagine Shirley that old, and it was tough for everybody.  Her hair darkened.

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So we kids were watching the adolescent Shirley when she was actually in her 30s to 40s.  She started her career in public service in 1967, and was appointed Ambassador to Czechoslovakia in 1969.  Somehow I merged her married name with the darkening of her hair and the loss we all felt as she aged.  Shirley Temple got black and everything changed.

MANY SMALL WORKS

I first met Janet Kozachek years ago at the old House of Pizza in Orangeburg,  one of the only places to have lunch in that small town back in the day.   I was immediately touched.  She looked exactly like a character in one of my childhood story books.   It was about the golden goose, and how townspeople (in a long sticky line)  exhibited their greediness for gold by being unable to unhook from the chain of folks who tried to pinch a golden feather.  It is an old Russian tale.

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Janet looked just like the girl who was directly attached to the goose in my book.  It was stunning.  Russian in extraction, her almond eyes, and her Chagall-like wisps of hair connected me intimately with this old memory.

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Janet came to us with amazing recommendations:  she was the first non-Chinese person to earn a certificate of Graduate Study from the Bejing Central Art Academy (1985), and a graduate degree from Parsons School of Design (1991).  She studied ceramics in Holland in 1986, and also later with the granddaughter of Maria Martinez.  In 1999, she was the founding president of the Society of American Mosaic Artists.  And her work is just as broad as this mosaic of an education.

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All of this background is represented in her exhibition of small works opening at the Orangeburg Arts Center on February 11, 2014.  In most of the works, one can detect the influence of multiple academic experiences, but clearly created by western hands.

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The series of little vessels (there are seventeen), done in acrylic,  stand boldly and aggressively on their trimmed ground, allowing examination of their surface creatures.  One can find small worlds  pictorially within these vessel walls.  The grounds on which the vessels sit seem likewise worldly-influenced, and all nervously vibrates.  Janet creates these little wonders by paint removal and scratching as much as paint application and calls them painting/monoprints.

Tango dancers done in quick calligraphic-like lines exhibit Janet’s Chinese self, again combining a fertile gene-mixing of her history and coming up with a hybrid.  To some Janet has added Chinese cartouches,  containing characters saying (in translation) “Chinese tango”.

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The most unsettling and evocative works are a series of paintings of troll dolls (yes, the ones from the late sixties), the doll shapes again dominating the clipped ground.  The surfaces of these examples are brilliant and shiny, completed in oil made with Renaissance techniques.  The detail and description of the dolls is masterly, including both fronts and backs.  But why troll dolls?

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In a way, the brilliant colors used in the dolls seem like pure light and heat that needs to attach to something.  Simple, geometric, vibrating Amish quilts come to mind as similar in color “heat” if not in visual language.  The trolls can be spooky, but their description is not.  Here’s why they exist:  Janet was very ill when the group was created.

Janet has suffered through an undiagnosed illness for some years.  During the time the trolls were created, she was at a low point, could barely leave the bed, and could lean up to paint just sometimes.  These dolls were collected by her, at hand, and she could lift them.  Therefore, she painted them.  That simple.

Could one make an allusion to the boomer experience with these paintings?  Maybe, who else would even know about these strange beings?

In general, this exhibition is a tribute to the healing nature of art.  All these small works being done during the years of her illness, it is proof that the time she has had to be quiet was not lost.