Working in Series

I just finished a satisfying series of works. These pieces are related in content: they are feminized chairs that cannot accommodate “a seat at the table” and feature a sort of structural reworking necessary because of some people’s cultural predisposition about women. The chairs are redesigned so they can continue to stand after losing a bit of themselves.

Spine 2019
35″ x 17″ x 12.5″
Somebody’s Girlfriend 2019
36″ x 17″ x 16″

The chairs also explore the same materials. The chair backs actually called “splats” are repeated and so are the spindles. Aprons are repeated and featured inside out, with the series of lines showing. They are simple in design and elements and tilt dramatically. The pieces seem to belong together as the fingers on your hand. Similar but different.

The repetition of these elements in several works allows for a deeper exploration of the relationships.

Domestic Violet 2019
36″ x 15″ x 13

Make no mistake. Even though these works are related, they are strong enough to stand on their own. And for the viewer, seeing a series of works should strengthen the artist’s voice rendering it more understandable.

Wobble 2019
34″ x 13.5″ x 14″

This is the last in the series. Sadly, I have gone on to examine more visual relationships and more comments on the status of women. This series did present me with problems because they lean so forcefully. We have a tendency to straighten things in our mind, and I was doing that. The chairs were not looking like who they are.

Wobble 2019

Here is my photo set-up with an infinity wall. See the white edge of the table at the bottom? It is not parallel with the ground here. All I had to do was straighten this edge so it was parallel with the bottom of the image. Then I knew that whatever tilting I was seeing was the correct tilt.

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Using Text

Makeshift 2019
36″ x 20″ x 16″

There is information invisibly flying all around us, penetrating our bodies, and playing with our minds. It was true even in the days of radio.

To give a nod to this phenomenon, I have used text in my work for years and years. Way before the internet, I was stitching symbols in my work, some unreadable, some not. I made sentences with only one letter per word. “R U M T?” Are you empty?

Digging for pieces of wood at the Goodwill Clearance Center provides me with letters for words/not words in my work. “Melissa and Doug” have a company that makes wooden toys for kids. They are good to stock up on if you work with wood.

In this chair, letters were cut up and applied to the inside of the chair and are not meant to be read. They are just noise, are blackish and work well with the inside of the apron, which is also blackish. The letter “C” sits on the back of the apron.

Because of the power of language, I don’t often compose a real word. It would totally dominate the composition. Even shapes that disguise themselves as being letters, but are not, can be powerful. I sand those letters down, relieving them of some of their power.

Short Colon 2018
42″ x 16″ x 17″

The woman that this chair is depicting is me. The words and letters are not just noise. They are clues. The backward yellow “C” in the front refers to colon cancer, which is why I have a shorter colon than most. Placing it backward and muting its color with sanding cuts its visual strength. I took the word “family”, cut it up, only suggested the “Y”, cut the “F” totally away, and cut the “A” in half, so the word does not overpower the rest of the composition. And so it does not look like a label.

I included this suggestion of “family” because it seems to be our family’s disease.

On the back of this piece, there is another “C” performing a functional job at the top of the left leg. The two other letters here are just noise, a “W” and the “F” from the word “Family” in the other view, presented backward.

Using things backward presents lots of opportunities and allows for a quiet suggestion.

This Spare Little Chair

Folding Chair 2018
35″ x 14.5″ x 13″

Why did I name this “Folding Chair”? Count me absent in so many ways with this piece. When you are next to it, its seat looks kind of triangular, slants slightly downward, and it seems as if one were to try to sit, the whole thing would fold. Perhaps that was the genesis of the name.

But the hanger across the back. Is there any household object (symbol and/or reality?) that better identifies problems that women face mostly alone? I made three chairs in 2018 using wooden hangers and was blinded to the meaning these hangers may have been adding to the composition. Not that I don’t agree with the fact that as our political discussions continue, it would not be a surprise that a hanger could become a medical tool for some women yet again.

But they are WOODEN hangers. I saw them as wooden things that would take a screw (no pun) and therefore as options for my compositions.

Backless 2018
37″ x 17″ x 16″

Above is another chair using a wooden hanger in the composition. I thought the use of the hanger, the title “Backless” as in a dress, a nice coupling of title and composition before this time. Imagine the wooden hanger replaced with a much more lethal wire one. “Shameless”?

Or “Heartless”, or “Friendless”? One point to be considered is that a wire hanger is a whole different animal than a wooden one. Wooden hangers share their name with wire ones as well as some of their uses. But not all of them.

Or is the word “hanger” such a powerful one that any association, wire or wooden implies the same idea?

Baby-Carrier

“Baby-Carrier” 2018
38″ x 18″ x 16″

In my current sculpture, I am noticing that compositional ideas ring true in comparison with my older work. Perhaps the personal way one builds a composition is one of those core truths. 

I start simple. Think of a Japanese sumi-e painting: Broad simple strokes, the detail very limited and only as much as needed to convey the message.

In a way, my chairs are composed in the same way.  In “Baby-Carrier” the bones of the chair are simple and strong. As are the bones of a woman of baby-carrying age.  Simple details accompany the chair: An egg, the womb, and an entry mechanism. Not much more.

Even with the strong bones and simple function, the chair is unusable as a seat. That is the point of these feminized chairs. This chair is different from later work, in that the chair is made from the parts of many totally different chairs, save that of the armrest and support element on which the egg is sitting. In much later work, more of the original chair is included making the added detail more like a superstructure to substitute for the missing parts of the chair. 

What challenges me in this work is the interdependence of form and function. The final structure has to support compositional integrity and have enough strength to live in the world. Or be shipped from place to place. 

Then, according to my visual art history, for the next piece, more detail is included. Below is the piece created after “Baby-Carrier”. 

“Dreamgirl”  2018
37″ x 16″ x 18″

And here is the piece created before “Baby-Carrier”, “Young Woman”.

“Young Woman” 2018
39″ x 17″ 18″

WHAT TIME LOOKS LIKE

Interesting exercise.

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Bought the laurels above for almost nothing, played with them for a couple of years, and gave up.  It is too hot here for Mountain Laurels, and they all developed holes in their leaves.  So not a lot of money was lost.

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Neither was it with all these Agave.  They all come from one mother, which is in another place on the acreage.  These love the sun here.  Same pots on the columns; common Prickly Pear is in them now.  This pool environment has lots of spiky things, counterintuitively.

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The Holly bushes on either side of the entry gate must be about two years old here.  A plywood box covers the machinery for the pool.

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Above, the hollies make a tunnel over the gate.  Brick has been added to the entry, tile to the pool deck and a little silo to cover the pool equipment. Confederate Jasmine almost covers the back fence now.  It was completely covered about four years ago, so much so that its density absorbed garden space and we had to start over.

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This is Sidney’s Live Oak, planted in 1997, the year he died.  Look at the sandy soil.  It is only with a system and a well that we can have grass.

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Here is the adolescent live oak today.  Have more of these, it takes some work to photograph and crop to make a good comparison.

DEALING WITH THE COLD

Finally, it is cold in South Carolina.  It has not been for long, and the length of the good weather at the end of last year was remarkable and unsettling.  Now over, we have to face the normal chill for a little while.

Our big chill is all my fault, not Glenn’s.  When living here alone, building this house, I chose not to include central heating.  The system I could have bought, it was the monthly bills that scared me.  And it is so moderate here,  I wondered about getting by with a gas log in one of the two huge fireplaces we have.   So that is what I did.

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It really has not affected us much.  There have been really only about four cold days where we did not care to go outside.  But outside is where all the appealing stuff exists, including our art work.  Creating my work is a pathway to feeling OK, and I need to do it.  Running will do that too, but running is tough in the cold weather as well.

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What work I have accomplished is changing.  Getting simpler.  Keep thinking about poetry and editing writing.  An image should contain only what it needs.  Nothing else.

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This piece is called  “Impulse”.  It is pretty spare, but the relationships between the lines are interesting.  I am using three legs in this series, lifting the window off the ground, and importing colors only through objects used.

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Chair legs, spindles and a child’s wooden block are the only recognizable images in the piece.  Other shapes are just odd pieces of wood we have around here. Yes, the piece leans in.  It seems to move.

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Other side.  This window has been several colors in its life time, and that is where the patterning is coming from on the right and bottom of the window.  It is so easy for me to reveal color; to apply it, the worst.

The piece above is entitled “Gravity 2.11.16” for the obvious reasons.  It is woozy in its stanze as well.  Space and time.  Unpredictable?  Maybe not, thanks to Einstein.

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Not a very flattering angle, but this image shows the depth of the piece.  You can see it is a visual cousin to “Impulse” as spindles and legs from the same chairs are used. Work tends to flow in this way.  If work is truly expressive of a temperament at a given time, examples will have common denominators.  Unless you are doing commission work.

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Above is a detail from a current commission.  Only thing in common with my work is the “waste” part.

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.

another materials

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.

CONFUSED LOUISE?

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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LOUISE-MUSE

Dear Louise, some of the pieces have more complicated bases and therefore are not as simple as those in the last post.

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Flood,  2015.  From the side, this piece looks fairly simple, and very different than most. It was created during the time of our recent thousand year rain in Columbia.

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Pushing the bases beyond any kind of norm is really fun.  So is using hardware in an unusual way.

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Male/Female,  2015

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In this piece shapes were composed on a plane to have enough diversity to anchor the window. Then the bookends were placed for added strength. Wooden figures found at the flea market populate it, a bent wood section of a chair encloses an alligator reaching for a shape at the top, while two croquet mallets without their heads frame.  The longest diagonal line is actually a hardened wooden vine from our woods.

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Above and below are two sides of a piece currently on exhibition (but to come back in ten days) for which I have forgotten the name.  It has a complicated base that contains the front two legs of a chair, plus the front seat base with holes for wicker.  A portion of that base with holes is also the crown of the piece.

name? 3

Confused, dear Louise?

JEEZ LOUISE

Some of the new work is more simple.  As always, more views of this work can be requested.

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Curveball, 2015   39″h x 23″w x 10″d

Worked a long time on this one.  Hoping less is more.  Spent time adding and subtracting, trying and rejecting.  I see this as if not one more or one less element should be included.  Haiku.  Maybe another view is in order here.

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The two curved parts which make up the base are from the same Captain’s chair.  Primary colors dominate.  The longer I have this piece the more understandable it is to me.  It sits outside of my usual composition.

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Animal Shadows, 2015   (still in an exhibition:  approx. same size as others; the crown makes it slightly taller)

Another thinly orchestrated piece.  The curvy loop is a metal tine from an old hayrake.  Perhaps influence from my husband’s work.  A bent wood chair leg makes up the crown.  Part of a find of an old wooden croquet set provides color here.  All gone now, it was a thrill to use those pieces that reminded me so much of my childhood.  Hardware from the window used in a different way fixes some shapes in place.

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Pattern, 2015   39″h x 23″w x 10″d

This piece is simple on one side, not so on the other.

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Had fun with the dremel tool making fake wood grain.  Another bent wood element is present here, along with a “chip” off my husbands old wooden scrub brush, repeating lines in a different way.

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Thinly Orchestrated, 2015    (on exhibition, similar size as others)

Fine contrasting colors of aqua and orange make up the base; most other elements are a washed gray.  The focus is a kind of crescent shape, repeated in different ways.

Lastly, dear Louise, an image of “Play” in situ.  Beautiful morning.

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