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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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?

Use Waste

High Chair 2018
37″ x 18″ x 19″

Aside from these chairs being made from a warehouse of old chairs on which the elements watered and muddied repeatedly, this one also includes parts of a failed earlier sculpture. Doubly recycled.

Don’t know how I was able to do this. I really believed that mistakes carry their own aura, projecting their miserable selves. They are no good to anybody, anyway. Get them out of your sight. A former instructor advised getting old drawings out of your line of vision in the studio. It was not good enough to simply turn their faces to the wall. They could do you dirty and make you produce more failures.

A kid’s story I remember was how the answers to all uncorrectly worked math problems struggled to keep themselves in the equation and from jumping off the page. Mistakes struggle in the world.

When did the tide turn with this idea? I had a very difficult time during my textile career in recycling work which was not finished. I can only remember putting down one major embroidery piece and then picking it back up years later. It finished with a very unique composition and sold right away.

My husband walked into the studio when I was finishing that failed wooden sculpture. He said “Whoa!”, which is more than he normally says unless I ask for a critique. It was a shocking reaction. The piece looked interesting to me as I produced it, but when finished it was underwhelming and too predictable. It was never photographed.

Above on the right is part of that failure. Can you see the two chair armrests that have scribbling on them made with a Dremel tool? That part is lighter than the rest of the chair. I actually removed the armrests from my personal studio chair for this use. Such sacrifice!

The recycled part is to the left of this image. And below is another chair that made use of the rest of that failed sculpture.

The Dark Side 2018

This one is now on display at the SC State Museum in Columbia.

Mamah

Mamah 2018
42″ x 17″ x 16.5″

The subject and title of this piece unfolded as it was created. That happens sometimes. As it did, my ladies as chairs entered new fertile territory.

Up to now, I was documenting roles that women play in these chairs, and illustrating how “subterranean” repair work was done to enable women to cope with their unequal status at work, at home, or the many places our country is discussing now.

And that repair work has been done here as well. We see a straight-backed chair which has basically been hacked in half, with a lot of substructure applied to keep the chair standing.

It is the support parts that made me know that the name for this chair would be Mamah.

More specifically, the lines in the upright wooden elements, and the stair- step shape most obvious in the first image in this post. As the composition began to take shape, I thought about Frank Lloyd Wright.

The only Mamah I have ever heard of is the Mamah who became the mistress of Frank Lloyd Wright. Have you read “Loving Frank” by Nancy Horan?

No pun was intended, but I leave my former description, because Mamah Borthwick was killed with an axe (along with her two children and five workers) before Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesen was set fire. Bad enough.

But the whole relationship with this very narcissistic man needed continual rebuilding. Two intact families were destroyed, and in the end, they had ten years before the horrible events. Mamah has to be the poster child for rebuilding until she just vanished.

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.

PAT CONROY AND MY LITTLE FAMILY

You have heard that he has died.  He had been, in the last years, doing so well fighting his personal devils.  He had lost weight, stopped drinking I think, toned up.  They were blindsided by this cancer as everyone who experiences it is, and poof.  The truest lover and best promoter of our eccentric little state is no more.

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I always say this. South Carolina is so small that you can know everyone you need to. We have all had experiences with Pat Conroy.  Many people I know went to school with him at the Citadel.  His descriptions of Columbia in the sixties were my people’s lives.  My ex-husband knew that tiger in the cage on Gervais Street and fed him chicken bones.

Glenn and I last saw him when he was awarded a life achievement award at our annual O’Neil Verner Award ceremony several years ago.  He was looking frail indeed.  This may have been just before his late resurgence to a kind of health.  His wife, Cassandra King, was very protective over him  (I heard her once on a local NPR show.  Herself a writer of southern stories, she spoke at book shops and libraries.  She said that one woman in attendance heard that she was married to a writer and commented to her that she loved her husband’s stories of contemporary horror and fantasy!).

When my kids were young, there was always a tug of war over what they wanted to do and what it might be good if they DID do.  I was always alone on my side.  But Pat Conroy was on my side, twice, and I think now my family might admit that my ideas were worth doing.  Not sure about that however.

We were meeting my mother and stepfather in DC for a long weekend.  We drove.  It was the early nineties, so the kids were about 10 and 8.  I got the hairbrained idea that we would listen to one of Pat Conroy’s books on our nine hour drive because it involved places that the kids knew, Bob knew, and had compelling family stories (to say the least).  I presented the idea.  Everyone was aghast.  Below, we enter DC in our Ford Aerostar.

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But we listened to the book, and it became a part of family lore.  The best book Braxton had ever read (the only book Braxton had ever read and he listened to it)!  It is difficult to remember details now, but it seems it was a good experience.

I got more demanding.  The University of South Carolina used to  have a fine book festival every spring for a week.  Now it is only a shadow of its former self.  One year, Kurt Vonnegut was to be the keynote speaker.  It was the year his home in Manhattan burned down, he was indisposed, Pat Conroy stepped in.  I wanted the four of us to go for my birthday.  A LECTURE, WHAT?  But it was my birthday.  They wanted to refuse, but did not, so we went.

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Always wanting to teach the kids that the world is indeed small and you can see things and know people by simply participating in it, I wanted them to have read a book and then hear the author talk about it.  It demystifies books. And writers. Makes them more real. This parallel is especially poignant with Pat Conroy.  He was a totally honest speaker about his life in these books.

And really not a very good one.  His spoken sentences were kind of like dry bullets.  Maybe he was an average speaker, dunno.  But compared to the lyrical love story to South Carolina that blazes from every page of his books,  his speech simply could not compare to his calculated art.  But I remember this also as being a positive experience for the family, perhaps there was an admission that participating in this kind of thing was not as bad as they had imagined.

Pat Conroy looked at the eccentricities and strangeness of our state, which abound (Strom Thurmond had a black child?), and smooths its landscape with a kind of understanding love.  Knowing what we know about his life, his writing was an attempt to save his.  And it was a generous everlasting gift to the rest of us.

 

 

I LIVE WITH A LIAR

Undependable.  Exaggerates and embellishes.  Bossy.  Rather than using the ugly characteristic of “liar”as our reference, let’s just use the initial  “G”.

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A gift really, at first, I have become a bit callous to G’s reality.  Pushy on one side, and when I aim to fulfill direction, overcompensation is the result.  It is like having a relationship with a chameleon.  For me, anyway.  There is no anchor, no fact. How can one have a true relationship with an ever changing partner?

I can feel in my bones that I am being prodded.  And judged.  Am I sleeping too many hours?  Too lazy?  It is my overwhelming desire to keep G happy.  But can G really be so or is it just manipulation?  Where is the truth here?

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G’s bigger footprint, interacting with 21st century tools is just not that great either.  Creating our conversation was just such a chore.  Things are not changing in this venue, and I get false feedback.

garmin

Above is an image of my new Garmin.  A minimal millennial.  Less is supposed to be more.  On average, on some measurements it is a pretty consistent 20 percent more. I know my run is four miles, and it measures the same five miles every day.  With stair climbing, who knows?  Sometimes when I am actively climbing to the second floor of the barn just to make Garmin happy, it refuses to record my work.  What does it use, barometric pressure?

I love that when in the proximity of my phone, I can read email on the watch.  And know the weather.  It could do more than I ask of it in this way, music, for one.

Is it worth having?  Yes.  Does it work well?   Kind of, if you know your own statistics.  It DOES tell the time.  I think devices like this are why some are saying that people are starting to wear watches again.

 

 

 

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.

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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.

THE BEST OF THE LATE FALL

So warm here, the work in the barn has gone ahead way to the end of the year. For me, working all the time is the only way to stream innovations.  They jump aboard during creative play.  If play is not happening, they do not.  Innovations do not start in my mind.

For instance, the following.  Glenn had been complaining about the heaviness of my bases lately.  But my aesthetic has always formed around what we know about gravity.  My compositions are heavier or darker at the bottoms because that is what we expect in the world in which we live.

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Heaviness at the bottom of the piece anchors it as gravity plays on that mass.

So recently I tried this.

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Dancer, 2015.  Pulling the window off of the floor animates it.  Having the weight of the piece on three legs stabilizes it.

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True, this piece needs much more space to stand on, more than the former window-based sculptures.  And true, Dancer looks like it is going to flip.  It won’t.  I have been scrawling the names of the pieces in pencil, as at the bottom of the window above,  and then making aluminum name tags with the date and my signature, to the right of the word  “Dancer” above.  Signing the tag with a Dremel tool is not easy.  Sometimes spelling my name incorrectly, I just leave it.

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This is called “Escher Poem”  2015.  Not a surprising name with the bit of a staircase-like wooden construction that I found at the Goodwill Clearance Center.

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Of course, this is in no way as complex as Escher.  This is his work, loved and digested by me,  spoken in my visual language.  Bought 27 lonely legs for thirty bucks at one of those antique grocery stores with booths.  They are proving to be worth the big price.  Waste, you know.

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“Friends” 2015 is scrawled across the top here.  More of those fine legs are included.  This piece is made from a much bigger window, and uses larger legs.  Three of the largest.  It measures about 47″ x 31″.

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Animal friends, these are.  Colored wood is added to the supports for the panes.  I use the sander to take color away or lessen it on some shapes.  All is highly varnished.  Some gouging with the dremel is used on the little cat at the upper left.