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.

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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.

 

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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FOR YOU, LOUISE

And any interested parties.

I am going to group recent work in “families” where a common aesthetic consideration can be observed.  Then we both will understand more about the work.  It is important for an artist to write about their work as it installs information in another part of the brain.  And formalizing thoughts into words does the same.

“Artist Statements” are about this but are usually so dry.  So.  I have three recent works that utilize the same straightback chair, and therefore “feel” similar to me.

Any work of interest to you can be recorded with much more detail and posted.

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another play 1

Play, 2015

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Replay. 2015

Funny, this process is already working.  I had thought each of the above examples featured the same small straightback chair as a base for the composition.  They do not!  But each pairs a chair and a similar window, table legs, whimsical parts of playthings, wooden beads cut in half, and primary colors.  The piece just above shows the first time a large circle was drilled into something to become a motif.  The (is it Chinese Checkers?) board that is part of the base has two circles drilled out, plus a small wooden cylinder that repeats a circle in a different way.

These three works depend on symmetry more than most.  Usually discouraging it with my students as the easy way out in composition, I embrace it here, although the first of the three is the strictest (its name is not posted; it is on view at USC Sumter currently and I cannot remember its name).  Even within the strict context, elements are not repeated symmetrically, but are placed to move away from it.  And of course, there is no symmetry present when viewed from various angles.

Duck heads, duck bodies in profile, headless ducks and wings are common to the second two.  Halved croquet mallets are common to the first two.

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First starting to work with chairs in this way was when I made a gift for my grandchild celebrating his first trip around the sun.  For a work for a child, there was necessary whimsy.  That feature has stuck around in these later works.

 

 

 

BEV-LEE HAS BALLS

And lots of them.

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Many of her balls are colorful old bowling balls which carry along the patina of age.  To install some of the outside ones,  she simply places a little rebar stick into the ground, and into the thumb hole of the ball.  She judges the length of the rebar to make them hover, and in this case, above the grass on Isa’s island.  Isa the greyhound used to make a bald spot in the middle of this island as she was master of this domain.  Kind of like the Little Prince on his planet, I always thought.   Isa is gone now, but the balls keep her memory on the island.

Bev-lee is old enough to have established her style.  Some never do, but she has loved orbs as long as I can remember.  She used to have an admirable glass office with her big job, and you could see the balls all through the adjoining work space.  Having an even bigger job now, she works from home and all those balls are in the home office.

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They hail from all over the world, and they are not just decorative.  These icons of hers run much deeper than just objects to collect (although there is much merit in simple collections).

Balls are Bev-lee’s visual language.  They integrate all the rooms of her house visually, and the balls on the inside and the balls on the outside claim the same nationality.  They are visual team players.

You have already seen outside balls and inside balls, but these balls also do jobs.  This is why we know that balls are far beyond a collection.  They solve problems, they create compositions, they move.  I told you Bev-lee had balls.

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Does your Mother-in-Law Tongue droop over the edge of its pot?  Use balls to keep it in place.

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Need a dust ruffle for your bed?  Why not use balls?

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Blank space under a tall table?  Fill it with balls and play with interesting texture contrast as well.  All good.

EVERYTHING is a composition.  The entire interior of this house is connected visually by repeated orbs.  All the rooms make sense together.  And this repetition is really important outside the house; in the front and back.

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The idea of balls is introduced to the viewer at the entry of the house.  Here the red annuals were selected to repeat the beautiful red bowling ball.  So now you know what you are in for in the back of the house.  Welcome to ball world!

Bev-lee has been working on a couple of ponds for many years, and creating the landscape around them.  It was many years ago, hotter than hell, when we were racing around the city doing what we do when we get together.  The “Waste as a Way of Life” world joins the orb patrol for a couple of days.  We saw that some enormous bushes were being fairly ripped out of the gardens of a shopping center.  The bushes themselves plus the root balls probably stood five feet high.  We asked about the future of the bushes; they had none.  Bev-lee talked the workers into bringing the enormous things, maybe eight, to her house, and then muscle them into the back yard.  She tipped them well.   We dribbled water on those big boys for a couple of days until she could get them planted.  It is shocking how many survived; I swear it was 100 that day.

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Above is one of those bushes, probably four feet high and wide now, and below is its context.  It is part of the landscape of the upper pond.

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There is a footpath between the two ponds.

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And the lower pond.

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Form plus function is the best, anyone will tell you.  This is what is so marvelous about Bev-lee’s universe.  She wondered  how to keep the netting that holds leaves out of the ponds in place for the winter months.  Her solution is brilliant.  She puts a big exercise ball in each pond in the middle.  On the edges, smaller balls secured from bins at Target.  After the nets are installed, the balls don’t move, and the leaves are excluded.  And her orb fetish is intact!

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It gets better.  For two years she has not removed the balls at all when not needed in winter.  She chose their colors appropriately in the first place, they are lovely as the little waterfall moves them around the lower pond (movement is a great attribute for a composition) and she has not had a fish taken by predators since she decided to leave them.  Trifecta!

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Bev-lee has balls.

 

 

MARCH WORK

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Why do this?  To see if it could be done.  The origin of my work is always with the materials.  They inspire new ideas whether it was back in the day when I stitched reacting to a wonderful new pattern, or whether, in this case, when my husband gave me a fine set of wooden casters.  Who knows why he rejected them, but they gave me all kinds of ideas.  This piece stands around 34 inches tall.  The wooden high chair within the system of windows is for a doll.

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The wooden windows are screwed together in a “Z” conformation to a depth of about 24 inches.  An old toy wooden hammer and toy ladder make up the rest of the elements that serve to embed the chair within the windows.  Initially the chair was purchased for its wooden parts, but the more interesting question became the merging of the two compositions together.

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The seat of the doll chair has luminous single digit numbers and bits of paper under layers of varnish.

The former chair then inspired the next chair, which made itself into a gift for the baby of my baby, Benjamin.  It started as a reaction to the first chair, and then became HIS chair as the universe presented elements to me, over and over again, which represent his first trip around the sun.

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I bought the little chair without a back years ago.  It became a plant stand.  I loved the peeling paint, and for this piece it has been preserved with layers of varnish.  The bit of brownish paper on the right front leg came with it; as the chair began to form and use so many warm browns, I added the rest of the newspaper bits, from an old St. Louis paper.  Have to get his heritage into the work!  One bit just says “boy”.

Glenn has lots of rusty metal farm parts for his work around.  I love the hay rakes and the way he stretches and curls them in his work but here one is used intact, minus the handle.  The bird couples had all been secured at the flea market at one time or another.  Interestingly when looking for dowels to use there was the little wooden plane at the bottom of the dowel box.  Perfect for a little boy’s circle of the sun in his first year.  All the circles used in the composition refer to this trip as well.

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The arms constructed for this chair are fairly complex using a mismatched pair of wooden swans, same with wooden birds (mismatched), and a  spoon and a fork.  They are finished with the inside and outside of an embroidery hoop with a nod to his grandmama, the former stitcher.  The tail of the little plane moves, as well as the rotor.  We shall see how he feels about this (un)toy.

 

 

 

 

 

THE WORKINGS OF CREATIVITY

Artists need to observe patterns in their behavior.  For me,  pattern is the most important element in art making.  Knowledge comes from repetition, visual cohesiveness comes from repetition, personal truths come from repetition.  Notice.

If the artist can pull way back and observe the chronology of their work, patterns will emerge.  Often, that pattern is seen retrospectively, but it helps to know what you are doing, even if you are in the middle of it.

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A while ago, I knew that sooner or later I would do something with chairs in my work.  Love their shapes and their differences.  We have two houses chock full of chairs, to the point that we can handle no more.  Where did this start?  Figured that out.

It was with my rather large collection of gliders.  Most are in good shape, nicely reflecting a well-used history.  Some are kind of abused however.  It was with these that the idea came.

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Glenn got this one for me off of a street in south St. Louis.  Its rails are gone, and the seat is full of automobile body putty.  I still wanted it.  I WANT THEM ALL.

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This one is in better shape, but the rails and swinging devices are totally gone.  It sits on nubs.  Low-slung.

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This aluminum glider skeleton never had any cushions.  I put pressure treated wood where the seat should be and have plants on it nine months out of the year.  Being aluminum, it is in fine shape.  It simply has no cushions.

I would love to be able to take parts of these gliders and mix and match them, weld them to the other, and make silly conjunctions.  My mind can see how wonderful they would be.  But I lack the skills.  Glenn has them, but he has his own work to do.  I dropped the idea and started working with wooden windows.  I can do screws and a drill.

The chairs did not leave completely however.  An early window sculpture features the back of a chair that was found in a house built in 1939 which was moved to our land.  It was used as a beautiful line.

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The detail shows also that an armrest for an outdoor aluminum chair was used in the composition.  The break in the pane of glass is highlighted in gold paint the way the Japanese do their broken teacups.

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Coming into the present, the image above represents a good haul from one day at the Goodwill Clearance Center, a place where parts for sculptures are secured.  The white baby high chair I bought for the wood, knowing that it would make great spacers to keep my windows from colliding.   They would do what the dowels are doing in the image below.

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I sat the doll chair in front of three windows for which I intended to use it as spacers.  Then I thought, why not keep the chair integral but also use it as spacers?  So below it is in progress.

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And here it is finished, but not photographed with an infinity wall yet.

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A child’s ladder, divided in two and wooden hammer complete the image.  The sculpture rolls around on wooden casters.

For the next chair in progress, the windows are completely dropped.  Interesting way to progress.

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DESTROY ART

Destroying your art can be as important and productive as creating it.  And at any time in your career, for sure.  It is especially important as a student to pack away for later your old work, or failed work.  I have participated in many a critique where an artist feels that more talking and talking, and then more talking and talking will make her work a whole.  The work must speak for itself.  Always.  The work must ask a question in some way; it must never be simply an answer.  Simple answers are not art.

The truths in your life you will always remember.  Pay attention.  Ask any therapist about this.

(The following quote is from Teresita Fernandez, recipient of the 2005 MacArthur Genius Award, in a commencement address to her alma mater, Virginia Commonwealth University’s School for the Arts.   http://www.brainpickings.org/2014/12/29/teresita-fernandez-commencement-address/

“This kind of amnesia is life’s built-in way of making sure you filter out what’s not very important. You graduate today after years of hard work, immersive years of learning, absorbing, processing, accumulating, cramming, finishing, focusing. There are no more reasons, really, to even make art unless you really truly want to. Of all you learned you probably don’t need to remember most of the technical or theoretical information, as that’s all easily accessible with a quick search. And what you will remember will have less to do with the past and more to do with how it triggers reactions for you in the present. Oddly enough, what we involuntarily do retain is meant to help us move forward. This forthcoming amnesia that awaits you is just another kind of graduation, another step in a lifetime of many graduations.”

When in undergraduate school, in a very early drawing class, my TA told us to get rid of our past work.  He said not to just turn it to the wall, not to pile it in a closet behind a door that you can still see:  GET TOTALLY RID OF IT.

(Again, from Fernandez)

“Not every project will survive. Purge regularly, destroying is intimately connected to creating. This will save you time.”

My teacher was right.  This impedes growth.  It can remind the artist what a bad one they are indeed.  The artist does not need that kind of reminder constantly.  I have said many times in the past that having your old art around, work not up to par, work that is an answer and not a question, is like living with your high school graduation picture hanging on the living room wall.  It stunts you.

That school experience is not my first memory about problems with work.  As an elementary school student, I read a story about a little boy doing homework.  This fact stuck with me:  that when he put his finished arithmetic homework into his desk drawer, the incorrect answers struggled with being on the page.  They pulled and pushed.  They were not united with the page.  It would be so simple if we had these clues.  Considering this story involved math problems, it was ever pertinent to my school experience!

The following are two pieces recently destroyed.  It felt great to do this.  It was healing.  My spirit died when I walked past them, struggling with being on the gallery wall.

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This piece looked like a bad mullet hair cut from the 1980s.

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In this case, and also in the next shown, the initial mistake was not clearly identifying the perimeter of the sculpture.  The shape breaking the lower edge is confusing and draws the viewer away from the activity of the piece.  I also should have known that the piece should die due to the difficulty of placing the lines within the  “square” of the piece.  One good idea gleaned from the work is the sanding on the zig zag lines on the right.  The one at the top has been sanded on its edges the most making it visually lighter.  The middle line has some sanding, the lower one, almost no sanding.  You can always discover a good thing even within a piece that does not work.

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Again, wonky perimeter.  Weak lines.  The hangers perhaps do not lose their identity enough.  I have had portions of a window as seen here work, as in the piece below, but they do not work in this case.

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In terms of destroying work, because of my philosophy of re-using and re-purposing almost everything, the elements of destroyed works become raw material for new works.  Sometimes there is a shape that I cannot get off the glass or the wooden frame.  I leave it, respond to it, and have an interesting detail that needs to be considered, but something in a place I wouldn’t have thought of.  The element is “found”.

So.  Two destroyed pieces plus additional windows and additional work equals:

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And:

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