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.

 

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.

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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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EXPORT THE LOVE

We are the go-to people for certain kinds of stuff: a clearinghouse of a sort.  Crap in, crap out.  Our friends know this.  They turn us on to available stuff, and sometimes get things from us.  It is a free flowing dance.

My friend and colleague had a special problem with the building code in a small city near here, and his home shares our aesthetics.  He wanted a new garage, but the code said he could only renovate as the old grandfathered garage was too close to the property line.  The only garage that could be where his stood was THAT garage.

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So the plan is to save the siding and the special details below the roof that makes it Craftsman style, eliminate the bad parts of the interior structure, and reinstall the old siding and details.  There you have it; an old/new garage that passes the code. He needed windows from us, and we were thrilled to provide them.  We have an ass of old wooden windows given to us by various people because they know that windows are my current raw material.

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He came bearing pizza and took two six-paned windows larger than the originals, plus two six-paned smaller windows to install in the front and back of the garage just under the apex of the roof line.  That is a slight change from the original garage, but one has to live dangerously!

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He was disappointed during the destruction phase that there was more damage to the structure than he had thought.  He wasn’t able to save any of the original bones, but did save the cement pad.   Above are three walls framed out, with larger spaces created to handle the bigger six-paned windows.

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Here headers yawn out to frame the front facade and serve as a base for the roof structure.

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Due to the insect damage and rot, there was only enough siding to cover the front face of the garage.  Love the way the addition of the small window makes the building look like it has more than one story.  Perfect little detail.  These windows are hinged and can be opened for ventilation.

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The side view of the garage shows a nice contrast in materials with the upright separating the two areas.  The two windows on the sides of the garage are not the ones we donated; they turned out to be squarish rather than square, so they will do something else at some time in the future, I am sure.

Larry extended the roof ends with brackets to match the two other buildings on their land. Electrical work still needs to be finished, and a system for the doors created.  No small task!

Building for his home is not all that Larry can do.  He digs far deeper into the trash heap to create his sculpture.  You must see his work by clicking http://larrymerriman.wix.com/art

NEW WORK

Have been buying old chairs for several years now.  Luckily, we have enough space in the barn for the horde.  One just has to buy them when the price is right and for me, that price is two bucks or less.   For a while it seemed fun to dream about  mixing the parts of these chairs to make funky examples.  But the path of art can change things.  I knew chairs were in my future, but not this way. They are being layered into my windows.  Just noticed this diversion.

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Bought six of these chairs many years ago for five bucks apiece.  Two have been broken, four are still around our computer table.  Love the bentwood design.  They are from an old restaurant, and have a kind of bad habit, especially when it comes to teen aged boys.  If one is too rough, the support for the back rest breaks.  That happened, but nothing is wasted around here.  Notice the chair leg below.

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Up to this point, my typical 2-D orientation stuck.  I layered windows on the wall.  And chairs, as it turns out.

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It was making work for the “Envisioning O’Keeffe exhibition that got me thinking about working in the round.

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Above is my piece.  Called “College Bound” I intend to sift together my experience of teaching at Columbia College with that of Georgia O’Keeffe.  Neither of us lasted too long.  Anyway, it was fun to work on both sides of this dangerous piece.   A new game!

The piece is a smooth and shiny as it looks here.  Layers and layers of varnish have been applied. To me this surface suggests that this collection of shapes in intentional, not an accident of collection.  To make the objects work together better, they have been given the same “skin”.

Other pieces came later that have the same “feel” to me, and the same shiny varnish.

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“Thinly Orchestrated”  2015  This is the second side of the first image discussed.  It has a bent wood leg, and two armrests from another chair.

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The two images above represent both sides of “From Blackjack to Florissant:  Polly and Her Mantel”.  There are two pairs of chair legs in this piece.  The story behind this is as follows:  As a child, our family adopted a Siamese cat from the small town of Blackjack, near our home.  A couple of years later, my mother salvaged a mantel from the same house, to install in our family room. The chair legs here to me seemed like a mantel.  Again, layers and layers of shiny varnish to make all the parts of this composition seem intentional.

The following are just studio shots but you can see the idea keeps having legs.

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LIVE TRUE

Glenn has done a lot of work for Brad and Tracy.  Actually we both have been involved in their recent home renovation.  At a counterpoint in their professions, time and effort outside of that work is finely paired, and their home is a unique expression of their movement in the world.  This is the way you are supposed to live.  Feather your nest with stuff that helps define you as a person.  Act on the stage of that theater; you will feel harmony.

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As their boy worked through scouting, they earned “advanced degrees” as well.  Their personal universe is built around the natural world, pulling symbolism from old Indian ways, to which of course the Boy Scouts is more than a little indebted.  Arrows, spirals, rays of sun play in their personal iconography.  The three images above show details of a mosaic “frieze” I did for their sun room utilizing symbols from the Boy Scouts and Indians of the Northwest.  The third detail features an abstracted portrait of the family.  The mosaic is just under the 10 foot ceiling on three walls, and little china bird collectibles found at the flea market are used in several places (I think there is one in the middle of the triangle of arrows in the third image, and top and center in the first image).

The materials used in the house as you might imagine are floor stone, lots of it, fine woods, light and dark, both as structure and as object.  Look at nature and wonder how we think we can improve upon it!  Maybe we can simply organize these wonderful raw materials to do specific jobs.   Glenn has fabricated a limb with branches to help deter rainwater from puddling in the wrong place.

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This steel limb has maple leaves that can be twisted to usher the rainwater into a better spot.

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Above is another steel sculpture Glenn did for Brad and Tracy’s home.  It is a life sized fox and bird, with the fox heated to a reddish color and the bird towards blue.

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Recently they acquired a huge ancient pot.  More than a thousand years old, they needed a display device to secure it in a home environment.  Tracy bought a deer skin to use for cushioning material. The structure incorporates symbols of the sun and arrows used by Indians.  The arrows will contain the pot.

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Arrows keep the pot from moving sideways, and embrace its middle.  The triangular base lends stability.

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The hide covers parts of the armature that nobody wanted to see in addition to its cushioning of the pot.

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All these natural materials present a lovely almost monochrome composition which contains amazing textural variety.  They are happy, Glenn is happy.  But know what?  I am not going anywhere near that pot!

 

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.