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.

 

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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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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.

 

 

 

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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POINT NUMBER THREE ON THE “INCREASE YOUR VISIBILITY” LIST

So I introduced you to my Etsy shop (1), and the previous blog published here will be a guest blog (2) on maybe two sites, one later this week.

The marketing genius that I am following to fame and fortune says that viewers want to see my studio, and how it works.  Gawd.  It is a mess.

We built this big barn, and at first it was simply going to be storage for my tile, which is mostly laid in the summer, Glenn’s studio, and storage for Glenn’s toys.  Trucks, cars.

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Above is a portion of Glenn’s studio, which was planned in the barn design.  The metal walls are in, baseboard heat installed which we never use.

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My area in the barn was never to be a studio, it was for the storage of tile, won by dumpster diving.

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You can see a bit of the tile on the left, on shelves.  These shelves are sixty feet long and go all the way up to the front of the barn.  This is the back left, and there is a garage door to let light in as well as high windows.  Glenn’s studio is in the front right of the barn.  I am second class for sure, and looking at this image, act like it!

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But not this chair.  It is totally first class, and is my studio chair.  I love it and found it in a dumpster. You can see where I sit above, behind the tilting window which still has its glass.

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I sit in the fine chair and stare at a plywood wall which has a piece in progress on it.  Above, we are looking at the side of a big piece, bigger than normal these days.  I do not take good care of my tools, unfortunately.  They are used so much, they are almost never put away.

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Here is the piece now in the studio, the object of my staring from the chair.  These window frames are BIG.  Bigger than normal.  The dark one measures 43″ x 33″ and the aluminum screen is 29′ x 25″.  The table legs are 21 inches long.  I have had trouble using these biggest windows, but last week figured the problem out.  With a bigger window, all the other elements have to be to scale.  Duuuh.

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This piece actually fell on the floor last night after a stupid move by its creator.  Good thing I have these pictures.

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The last evaluation happens upstairs in the gallery where the walls are neutral.  Now to go pick up the big piece off the floor.

 

INCESTUOUS WINDOWS

Where should we start?  The very big ideas?  OK.

Artists do not only make art, they live it and in it.  Serious art reflects the ideas, attitudes, experiences and style of the artist.  These things are interwoven and inseparable.  And changeable, but usually the change is slow.  At least that is how it works for me.

Premise 1 in the creating of a style:  Being an artist(s) we don’t have the money that more traditionally employed people do.  We habit the thrift shops and flea markets, looking for shapes and textures and things to repurpose to live in our home.  We sniff out free things in the wind.  We develop friendships with like people and fund each other’s eccentricities.  Old things look good to us.

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To me, the base of this enamel table in our kitchen is awesome.  The lines and shapes scream the 1930s.  This table base helped me solve a financial problem in buying the tile for the kitchen, if you will notice the floor.  I bought the majority of the tile at a sidewalk sale at Lowe’s, but there was not enough for the big space of kitchen and great room.  So I laid tile “rugs” in each room, one under this table.  The tile under the table is lighter than the surrounding, and at each corner of the rug is a corresponding black tile (you can only see two black tiles in this image).  The rug tile was free, and the problem was solved.  The four black squares used in the corners integrate the tile rug with the table base.  The rug under the table is much more interesting than had the floor simply been one broad ecru plane.  So my finances dictate another way to create, and push a style forward with lifestyle needs.

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We needed a shed to house our pool equipment, pool pump, and machinery related to our sprinkler system.  My love of cheap metal (notice the lamp on the stucco column) led us to buying a used grain bin to satisfy these needs, and it was very inexpensive.  We love the little silo that has an apex that looks like the top of a Coke bottle.

Premise 2:  We live in a world that is using up all its natural resources.  This disposable society cannot thrive.  Many, many artists choose to make their work out of waste materials because they are available, are beautiful and otherwise would be in the landfill.  These artists additionally are making visual statements that describe our recent decades.

We built a barn.  Before this time, some restlessness inside of me accepted a whole group of wooden windows from a contractor friend who was doing odd jobs here.  I put them under a roof.  His work often was replacing old wooden windows with vinyl ones, and he kept bringing me the rejects.  He would have been charged to put them in the dump, so the solution was good for everybody.


1-IMG_0011We used 33 old windows for this barn, and saved a lot of money.  Their glass is wavy and beautiful, and since this is studio and storage space and not living space, they do the job here just fine.  And of course, this is South Carolina and we live in a moderate part of the world.  Glenn later added the cool awning above the entry door.

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I hope the case is made for the using of old stuff.  Here is where the incest starts.

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My daughter Brady, (who blogs for Lexington County, South Carolina at Everywomanblog.com and has a cooking blog at brannyboilsover.com) influenced by my love of old things, found this door of windows at the dump and brought it home.  Neither one of us are beyond “diving”.  She often donates at the Goodwill at the same time she goes in to buy.  She installed this on the wall,  and of course there it was for me to see.  A window on a wall as art.  Hmmm.

Some years later, here is my sculptural work.  Before now, the windows had many other incarnations as I tried to use them.  I was getting too fancy.  For me, for now, it is mostly about the interplay of the windows, and bringing these sculptures way out from the wall.  It takes some time to feel one’s way.

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Isn’t experience and influence wonderful?