INSPIRED BY MATERIALS

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.

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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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MY STUDIO

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Above is my studio as seen from our second floor gallery.  You can see the white wooden window at the right, leaning against the wall waiting for stripping and sanding.  It seems my world is full of wooden right angles.

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This stuff does not look like much until it enters into a composition.

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Other shapes are more interesting from the start.   Here you see many similar lines/shapes that can work well together in a composition.   The skill is knowing just how much of this to use and  what to use in contrast.  Also, these shapes have to do structural jobs.  They are the connective tissue of the sculptures.  Bought all of these unglued furniture parts last weekend at a flea market for three bucks.  This kind of stuff is my number one shopping priority for the window sculptures just now.

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The windows are the bones of the composition, usually three.  Only the back window is cleaned up here.  Notice the yellow coil.  Never have I had a tool this fine.  We have a giant compressor that  Glenn uses for everything.  He made three stations in the barn where one can access the power.  One is back here in second class.  It is used to get the windows clean before varnish.

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Unfortunately most surfaces have some collection of raw material loaded upon them.

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But not all.  This fine oak desk was brought here this week, free for the taking from another scavenger friend.  This top must hold something significant, but what it might be remains unknown.  It was the acquisition of this that made me clean and organize.  That is a good thing.

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Critique chairs.  It is wonderful to sit out here until after dark with the studio light glowing and talk about creative options.

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This is taken from outside the building.  We have both warm and cool light in this studio.  And we have multiple sources.  Had been having a problem when using just the hot light on the right hand side.  The windows, being so linear were casting shadows on the wood chip wall.  And I was composing with respect to those shadows.  Of course, they are temporary.  We had to solve that problem with more lighting from all directions.

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Back of the barn.  We have an Overhead Door back here for unloading things like my big new desk.  Some tile stays outside the door because it can.  All that white will go to the pool deck next summer.

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Bicycles separate areas of the barn.

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They work well visually doing that.

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Out of all this mess will once in a while come a clean piece.  This is the first piece on which I used bunji cords.  Fun.

 

 

THE STORY OF AN AESTHETIC

 

The following are some of the most loved things around here.  Stuff that shows its history is most meaningful.  Ghosts of things.  Things that have BEEN places and in others’ hands.  This little desk was in an old barn made of railroad car wood and was on the property Glenn bought in 1974.  It sat in that barn until my discovery in 2008.  I love it.  It has no drawer, but who cares?

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The little black hoof-like feet are original.  Just had to take a picture of it on the piazza we are laying.

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Some child, at some time, made stars.  We preserved them.

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Found this old aluminum lawn chair in a dumpster.  It had been painted many colors in its life.  Used a tool and dug into the last paint job, the black, and revealed other colors as I chose.  Then it was protected with a thick “varnish” for metal.  Where to put it?  The decision wasn’t difficult.  I have had this amazing ceramic piece for decades.  They were made for each other.

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The following two pictures are not very good, but they illustrate how I added color to the walls of my home when renovating, and how color is discovered in my sculptural work.  Above with the lawn chair, the same thing was done.  Scrape or sand away layers of color to reveal the color history of the thing.  This house was built in 1939 and a lot of life has taken place here.  I let it show.

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Below is the back of the house just after we moved it to our acreage.

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So, it makes sense that my aesthetic should one that celebrates the history of a thing.  The Japanese call it wabi.  Or sabi.

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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.

 

A LEAN AND HUNGRY LOOK

Went to a meet and greet  “all the arts”  interface at a private home recently.  It functions as a way for people working in the arts to kind of cross pollinate with other artists whose projects they may have not known about.  Some simply advertise as to what they are doing and invite others.   This took place the night before most of the Columbia, SC artists open up their studios for a well advertised self-guided tour and sale.  This event has been building for the past few years, and we cannot participate because we don’t live in Richland County.  Some in our situation rent spaces in downtown Columbia for the weekend so that they can cash in on the possibilities.

We met a dancer there that looked exactly like Selma Hayek  when playing Frida Kahlo.

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There was a tiny opera singer there, a very fancy person.

There were magazine publishers there, and wives, and many “assistants” who ran the event and tried to sell the art on the walls.  I was able to meet and thank the publisher who just included an article on my recycling in his magazine as an Earth Day story.  There were journalists, filmmakers;  my raison d’etre.

It felt false.  I put some postcards in my purse, but did not give any to anyone.  I have two jobs right now and do not feel pushed in any way.  What about finishing my pool, my gardens, laying brick, sanding old windows?  We just created a gallery on the top floor of the barn and cannot find time to paint it.  What about my upcoming hike on the AT?

The life comes first, not the art.  If the life is artful, then the art will come.  Do not confuse the two.  The visual artists from last night looked lean and hungry.  Darting eyes.  I have been in that place and it is an uncomfortable and heavy place to reside.

I had a dream last night.  A good friend, not an artist, was making MY art and doing it better.  I tore off the fabric which made up my art from its stretchers, and found that the structure supporting the work was interesting.  I decided that the support structure would be the art instead.

It looked very much like this, only all the lines and shapes were contained within a square perimeter.

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One of my current projects is to create two new embroideries,  something I have not done in years.  One is finished, and it was easy to slip into that old obsession.  It is my only thing where the expertise is unchallenged.