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.

IMG_0535

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.

IMG_0521

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.

IMG_0522

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

IMG_0523

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.

IMG_0523

 

IMG_0524

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.

IMG_0550

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.

IMG_0188

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.

doll chair in progress

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

IMG_0526

IMG_0527

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.

IMG_0524

Advertisements

MY STUDIO

IMG_0533

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.

IMG_0534

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

IMG_0536

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.

IMG_0542

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.

IMG_0540

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

IMG_0553

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.

IMG_0543

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

IMG_0544

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.

IMG_0546

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.

IMG_0548

Bicycles separate areas of the barn.

IMG_0550

They work well visually doing that.

IMG_0509

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.

 

 

LAYERS

1-IMG_0795

It would be so easy to start with a blank canvas and create a work of art.  Many do.  I have to sneak in the back door and react to some product or pattern made by another and then make it my own.

1-IMG_0798

What interests me is the spaces between things, how they relate or how they merge.

1-IMG_0802

This sculpture is very new for me.  I have always respected artists who make statements in a thinly orchestrated way.  These are the beginning of my effort to do that.

1-IMG_0289

The work above is more what one would expect from me, but looser and including no female figures.  There are those damn eggs though.  Here I am trying to use a very anal method to create an atmosphere.  I use color and value to position shapes in their correct space.  Some wool is used to contrast in texture.  Two elements,  printed fabric and stitches are layered together to arrive at a visual statement.

1-IMG_0267

The same is true in the above.  These works contain only machine stitches on the surface, and they are simply decorative.  The piece was made by merging very different fabrics physically together with a special machine, strangely called an “embellisher”.

pocket gallery

I am going to talk about all this stuff on Tuesday, March 18, and bring some works in progress.  Hope to see you there.

THE ST LOUIS ART MUSEUM

has installed two works of art from the 1990s in the main gallery, seen to the left upon entering, in separate niches.  Completed in 1991 and 1993, on the leading edge of the movement to make art from the discharge of society (where this initial idea packs the so-called raw material with meaning before its application to composition), we see very different hands at play.  For me, one stands the test of time in content and execution, and one does not.  Damn time.  We need this ephemeral distance to see if we have done good work or not.

It was in the 1960s that the idea of modern recycling began to take hold.  Of course, we all did that before this semantic shift.  We reused Coke bottles and took them back to the store.  We inherited clothes from siblings.  We saved bacon grease.

Develop a new technology, as in breaking down milk jugs,  and artists see a new medium with which to explore a contemporary art statement.  So a while after the idea of reuse, up or down, became installed in our brains, a new art medium was born.  Of course, recycled art employs many kinds of materials.

Playing with textiles most of my life, beginning in the 70s when they were knotted up with the women’s movement, the materials of the textile world were seductive.  It was a great challenge to make art out of materials so beautiful in their “raw” state.  Many were seduced however, and early on, much work relied on the character of the materials and not much else.  The same thing was happening then with handmade paper, and it took years for some to extract themselves from the love of the process and begin to SAY something.  Understand the process yes, even love it, but then take it to another place.

the breaking of the vessels  1991

The piece above is screaming for understanding.  Too much explanation is necessary to understand its meaning.  And there is not a dual meaning.  The best art is in punning.  The artist has been seduced by materials and cannot stop the attraction.  Is more more?   How about now?  Am I good enough now?

Care to guess about what this piece is about?

cell three white marble spheres

The piece above is appealing in its geometry of composition and the simplicity of the statement.  As easy as “in” and “out”.  The three classes of shapes and masses are very different and have their own compositional jobs: containing, reflecting, and simply being spheres.  The artist being a woman, the work is about family and the good and bad aspects of same.  A nurturing space, and a suffocating space.  The family performs both jobs.

Look at the reflection of this piece on the floor.  How much better is this than the glass strewn all over it in the first piece?

HOW LONG IS THE CONVERSATION

Before your work of art tells you what it is about?  And is it really “work” if the artist keeps rejecting and rejecting ideas?  What about that work day when all you have to show for your time is eight ideas that were no good?

I may be finally growing up.  Or maybe old old habits take a long time to break.  I would think the most successful of persons would be the ones who observe what they are doing, and if not the best idea, never do it again.  Go on.  Examine something else.  To hell with what once worked at one time.  I wonder if business people are able to let go quicker than visual artists.

In my former medium, embroidery on pieced fabrics, intense labor was required as the symbols on the picture plane were all hand stitched.  I would start with a line drawing, and start stitching, but the theme of the work always changed as the stitching got further and further along.  We were having a conversation, my work and myself.

What you see here is satin stitch and seed stitches on patterned fabric and everything about this takes a lot of time.  This is a detail from a larger piece called “Speculate”.

This entire piece is about nine by nine inches and involves comparing prickly pear “leaves” with my truncated lung after about one third had been removed because of a metastasis of colon cancer.

What I am creating now could not be more different, although the longer I work on this stuff, the more in common it has with the stitched work.  The new work reflects an entire side of life that was never addressed in the stitched work. A side that was often tried WITH the stitched work, but never successfully.

I have just sold the first of these pieces.  It is scary to put yourself  “out there” with an unfamiliar medium.  What does feel comfortable about it however are the objects being used in these “reliefs”, and the process of creating them, with my years of teaching design students about the never ending dance of shifting compositions.  I am finding the camera on my cell phone very helpful with this.

I have always wanted to work in a series, as well.  Never could with stitching.  The intervals working on a piece were so long, everything was inward looking, fine-tuned to get that one idea to stand.  Now, where there is more thinking and less labor, series can emerge, which brings about the question?  What is worth more, labor or ideas?

POOL TODAY

The work going on with the new room addition sucks the day away often, but yesterday there was time to work at the pool.  Do you see the tiny elements which are stuck down into the expansion joints in the cement?  They are waste, and I have used this stuff for various reasons, aesthetic and not,  for years.

When these little man-made elements are tumbled into these shapes, they are worthless.  They start out looking like something else, spend their little lives in a huge tumbler with manufactured tools, helping to remove the unwanted harsh edges, and are dispensed with and thrown away by industry when they look like this.  I often use these shapes in mosaics, and in the pool here, they have been inserted in the joints so that the grout used will not have to cover more space than is recommended.

Years ago, when the big house was first moved here and under renovation, the old windows had to go.  I went to the big box store  to purchase eight windows for part of the house, and stumbled upon a wonderful thing.  Someone had returned seven custom windows and they very nearly fit my needs.  And they were priced at fifty dollars each!  They were not standard sizes.  I snapped them up, and what you see above is how some of the windows were made to fit.  My contractor inserted cement board in this space, and along with marble pieces, little garden pot feet (bought a bunch of these years ago for five cents apiece), and my amazing WASTE, the bargain windows worked fine!

Look closely and you can see another joint filled by these shapes dividing the crescent shape and the acuba plant shape. This area is yesterday’s work.  My grout color is getting to be a deeper and deeper brick color (through mixing grout colors) as the tile becomes redder and redder.

At the top of this picture is the deck area that I am tackling next.  There is papyrus in the garden next to the studio which is pretty much obscured visually by the yucca in the foreground,  and I feel like making lines to reflect it in the composition.

CODE

The back of our new master bedroom and bath addition is looking Japanese, this addition to our 1939 southern farmhouse.  My guess is that the hipped roof, and the linear windows and posts are doing this.  It doesn’t bother me; I lived in Japan as a child and studied Japanese art history in graduate school, and try to integrate Japanese aesthetics into my work.  Even though, it is surprising that Japan turned up here.

Here is the inside view of the same windows.  These stretch across the bathroom area which takes up the last about one fourth of the room addition.  There is a glass door to the left of these windows.  The windows are old, were free, and are mis-matched.  They are beautifully glazed and it took Glenn about three days to do it.  He is such a perfectionist.

In terms of the international code in effect everywhere now, our builder first thought that the Japanese windows would not pass.    They are too close to the floor, and are too close to the door.  There is not enough wall space in these two areas.  So what the officials tell one to do, is to nail up particle board to the correct dimensions, and then call them.  In this case, because the rest of the windows in the house subscribe to the code, the vast majority, these windows would be ok.  Moot point.
The same kind of “now you see it, now you don’t”  is true for the awful particle board on the deck.  It passed, of course, but who would have a deck like that?  Glenn is making a welded steel banister to replace what you see here.  Neither one of us expected the deck to be anchored by 6″ x 6″ posts.  Glenn is going to take a chainsaw to those posts and trim a lot of that mass away.  But the deck has passed code.  ?????  I don’t get it either.

News flash:  the concrete siding ordered, with a similar texture to the old pine on the house is too wide, and not forgiving enough for us to simply say to overlap it to a greater dimension in order for the new room to have the same parallel lines as the old house.  Now what to do.  We have the weekend to think about it.

These french doors and stained glass window which used to look outside, now look out to the new bedroom.  At the right you can see that there will be old pine siding in the bedroom, which we kept because of its textural interest.  We could strip this away, and use it outside, but there is not enough to do the job.

At least we do have lights!

THE REST ABOUT WINDOWS

We have become good friends, myself and the amazing contractor guy who likes to work around here.  For a South Carolinian, he is waaay open (this is the state where our untrained Governor just closed down our SC Arts Commission, one that 20 years ago was a model for the country—-sorry, this is another post) to creative new ideas.   He is the guy who keeps bringing me windows which would have gone into the landfill,  and I am so happy to get every one of them.  One day a greenhouse will be built with them.

In the interim, other uses are ever present.  Dozens were used in the barn, as windows, and as dividers.

I have started collecting old examples which have had the window panes painted by others.   These windows  are part of my collection of works by passionate but untrained artists.   Many of these naive works are religious in nature; the passion is important to me but not the message.

This image about the road to Calvary is so interesting to me because the artist painted two separate skies.  Don’t know if he was confused, or if he means to illustrate by the second sky a kind of heaven.  Also love the little detail in the tiny brown sandy village that mixes with the land.  It looks like little illustrations in a Sunday school book I had as a kid.  I also am partial to text in an image which puts me clearly in the Middle Ages.

Collecting these works and having all these vacant windows got me thinking about filling some of them myself.  Taking out the glass and replacing it with cement board, I have been adhering broken tile and dishes and found objects within the panes.

This piece is not grouted yet.  Some of these works contain messages in text as this one does, one letter per pane.  As I work on these, they are turning more into landscapes unto themselves.  In the future, maybe they will sit on a table or pedestal and be built like small cities on the order of Oz, all made out of tile and found objects.

Here is something fun to see, my last example before and after grouting.