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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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.

 

THE STORY OF A MANTEL

A friend cleans out old buildings and sells the metal for a living.  As you might guess, he is also a collector.  You never know what he will be up to.  A real one of a kind person, he is gruff on the outside and an artist on the inside.  He has commissioned Glenn and me for several works of art.

He called us the other day saying that he had some old windows for me.  We jumped in the truck.  Came home with windows and the following: an old mantel with gorgeous texture.

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We recently had a kitchen fireplace mantel accident and hoped this would work as a replacement.  It did not.  We worked on it anyway.  I took off all paint that was flaking off, intending to preserve the rest.

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A long slit on the backside of one of the columns needed repair.

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A simple box made the base for the column.  All that was needed was to nail them in place.

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As a piece was sufficiently sanded, layers of varnish were applied.

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This board, which supports the top shelf of the mantel had its original moulding.  Glenn had to recreate the rest.

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Good that he didn’t have to recreate details the way this old mantel was made in the first place.

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Here the mantel is reconstructed, with new moulding at the right and left of the opening, and a new (old) board chosen to connect the columns.  We brought the mantel into the kitchen to compare the two openings.  Not a match in any way, we had to hesitate for a second.  We already have one fake mantel in a bedroom, used with a big mirror over it to expand the room, and two fireplaces, each with two faces, in the round, so to speak.  All but the one in the kitchen have a hearth, so this kind of mantel cannot be used.  What to do?

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Our bed angles to the middle of our big bedroom.  It faces two windows so we can watch our birds.  The large head of the bed partially blocks off vision into the room, provided by a set of French doors.  This would be a perfect place for this mantel, but there wasn’t enough of it.  The mattress and wire are flat out ugly.  The mantle needed something more.

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Glenn glued together two boards he rescued years ago from an old wooden boxcar.

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He found two more old boards, one for a shelf, and another board for the top of the mantle to make it weightier visually.

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He cut the second shelf board to account for moulding.  It adds a nice bit of interest.

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The edge of this board had some writing on it.  We preserved it with varnish.

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Voila!  Would love to put more stuff on the very top of the mantel, but the cats are finding this place very inviting.  Pretend you don’t see that wire.  It’s gone now!

ALL ON SC 261

It was Glenn who noticed the first little store on the way to Kingstree.  In the area of South Carolina where there is not much, little communities occupy the landscape on the way to the beach.  I knew a fabulous woman from Kingstree; she imported Kingstree barbecue to Columbia every year for a party.  Lord knows what she did as a child there in that town. There is little industry in the area other than a bicycle plant (interesting in these outsourcing days), and there is a factory with smokestacks across from Garrett’s residential living center.

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This former little service store sits right on the two-lane.  Somebody is living in it.  Made of cinder blocks, with cinder block columns, we found others just like this on SC 261, and a few very close to each other.

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This little store is made of the same cinder block, but designed a bit differently.  It looks as if it might have more easily accommodated gassing up a car than the first example.  And it had at least one more life as an antiques store.   Who owns these things?  Could one “squat” there?

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The example above suggests that it might have been what we call here a “red dot” store.  Notice the bars on the windows, they are there for a reason.  The dots here are long gone.  The red dots symbolize sunup and sunset, and it is between those times when liquor can be sold.  Those daily times used to be published in the paper too.  Not sure about that now.

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It is believed to have its origin in the South Carolina Constitution of 1895, article 8, section 11, which prohibited alcohol sales between sundown and sun-up. The red dot designates the sun and identifies the store as one that sells alcohol.  This red dot store in Hampton, SC could have been more clever in its design.  The beautiful facade creates two red dots in its ornamentation. and correctly captured, no other red dots would have been necessary.  Perhaps it would have been confusing to customers.  No need to confuse customers.

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Love the colors of this little store. Red squares instead of red dots!  Again, it is made of cinder block, but has wood columns in the front.  The two red window coverings are hinged at the top, and the building was added on to at the back.  Whatever service was preformed in this place was painted on a board above the tin, now removed.  Sent this image to an artist friend.  It would be a perfect addition to her series of paintings of old buildings in Orangeburg county.

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Janet Kozachek.

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Nature always wins.  Most of the roof is gone in this little store, and the woods is filling up the interior space.

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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ESPECIALLY FOR FORMER STUDENTS

We said “hello” to the fabulous city of Detroit last weekend.  Reason for the journey was to visit the Detroit Institute of Art’s exhibition of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera.

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Not only could it be a quick trip with not a lot of driving, and a new place to visit, we wanted to support the city which has gone through a lot of pain lately.  We were not disappointed.  Most service people we encountered were very happy.  The city is starting to buzz again.  A lot of smart infrastructure building is under way.  The restaurants are full.

The exhibition was a figurative dance between Frida and Diego.  It was stated that their eleven months in residence while Diego manifested his design in fresco, was the beginning of the end of his career, and the jumping off point for hers.  It must have been so fine working together in the magnificent hall, he expressing his love for the worker and industry, she concentrating on her amazing little detailed symphonies (The detail in her work was more precise than I expected.  It was fully reminiscent of Northern Renaissance detail; think of Jan Van Eyck.).  Her “Henry Ford Hospital” was painted during this time, the spontaneous abortion happening while there.

Visitors to the Detroit Institute of Arts look at the four-wall mural by famed artist Diego Rivera in Detroit, Michigan June 5, 2013. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook
Visitors to the Detroit Institute of Arts look at the four-wall mural by famed artist Diego Rivera in Detroit, Michigan June 5, 2013. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook

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Above is “Rivera Court” in the Detroit Institute of Art.  The many frescoes are separated by architectural members.  Entitled “Detroit Industry”, the work was paid for by Henry Ford.

Many of the cartoons for the frescoes were on display.  We could see Diego’s mind working as figures were approximated and finally spelled out in a darker line.

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Above he is working on the cartoon for one section of the hall.  This section was changed after the loss of the baby.  He commemorated the sad event by including a baby in the womb as the beginning of all of man’s wondrous achievements.

We entered the exhibition space and saw this:

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The exhibition space prior to entering the great hall alternated between Diego’s early panel paintings and cartoons, and Frida’s small works.  Detroit had a lot of the most famous works there.

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“Self-Portrait with Cropped Hair”

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“A Few Small Nips”  The blood from the murder of the wife by the husband is reflected on the frame.  I had not remembered this.

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“Self-portrait on the Borderline between Mexico and the United States”  1932

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“The Suicide of Dorothy Hale”.  Again, interesting treatment of the frame in regard to the content of the work.

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And, of course, “Henry Ford Hospital”.

There were many more, and also earlier panel paintings by Diego.

This exhibition is over, as of yesterday.  Something else will be shown in that space, but the DIA is full of wonderful stuff.  I realized before we left that we would see this:

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Pieter Brueghel’s “Wedding Dance”, one of my favorites, for pedagogical and sexual reasons!

A WARNING

I am of an age advanced beyond my youthful dreams.  This age could have easily not been achieved; a battle with colon cancer in my mid forties made life a little questionable for a few years.

In 1967 when the Beatles questioned the “needing” and “feeding” by the rhetorical “you”, none of us could not imagine this question of age: we had no empathy with that piece of art.

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But we hummed the jaunty song and went along to pile on the years.

When Paul McCartney turned 64 the irony of that song tugged at me.  How odd.  Years younger than Paul, that horizon was still lost on me.  What is that fallacious mathematical question which states if you cut a space in half between point A and point B and continue to cut the resulting space in half and in half, one will never arrive at point B? There you go.

I have been fading at this age, and it has been a total surprise.  It all started last October, but is ending today.  Don’t remember any past discussion about the body in this way, but hear me and do not favor one knee over another!  Always being accused of “thinking too much”, I have figured out why my meniscus snapped last October.  Short waisted, I had been sitting on that knee and propping myself up for 60 years.  It was the “go to” solution of not being tall enough.  Hate being not tall enough, for so many reasons! 1-lee

And there went my running basically until today.  From October until April.  And what else was lost because of not running?  Good heart rate, good blood pressure, good bone mass, good weight, good mental health.  Also, our roads were cluttered because I pick up aluminum cans.

Well, today with an ace bandage wrapped around the knee in question, I ate up three miles.  Would have gone the whole four if my aluminum find had not been so bulky.  The dark time is past!

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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.

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“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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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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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?