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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CH-CH-CH-CHANGES

Changes are happening in our part of the county; a little lesson in local government working for the people.  And it was pretty easy to accomplish, this relatively inexpensive project.  The dirt road which intersects our long drive is being paved.  Our neighbor has wanted this for years as the sand on the road finds its way to his pond with rain.  Asphalt will stop this, and probably keep the pond water higher all year.

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Glenn wants the improvement too, and gathered signatures.  Heavy rains cut waterways around the mouth of our drive and around the mailbox.  To me, the paving represents unwanted growth, but I relented.

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We will lose our elaeagnus bushes at the left of this picture.  It is OK.  Planted at the very beginning of my gardening career, they really make no sense where they are.  They do not match on either side of the drive as a car drove over and pruned one set one late night.  Happily, the construction guys will dig them up, root ball included, and lift them on a waiting trailer for us.  We are going to plant them at the very back of our acreage and let them do their fast growing best.

Another local resident has a crop of Loblolly pines growing in harvestable rows at the back of our acreage.  Since I have been here the trees have been thinned twice.  It won’t be long until they are sold and the whole process will start again.  It will mean big changes to the back of our property and we want those ten elaeagnus to be as large as possible to muffle sound and block vision.  It is a noble job for those bushes and we are sure glad we have them for this use.

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What else was positive about this road construction?  Well the way the bigger trees were cut down was interesting, and we got an example that will be the new mantle for the fireplace in the kitchen.  The old one was the victim of an accident.  It is difficult to imagine what kind of huge machine fairly took bites out of the trunk of this tree!

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We are going to try and save the bark, while planing about a three inch flat plane across the top of this.

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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?

LAYERS

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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”.

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

AT LAST

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Today is the day.  After a year of looking at the unfinished mess of a shower in our new bathroom, grouting in earnest starts.  Why so delinquent with this effort?  A year ago, I knew what the result would look like.  And it was what was projected.  So I lost interest.

An argument can be made that an artist makes her work simply to see the end result.  And to kind of lift one’s leg to the nearest tree.  Prove that she has been in the area.

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It is impossible to photograph this shower, as you cannot get far enough away from it.  The prone position doesn’t help much.  Most of the lady on the left was grouted a long time ago.

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After the shower floor, just grouted  today, I will take a charcoal grout and apply it around the dark lines defining the bodies.  It is already done in the lady to the left in the previous picture.

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And the horizon lines on each panel will be charcoal.  Simple, elementary, rudimentary.

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Of course, all my materials are free, save for the tile mortar and grout.  The white tiles above are remnants of an old project of Glenn’s.  The little glass tiles in the two inch space were bravely saved for me by a designer, from a construction worker who was pitching them.  I cringe to think of all the waste in the world!

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Above is today’s work, and no more can be done until this dries.  This shower base is made of portland cement, is carefully sculpted down to the drain from each wall.  This tile is porcelain and not having a wet saw to cut it, I simply broke the tile near the drain and filled in.  These floors require a lot of finesse.  I hate that big line in the center left.

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Gorgeous today, and considering my drying shower base, I am going to work on the piazza.

(SUMMER) IS HERE

Slaving in the sun at the pool is in order once again.

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The work from last year did not encounter any problems in the pool deck.  This year that cannot be avoided.  Taking up the work just at the deadly looking crack in the deck, Glenn said he needed about six inches on either side to smooth it out with a grinder.  I left that space and went on working so he could do the grinding at his leisure.  Just beyond that start point came a “section” line that the contractor left, and special acrylic stones are being put along that line.  Have done that all along.  They are then grouted over.  These lines are natural places for movement, and we encourage that movement to happen here.

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In the cast shadow above, you can see that one of the four Yuccas at the pool is blooming.  They do it in pairs every year, and alternate years.  Have no idea why.

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So.  This cement deck is huge.  In terms of connecting its design with the already tiled wall, the gardens all around, the pool equipment all around, a designer would say to emphasize something, and do it in the language already being used.  The collection of cement planters which have been acquired through the years are already doing that.  But this pool is a busy place with all the frenzy of tile.

Decided to record the cast shadows of the pots and Yucca at about 3:30 PM by tracing them on the cement deck.  Tile in that area will be darker than the deck, providing visual relief from all the activity and add drama to each side of the pool steps.  The shadows will be correct only once a day:  wonder how the constructed shadow will interact with the physical one as it moves.  Will be fun to observe.

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Above contains a close-up of the little acrylic stones used in the contractor’s expansion cracks.  They will be grouted over with the rest of the tile.  Also, you can see the shadow cast by the bannister leading down into the pool.  Going to make a sundial out of that shadow, and visually record  several points and the time of day.  Fun!

USES FOR ART

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James Hampton of Elloree, SC, not at all far from here,  was a creative visionary.  He led a very simple life which deviated from the norm of simple work only during World War II.  He never married, died of cancer in 1964.  He dreamed of creating a church of a sort, and becoming a preacher.  He developed a language related to this church effort which has not yet been deciphered.

He did his work in Washington DC, living there after the war,  where he created his philosophy and “church” environment.  The piece above took 14 years.  One curator notes that there were icons like this found after his death from his time in Guam during the war and that some work from that time may be incorporated into the large scale work above.

What I respect is his complete dedication to his vision, his skill in re-purposing waste into art materials, and his design skill.  Years ago I ran smack into this formidable piece in a niche in the belly of one of the Smithsonian museums.

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In these works, additively constructed of things from the street, the incredible surface made of bits of foil from various sources unifies the elements into one fantastical object.  Look closely and you will see discarded light bulbs repeated throughout the composition.

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Symmetry in design is a comfortable choice for an artist.  It is not always the most exciting.  But when we think of our churches, symmetry is the overwhelming basis for their design.  Hampton sits in good stead in his effort.

Repetition of similar shapes, as above, in positive and negative incarnations also serves to unify his creations.  Angel wings seem to be everywhere, almost making the work seem to hover.

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Amazing that the “street nature” of the two cushions above does not spoil the effect of the majesty of this throne.

In the detail below, the armature of furniture pieces picked up from the street is obvious.

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The work was made in a rented garage in Washington, DC.  His landlord discovered this work after his death, hoping to realize back rental payments by placing the work somewhere.

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Notice at the right above that this piece is in process.  Table legs have not been covered with foil yet.  This is the same table as in the previous picture.

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James Hampton lived a successful life, driven by a private vision.

THE SOLDIER AND THE PIN-UP

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Nothing goes to waste around here.  Years ago, my boss went to the High Museum in Atlanta to see an exhibition featuring part of the army of life-sized terra cotta Chinese soldiers unburied decades ago.   He was kind enough to bring a small replica back to me.  It sat by my computer at home for years.  Mouse broke it finally, while picking through the space on the table,  her mind focused on my keyboard.  It was after the time she stayed at Ms. Ann’s Pet Retreat for three weeks and gained more than two pounds.  She had nothing to do!  She was unused to her voluptuous figure and it swayed beyond the predictable once and again.

Not to worry.  The soldier’s head found a space within a composition almost immediately.

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That’s the soldier, on the left of the female softball player.  Her bat is missing; used that for something else.  The soldier’s body lay with other decapitated souls and waited for the perfect assignment.

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Having left the world of two dimensions in my pursuit of making sculpture (by training, I do textiles),  the following piece came a little later.  Named “Caryatids”, we see bird bodies defining the distance in space between the two window frames.  They are also functional and needed for support.

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Below is a better view of that space.

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The soldier body got an assignment lately.  He is purposeful and occupying space between two windows.

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Above our hero lifts a window on what is left of his neck and supports the composition, along with the pin-up, who is also experiencing some integrity problems.  Their two bodies define the distance between the front and back window, and make it stable.

But making art means one must keep many balls in the air.  In the piece “Caryatids”, we can see that all occupants in the space between the windows are birds.  That makes sense,  In that piece, birds are the visual vocabulary.

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What common denominator do we see in the visual elements above?  Windows, red, curves in metal, glass, rust.  And two figures.  One Chinese and dating from 210 BCE, and a chalk redhead from 1946.  They don’t have much in common other than they are perfect for spanning the needed space to make a window hover.  What is the artist to do?  Pick the right title.  Let the viewer think they know the relationship between the two and then surprise them.

I AM TRASH

At least that’s what they call me here in America.  Things have a lifespan.  Mostly it is short because in America, some people want to sell more stuff.   Many feel strange if their stuff is not new.  The best, the newest version.

I must make an argument about this, as I feel trash has something to offer.  Experience.  Wisdom.  The wisdom of the trash.  My maker studied about Japanese tea bowls in school.

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The Japanese are aware of their long history.  Maybe that is what is wrong with America.  We are adolescents as a country;  we have not been around long enough to be wise.

The tea bowl above is beautiful mostly because of the broken and repaired lines.  It is an old woman.  It has been cupped in someone’s hands for generations;  different someones who felt the heat of the tea inside and warmed themselves.

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Some wise Japanese have gone further with their old and experienced tea bowls.  They have outlined the broken parts with gold, and put them back together. They have emphasized the broken and wise parts.  The bowl says “Look at my history”.

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Above is an example of my maker’s work from the nineties.  All of the bodies are that of my maker, and all the scars mark the history of her cancer, and make her a more experienced person.  It is the same thing.

tea bowl with gold 3Above is something new, based on an old idea.  Look at the gold lines.  And look at the substitution in parts of another bowl.  This is building on the history of trash.

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Here is my maker’s work, using just broken trash.  This is not talking about experiencing history, it is history as it is old stuff.