Spoiled

I got ahold of a chair that had curvy aprons. Usually straight aprons form the heart of my sculptures. We were out running errands and passed a long, triangular collection of old furniture used to living outdoors. We always stop for places like this. I was immediately impressed. Robin, the businesswoman, said she would take a donation for the stuff I wanted. Stuff she didn’t have a chance in hell to sell to anyone else.

The first thing I picked up was the scroll work diagonally across the upper middle of this piece. It was bigger than this chunk, it was gorgeous and came from what was a very good chair at birth.

Contrapposto 2019
28″ x 18″ x 11″

Later we found the chair off of which the scroll work fell. That chair had curvy aprons on three sides.

That’s the thing about wooden things living out in the weather. Most of the tough separation work has been done for you. The chairs are falling apart and it’s just perfect. The three major shapes in this piece were found that day.

Contrapposto is a Greek word referring to the way a human figure stands as we handle the weight of our body most efficiently. We stick out a hip and bend the opposite leg. The Greeks knew about this, and then the information was lost in the Early Christian world. The Renaissance rediscovered the phenomenon, and is one of the many reasons we call the Renaissance masters “Humanist”. Thinkers were observing nature now, as well as thinking about Christianity. You can see it readily in the art from the period.

Caryatid 2019
24″ x 20″ x 17″

Guess I am going through a Greek stage in my art making. A “caryatid” is a female figure which is carved into or applied to Greek architecture. I see the diagonal shape at the lower right as a caryatid. The chair leg at the left looks like a simple Ionic (there I go again) column to me.

At the top, there is more of that fancy scroll work used in the first example.

Back to my spoilage. Having started this discussion about aprons, curvy ones, let me post some “casual” photos. My friend the Art Curator gave me this term. It means photos taken by me in an ordinary atmosphere. Ones that give people who are knowledgeable about what they are looking at can still see the thing given all the background interference.

I want you to see the curvy aprons that have so excited my work and me.

Wound 2019
21″ x 17″ x 14″

Chair aprons usually have a series of parallel lines across them, as in above.

See the gentle “S” curve?

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Symbiosis 2019

I am experimenting with sculpture that has more than one part and that can be assembled in different compositions. Look at the differences between the image above and the succeeding compositions of the two chairs.

Above is one part of the Symbiosis composition. Notice the compelling subtle curve at the left? The bottom of the line is part of a wooden crutch.

And here is the other.

I am part of a group of four who have been accepted to show at the Spartanburg Museum of Art in January 2020. I am hoping to show this piece and another that has four parts. The one that has four parts is too large for me to photograph.

Above is one-fourth of “Profiles in Courage”.

Studio walk-through

Chairs rise up on the path to the back of the barn. Stacked upon themselves at about the height of eight feet, I keep hoarding old chairs, more than I should, for fear the free ones will vanish.

Glenn’s collection of bicycles is a nice addition. Stalactites and stalagmites.

I have so much raw material there is no room to store the art product. But the chairs are so perfect for me; they have been rained on and elements of the chairs that are made of multiple pieces of wood kind of crack apart into beautiful detail.

See how the upright leg on the left has lost about a quarter of itself? Failed glue. A part of the leg stripped away leaving a clean cut. I couldn’t have created this myself. I needed years of rain. Same is true for the foot of the chair. Part of it has been sheared off because of failed glue. I save these parts to use in other pieces.

It would be very close in the studio if I couldn’t open a door to the outside. Hummingbirds fly in. A possum ran in one late evening. The studio is the best place to be.

On my workbench sits “Whole”.

“Whole” 2019

Legs Like Garden Hoses

Legs Like Garden Hoses 2019


When about twelve, I asked my parents if I could wear nylons. This was back in the Dark Ages. In truth, I had been wearing them under white socks which were removed once we got on the bus. Did the same thing with mascara. I wore it and then asked if I could, and they said no.

Don’t remember how the mascara issue came out, but I do remember what my dad said about the nylons.

He said, “Young girls have legs like garden hoses! You don’t need nylons.” Try to imagine these kinds of conversations now. As it turned out, never was much of a nylon-wearer. I liked black tights. So did my sister. She put them on her head and swaggered around like she had long hair.

So here in my visual conversation about women reorganizing their compositions with respect to experience, is my tribute to girls with legs like garden hoses.

Two of the legs above are really just half of a leg. Two parts of the same leg. The third is bent at a severe angle requiring a spacer element to keep the leg from buckling.

My husband insists these sculptures should have bases. I do not agree. A solid base would interfere with the tension I claim as we women maintain our posture.

Chairs Have Aprons Too

Kitchen Apron 2019
21″ x 19″ x 9″

An “apron” or “skirt” can be associated with both a woman or a chair. It is the portion of the chair immediately below the seat. It supports the seat, adds character to the chair and hides the mechanical parts. It is a garment that a woman can use to hide the body (the skirt), and a garment that is protecting the garment that is hiding the body (the apron). This is all very complicated! 

Kitchen Apron

The design of chairs of course relates closely to the human body. Their design is because of our design. A woman at the height of the 1950s sits in a chair, her skirt and her apron cover the skirt/apron of that chair. Her role for the moment might be inferred by which apron she is wearing; her kitchen apron or her hostess apron. 

Hostess Apron 201924″ x 20″ x 9″

Lucky for me. I modify real chairs in composition to reveal how women reorganize themselves as a result of various life experiences. These new compositions reflect a shoring up after a woman has lost a bit of herself. Think of scar tissue.

Hostess Apron

Herein Lies the Problem

“Zen/Not Zen” 2018
40″ x 19″ x 18″

New to the 3-D world, it has amazed me that some competitions and exhibitions allow only one image per entry. That means the jury will only see one side of a piece that is meant to be viewed in the round.

Should we be like Picasso and Braque and their invention of cubism? Merge all views of a piece into one grand image that gives the viewer a feeling of having experienced all sides simultaneously? Man, were they ahead of their time!

This is the opposite side of the chair. It is in high contrast to the simplicity of the first side. Which is the point of this piece.

My Alma Mater held a juried exhibition last year for its graduates. My work was rejected along with many others and the gallery director got an earful. When questioned about the inability of the jurors to see the entirety of the piece, the director said something to the effect that he gave a project to an employee, and let the employee just run with it. Bad decisions and all.

The point of the exhibition was a good one in theory. He wanted current students to see the jury process. And I assume its limitations. All good. But when rejected for the exhibition, he asked we losers to send in our pieces anyway for a Salon des Refuses. I get that too, but pay expensive shipping to participate? More ears full.

Another point of this piece is the separation of dark versus light. All my early chairs addressed this as a goal. So in the above, the two sides pretty much stay with either being light or dark. I love the idea that one chair can be so different from side to side.

Here is another chair that self separates.

“Mike’s Chair” 2018

Protect Yourself

“Protect Yourself” 2018
42″ x 12″ x 16″

I love using text in my work, whether it is embroidery or sculpture. Sometimes the text adds to the meaning of the piece, but most of the time not. I will place the letter or syllable, upside down, inside out, any odd way so that it is unreadable, but suggests a language inside the placement of my shapes, which are obviously the visual language for the piece.

Lately I have been chopping chairs basically in two, letting more of the integrity of the original chair just “be”. Then modifying what is left. 

I do what I have to to make the chair stand, as in the way women must make some kind of internal repair to withstand experience.

In this view, as in most for the piece, the chair looks very unsteady. It is larger in mass at the top than at the bottom. Yellow pointed shapes provide a first line of offense.

I cut a spindle in half and placed each half at the far edge of what used to be the seat of the chair, trying to imply an invisible plane by that placement. Shapes on the bottom rungs stop at the same implied plane as well. Under the half-spindles are antique wooden window latches. 

At this point, I never apply color in this work. If I find a material that has color, good. But normally it is sanded down to the tint or shade that I want it to be for the integration (or not) into the piece. 

I am having an exhibition of these works in October 2019 at River Gallery in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

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.

1-second chair

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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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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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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