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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Upcoming Exhibitions

“Vertabrae” has been chosen for an exhibition in Fayetteville, NC. It’s name is “Reclaimed!” and work must be made from waste and have had another job in its life. Waste Management, of course, is a sponsor of this event.

The exhibition will be held at The Arts Council of Fayetteville/Cumberland County from June 28 through August 17, 2019.

“Domestic” will be shown at the Virginia Beach Art Center from July 5 through August 11, 2019. “Fusion Mid-Atlantic” is the name of the exhibition and work must combine two or more mediums. Aluminum is the second medium here.

An aluminum armrest from a 1960’s folding outdoor chair is included as well as a spiral from a screen door, which is on the other side of the piece.

“Solo” is going to Virginia Beach as well.

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

Lean In, Y’all

Lean In 2019
30″ x 19″ x 15″

We all remember this title from the book by Sheryl Sandburg. The term means to grab opportunities without hesitation.

Not bad advice really, but one has to wonder as Facebook defends mountains of questionable decisions. Every action has a reaction as this chair displays in seeking equilibrium.

Advances in one part of your life will require changes in another. That’s not to say that it doesn’t create a more interesting composition.

But you still have to be able to stand.

Domestic

Domestic 2019
38″ x 19″ x 13″

Aprons, wooden spoons, metal scrub brushes all point to getting domestic in my work.

Not that this chair is any kind of self-portrait. Experiencing quite the opposite as former priorities are reshuffled to have more time to work on art, the houses and gardens are suffering. My fault.

The back of this piece features the armrest of a folding aluminum chair; the kind everyone used to have in the sixties. The front of the piece has a part of an old aluminum screen door from the same era. I love aluminum, but that is another story.

Creating Light

A visiting artist came to Coker College when I was teaching there. A painter, she discussed the concept of “creating light” in her paintings. I knew well what she was doing as I did the same things in my embroidered work. She used complementary colors against each other in parts of the painting, and modulated each against the other as they rose to a dramatic peak, and then calmed, making the dramatic detail a brilliant contrast to the rest of the work. It could be said that yes, she created light in that certain area.

I first found this in my work in undergraduate school, knew that it was something special, but did not know at that time how I created it.

Here is an example of “creating light” in a mosaic I did a few years ago. This piece is on a cement patio, is about 3″ x 7′. Notice the chevron shapes in the middle of the composition. These shapes alternate in dark blue and dark gold at the bottom and end up far lighter at the top of the composition. This is how I created color or value gradation, making the feeling of light. In this medium, broken tile, there will be an element assuring that the phenomenon is not nearly as brilliant as it can be in painting. The grout, which is applied after all the tile work is finished, minimizes everything because it surrounds each tile in the totality of the composition. Grout is kind of a unifier and creating light depends upon using colors as different from each other as possible.

Notice the real light at the left of the composition. Learning from this example, you can also create light in a composition by employing a lighter value of the same color in specific places.

That is the case in “Fallopian”. below.

And “Extra Limb”.

“Just Bones” concentrates lighter areas to one side of the composition.

A Path of Development in One artist’s work

Work develops and hopefully matures. Throughout the years, I have benefited from comparing one art image against the next. To put them in chronological order and see what remains constant and what changes.

When working in narrative embroidery, I had to make a chronological document for some now unknown reason. I laid all my slides out in order and viewed graduate school, college teaching, having babies, understanding responsibility, understanding marriage, and dealing with cancer, among other things. When the visual chronology was finished, I sat on the floor of my studio and cried. There it all was, 40 years.

So now embarking on a new style of work, one that has been in existence for only a year (not counting all the crap I made learning to work with wood), it is easy to see development. That is what I aim to do here.

The chair above, “Pussies” takes the shape of a formal chair but one that employs the combination of parts from many chairs. Its title refers to the Women’s March in 2017 and the demeanor of the 2016 campaign. This chair could be drawn to a table, but nobody would be able to sit in it, also tagging a continuing problem for women.

(The chair below, “Dreamgirl”, just won the prize for sculpture in a national exhibition.)

After came chairs where the fourth corner disappeared and I was interested in defining one outside plane of the chair with objects and shapes. A kind of defensive armor, possibly. I wanted to employ the most diverse collections of shapes possible but stay this side of chaos (this idea played a big part in my narrative embroideries).

For a while, I left more of the original chair intact. With that done, the viewer can focus on what it not normal about the chair. This chair, called “Protect Yourself”, employs diamond shapes around the composition as armour. Two half spindles on the seat try to imply an invisible plane by stopping at the same point.

“Mamah” utilizes almost as much of a ladder-back chair as
Protect Yourself”. Ideas tend to come in groups like this until they aren’t fun anymore.

In “Vertebrae” above, the amount of chair parts to create the composition is less than before. The pieces are simpler. And they refer to parts of the body further carrying on the comparison between women’s bodies and chairs. In the below two images, “Fallopian”, the title names the familiar curve in the major shape in the piece.

Maybe This is More than #MeToo

“Make-Do” 2018
43″ x 17″ x 13″

Having said before that these Uneasy Chairs represent internal work done by women to compensate for everyday bias and illegal sexual treatment, I pull out the lens a bit. 

Have I seen this phenomenon in other areas? In myself, for sure. Learn to live without central heat? Yes. Buy clothes at thrift shops? Yes! Lean down the pecking order from outdoor flea markets to the Goodwill Clearance Center? Positively.

A friend just bought a magnificent home from a woman. “Only three buttons work on the microwave!” I asked him if the appliance worked. Yes, but. I wondered if I would have bothered to fix it if the three good buttons that worked were the right ones. Saying that maybe it was a money thing, he said: “She has plenty of money”.

From this side of the chair, it is easy to see what this poor woman rigged up to be able to stand. She extended her rib cage. She pulled in two assorted legs, and one sturdy dowel to prop up a combination of elements that make a seat of some sort. In this case, X  marks the spot where one cannot sit. And there are the spikey things and the big egg in the way, representing fragility and femininity.

This piece has a moving part. At the lower right, a plane from a toddler’s shape sorter has been stolen and added to the women’s (support) system. The babies don’t fall far from the tree. 

Small slats of fine bamboo reinforce each spindle. 

I guess the point becomes that we are all rebuilding due to experience all the time. We are going to have to do it to get along. The further we have to simplify to gain clarity, the muddier some of our compositions should be. It’s a process and we are in for some work. 

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.

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.