While the play set progresses I have been working on a piece that focus’ on a ceramic work within a larger piece. The larger object was influenced by a surrealist painting by Rene Magritte titled The Rape, but of course I added a nice hundred pounds to the concept and took rape out of the intention for the piece. It is undoubtably another monster, but one that is not threatened from without or within. In fact within is the little fat angel, a sort of child possibly or some inner protective force.
The little piece was crafted specifically to fit within the cavity and rest safely on the terrain of the interior of the monster. My priorities were to have the object fit the space and to relate to the larger object both in composition and content. The larger goal for the work was of course to continue to explore challenges the play set gives rise to. Beyond the mechanics of getting the pieces to work together, I want to push the play set into some of the territory explored in earlier work. The first play set is a rather external piece. I would like to eventually bring the concept within as well an explore some of the issues that self portrait demands. All of the play set work will rely heavily on video to complete the piece, this object is complete without that layer, though I may still produce a video for it.
Finishing the Horse began with research, as usual. What we wanted was a stucco recipe that had both clay and concrete. I know this is a sound practice because I used to mix stucco for my professor Vicky Hansen and she used both, but I could neither remember that recipe or find one on line. We wound up making our own from a recipe I found online that was intended for restoration of historical buildings. While we wanted portland cement in the mix,we were looking for very little. Enough to increase durability on a difficult surface but little enough to avoid the surface becoming brittle and hard to repair. We used these two web pages primarily in our investigations.
We based our recipe off this recipe from the about.com page:
“Materials for Soft Brick Mortar and for Soft Stucco“
5 gallons hydrated lime
10 gallons sand
1 quart white, nonstaining portland cement (1 cup only for pointing)
Water to form a workable mix.
(Koch and Wilson, Architects, New Orleans, Louisiana, February, 1980
To incorporate the clay we replaced half the aggregate (sand) with the unrefined brick clay we acquired for the project.
Refining the mixing process was difficult, eventually we decided to mix half batches because we needed the mix to be rather heavy so it would stick to the underside of the sculpture, also applying the stucco wire was super difficult on such a complex surface so there were spots that were nearly impossible to get the material to adhere. We used straw to help fill in those spots which helped considerably.
Once we had the mix right it was just a whole lot of work to get the piece finished. We applied a second coat to the surface to fill gaps and smooth it a bit a couple days after the first. It was on this second day of stuccoing that we hatched the plan for the video.
Today was a busy day that had me focused on all three installations for the workshop. I started this morning with fresh documentation of the horses on the iron panels. We had some rain last evening and the south side of the coral changed significantly. The first pic was taken when the clay was still wet from the rain and the full shot was from this morning after it had a chance to dry out. I love the changes to the images. The rain drops have given the piece a feeling of great age that I would love to preserve. I have considered many possible techniques but may also just let the rain have its way. i do want the images to be a part of the documentation for the next work and so do not want to loose them entirely, I will continue to look at the issue through the coming week.
I did begin the next piece, by taking delivery of a couple hundred pounds of unrefined brick clay. For the second installation of the workshop I will stay in my coral for a simulacra. I am planning to use the environment that already exists and build a large free standing horse. I pan to build an internal frame and cover that in wire and cobb the surface with a mix of the brick clay and straw. The piece is a complete unknown as I have never done several of the proposed steps for the piece. Likely this means it will evolve a great deal as I get into the work and find my limits, time being chief among them. I hope to have this piece finished this week.
Finally I moved my main work of the workshop off the drawing board and into clay sketch mode. This piece is based off the Snake Mountain toy that was part of the He-Man Masters of the Universe toys form the 1980’s and 90’s. I have been obsessed with making play sets since May and am finally ready to give this a try. I lack almost every critical element to this including the all important narrative rules for the world but I am willing to let them evolve as the piece does. I have the scale, which is driven by my tiny kiln and I understand my plans for installation which will be 30 second commercials for you tube. Stay tuned…this might be fun.
Its true that when things begin to change there is an adjustment period, as ideas and possibilities are explored. It feels like I have been chasing a series of dead ends as I have been seeking a new studio space with my studio/business partner Gabe Wolff. We finally feel like we have settled into a space that will work. Thanks to the generosity of my mom and step dad we have been “put up” in a barn on my parents horse farm. The barn has been used primarily for foaling mares which my mom no longer does for her clients so she was willing to give up a couple stalls to our cause. We have been cleaning and moving with great energy for the past week and today I really could feel the work space beginning to come together. The total move in will take many more weeks but the essentials are in.
Corresponding almost perfectly to this happy event is the beginning of the summer installation class with my professor Linda Ganstrom. The new location has suggested many wonderful opportunities for work but for my first I will be working on a Rapprochment installation in the corral outside our main stall.
i may work on two of the three pieces for the workshop in this space. Since installation is an art of space and time, being able to make art in this space at this time would be a bit magical, it is an intersection of many rich threads of our lives.
The Own Your Own Art Show has is in its 45th year at the Sangre de Cristo art Center. This is my 13th year in the show. The show features affordable fine art pieces meant for gift giving. There is a general limit of three hundred dollars to all the work in the show which keeps it very shopper friendly. The show has earned a wonderful following among the local and regional community.
In all my past years I have been in the show with my former husband, so for this year I wanted to bring a representation of my newer sculptural work, including the paint surface that has come to identify my work. To fit this I chose the birds that have been the other body of work I have focused on for the past year.
The making process for these was simplified to accommodate the price limits. The bodies are simple coil built forms with slabs added for wings and beaks. Decoration is incised marks and a pierced heart on the chest. There were 11 made for the show, with the large ones priced at $250.00, medium at $135.00 and small birds at $95.00.
Opening night was November 16th and was quite successful. I sold one large and two medium pieces. Being a gallery show I will take the typical 60% of the sales.
On the down side of the gallery arrangement was the loss of my favorite pieces due to breakage. Rather than make a claim to the insurance I chose to pull the piece from the inventory sheet and see if it could be successfully repaired.
The other major down side of gallery work for me is the deadline pressure that has been a solid sprint since March. In the chaos of the delivery deadline I failed to get any photos of the group until many had been sold. A lesson I hope I inly have to learn once.
The most recent work for the Monsters and the last for the show was the Keeper of the Dead. This is a piece, like the Lion, that waited for its purpose as the story evolved. This piece features asymmetrical horns, a detail that troubled me when I finished with the piece.
The original plan was to make three dead monsters for grouping of the Dead Ones, each at a different stage of exoskeletal growth. I unfortunately ran out of time to make the third dead one for the series before the show. I still wanted a grouping of three since the other monsters are centered around groups of two. I chose to bring the piece that came to be known as Keeper of the Dead to hold the number three in the grouping.
Unlike the Singer and the Hunter, the Keeper of the dead is chosen rather than born into a particular family. The deformity of the horns indicated a particular talent that is required for the duties of the keeper. The Bugs activity makes a particular sound in the bodies of the Dead Ones. This sound causes the keeper to have a type of hallucination, and this is how the will of the ancestors is interpreted.
The singer, with his roll as historian, the Hunter as person primarily responsible for the physical welfare of the clan and the Keeper who interprets the will of the ancestors, comprise the government of the Monsters. Decisions about location and movement, interaction with other clans and other factors impacting daily life of the clan are decided by this group.
The Lion is a piece that has gone through many changes since the first idea. Origionally I wanted to do a monster with a cat on its back, inspired by the purple monster with a bird on its head in “Singing and Listening”. After several sketches the idea was abandoned for impracticality with the making technique used in creating the work. Instead I chose to morph a monster with a cat. I studied the bodies of mountain lions for the model. The making process was thrilling for this piece and really changed how all future work was constructed. I learned a great deal about how to control the coiling slabs, and when it was finished I felt it was very successful.
For a partner I settled on a meeting moment. His original partner was probably the most beautiful monster of the group. Very tall and lean, she was caught a moment of surprise as if seeing the lion for the first time and being afraid. After the success and learning of the lion I chose a new way to build the leg-arms, a much more aggressive technique that sacrificed the stability of the long slab in the back for a slab on slab straight build. The arms were to heavy then to support their weight and dropped off while loading.
I decided to save the rest of the piece and build arms of another material. Looking at the other monsters it was decided that the rules for replacement had already been established with the baby, that they had a skeleton inside the exoskeleton and the replacement would be wooden bone arms. I spent a solid week hand carving humorous, radius and ulna from a hemlock handrail. It was difficult work.
The problem then remained how to secure them to the ceramic in a way that would ensure the life of the piece. Knowing the work was to be handled by others in its life as a gallery object, I wanted to be sure that it would need no special handling or set up. After several months of frustration I decided to edit the piece.
It was a difficult decision and I really mourned the loss of the pair for a while, thinking that the lion would not be paired. I therefore sent him to a show last month, thinking the piece complete. Pulling it out of the studio and putting it into its intended environment really caused me to see him with fresh eyes. I decided I would try another monster and really change the context of the relationship. For this second piece I wanted a partner rather than a victim, and so the hunters came to be. More notes on this pair coming soon.
The next pair in the series is titled Singing and Listening. It depicts the courtship of a young couple. This is a piece that has evolved a great deal in my thinking toward it. initially it was the beginning of a deep relationship that I was most interested, but I have been very curious about the role of singing in a world with no ears.
There are two ways that the story typically develops, first as a lead element in the making of a piece. I get an idea and build it, very straight forward. The second way is more interesting in that it leads more places. When sculpting I am focused on form and material primarily and forget the narrative that drives the piece. I did not intend to have a singing monster, but following the lead of the clay, found one anyway. The second piece was made in reaction to him, as a means of explaining him. It was during the build that I decided to have the horns be hearing organs.
This has worked deeply into the culture of the monster world. The singer holds an important place in the community. Lacking hands, writing or written language has never developed. All knowledge traditions are oral, the singer is the keeper of culture and history for his group. A young singer begins to train in memorization at an early age and typically recite the stories daily so that no fragment is lost. Despite this care change does occur over time. One of the many ways I am planning to record the stories of the monsters is in the songs. Presenting them like gospels of the bible would account for the difference in stories throughout time. It is in this way that I plan to tell the story of how we lost our hands and became monsters thousands of years ago.
The bird on the purple monsters head is another inconsistency that I have yet to understand. These early pieces were made before I had considered how large the world would grow. I may find a way to account for the bird being as unchanged as it is but in the end the piece may need to be remade.
This is the second piece created in the monster series, “Sleeping and Watching”. This piece was very important for moving the story forward. For many people this piece is pretty horrible, until I explain that the baby here is not dead but sleeping. Because of the horns and the body changes I needed a different way for the monsters to reproduce.
The first pair set a precedence for a shift in gender thinking. The piece that looks female is Gabe and the piece that looks male is Jenirae. I carried this idea further with this work in letting the males give birth. The baby rests in a segment of his fathers body which he separates when the baby is ready to be born. All monsters are born skeletal, the exoskeleton is excreted over the first few years of life and continues to grow throughout the life span of an individual.
As for the face of the father I have yet to understand the significance of his laking a mouth and nose and having instead that bony ridge. I have considered several explanations but none satisfies the rules of the world. The idea came from a sketch and it was important to use it at the time so I am sure I will find a satisfactory explanation for it eventually. Its actually great to have pieces of the work that I cant really understand. Its part of what keeps me so interested in this project.
The title for this piece also set rules for the growth of the project. Truly the work is about human relationships but in titling the piece I began to consider that they also represent interior relationships. There are always parts of ourselves that sleep and others that watch. The title is meant to point to this.
This piece was the first of the series that I call the monsters. This work revolves around a story that is added to as the pieces are built. In this blog I hope to work out the details of this story. This piece was based on my best friend and his wife and their wonderfully close relationship. It was after they were made but not yet finished that I considered they might be something more.
Originally I thought of them as busts. On closer consideration and with the beginning of the next pair I began to think of them as complete creatures. Humans, after some cataclysmic change that took our hands thus our ablity to make things. What we see that remains is their relationships.
Most of the monsters are presented as pairs or groups of threes. Revolving the work around relationships has given it an urgency for me as my own long marriage has dissolved. Dancing the line with biography in the work has been important so that it does not become tied to a moment in my life but can still carry the urgency of real experience. I have found looking outside my own concerns and thinking about the relationships of others very helpful in this.
This work makes its gallery debut next month. At the opening I am planning to have the creation story of the monsters finished to read. I’ll continue to work that out here in my blog