The first opening of the show titled “monsters” opened last Friday the 5th of October. It was a very successful opening for me, nearly 100 people were in attendance and the work was very well received. There was a great mix of old friends and supporters and new people just getting acquainted with the the work. Openings for the Hoag studio go late so there was plenty of opportunity for long and intimate discussion, which makes an opening so worth while.
The stories lack of presence in the space was a challenge, and I wound up telling it more than I wished, which is good information for future shows of the work, the story must accompany the work.
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