Tag: artistic process

Abstractions

I realize that my animal sculptures are the most popular of my works. They bring smiles to peoples faces which is my main goal. But quite honestly, my abstract work is my favorite stuff to make. I can really dig down inside of me and create feelings and stories that resonate in a purely non-verbal way.

It is difficult, though, to be an abstract artist these days without having an ulterior motive for creating something. It seems there has to be a deeper meaning, an underlying reason for making something. Environmentalism, sexual identity, politics, family values…the list is endless. I get so frustrated because, while I have subjects that are close to my heart, I don’t always think about them when I am creating. My focus tends to be more simple, a shape, a color, a pattern, a texture, an emotion, a story. I sometimes feel that the art world has forgotten about these words, has declared them too easy, too “surfacey” to talk about.

I ran across this quote in a book called “Identity Unknown: Rediscovering Seven American Women Artists” by Donna Seaman. The first chapter is about Louise Nevelson, a Grand Dame of Abstract Collage. One paragraph caught my eye and caused an “AHA!” moment for me. I felt vindicated, that perhaps there is, after all, an ulterior motive for what I do. It just doesn’t always have to be put into words.

“Abstract art is an invitation to imagine, to interpret, to reflect. Abstract art induces reverie. It liberates us from the literal and the everyday, and provides a bridge to the realm of the collective unconscious. Like jazz musicians–who begin with a deep knowledge of song and traditional composition, then venture out into new territory, making fresh connections and creating unforeseen variations on a theme–abstract artists improvise on line and form, light and dark, emptiness and presence. Abstract art is about mass and energy, being and nothingness, moods and correspondences. We absorb its emotional valence, its action or stillness, cacophony or silence. Our busy minds instinctively seek patterns and images in abstract art, just as we do when we gaze at clouds fire, rain, and falling, whirling snow.”

EXACTLY!!!

Photos taken at two different junkyards in the past couple of weeks. I am still having so much fun with this photography stuff!!!

good stuff

Yippeeeeeee!!! The Maryland State Arts Council has approved a grant given to the Carroll County Arts Council (thank you Sandy Oxx!) and the Carroll County Recreation and Parks Department to commission a sculpture from…wait for it…ME!!! I will be spending the next year making a Great Blue Heron to be installed at Piney Run Park, which is literally five miles from my house. I am so honored that all of the above people thought well enough of my work to trust me with this project. If you were looking for a reason to support the NEA, look no further. This is the trickle down effect of the federal office for the arts.

Here is what I included in my part of the grant proposal…

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I have to put the heron aside momentarily because I have a fun event happening next week that I have to prepare for. I will be experimenting with an installation of paper cast rocks at the Horowitz Center at Howard Community College. I have made dozens and dozens of these rocks over the past few months. They are super cool. I begin with rust stained paper towels. Each  has been molded around a rock while wet. After drying, the rock is taken out. The resulting form resembles a river rock, but is surprisingly light and fragile feeling.

I am hoping that during my time of installing the project, I will get some good dialogue going with the students, faculty and staff of HCC. The Horowitz Center is the college’s arts center so there is a lot of traffic that flows through each day. At the end of the day, I will pack the rocks back into a box, clean up and go home.

Here are pictures of the rock-making process:

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Paper towels are sprayed with vinegar and rubbed in steel dust
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An hour later the dust oxidizes and the towels dry
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I line them with a clean paper towel for strength then cut each sheet into four sections
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Adding water I wrap the sheets around a river rock
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I lay the rocks on a grid to air dry
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After peeling the paper off the rock, it is added to the ever-growing pile

I think this is going to be soon much fun and I can’t wait to see how it all comes out.

a walk through the zoo

I was on vacation last week. That feels a little funny to say because my daily life would be considered a vacation by many people. So I will revise it. I spent a week in a totally different location, spending my days with friends by the pool, drinking those kinds of drinks that taste better with umbrellas, going to the zoo, the botanical cactus garden and hiking into the Living Oases that were up in the hills. Then I spent more time at the best zoo in the world, walked along the beach at sunset and had some awesome sushi with my nephew. If you guessed Palm Springs and San Diego, you would be right. I thought I would share some of my pix with you.

I’m pretty sure when you read that you thought that I would be posting beautiful pictures of animals like this:

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But here’s the thing. While I enjoy taking fabulous pictures, I was actually on a mission. I was doing research for future sculptures and as such, I need more information than a pretty picture could give me.

For instance, I needed to know what the butt, the foot, the skin and the side of an Indian rhino looks like. Look at how much the spine is ridged. Believe it or not, the skin is not armor-like, it is soft…rhinos can feel when a fly lands.

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And while I didn’t see the skull of the Indian Rhino, I did see one of a black rhino. Isn’t it fascinating? It doesn’t even really look like a skull. No wonder they are sort of funny looking! ( I picked the brain of this docent for a while, he was very informative.) The opening under the horn is not the mouth, this skull is actually missing its jaw so you can see the top teeth at the bottom of the skull. It makes sense though, the rhino smells and hears way better than it sees. That is some huge sinus cavity.

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For the Greater Kudu, it was great to see what the feet, the back of the neck, the back of the head and the underbelly looks like.There is a hump on top of the animal, but there is also one under its chest.

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But of course the horns are what intrigue me the most so I was thrilled to see them in person.

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It was a special treat to see cheetahs in both locations, for I am going to the cheetah preserve in Namibia next month and will see them close up and personal. They are fascinating creatures, very thin, very muscular. And, as you can see in these pictures, they have very small ears and beautiful feet.

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The orangutans will have to wait for another post, I did not get many good pictures of them for various reasons, the most important one being that I foolishly only took one memory card and filled it up before I got to the exhibit. Quite honestly it was a surprise to see them, and since I have some down in DC that I can go see, I didn’t mind too much.

You can be sure that there will many more animal pictures coming. I will be spending 10 days in Namibia on the Skeleton Coast and at Etosha National Park observing the wildlife and trying not to die of the heat. I am super excited about it (and yes, super nervous as well). It has been on my list of things to do for a long time and I can’t wait!

 

on being successful

I have always been attracted to fairytales, magic and metaphor. I relate much better to Jung than Freud, Joseph Campbell is my hero and I prefer to see myself as a greek goddess than a child of one God. I am trying to get over being a product of the 80’s and 90’s psychological mantra that says that the subconscious (and by extension and relation, the conscious) drives all the bad things that happen to you. Self sabotage, unconscious desires of failure and sickness ruled my view on life, even when I was given proof that it was a false supposition. I used it daily to castigate myself, to remind myself that even if I consciously thought I could succeed, there was a part of me that would take care of that and lead me to failure or worse. If something went wrong, I could say that I had subconsciously willed it. In a way it meant I didn’t have to take responsibility for my actions. In a weird way it meant that all negative stuff happened to me because deep down I wanted it to.

I am slowly letting go of this philosophy. I now work harder on my conscious thoughts, my conscious actions and conscious relationships with people. Ironically, this requires much more introspection and identification than I am used to. In order to succeed it is imperative to know what your limitations are and to ask for help when you need it. Not so easy for the stoic person who was taught (by my amazing mother) that showing your vulnerabilities and your weaknesses opens you up to a plethora of possible negative encounters. Hide it, take care of it yourself and you will become stronger. Make it look like you know what you are doing, don’t ask questions, learn by observing…those were my mantras. You can probably see how this led to a series of failures on my part, not to mention huge anxieties and panic attacks when I thought someone would see through my veneer. Now I can see that these thoughts, and not my subconscious, were responsible for my lack of success.

One thing I have learned from this personal transformation is that magic doesn’t work by itself. Magic works with a degree of collusion from the audience. You can only make someone believe you are better, talented, successful if they want to believe it. It is easy to create the smoke and mirrors that can make something look amazing. Ask anyone in theater about that. All you need is the set, the costumes and the lighting to transform a person into a character in a story. But if the audience member is not willing to go along with the magic, they will understand that the set is one sided, the costumes are put together with tape and stitches and the lighting is ephemeral. I grew up in the theater and was trained in how to put on the face of a happy, successful person. But I always knew better.

Now, funnily enough, I can say I am successful. I am able define my abilities, limitations and goals in a different light. I can say that, while my definition of success is much different than the traditional American one, I am successful. I am mastering the ability to create form, emotion and story using steel, fibers and (sometimes) polymer clay. I have found a way to share my talents and my stories with my community in a way that brings me pleasure. Of course I still have my mother’s voice in my head saying “tooting your own horn is vulgar” to which I would respond (if she were still here) “Tooting my own horn is a part of claiming myself as a person, a woman and an artist.”

So here I am, a middle aged woman who is finally coming into her own. It’s been painfully hard work sometimes but surprising, exhilarating and rewarding in the end. I think how different my life could have been if I had known how to stand up for myself, how to admit my lack of knowledge and how to ask for help when I was younger. But those years are over and I am grateful that I am learning these things now. I still have a ways to go, old lessons die a difficult death, but I am still young, I have time to perfect myself.

Besides, I just helped my dad celebrate his 95th birthday. That gives me 40 more years to figure out how the hell to play this game of life. And if this selfie is right, the lesson is that it is more important to be excited about chocolate cake that got put in front of you than it is to smile at the camera…

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the kitchen sink

There are days when I sit down to write a post and it flows like water from a faucet. This is not one of those days. Not because I have nothing to say. Au contraire. I have too much to talk about. All these thoughts are running around in my head and I can’t corral them enough to provide a coherent theme. Sometimes it helps to post a few pix and that starts to visually explain what’s going on in my weird little head. So here are some pix from the studio. Lots of stuff is happening there…of course it doesn’t require that I actually talk or communicate anything verbally. All I have to do is weld or paint…

sneak peek at the beginning of the next sculpture.
sneak peek at the beginning of the next sculpture.
sneak peek at the beginning of a rust painting
sneak peek at the beginning of a rust painting
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studio abstract with steel dust, a steel circle and other detritus

Okay, that didn’t help very much.

I’m still having trouble pulling the words together.

Sad to say, I think you’re going to have to wait for another post to read anything edifying.

Sigh.