I’ve been experimenting with rawhide for the past couple of weeks, but took a break for four days, more or less, over Christmas. I bought some pieces of rawhide “seconds”, and had wanted to see how they would look wrapped around some wires, so I constructed a few wire armatures and started wrapped the hydrated rawhide around the wires. I tried sewing some pieces together while wet, but that proved to be difficult, so I bought a leather punch, which made things much easier.
However, I also made a couple of pieces without any rawhide, and they are much cleaner to look at.
Here are some photographs of five different wire sculptures, three with rawhide and two without.
And, finally, some photographs of cloth (painting tarp, actually)
I realize that I’ve been silent for the past month, and that is because I didn’t really have much that is shareable. I’ve finished my courses for the fall semester, and am moving into Christmas break. Here are a few images of what I’ve been working on.
Here are a few photographs I took with my cell phone camera. I seem to be attracted to photographing these monochromatic scenes, where grey disappears into grey. I love this type of weather, this type of light.
Book binding and poetry
Finally, I’m teaching myself some basic bookbinding techniques, including Japanese bookbinding. I have a basic plan to make a small book with two of my own poems in it, and I’m thinking of making the pages out of watercolour paper and then typing the poems and printing them out on high quality computer paper; I’ll attach the poems to the watercolour paper and draw/paint small watercolour illustrations around the poems, and bind it all together with a Japanese binding technique.
Here is a link to one of the videos I’ve watched. I think this technique looks repeatable, and I plan to use it for this first small book. I haven’t yet decided on a cover.
As I frequently do, I’ll start with the music. Jerusalem in my Heart is a group out of Montreal. Just when I think I’ve found the music that I love the most, I come across something that bumps it out of the way. “that’s the sound I’ve been looking for”, I think to myself, when the new music arrives. And I live, breathe, obsess about the new music until something else arrives out of nowhere.
Here is a link to Jerusalem in my Heart, including a whole bunch of information about the group, and some music samples.
After spending another few hours in the photography studio photographing the entities again, but this time in groupings of two, three, or four (or more), a process during which I became more intimate with each of their personalities, I came away with a concept that will, in a large format that I won’t share here (yet) include the wooden figures I made last year, the white skeletal entities I made in the summer, and the current figures that I’m working on and sharing here now. As part of this concept where I’m starting to see how the figures are “related”, I decided it was time to make a baby. Here is the first baby, and it is called “Before I Was Born”; it’s not really supposed to be me, but that’s the title that popped into my head, so there you go.
I also finished Cat Body since my last post. Baby Body (before I was born) and Cat Body, as well as being part of the larger work I creating, are also part of my assignment for 3D design and integrated studies at the college.
Here is Cat Body.
Entities in studio for second photoshoot
I have the studio booked again for photoshoots on November 9 and 10. Each time I go into the studio I’m adding the new entities and learning more about their interrelationships.
It takes a really long time to upload each photograph to WP, so I’m only including a small handful of the 200 or so that I took last week. Also, most of them are kind of crappy, so I’ll try to include only those that I think capture some of what I’m trying to express. I have annotated the photographs, as all the entities are “named” now, and it will provide a sense of the narrative.
But first…some music. Try Dorothy Ashby. In my musical explorations, I came upon the harp playing of Mary Lattimore (contemporary American harpist), which took me to a BBC radio show (available on the BBC app called BBC Sounds) called Late Junction, hosted by Verity Sharp. In the 29 October podcast is a Mary Lattimore mixtape, introduced by Mary Lattimore, and featuring a number of harpists who influenced her own development as a harpist. The mixtape features harp greats like Alice Coltrane and Dorothy Ashby, the latter of whom was active in the 50s and 60s playing “afro harp”, and “jazz harp”…
If you don’t really like harp, the playing of Dorothy Ashby or Mary Lattimore or Alice Coltrane may change your mind.
Here is a link to Dorothy Ashby on the album “Hip Harp”, from 1958.
And here is Alice Coltrane in a late career harp solo:
And here is a link to Mary Lattimore’s 2016 album called “The Withdrawing Room”. I chose to include this one instead of her more recent “Silver Ladders” because I’m more familiar with it, and I love the atmosphere it creates – I listen to this while in my studio. Beautiful.
Continuing on the theme of “body”
Gourd Project update
Here is a reminder of the process I’m following to dry the gourds.
I am not a musician, nor do I have any experience as a luthier. But I love sound. Right now as I write this post I’m listening to Mary Lattimore’s album The Withdrawing Room. Here is the link again, just in case I can tempt you.
The word “desiderium” means “desire, characterized by grief, because the desire can never be met”.
This tableau that I pulled together out of various elements is meant to represent the entities surrounding a person in their last hours. The first photograph, which tries to capture everything, is a fail, so I’ve added a number of other photographs to focus on some of the individual elements. The shell hanging in the middle is a pendulum and the small book covered in cellophane is a book of poems called “Loveletting”, in which each of five poems is an attempt at loveletting, a word based on the concept of bloodletting. A band called Sons of an Illustrious Father has a song called “Loveletting” (lyrics here: https://www.musixmatch.com/lyrics/Sons-of-an-Illustrious-Father/Loveletting), and here is a YouTube video of the song by the actual band (sound, no visuals: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=duOKZHs7-LY), but other than that I could not find it mentioned anywhere on the big bad interwebs. I used the word and then later found the song by Sons of an Illustrious Father.
Here is the music, sort of. I love Laurie Anderson, and I love the idea of making my own instrument, something that has no preexisting rules for how to play it, and something that is not necessarily tuned to any currently used scale. I’m not sure if that is possible. But I’m going to try.
Catastrophic Water Event
This is a short post this week, in part because I’ve had problems with the plumbing in my condo, with plumbers, ServiceMaster folk, and building management traipsing around in here. I’ll spare you the details, but let’s just say that my life has been disrupted and I’ve not been feeling that great. Mostly I’m riddled with worry.
This skateboarder is part of an assignment in the sculpture class, as is the following piece that I worked on while the plumbing was making life horrible. Generally speaking, I love working on long-term projects, ones that I have to put together piece by piece over a long period of time. However, I also need smaller projects to work on at the same time, so that I get some feeling of accomplishment along the way. This is why I have the two projects running side by side, and then of course the lyre-making project, which makes it three projects.
All life really wants is to live. A convenient metaphor right now is to think of the breath of life as a virus occupying our bodies until our bodies give out.
So, the skateboarder and the small sculptures I’m making here are both part of my sculpture class. I have proposed to make a life-sized skateboarder, using my grandson as my primary model, and 100 “entities”, these small sculptures made of air-drying clay. 100 is an arbitrarily chosen number, but I chose it because I consider myself to be a slow learner, and I’m hoping that by the time I get to the 100th entity, it might actually be pretty good. Also, when you do multiples of things like this, set a goal of 100, that gives room for what I do and how I do it to change and evolve, which may be the same as saying that I might get better. Ideas beget ideas. It’s addictive.
Making a lyre is a longer term project that is not necessarily attached to any course I’m taking, or going to take. I introduced the project in an earlier post, and have since managed to find some squashes to turn into gourds to turn into lyres.
Next steps for lyre making:
find skin for covering
design a “harp” structure to be placed over the skin which is covering the hollowed out half-gourd. The process I’m following for making the harp is described in an earlier post, and while that maker cut out and shaped pieces of wood for his lyre, I’m going to look into other possible materials to use for the harp part of the lyre, and because I love working with figures so much, I’m going to see if I can make the harp structure look like figures instead of just pieces of wood.
I made two more entities this week. They each have a set of wings, although it’s difficult to see them in these pictures. More to come.
Last year I saw some art that used sausage casing…hmmm…I can’t recall who the artist was, so I’ll have to look that up and update this post later, if I can find her.
I want to use sausage casing for the wings on this second entity, so before diving in, I did a test.
I then cut off a piece of sausage casing from one of the strings of casing, dipped it in water, and wrapped the casing around part of the wire, to see what would happen.
The casing immediately became very difficult to handle as the water made it very slippery. Next time, a bit less water before wrapping it around the wire, and maybe use tweezers to handle the wet casing.
Entities on a Window Sill
I’ve found a couple of squashes to turn into gourds, and one, or both of them, will become a lyre. I also have a set of eight strings ready. This project will likely take me a year or longer. Updates kept here.
Well, I gave it a body and a HEAD! Oh my gosh, his head is awful.
The scarf has been painted, but I still have a few more details to add on the scarf, and I need to remove the paint containers and paint the rest of the base.
At this point I’m starting to get excited about putting on the finishing touches and looking at the whole ridiculousness of what I’ve created.
And, and, and…
Art School stuff:
one of the courses I am taking (I am taking two) is called Creative Processes. The first assignment is to make an assemblage.
I had an assignment which I documented elsewhere (in an actual physical process book, and on my school blog), so I won’t include all the process documentation here. But here are some photographs I took along the way.
My Modern Met, from June 9, 2017, has a full article with photographs of wire sculptures. I’d like to get to the point where I can work JUST in wire, and have it look good. For now, though, I’ll continue on the current trajectory until I’ve learned everything that I want to learn.
I can’t include the link to the Met here, because the Met doesn’t seem to allow itself to be linked to (?).
Last year I thought I’d like to try to make a lyre. I found a great website describing how to do so, and I put the idea aside until this fall, when I’d be able to find some gourds at the market.
I don’t actually have much new to add this week. I started school AND I was really tired so I took too many naps.
But, I did “finish” the cowpoke, and here are some photographs of the cowpoke, and then some with the cowpoke and opera singer.
I modelled the hat on a stetson that I saw on the Stetson webpage. I like how I managed to keep the ears sticking out of the hat. Everything is really rough, lots of cracks, uneven coloration. I’m torn between thinking its not good enough and thinking that I love the imperfections, that anyone playing with this cowpoke will not only be in relationship with the “toy”, but also will be aware that there was a “maker”, also with imperfections.
I have a thing about “perfect” toys, mass produced or not.
DIGRESSION in which I received the following TM:
BACK TO THE MAIN STORY:
ART SCHOOL STUFF:
So, I went to my first class in FIN 140 this past week; our first assignment is an assemblage. Here is what I have done so far to get ready. We are to gather up 4 – 5 non-precious objects, do an object analysis, and then bring them to class with various connecting devices such as string, tape, glue.
(I’m taking two classes this fall, and I suspect there may be some competition between what I WANT to do and what I HAVE to do for my assignments. Lots of naps.)
And then, because I was into taking photographs of the doll, I kept going…
Okay, enough with the doll already. But I’m putting these pictures in here to remind myself (if I ever read this again) that I tend to get carried away with figures, especially human (doll) figures. Because yeah, I had a lot of fun on Friday night taking those photos.
Because I have quite a bit of human hair, and because I’m currently working on model figures, some of which have hair, I’ve been curious about how to best add the hair to the figures. Last week I made the opera singer, who has long grey hair, but I just fumbled around with attaching hair to their head. I thought it might be a good idea to find out a better way (better ways?) to work with hair. The following video is a start in that direction. It actually looks really easy.
I returned to an earlier painting I had been working on, but which got covered by a black cloth and so I forgot about it. Much of this week has been about returning again and again to this painting, adding layer after layer. It started out as a charcoal and pastel drawing, but morphed into an acrylic painting. 16 x 22. The last time I posted it, it looked like this:
Opera Singer With a Cowboy (and a horse)
The other thing I’ve been working on is the Opera Singer With a Cowboy. Here are some progress shots.
When I resumed work on the above drawing/painting, I found another drawing beneath it, so I started to add to this one, too.
Last spring, Angela suggest that I try videotaping myself while I am making something. Talk out loud, Anne, she said, while you are in your process, and record that too. The following two videos are attempts at doing that.
The original sculpture was created by P.J. Mene, and if this is an original Mene, I should be able to find his name on the right of the base. I can’t find his name, but I can see the first word of the title, which is Djinn.The full title of the piece is Djinn, Etalon Barbe and I think I can barely see the rest of the title.
Here is a photograph of an “original”, in excellent condition. My sculpture is missing the fence (broken off many years ago when I was a child, maybe even by me?).
making a horse
Before I could start making a horse, I needed to understand both the proportions of a horse, and the relative proportions of the horse I wanted to make compared to the figure that the horse is intended to accompany (the cowpoke).
Using the proportions illustrated in the diagram above, I drew the following on a piece of scrap newsprint.
Using a diagram of a horse skeleton that is approximately the same size as the drawing, I started to bend some wire for the horse armature. I plan to make the skeleton armature as complete as possible, so will not finish this week.
No apple music? Try listening to this one track from the album, available on YouTube.
Liked that one? Try this:
In this quick video, another fast motion, I’m securing the legs to the edge of the dress with clay, then adding a ridge of clay along the bottom edge of the dress. While working, I decide to fatten the legs with the addition of aluminum foil. I hadn’t been thinking about that until this stage.
Back to the cowboy, now…
How do I get better working with the medium, yet maintain the “rough” look?
…some of the questions I ask myself while I am making relate to the struggle between process and product…
I find myself getting impatient to finish, and not only to finish, but to move on to the next piece.
Because there is a next piece, a new armature, waiting to be filled out. I create the armature for the next piece because I am “afraid” that if I don’t have something waiting for me to do, I’ll not do anything at all, I’ll lose the drive, I’ll lose the ideas, the creativity.
But by having the next thing to do on deck, I’m also in a constant state of excitement about moving on to that next thing, to see “what will happen next”, and of course to continue to build the cast of strange characters that is populating my apartment, and giving me amusing things to look at.
So, what’s this “amusing things to look at” about? Each piece I make is imbued somehow with the intentions I had for the piece, the process I engaged in to make the piece, the challenges and decisions I made about the piece, the thoughts I had about the characters and their personalities as I made them, and an excitement about how the most recent piece would “fit in” with the existing pieces. When I look at each piece, I can see the story of that piece.
I can’t overstate the depth of curiosity I feel about the growing field of characters that are filling up the upper reaches of my living space, and I imagine them moving around, dancing and talking to one another, coming alive. I find those imaginings to be entertaining, and I get a lot of pleasure from knowing that I have created those creatures who cavort, either while I am watching them, or just on their own without me.
I have a sense that I am not finished making these pieces, some more human than not, and some more not human, but imbued with human motivations yet not constrained by the mainstream of society…because of course they don’t won’t “fit in”, and so they’re free to be the goofy strange beings that they are. Lucky them.
Too much writing.
The opera singer is sitting behind me, the cowboy is on the table beside me. They would like me to write them an opera (libretto), and all the other characters need their lines, too.
How the heck do I do that? Write a libretto. Sheesh.
I pulled an old drawing out of the pile of old drawings that I don’t like and started to add some colour to it. There is no date on the drawing, and no photograph in my files, which means I must have not seen any possibilities inherent in the drawing. Yet I tossed it on a table, and pulled it out and started adding to it. I still “don’t like” it, but have learned that me not liking something is a mostly meaningless response.
In this light, the charcoal looks a bit purple, but it’s just regular charcoal. Maybe the green does that, too.
And I worked on a sculpture, adding some colour to its “wing-hands”; wanted to photograph the sculpture, and the only place that seemed like a good place to photograph it was on the extended arm-ature of The Sensate, the central piece from The Procession, which itself is a work in progress.
Adding this new piece to The Sensate redefined the piece, and it now represents time, and so together, the piece is called Sensate Reaches Out to Time…it looks like time is escaping.
Even more returns…
I can’t help but take photographs of the figures hanging out in the windows. They look different every time I look at them in different lighting conditions.
Here are a few photographs of existing figures in the studio, seen in new light.
Today’s inspirational artist is Luo Li Rong. This link takes you to her Instagram page.
Today’s music. This YouTube video is my go-to whenever I need inspiration to take me into the depths of my own emotions. Etta James’ timing, the backup group’s ability to go where she takes them, the way her emotional depth is revealed as she sings…yes, I watch this piece frequently enough. Her soul revealed during eight minutes of raw emotion, and likely fueled by heroin.
(I think that the version I used to watch on YouTube has been taken down and replaced by this version, edited to remove some of her “vocal digressions”. This version is still good, but quite heavily edited, maybe several minutes shorter than the one I used to watch, and includes an ad 3/4 of the way through.
It’s one of my dreams to be able to make a sculpture of Etta James as she looks in this video, her expressive face, her eyes.
I’m calling this post “Aria” because I’m trying to make an opera singer. Eventually I’d like to make a sculpture of Etta James, so this piece is a start towards that, a kind of skill-building exercise working towards making her. I still have a long way to go, and may never get there skill-wise, but I’ll get somewhere different from where I started.
I’m not exactly sure about the relationship between the singer and the cowboy, but it may become clear to me as I work on each.
…and to put me in the mood (for the cowboy)…I just have to say, I loved living in Alberta…
I didn’t listen to much music while in the woods, but just before I left, I was listening to Maria Teriaeva. Here’s a link to some of her stuff on Soundcloud.
As I write this, I’m listening to a number entitled Paris Texas.
I read somewhere that there’s a lantern making event in the Comox Valley, so I decide that my next figure will be “lantern-like”. I don’t have a plan for the figure other than to get away from making legs and try a different type of armature.
Inspirational artist of the week:
Sophie Kahn. My friend Elaine Smith (elainesspace.com) sent me a link to Sophie Kahn’s work. I am especially enamoured of the “externalized” armatures. Well, that’s what they look like to me.
As I work on this part of this post, I’m listening to Vivaldi’s Gloria. Choral music can put me into a state of deep concentration and frequently feelings of love and tenderness. If I am listening to certain kinds of music while working on a sculpture, it seems to help me connect to the humanness of the piece I’m working on. I think that is why I like working with the human figure.
This music, written to the Glory of God, when I hear it, reaches from the thorax of the human singer(s) and connects directly to my own breathing, and I feel as if I am truly living, that I am part of the human condition, such as it is. Here is the link to Apple Music, the best $100/year that I’ve spent. Parts of this can also be found on YouTube.
I was looking at photographs of other sculptor’s sculptures and was reminded that sometimes an external armature, in the form of an object or another figure, is used.
I always save the heads for the last because it takes a long time to get the skull just the way I want it, and of course the facial expression is crucial to what the piece is saying. I’ve experienced making a facial expression that is not what I had intended, and it completely changes my intentions for the piece. That seems to be okay, so far. In fact, it’s better than okay, because it helps me to see how a different facial expression can change the understanding of the body language. It also feeds my need for almost constant movement or change.
The thing about plastilina is that it isn’t really a “terminal” medium. As I understand it, plastilina figures are generally created in order to make molds with them, and those molds used as casts and the final figures made from any one of a number of different media…hydrocal, concrete, bronze…that seems beyond my scope at this time, as the preparation of those materials is messy and not accessible to me in my apartment/studio with a mere kitchen sink.
Plastilina is an oil-based clay which never dries. It maintains its form, but does not dry out, and I could at any time decide to dismantle the piece and use the clay for something else. That’s part of what makes it a good medium for creating molds and casts.
I imagine many sculptors who work in plastilina have many sculptures in the medium which never get off the shelf and made into molds and casts.
While I’m on the subject of molding and casting, I watched a short video in FIN 100 in which the bronze casting process was shown from start to finish. It was a technical video, a basic figure was created, a mold made, and a cast filled with bronze and then the mold removed to reveal the bronze statue…despite the technicality of the video, I found myself weeping as I watched the process. And I’m a little bit teary right now as I write about this, and I’m not sure if that’s because of the Vivaldi playing in the background or because of the memory of the emotional reaction I had to the video. The reason I record it here in my “notes to self” blog is to capture that experience for myself, to remind myself that there is something important about the act of sculpting to me. And, I’ll add now, the relationship of sculpting to music.
I’m attracted to the large size of this work, the larger than life-ness of the figures, and the scoring on the bodies. There seems to be attention to the correctness of form, but without the need for the surface of the forms to be smooth and perfect. In literature (especially in poetry), we talk about form and content and to what extent and how form and content speak to one another, and how then, to understand the poem.
When I look at some of the photographs a the above linked page and see the armatures, I get a little bit jealous, but also excited to see “how it is done”. I seem to have a deep attraction to armatures, and I even love the word…although six months ago it was not part of my vocabulary, but merely waiting in behind my awareness to become part of my life. I even recall the first time Angela said the word “armature” in a class, and I thought, “what’s that?, I want that, whatever it is, just because of the sound of the word”.
But, that’s enough writing. Am I right?
One last thing. This morning on FB one of my friends posted the following article, one I’ve come across a few times over the past several years, but every time I read it, I learn something new, or it resonates in a different way. I’m putting it here in my “notes to self” blog because I want to keep it closer to me.
It’s about creativity and the concentration required for creativity. This speaks to me now because I spend most of my days in deep concentration while I work on my stuff. Somehow it seems important. There are, of course, references to Mary Oliver, that brilliant poet and essayist.
Today’s music is The Beatles…any Beatles. Right at this very moment as I write this, I’m listening to Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, and singing along. I recall, at 13, walking around my home town with that album tucked under my arm, looking for anyone with a record player who might want to listen to the album with me. I could have listened to the album at home on my own record player, but it seemed important to also broadcast to my friends that I actually had this album.
And today’s artist (a new feature on my artist blog, which I mostly think of as a “notes to self” place) is Simon Bacon. You can see his work here. If you are reading this, please look, and you will see an example of the type of work that I love and that inspires me. Specifically, I saw a photograph of his sculpture entitled “Adam and Eve” on a sculpture page on Instagram, which took me to his website. So, “Adam and Eve” was the sculpture that I was initially drawn to.
And my own small things that I’ve been working on over the past week are here. These are smallish, about 8 inches or so, and made from aluminum armature covered with La Doll air-dry stone clay. So far I’ve avoided painting the sculptures I’ve made with armature and clay, but I imagined these new ones as “test pieces”, which frees me up to mess around. Of course everything is always a test piece. Or, as I learned this past year in art school, a maquette. I love maquettes. Here are some maquettes.
I’m liking making things that can hang. That might be because I have very few surfaces left in my apartment, but a whole lot of empty space over my head…
The next few shots are of Copper Dog (stone clay on wire armature, painted with copper paint) in a variety of lighting conditions. Copper Dog is my second attempt at a dog, as I’m trying to make familiar things as I work through my “apprenticeship”. The armature for copper dog was complex and more detailed than the armature for the first dog I made. Now the question is, did I photograph the armature before I started working with it?
Today I’m listening to my own Apple play list entitled Feels, a compilation of musical pieces that appeal to me from many different genres. On shuffle, I never know what will come up next, but whatever comes up has some emotional association for me from some part of my life.
Here is a link to the playlist…I’m not sure if this will work if you don’t have Apple Music but happy to hear from you if you can access or not.
When I listen to Julianna Barwick, I am transported to the place where I can focus closely.
Today I focussed on creating a more robust figure. So far, my figures have been skeletal, and intentionally so, as I worked on trying to understand the skeleton. But I wanted to have more flesh, so my goal with this final figure is to create one with some fat and muscle over the skeleton.
Tomorrow morning, July 23, will be the final few hours in the studio before I tidy everything up and head back into my home studio.
I found this paperclay in a thrift store, and today I tried to add moisture to it, to see if I could make it usable:
The paperclay turned into a bit of a porridge, so I covered the kneeling figure in blue shoes with the mush to see what she would look like. I guess she looks okay still.
Then I moved on to the Plastilina; this block has been sitting in the studio since I got here on July 5, and I’ve been working through the elements of the procession . I’ve been dreading working with it, because I thought it would be hard…and anyway, it’s plastic, so not the best thing to work with.
The studio time this July has been great for experimenting with new things. In addition to finishing the pieces from Procession, I got to try out using three different types of modelling clay: the Das, the Premier/La Doll, and now the Plastinina.
I have three more days in the studio, and on the third of those days I’ll be packing up and closing the door behind me (and going kayaking and biking and camping for the rest of the summer until I start school again in September). So, I’ll spend Wednesday and Thursday with the Plastilina.
Here is a photograph of what I had completed by the end of Friday, July 16. I’ve narrowed down the “players” to the six figures on trolleys, six on the stage, five chorus members, the kneeling figure, the reclining figure in red boots, and three figures who will be holding up the reclining figure in red boots. Also, the winged standing figure.
Monday morning visit from Lola, my product tester.
My last day here will be July 23. Next Friday. I’ve been treating my time in the studio like a job, keeping more or less regular part time hours from Monday to Friday. Working away from my home studio is a different experience of making, as I didn’t bring everything with me, and at home I’m inclined to spend a minute or two on a particular activity on my way through the studio, which is in the middle of my living space. So while I miss the ability to make small random additions, I do like not living in the middle of everything I’m working on.
Here is where I got to by the end of today, the 14th…
I still need to work not only on the main project, but also on side things, just to keep my brain from fixating on one thing.
Today’s music, On the Nature of Thingness, by the International Contemporary Ensemble. Especially, but not only, the number entitled “Mobius”.
This music got me thinking about the Jack-in-the-box toy, and I began to do a bit of research about jack-in-the-box mechanisms, which are available out of China for ~$1.00 each, but with a minimum order of 100.
Here are a couple of short articles about The Nature of Thingness. The second article includes a link to a short vimeo showing one of the “machines” used by Phyllis Chen.
A couple of visitors from out of town dropped by today. I met them at the studio and showed them my stuff. Then I went kayaking, as I needed another day away.
But having two full days away from the studio was good.
While working on the small chorus members, adding La Doll clay to the armatures and making skeletal type figures, I had started to think about the lacy nature of the pelvic bone, and wondered if I could create or copy a lace pattern from somewhere else, and use the clay to “make lace” as part of the skeletons/choral figures. But the thought didn’t really go anywhere…until this morning on my walk, while I was listening to a radio show called Jazz Record Requests, a show found through BBC sounds.
In an interview excerpt with Julian Siegel, Siegel was talking about the inspiration for his latest album, Tales from the Jacquard, and that he had been thinking about lace, and how lace and the patterns of lace might influence his jazz composing. His sister, his story goes, introduced him to someone who worked at the one remaining lace factory in Great Britain, the Cluny Lace Factory, in Ilkeston, and a contact there sent him some jacquard cards…
A quick search took me to photographs of jacquard cards, cards with patterns etched into them that are placed onto jacquard looms, a loom that automates the process of lace making.
But, better than my words, is the following video briefly explaining how jacquard cards and jacquard looms are the predecessors to today’s computers.
And, because I mentioned Julian Siegel having been influenced by jacquard cards, here is a YouTube video of one of his pieces from the album, Tales from the Jacquard.
But how does this all fit together, and how does it influence what I’m doing in the studio now?
I will, on Monday, remove most of the Minor Aspect figures from the piece, keeping only the two larger ones. I’m going to drop the Major Aspect and Minor Aspect monikers…
I’m going to continue to make the chorus members using La Doll clay on wire armatures, and once I have completed the five that I wanted to have for the chorus, using the same technique that I started with (clay directly on the wire), I’m going to start experimenting with building up the armatures with other non-deteriorating materials. Then I’m going to experiment with making “lace-like” appendages on the additional figures that I make AFTER I finish the five choristers.
This means that this week my goal is to complete the five chorus members, begin three new models that will be the basis for the “lace work”. I will read more about lace and lace-making…
And, I have both visual and auditory inspiration to help me reach my week’s goal.
In the CVAG studio, I started by getting chorister #2 ready for applying the modelling clay. I’m using the Premier clay now, and will move on to La Doll when that runs out.
Today’s music provided by Anna von Hausswolff.
The Chorus (why?) lots of words below that are mostly “notes to self”. Just skip the words and look at the pictures if you prefer.
Because I’m working on the chorus members, its probably timely that I provide some information about why I’m including a chorus as part of this piece.
Some background, first. The piece comprises what I refer to as the twelve major aspects, and an as yet undetermined number of minor aspects, all of which are representative of events, states of mind, or states of emotion drawn from my life.
Five of the major aspects are currently on the stage, and one of the major aspects, the Two-Headed Heron, is above the stage to the left, looking down on the players on the stage.
The minor aspects at this point are on tables to the left of the stage. I’m not sure of their full extent upon completion, but I have a vague notion that there will be twelve of them, although I won’t worry if I only develop seven, or 15. The exact number doesn’t matter; what matters is that I continue to build until I get that feeling that tells me to stop.
While I was working on the piece a few weeks ago, I thought that because I am combining some aspects of Greek mythology with a reification of my personal mythology, it might be interesting to include a Greek chorus. The problem, I thought, will be to convey to the person looking at the installation, what it all means, and how it fits together, but also without providing too much interpretation.
So I thought the chorus could provide some information, or at the very least, some guidance. According to Wikipedia, a Greek chorus is as follows: “A Greek chorus, or simply chorus (Greek: χορός, translit. chorós), in the context of ancient Greek tragedy, comedy, satyr plays, and modern works inspired by them, is a homogeneous, non-individualised group of performers, who comment with a collective voice on the dramatic action.”
So, the chorus pieces I am making MAY be somewhat homogeneous in terms of their basic structure, but various in terms of posture and gesture. Their voice can be collective, although I’m not sure of that yet, either. But the chorus will comment on the “dramatic action” as seen in the Major Aspects on the stage, the Major Aspects in the actual Procession, and the Minor Aspects that will accompany the main stage and the Procession. Maybe. Although yesterday Linda pointed out that many players that form part of a procession have no voice. Think of a graduation procession, for example, where many players show up in their regalia (which itself is a form of voice, so the regalia needs to be able to be interpreted), but only a small few have a voice in the ceremony itself.
And this begs the question: how will the voices of the chorus be heard? The answer to this question daunts me. Do I have to write a script to accompany this piece? In Greek plays, the chorus often comprised 15 to 50 members (and I’m limiting my chorus to five at this point), moved from the right of the stage to the left of the stage as they sang the “strophe”, from left to right as they sang the “antistrophe”, and stood in the middle front as they sang the “epode”, the final explanation of the play, intending in each of the three strophe, antistrophe, and epode, to illuminate to the audience what was happening in the play and suggesting how to interpret the play, and how to react.
I don’t think a 21st century audience is interested in being told what they are looking at, and how to react to it, so if I write a script for the chorus, that script needs to provide minimum explanations/interpretations.
And the chorus cannot be homogeneous.
At this point, I am not clear myself how the elements of my personal mythology tie together, what all the parts of the piece “mean” to me, why I am even doing this. So it is too early to write the script for the chorus. But as I make each chorus member, and when I return to working on the Major Aspects next week, I will “think” about each piece and the meaning of each piece.
I’ll try to write those meanings here…in an attempt to learn, as I am doing, what it is exactly I AM doing.
This afternoon’s music is from Kit Downes, ‘Dreamlife of Debris’.
Here is a taster from YouTube.
And more afternoon music from Olafur Arnalds.
I finished repairing Anger, Frustration, Restlessness. I had problems with the mid-section and the arms, and it’s still fragile, but this figure is one of my favourite Minor Aspects. I still need to remove or cover huge gobs of glue, but I think this is largely finished.
As for the Chorus, I’ve decided on postures for each figure, and it looks to me like a rock band rather than a homogeneous group who sing as one, one message. That’s what I wanted. two of the figures are attached to one board; I realized afterwards that that will make it awkward to add the clay and to move the figures into different configurations. I may cut it in two.
When someone comes to visit, everything looks different…
I started today by adding one element to the drawing on the easel at home. It is not usual for me to use words in my drawing, and originally I had been planning a small human figure on the bottom left, but for reasons left known only to me, I decided to use a word instead.
I felt a bit lost when I entered the studio this morning, and felt a lot of (self imposed) pressure to DO something significant, so I had to remind myself to focus on the small stuff. To get myself moving into the work, I started by doing some repairs on Anger, Frustration, Restlessness. Which, as I write this, seems to have been an appropriate choice.
That bit of work provided me the doorway into the work, and I was able to identify for myself what is next. The Chorus is an important part of the piece, and while I’ve made two clay models which had been intended as part of the chorus, I decided, for a number of reasons, that they are actually not part of the chorus.
I needed to start learning how to work with the airdrying clay, which size of figure I wanted for the chorus, and I didn’t want the chorus members to be wearing red or blue boots, as these first two figures are. So I’ve put them aside to see where they might fit in (or not) later, and this morning started working on the first of five chorus members.
Today’s studio music brought to you by NielsFrahn. You can check out his music here.
I decided to start the chorus member by trying to replicate a skeleton over which I will add layers to create a rounded figure.
I’m doing it this way so that I’ll become more accustomed to the human skeleton and how the bits fit together, and on this small scale will be challenged to understand proportions of length to width in the bones.
For this first figure I’ve already learned that I need to make the small wires on the armature tighter to the larger wires. I’ve also learned that I love doing this.
This July 2021, I have the opportunity to move Procession (I used to refer to this work as “the” procession, but using the definite article “the” somehow seemed to limit the idea from processions in general to a specific procession. I understand that this is a specific procession that I’m making here, but I want to leave room for processions in general) from my home studio into the studio space at the Comox Valley Art Gallery (CVAG). This move will enable me to spread out the elements of Procession so that I can “see” what I have done, what the relationships can be among the various pieces, and what I need to work on next or complete.
This blog space documents the move, the work, the process.
Today I’m heading over to the CVAG studio with a carload of stuff. I have to admit, I’m relieved to be able to get this all out of my apartment, as it was taking over the major part of my living area, and although I love working on it, being surrounded by all these figures was starting to get to me.
The Major Aspects are the original wooden pieces that I created out of plywood in the FIN 121 class at North Island College. There are twelve major aspects, and each one represents an emotion or an emotional relationship or an event (series of events, life patterns) drawn from my life. I call these “major” because they represent something larger, or more important, from my life.
Also part of Procession are several Minor Aspects. The minor aspects are also based on emotions or events from my life, similar to the Major Aspects, but are less “heavy”, or less influential.
I call this piece in process “Procession” because as I began to work on it and develop the pieces, it appeared to me that I am reifying my internal life in order to look at it in all its complexity and variation; a kind of procession of the years come to visit.
As I make each piece, refine each piece, I relive some of the memories that led to the development of the piece and I can come to terms with the events that may have led to the emotionality that accompanied those events.
In this way, the piece feels like a review of and acceptance of the events of my life. And further, I think that upon completion, and maybe even before completion, I have the opportunity to “move on” to the end of my life, however long that may be.
I spent most of the summer teaching myself how to make armatures for small air-drying clay sculptures. My goal was to make as many armatures as possible (out of wire) and to try out a variety of air-drying clay products.
That’s what I did. I used wire purchased from Home Depot and Dollarama; I also used wire that I found in ditches. Here is a sampling of what I worked on this past summer.
In August, I focused on trying to fill out the figures that I made. This meant that my armatures became a little more complex…well, I used more wire. I wanted to create larger figures, at least larger in terms of volume.
So, just as a reminder, this is what I started with:
After I got the display board up, I needed to decide how to arrange the book and the hair. I had been planning to use the hair to make Celtic knots to use as bookmarks in the book of constellations and to write a series of letters from a sailor to his lover.
What I ended up with was quite different. The other figure that I worked on this fall was a depiction of what my father looked like in his final hours. I had done a sketch of him in November 2019, about six weeks after he died, and used that sketch as a basis for this piece.
I believe that what I am making is a memorial for my father, who died at 98 just before COVID broke out; we had been planning to have a service for him in the spring of 2019, but COVID prevented that from happening.
I’ve decided to work on the book and the hair. Here is the plan:
create a “route” for a sailor to have taken across the seas and figure out which constellation is visible when and where.
create a celtic knot for each of four locations (keep the project limited because of time…ideally this could be much bigger…perhaps as big as the number of constellations). Do test knots with twine and then move on to using the hair.
familiarize myself with the mythology associated with each constellation and choose constellation to work with based on the connection between the mythology and the sailor’s life.
For each of these four locations, the sailor will have created a different celtic knot that connects him to his beloved to the mythology of the constellation to his life as a sailor.
Write four short love poems to accompany the knots and held within the pages of the book.
At this stage, I expect I will focus on the following five knots, and likely reduce that to four for this project:
This was a terrible video. I found another one related to a crochet project, but the explanation was much better:
I’ve chosen these five because each has some sort of connection to love, connecting, spirituality. The love poems will in some way make a connection between love and the love of eternity, the eternal nature of their love.
MAPS AND CONSTELLATIONS Research
This morning I looked for a map, and found amongst my random possessions a map of Greece. Given that I’ve been to Greece five times and spent more time there than anywhere else in the world other than Canada, I decided to settle on a map of Greece to help me limit the constellations that I choose for this project.
So, I “googled” constellations seen from Greece, and found the following resources:
The first one is the most helpful to my current project as it provides geographic details of the latitudes within which the constellations can be seen.
As a result of my initial review of these sites, I have narrowed my constellations down to four related to the zodiac:
Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo.
I will also include the Pleiades in my writing. Interesting fact: the word “zodiac” means “circle of animals”. I have a superficial understanding of the zodiac and astrology and am more interested in the astronomical features of the zodiac. At least for now.
Do the same knots over again with paracord when it arrives on Friday. In the meantime, do the research on Victorian Hair Jewelry and figure out how to prepare hair in order to use it for knotting it.
Also, create the sailing route and connect that route to constellations and their related mythology. Start to think about poems, and probably start to write them while doing the reading/research on the constellations and mythology.
Getting organized for the Process Book (the real one)
I’ve become so accustomed to using WordPress for organizing my ideas and recording the process of my work, that I’m a bit perplexed about how to start with an actual, real process book. Also, I think I’ve forgotten how to use a pen for writing actual words.
So, I decided to start here, online, and once I get everything organized here, I’ll “copy” it, or print it out, or whatever it takes, and migrate it over to the tangible book.
I’ll give this a try.
October 4 update:
Nothing but frustration, really, with this project. Not really to do with the project itself, but cleaning my printer heads did not make the printer work, and I had a sewer backup into my apartment on Friday which has caused ongoing disruption to my work and living space. I fear I will not be able to “complete” my process book, and I’ve been recording my progess on this blog, but can’t even print it out to put into the process book as per my original intention…
I’ve reduced the elements of the project to the following sketch:
paint the background black gesso
rewrite the poems into a little “book”
“bind” the book
put one knot into the book as book mark
weave the mat for the base
find (or create if I cannot find) the pendulum
hang pendulum across the top of the frame
get blue figure for placement in the scene
decide on a name
pack it all up for transport on Wednesday evening
review checklist to make sure I’ve done everything for the assignment
Next steps (October 4)
I’ve painted the stand with gesso, but I realize that the stand I have is too large, so I’ll have to find another way to support the pendulum. Update: no, I’m going to use the “stand” that I have.
so, make the pendulum; okay I’ve made the pendulum out of a shell, some jeweler’s wire, and a silver chain.