Returning to an Earlier Project (some words about plastilina)

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.

This plastilina on coated aluminum armature kept leaning over from the weight of the plastilina, so I had to prop it up with a jar. I knew I had to find a solution to the falling over-ness.

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.

As I started working on this addition, I kept thinking about the many ways in which we “hold one another up”. There’s another expression I’ve heard, “walking each other home”, which isn’t quite applicable here, as the figures are not upright and walking. But I see the upper figure as trying to do something difficult, and the lower figure is there, helping. This would not be a permanent state of things. It is meant to represent the ways that we all hold one another up, both literally and figuratively. It is a beautiful thing to do, to “hold” another person. So much comes before that…seeing, recognizing, loving, respecting…and then this act of giving.
The lower figure still needs a lot of filling out work. But the position, I believe, is correct, even though I discern perhaps a little too much distance between the two figures, almost as if the lower figure is not close enough. But even as I say that, I think that the distance cannot be right or wrong, merely the distance that it is, which, like a metaphor in a poem, tells a part of the story between the upper twisted figure and the lower supporting figure. There may be another story in another sculpture.

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.

Here’s a great shot of the crack in the plastilina caused by the pressure of the figure having to maintain that position with no support. It is evident that I’m avoiding the details of hands for now, because I have not yet addressed the techniques of making good hands; and I avoid the details of feet by putting shoes on my figures. I think mittens might look odd, so I’m just leaving the hands plain, and thinking that the more I make hands, the more adventurous I might become over time. But I feel that I cannot prevent myself from making more pieces just because I can’t (or won’t?) do hands. Times winged chariot, and all that…and allusion chasers…here is the reference:

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.

Here is the “artist of the blog post” link.

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.

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