Monday, December 28, 2009

Sculpture and Water / Designing for Water & Designing with Water

photos from pruned


Can a sculpture also be environmentally functional?

Waterpleinen is a project designed by Florian Boer and Marco Vermeulen for the city of Rotterdam to reconfigure storm water. Instead of channeling water underground in expensive to build (and easy to overflow sewers) they've designed an urban landscape that changes it's function according to the weather.

The article on Pruned says "instead of being buried in concrete, excised from the daily life of the city and only experienced by municipal workers, urban hydrology is visibly, even prominently, incorporated into the surface fabric of the city. Programmed with recreational opportunities when its dry and even while inundated, its infrastructure provides active public spaces for the local area, not dark playgrounds for a handful of urban explorers. It even becomes an event, its frolicking rivulets and interior lakes staged for the young and old."

Too cool.

See the entire article here.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

the holidays

You've probably noticed there's no Shadows On Stone post for Sculpture and the Holidays

There's lots of sculpture, the worst is those plastic inflatables. I just try to get through the season alive, then I can think about aesthetics.

I feel about the Holidays the way Wally Shawn feels about Broadway musicals:

"I don't see that many plays, and for me, musicals are rarely pleasing. I feel the actors are being put through a kind of nightmarish labor. They're like animals being forced to pull heavy carts of vegetables at incredible speeds."

So true, no?

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Sculpture and Slingshots

Femme fatal.

Beautiful and deadly if you're small game, I found these Burmese carved wooden slingshots on the loaded trunk website.

File under craft or folk art (vanished) because of their scale and functionality. Away from Burma, out of their village context, you've got some powerful sculpture. Hand sized....

Monday, December 21, 2009

Sculpture and Definitions

If you move your body, it's called dance.
Or excercise.

If you move plants, it's called gardening.
Or flower arranging.

If you move plants and rocks and earth, it's called landscape design.
If you walk through nature, it's called hiking.
Or hunting.

If you control how people move through space,
is it choreography or architecture?
Or the military?

If you make people aware of their relationships with the world around them,
is it therapy?
Or sculpture?

(photo detail of Summer, relief sculpture by P. Gracewood)

Friday, December 18, 2009

Sculpture and James Staines

I pulled my big book of Romanesque Art off the shelf for inspiration on how to cave St. Francis. (I swear half the work of wood carving is thinking about it long before I ever pick up my chisels!)

Tucked inside was a tear sheet from Flexcut Carving tools 2005 catalog, featuring the work of James Staines on the cover, and three small images of different carvings inside. They're brilliant. David Benner of Flexcut loved the sculpture "Woman in Care" so much that he bought it and featured Staines work in the catalog.

All photos from the artist's website See better photos there.

WoodCarver Magazine reviewed the carving, the winner in the professional category, saying "My jaw dropped when I saw this carving. .. More thant anything I had a sense that every tiny part, from the way the fingers impress the cloth on the thighs to the beautiful curve of the back, from the subtle colors in the uniform to the tension in the lips and the character fully realised in the eyes _ everything has been rendered exactly, and simply so. There is nothing to be added or changed. Just loved it".

Woman in Care by James Staines 2005

"Return to Ithaca" by James Staines.

Each wood carving has a wonderful simplified but very quirky individuality.Artless simplicity is a hard thing to do, but Staines is a total pro. Very post-Romanesque. Clues and good inspiration to how I need to proceed with my own carving.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Sculpture as Weapon?

Il Duomo di Milano as exhibit A (photo from Destination 360.)

Only in Italy can a famous building figure into an assault trial. The survivor also proclaimed it a "miracles".

Italy's Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was attacked and wounded by a man wielding a statuette of the Milan cathedral. Berlusconi, 73, suffered a fractured nose, two broken teeth and a cut lip. The attacker, Massimo Tartaglia, 42, has a history of mental illness and was arrested.

Berlusconi was in hospital overnight for observation. "I'm fine, I'm fine." He considers it "a miracle" that his eyes were spared. News reports say the statuette was made of heavy ceramic or metal.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Sculpture and Architectural Indians

Up in Seattle, I had to stop and admire this enormous architectural ceramic sculpture in the convention center. It's easily 8 feet tall, so that's 3 times life sized? 4 ?

Keep in mind this was only a small part of the building's facade, demolished in the 1970's. Wish it still existed.....

The tag identifies it as a "Native American Chief" by Victor Schneider. c 1910. It says that it was part of the White, Henry and Stuart buildings in downtown Seattle and that Schneider was influenced by the work of Edward Curtis.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Sculpture - Placement and Context 2

This sweet granite figure was lost in the garden at ground level.
It's too small to hold its own when even the forget me nots are larger. She deserved better.

I also needed to design a barrier so the hose wouldn't decapitate all the plants when I turned off the path and went hard left.
Here's the result.

The 13 inch high cinder block pedestal stops the hose and is hidden by the carex plantings.
The dark scrap lumber house both frames and protects the pale granite figure.
Somehow my round rock collection wound up there.
She's selling them.....

There's a narrative going on that invites the visitor in. It's funny and functional on several levels. The context is human/house/ at home in the garden and shows her off far better than before. She makes me smile when I pass by.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Sculpture and Flower Magazine

photo from winter issue of flower magazine.

If you love flowers, check out Flower magazine.

Flower magazine's mission is to “enrich your life through the knowledge and beauty of flowers.” Founder Margot Shaw says "I am trying to democratize flowers and floral design. It’s too much fun and shouldn’t be intimidating." Many aspects of "flowering" are covered in each issue, from elegant wedding arrangements to flowers in art, design and fashion.

My bronze relief panel of Oriental lilies is featured in the flower shop -"art in bloom" section of their 2009 winter edition. Check it out.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Sculpture and Fashion Photography

There's plenty of structure involved in making garments, but that's another post.

These fashion shots by photographer Ruven Afanador are all about seeing both clothing and the model as sculptural forms and then combining them in surreal 3D assemblages.

See more at his website.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Sculpture and Volcanic Stone Relief

I found these wonderful carved volcanic stepping stones at Bamboo Craftsman. The rocks measure 22 x 28 inches by about 4 inches thick and have a carved low relief floral pattern on one surface. The price is $159.00.

Instead of using them as as stepping stones, they'd look great mounted vertically on a pedestal. In the garden the impact of rough hand hewn shape of black stone rectangle would read at any distance. Up close you'd discover the delicate flower patterns. The whole thing, stone, steel mount, masonry blocks and stucco coat would cost less than $250 for materials!

(I need to factor in the cost of the idea and labor.)

Bamboo Craftsman It is a design studio, garden and nursery They create and install bamboo fences and custom structures. You can see mature sized plantings of both running and clumping bamboos. Well worth a visit.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Sculpture and the Cryptic Mark Jenkins

A man of few word, Mark Jenkins lets his subversive sculpture and installations do the talking. There's darker work on his website.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Sculpture and Bourdelle's Hercules the Archer

Encountering famous art unexpectedly is like running into a unicorn.
"What are YOU doing HERE?"

This sculpture was at the same ongoing estate sale where I found Oscar. The deceased gentleman had an incredible eye and a long time to collect. I'd love to know the story of how he came by this sculpture. Too late to buy it myself, I could only rend my garments and gnash my teeth and hope that the purchaser knows what a great deal he got.

The sculpture, a plaster cast from the table sized edition, is known by the grand title of Herakles the Archer Killing the Stymphalian Birds.

Created in 1909 by French sculptor Antoine Bourdelle, the sculpture depicts Hercules' Sixth Labor. Hercules was required to destroy a huge flock of man-eating birds at a lake near the town of Stymphalos. After Hercules was aided by Athena who gave him a pair of clappers to scare the birds from their hiding place, he was able to pick them off with his bow and poison-tipped arrows.

But like seeing a unicorn, meeting Bourdelle's Hercules made my day....

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Contact Improvisation and CITV

Years ago, after seeing us dance, a child asked us if "we danced in the river?" We both loved that question. Here's a performance
Carolyn Stuart and I did at The West Coast Contact Improvisation Festival.
This video resurfaced after a couple of years... The color is off ( we're wearing soft blues) and the camera shaky, but it's better than that vanished space dance disappears to when it's finished.

A lot of Contact Improvisation performance is high flying, high energy. We wanted to create a gentle flowing dance instead, and called our piece "in the River".

Monday, November 23, 2009

Sculpture and Bruce Johnson

photos from Johnson's website:

My friend, Janet Yang, visited the Ren Brown Gallery in Bodega Bay, California and turned me on the powerful sculpture of Bruce Johnson.

His current body of work is called “UPROOTED". He uses redwood stumps and roots and fabricates copper "boulders" to play with the juxtaposition of lines of energy, mass, gravity and energy. His large scale work is just stunning. Check out his Poetry House on his website to see a wonderful marriage of art and architecture.

See more of Bruce Johnson's work here

Friday, November 20, 2009

Sculpture and Bubble Rings

Anything to do with water has my attention. I'm calling these bubbles sculpture because they're perfect dimensional circles of air moving through space. There is no more primal shape than that.

This lovely video (music: "Half way through the woods", by Stephen Sondheim) shows dolphins playing with bubble rings that they generate by blowing air out their blow holes. The ring has surprising strength and tenacity. (a whole study needs to be done on that!)

Inventor David Whiteis has created what he calls "BUBBLE RINGS, " just like the dolphins. They're beautiful, totally ephemeral, and raise more questions than they answer. (my favorite aspect of creativity.) It turns out that there's an entire category on youtube of folks blowing these beautiful shapes.

Click here to see four simultaneous videos on the WaterShapes site.
or go to David Whiteis's website:

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Sculpture - Placement and Context

Sculpture doesn't have to be large or expensive to be wonderfully effective.

Selection, Placement and Context, are often as important as the art object itself. They frame how we see art.

Selection means means taking it out of it's retail context - perhaps ignoring dozens of others just like it, and putting it in a new situation. Selection means knowing what you're looking at and exactly what you can do with it. Or maybe it's loving a sculpture enough to purchase it and then being patient enough to wait and discover what it's perfect placement will be.

Placement gives new context to sculpture.

This plump little figure ceramic figure is holding calla lilies. In this NW Portland garden, her place of honor is just outside the living room. Standing at the base of the flower garden, it's as if she has her own little flower stall, selling flowers to anyone on the deck.

To the gardener her meaning might have begun as a memory piece, bought on a trip to Mexico, but to visitors to the garden, her placement gives her meaning. Often the art itself evokes a meaning, but it's totally ok to give your own private symbolism or meaning by how and where you place it..

In our damp climate mosses and lichens grow easily on the porous soft fired clay surface, adding another layer of beauty and meaning that speaks of the passage of time.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Sculpture and "a musing on trees and carving"

photos from "From Flitch to Ash"

What do you do when your life goes up in smoke?.

Diane Derrick's book "from flitch to ash, a musing on trees and carving" takes you on her recovery after twenty years of wood carving is burned. All that is left is a pile of ash and a box of slides.

There's much in this short book for any wood carver to identify with: picking up that first mysterious stick that needs your help to tell its story, finding and storing and carving ever larger pieces-( a 300 pound oak stump), to meditations on what is the nature of wood and what is the nature of the woods?

She develops a scent for wood, finding it in dumpsters and acquiring wood from sculptor Barbara Hepworth's private stash. Diane says she was tempted to sacrifice it (after learning that Hepworth died from a studio fire) but "It is not easy to give up a piece of premium wood and instead, I hid it at the bottom of my stack."

The fire took her work, her history, but freed her from the physical work that carving demands. "Althought I felt empty, I felt liberated. No longer need I recoil from the thud of blows,the glint of sharp blades, the staccato of successive taps, or the ever mounting piles of chips,..No longer need I restrain the impulse to throw down my tools and run."

What wood carver hasn't felt that at least twice on every project? If you carve wood, there's much to enjoy in this book.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Sculpture and Wild Things

The little one painted a picture for my birthday. A BIG picture of a lion.

What did Picasso say? “I used to draw like Raphael, but it has taken me a whole lifetime to learn to draw like a child”. I'm still blown away by how big and fierce it is.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Sculpture and Wild Life Up Close

Want to have tiny messengers from G-d sipping nectar from your third eye? Need a good reason to sit quietly?

A novel use for studio safety equipment, a modified protective helmet serves double duty as hummingbird feeder and bird blind. I'm going to modify my own helmet to include UV protection and a long tube to sip my own beverage.....

This first video is a parody of artists I know, myself included.
Except that I don't have a handy assistant Jasper, or cameraman.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Sculpture and The Architectural Heritage Center

Jason Bird took these photos of my fountains and some of the architectural element on permanent display at the Architectural Heritage Center's show Found Portland.

I'll be featuring the work of other artists in the show in future posts.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Sculpture and St. Francis

Somehow the 13th Century keeps demanding my attention.

I've got a St Francis carving that seems to be generating back up since he's been neglected on my work bench for months.

First Guedelon and now a new book on St. Francis. The Saint and the Sultan: the Crusades, Islam and Francis of Assisi's Mission of Peace by Paul Moses.

Before you roll your eyes and think of badly cast concrete statues of the poor saint serving as bird feeder or bird bath, ask yourself what you actually know about his life and why we have any memory at all of a man who died almost 1000 years ago.

You'll be surprised by the real story of Francis's journey to Egypt to meet with Sultan al-Kamil trying to stop the bloody carnage of the 5th Crusade. Maybe not too surprised, as it's all too current again. The spin doctoring of his myth began during his life by a Church hungry for power and control. (Also that story about the wolf of Gobbio, that was an allegory....)

Moses work became separating myth from history. Moses writes "the accounts in question need to be viewed in the context of their own times; the audiences they were written for, the political pressures at hand, the writers' theological goals in telling the story. By doing that, it's possible to decode the early documents and uncover the story of Francis, the sultan, and what their encounter can mean today.''

Moses points out correlation between Francis's vows of living very simply and his opposition to war- Francis had experienced viscous battles between his own village and the next and spent a year in a dungeon as a prisoner of war. In his experience greed and military engagement were invariably linked. Choosing poverty was a radical act that freed him and his followers from participating in clan warfare.

Read Melinda Henneberger's article: What Christians and Muslims Can Learn From the 'The Saint and the Sultan'

Friday, November 6, 2009

Sculpture and Guedelon

From Youtube's video tours of Guedelon, the 13th Century Castle being built from scratch in the French countryside. Everything comes from the quarry site, the stone, the wood, etc.

Wonder if they'll integrate solar power into the structure? "Jamais!"

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Sculpture and (New) Romanesque Art

Despite the library's groaning shelves, I can't resist books on Romanesque Art, and so must find room for the two volume "Masons and Sculptors in Romanesque Burgundy, The New Aesthetic of Cluny III" by C. Edson Armi

I was showing the books to David Bales, when he said, "We can't build anything like this! For safety and speed, we have to use steel. And anything made with steel won't last a thousand years."

It was a strange feeling to realize that any of today's great buildings, the sky scrapers, the Starks, et al, won't last half that long.

It was an even stranger feeling to learn that Yes, we can build like that. Exactly like that. Guedelon is a new 13th Century castle being built in France, using the same ancient methods.

It is part archeology thesis, but instead of examining and cataloging ruins, they are building something new to learn how it was done in the past. It's also part aesthetic quest and part science experiment. Oh, and part job training and employment for at risk teens and craftsmen and women. (Anyone who's life/livelyhood is tied to art is at risk in my book!)

Amazing for such a cooperation between the historians and the visionaries.Click here to see Guedelon (photos from Guedelon site.)
Click here for Linda McCabe's blog post and photos on Guedelon.

All I can say is "merveilleux!"

Monday, November 2, 2009

Woman as Sculpture

Sculpture is too often seen as macho man's work, yet there has always been talented sculptors who happen to be women.

Two articles in New York Times style magazine epitomize the dichotomy.

The first article is by Pilar Viladas, is about Woman as Object. (Not Again!)
Stephen Bayley, the English critic, has a new book, "Woman as Design: Before, Behind, Between, Above, Below"

He states "How on earth could you design such a thing, so flawlessly functional while infinitely beguiling too?" ( He sounds like Professor Harry Higgins from My Fair Lady.) Borders Books :"Description: A completely original reappraisal of that most familiar, yet mysterious, of things, the female body."

(Why does this make me want to scream "Who? not What!")

Bayley created design briefs for various areas of the female body. The breasts are "self sealing nutritional resevoirs allowing flexibel responses to unpredictable demand cycles," the subsidiary purpose include being "tactile objects exciting powerful, if confused, urges in Males." Bayley says "In any given age, the ideal woman is the embodiment of (Male) ideals and fears."

I find this utterly boring because Mr. Bayley, like so many men isn't remotely interested in Who is in that female body. All the attention is focused on the package. Zero interest in content.

Which is perfectly illustrated by the Dolce & Gabbana ad (photo above) also in the NYT's style magazine. It's very seductive. Scarlett Johansson appears to be channeling Madonna, who was evoking Marilyn Monroe, who was lit like Marlene Dietrich, who was citing Jean Harlow. Throw in some Cindy Sherman and you have an icon of desire made of smoke and mirrors fogged up by collective heavy breathing.

"Every man I knew went to bed with Gilda... and woke up with me." Rita Hayworth

Friday, October 30, 2009

Sculpture and Snakes

Snakes are a common theme in folk art as canes, and as powerful images. Here's a little something for the Halloween soapbox.

Here are two of my snakes. (If you can't find it, you've just goota make it yourself.) The first two shots are of a snake I made from a cedar root. I only added one tooth and the eyes. Last photo is of the dreaded Wisteria Spiral Snake. When I found it in the trash, I couldn't believe that anyone could throw away something so cool. The vine wrapped around a column for multiple 360s. Brought it home and added checkers for the eyes, carved the mouth, added the tail and Voila! Folk Art

What isn't cool is when people take their "little" pet reptiles after they've grown too large for their cages and dump them in the wild. Florida is just waking up to the problem. The US Geological Survey released a report saying that 5 giant non-native species, boa constrictors, anacondas and pythons pose a high risk to wildlife. (Notice they didn't say pose a risk to humans. .. ... ... yet)

Read the chilling article if you can find it by Burkhard Bilger, titled "Swamp Things" in the New Yorker April 20, 2009, page 80. It's amazing what we do out of desire and ignorance. "It's pretty, it's cool, it's bad!" It is an exotic animal and what happens to it when we can no longer care for it in captivity? The answers aren't pretty.

Here's a link to the abstract

The article focuses on Burmese pythons, which are now breeding in Florida. They mature and reproduce quickly and will eat anything. Burmese implies tropical but researchers have found that the species native habitat reaches up to the Himaylias. That means the python’s potential range is roughly a third of the contiguous United States. Yikes!

Think about a 6 foot alligator, how strong it is, then click on this Youtube to see how well it fared with a 13 foot python. Remember that pythons can grow to be over 20 long. Happy Halloween.