Thursday, January 29, 2009

Try Your Hand At Action Painting

It seems appropriate with Google's Jackson Pollock image for 1/28/09.

Some how Action Mousing doesn't have the same oomph as
ACTION PAINTING. But that's the illusion this link gives you.

Illusion because you have no choice of color or paint viscosity. No smell, or choice of scale. It continues the fiction that ANYONE can paint like Pollock. Not true.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Metaphor in Painting

Two views of one photo of Crater Lake, Oregon

Deborah Paris wrote on 1/19/09 about Metaphors in a Paint Box.

As a painter she understands that landscape painting has always represented changing ideas: unspoiled paradise, manifest destiny, etc. Paris's working definition of metaphor in painting is that it makes a connection between our past and present. Her choice of colors, composition and technique make connections between nature and our emotions.

A wonderful quote of a friend of Deborah's is "Eventually all landscape painters become religious."

I want to think about metaphor in the context of sculpture. I know it's there in buckets but I haven't put it into words.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Become More Gracious

The photo was taken at The Bell of Korean Friendship in San Pedro, one of my favorite spots in Southern California.

Sculptor Ann Fleming sent me this quote by Dostoyevsky from "The Brothers Karamozov".

"All is an Ocean.
All flows and connects so powerfully that if,
in this life,
you manage to become more gracious by even a drop,
it is better for every bird, child, and animal your life touches
than you will ever know.
Start praying to birds in ecstasy!
Cherish this ecstasy, however senseless it may seem to people!"

The Little Queen Wood Carving part 2

This was the second drawing. It's tiny but catches the flavor I want for the piece. It's a quick sketch but it reminds me of a cartoonists work but I cant remember whose....Feiffer? Schultz? There's something about the stance and scribble of it.....
...It's rough when my work reminds me of some one else.

Deb suggests Quentin Blake - as if she walked right out of a Roald Dahl story.

Monday, January 26, 2009

David Cerny - Sculpture as Insulting Cliche'

Photos above from the New York Times site

It's easy to lie to someone who trusts you.
It's easy to make someone (or a country) look foolish is deception is your intent.

David Cerny's 350,000 euro giant sculpture to "celebrate?" the Czech Republic's presidency of the European Union is an 8 ton sophomoric joke.

Member nations are reduced to the most obvious cliche: Germany as a swastika, Italy as a soccer field, Romania as a Dracula theme park, Bulgaria as a series of pit toilets. It goes on....

Not very clever. His creativity went into making up artist persona's and fake websites. The result is notoriety for him, a sculpture that was up for less than a month, enormous waste of materials, bad feelings and embarrassment for the Czech government...this too goes on.

This is ART?

"Some of the Characteristics you see in psychopath are lying, manipulation, the ability to deceive, feelings of grandiosity and callousness toward their victims," says Gregg O McCrary a former FBI special agent. He was talking about Bernard Madoff, but the same could be said of David Cerny and his sculpture.

More here and here.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Oblique Strategies -Art Ideas That Whisper

Watercolour by Peter Schmidt

Oblique Strategies was originally released in 1975 by collaborators Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt. Eno's reflecton on a visit with Schmidt and the ideas and energy that collaboration generates are in an article in Melody Maker article from January of 1977:

This evening I visited Peter Schmidt .... we look at the 12 watercolours he made. The last three of the series are quite exceptionally beautiful - a tiny road winds down the side of an almost vertical mountain whose peak is lost in the clouds.

Later in the evening we talk about the work of Die Brucke, the group of German painters active between 1905-25, who impressed us all so much in Berlin.

Peter posed the question: "What could one do now that would have the sense of daring which those works had?"

I reply that I think the answer must lie in doing things that are very quiet, which make no assault, and perhaps do not obviously trade in novelty. Like watercolours. At a time when drama is at a premium, reticence and delicacy communicate best."

Reading that last bit was such a confirmation for me how how I am working. Things have gotten louder and faster in the last 30 years. My hope for my sculpture is that it offers stillness and quiet, anchoring the viewer to a moment and memory.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Education from the waist up....

TED Ideas worth spreading presentsDo Schools Kill Creativity?
Sir Ken Robinson talks about "education, from the waist up, with a focus on the head, and slightly to one side."

He's funny and makes several good points, but for anyone reading this blog, he's preaching to the choir. So go back to drawing, dancing, dreaming because you already know.

The Little Queen Wood Carving

5 is such a funny age. Sometimes frighteningly grown up, other times still so very young. My little friend made herself a paper crown, decorated it with stickers and wore it for a day. The next day it was forgotten.

Watching her gave me the idea for a new wood sculpture. Work on the little queen began with these drawings.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

At Last - Modern Art Explained

photo of Joan Crawford: Google Images

Funny how one link leads to another: Garden Blog to House Porn to Photographers memoirs. The following In Retrospect 1995 is by photographer Eve Arnold. She tried to explain modern art to Joan Crawford while photographing Ms Crawford for a story for Life magazine.

......Joan had invited me to spend the night, because the party ended quite late. When I woke at nine the next morning I was locked in my bedroom. She heard me calling and banging, and came and unlocked the door, protesting that she had no idea how it had happened. I could never decide whether she thought I was going to steal something!

That day while we were at breakfast, a lovely Picasso drawing of the Cubist period was delivered as a thank-you gift from one of the guests who had been at the party the evening before. The picture puzzled and bothered Joan. She told me that when she had gone to Paris with Al Steele she had brought back some French paintings -- she pointed to them on the wall. She had found an artist who for twenty-five dollars would copy "that guy Utrillo," and she, Joan, had improved on Utrillo. She had her man straighten up the streets. She looked at me for a moment seriously and said she didn't understand "modern art"; could I explain it to her?

I thought for a beat trying to figure out a way that would be right to her. Then I said that if you think of modern art like sex in all its forms -- heterosexual, bisexual, homosexual, multipartnered, bestial, whatever, with absolutely no holds barred and with everything available and permissible -- that would be "modern art." I felt rotten after I'd said it: it was a cheap shot. But she was delighted with the analogy. She laughed and said that at last she understood what "modern art" was about."

Cheap shot? Maybe, but a working definition, no?
Bring on the cows in formaldehyde.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

His Burden Is Light

I get into grooves with what I listen to in the studio while I'm working. Some would call them ruts, others, depending on their tolerance for repetition, might say canyons..... I'll play the same CD over and over for days. I use music to establish and sustain a kind of emotional field that helps me focus on whatever sculpture I'm creating.

Finally putting away Handel's Messiah. I love the line "His yoke is easy and His burden is light." It cracks me up thinking of it in the context of creating any artform: "His burden is light." Then I turned and saw this image.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Sculpture and Kelly Wearstler

Browsing the house-porn sites and found interior designer Kelly Westler's packed with sculpture. Photos from her site.

Some of the sculpture is good, some dreadful, and some dreadfully displayed. (above) The "more must be better" just makes the art look cheap.

I guessed the homes were in Los Angeles before reading confirmed it.
There's more bodies on the table than can sit around it! Maybe it's a post holiday gift exchange?

I always wonder when seeing photos of houses this "sculpture rich" do they think of it as a temple or an art brothel?

In The Desert Sculptures With The US Geological Survey

The Desert Quartet from The Nature of Water series is now installed in the lobby the the U.S. Geological Survey offices in San Diego.

Laurel Rogers, the Outreach Coordinator for San Diego U.S Geological Survey, told me of the excitement that the scientists had when seeing the the Desert Quartet. "They're telling the stories they see in these sculptures.... 'this one is about geological flooding'.... " "They each have their own stories and opinion of what order the work should be hung. They're excited having art that is meaningful to them. As earth scientists they relate to and understand it."

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Rest in Peace, Andrew.

"The wind from the sea" by Andrew Wyeth and portrait of the artist

"Lets be sensible about this. I put a lot of things in to my work which are very personal to me. So how can the public feel these things? I think most people get to my work through the back door. They're attracted by the realism and they sense the emotion and the abstraction - and eventually, I hope, they get their own powerful emotion." A. Wyeth

Andrew Wyeth died January 16th, at the age of 91. Wyeth was both a conservative and a radical artist in his relationship with the contemporary art world.

There's lots of drama about young artists who die tragically young. I love knowing there's another path, creative souls working a long and productive life, going deeper into themselves and their art. I saw the Helga show and was blown away by the authority of his painting. His watercolors resounded with the slap of a brush, the tempera paintings felt as if they had grown as slowly as lichens on stone. He is in my pantheon of artists. Rest in Peace, Andrew.

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Initial Act / A Vital Image

At first I thought it odd to find a sculpture essay in a book on spirituality. That was before it brought tears to my eyes. It spoke to my own experience as a carver of wood and to the lineage of artists who have gone before us. This wonderful excerpt is from "On Constantin Brancusi" is by Dore Ashton. Found in The Best American Spiritual Writing 2007 by Philip Zaleski.

"Brancusi liked to begin at the beginning - as he said, he placed himself within nature and sought to experience, through nature's creations such as wood and stone, the metamorphosis within each material. We know from his many photographs of his studios that he treasured great timbers and great blocks of stone. What commentators tend to forget is that the process of creating an image, a sculpture, begins with the quest outside of the studio. Both Brancusi and his admirer Noguchi visited quarries and timber yards. The initial act is not the cut, but the choosing. The divining. A stone sculptor, for example tries to divine the inner crystals and veins as he gazes at a block of stone or a quarry wall. A wood sculptor does the same, divining the direction of the wood grain and its irregular patterns. And all this, they never forget, has been wrought by nature- by winds and waters and climate. Time. Furthermore, they think with their hands, that is their tools. The heft of a tool and the sharpness of a blade are always with them. As they gaze at the virgin block of timber, they bring an almost visceral calculation with them. Brancusi made his own tools for good reason. The point for him was that these substances - limestone, marble, cherry, oak - have a past. For artists as for writers the past is essential and above all, alive. As Hannah Arendt so often said, quoting William Faulkner: " The past is never dead. It is not even past." So for Brancusi the process was to reveal, and in so doing, make visually poetic mataphors. The question became for him: how much could be condensed to create a vital image?"

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Chickens at Dawn Paper Cut

After all these heaven on earth paper cuts I just wanted to make some regular paper cuts.
Just playing, though they would work well in cut metal as a free standing screen or gate.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Heaven on Earth in a Garden Papercuts #2

The black and white of winter, and the cold, are an ideal time to create paper cuts. Here are two more variations on the Heaven on Earth theme. Wouldn't these would be great garden gates 3 x 3 feet in lazer cut steet?

Monday, January 12, 2009

Heaven on Earth in a Garden Paper Cuts #1

A circle within a square symbolizes heaven on earth. The square being the four directions of earth and the circle representing the unbroken sky. My small 6 x 6 inch paper cuts explore this theme with the addition of flowers and foliage to say that heaven on earth is often found in a garden.

Friday, January 9, 2009

"You Must Believe In Spring" Wood Sculpture

REMEMBER began in an ice storm. Living on a hill, I had to walk a quarter of a mile to get to my car. Walking the same path over days I finally noticed the fallen leaves caught in the ice. There are four different trees represented. Can you identify them?
I'm pretty sure is an Abby Lincoln song. Called YOU MUST BELIEVE IN SPRING. The line that moved me deeply goes ”Just as the tree knows its leaves will reappear, it knows its emptiness is just a time of year. You must believe in spring....”. As soon as I stopped resisting the ice and began to paint its beauty, the weather changed. What had been all powerful became very fragile and vanished in a day.

Contact Exchange at Breitenbush Hot Springs

Carolyn Stuart and I will be faciltating the second Contact Exchange at Breitenbush Hot Springs in Detroit, Oregon.This is a gathering to explore the experience of contact and the act of improvising. Contact Improvisation is a dance form that invites us to investigate movement while in physical contact. It is based in personal responsibility and mutual well-being.

We’ll use the heart of winter to luxuriate in the depths of contact, discovering what we are doing and what is possible with improvisation.

Come in order to exchange, to teach and to learn, to co-create. Come as you are. You’ve had experience with contact since you’ve had body! Come enjoy this time to allow the contact to reveal and nourish your being and belonging.

Carolyn Stuart and Patrick Gracewood have been researching contact improvisation for over 20 years, logging hundreds of projects along the way. The process of exchange and discovery never ceases to inspire and delight them. They are excited to facilitate and participate in this laboratory, an opportunity to settle into a lively investigation of how the dance of contact is co-created, moment-by-moment. Currently they offer C.I. events at Gracewood Studio in Portland, OR.

INFO: Carolyn 503.282.2938 or
REG: Breitenbush 503.854.3320
BEGINS: Sun dinner
ENDS: Fri lunch COST: $110 Sun-Fri (5 nights), $85 Sun to Wed (3 nights), $75 Wed to Fri (2 nights) plus lodging
DEPOSIT: cost of lodging

Thursday, January 8, 2009

St Francis Paper Cut

Paper cutting demands a certain mindset and patience as it is very slow. Tedious, but there is nothing else like it. You can only plan so far, then you must work it through, balancing the positive and negative against each other as you cut. Winter seems like a good time to be doing it. Here is the original sketch,St Francis paper cut in process and the finished cut. It had a whole cosmos sky that I deleted to focus it more on him.

Wouldn't it make a great gate or free standing screen?

Friday, January 2, 2009

Sculpture as Community. Sculpture as Ritual.

Every one may not agree on what kind of art they like, but most agree that sculpture is an art form.

How many would consider sculpture as community or ritual?

I've been making a New Year's Scape Goat for the past 29 years. It's a large sculpture made out of old chairs, cardboard, and things that are too good to throw away but aren't good enough to keep. Packed with fireworks and set it on fire, the yearly rite allows friends and strangers to gather together on the last night of the year, think about what they'd like to call into their lives or let go of in the coming year. Anyone who wants can write their wishes, prayers, resolutions and place them on the sculpture. Some are hidden secretly, others are tied or taped to the biggest firework, right up front.

Religions have temples and rituals to remember the intangible because it's difficult to keep the invisible in mind. There has to be some form or container to ground the remembering. That's why if you follow some belief system it's called a practice. I make no spiritual claims for the New Years Goat, but I have noticed that this annual event is as powerful as it is fun. It's a tradition as old as humanity to gather together in the winter in front of a fire. It invites people in. Some help create the sculpture, everyone adds to it with their wishes and their participation.

The fireworks ignite the ritual with a chemical excitement and their noise and fountains of color. They also bring the unexpected and an element of danger. Everyone is alert. What's amazing is to feel the transformation from the excitement and noise to a tangible sense of group calm as the fire catches and burns. Talk dies down with people standing outside in the middle of the night, in the midst of winter. In the silence of the fire, If we're lucky, someone will notice the sounds of geese flying overhead.

To misquote Lily Tomlin's Trudy from the Search for Intelligent Life, "the burning is soup, the gathering together is art."