Monday, August 31, 2009

Contact Improvisation

My French is rusty, I think the title translates to "Taken by the Body"

It's a nice male duet, though the snap cuts ruin the sense of a continuous dance. They strike a good balance in their improv between big actions and taking their time to discover the truth of the moment and the movement.

More on the Youtube site, en francais.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Sculpture and the Dilemma of Historic Restoration

How do all those people on the forensic shows do it? A fragment of a clue is turned over to some technician who quickly deciphers everything. If only it were so in real life.

The new job is two architectural elements that need to be re-sculpted. They'll be carved in foam and then cast in concrete to look like the original sandstone ornament. OK. So far, so good. It's for a Seattle historic reconstruction. Built in 1900, the top two floors were destroyed in a fire in the early 1940's. The only thing I have to work from is a black and white photograph of the building, taken in the 1930's, from across the street.

The photo has been scanned and "enhanced" in photoshop. This is where those technicians work their magic. But working with an 80 year old photo with poor resolution and all the photo shop magic in the world, I still have only the vaguest idea of what it could be.

It's very difficult to sculpt a vague idea. Bumps and shadows seem to indicate forms, but I've learned that a dark can be a stain as much as it might be a recess and what seems to be bouncing light, indicating a convex form might just be pigeon shit.

Even with the best intentions, see where "Historic Restoration" can go astray? Tell me crystal ball gazers, what do you see?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Sculpture and Genghis Khan in Mongolia

For starters, he would correct the pronunciation of his name. Real Mongolian name of Genghis Khan is Chinggis Khaan. Then he'd probably decapitate you.

But his image is changing, literally. Already his image is on vodka, cigarettes and an energy drink. Now he's becoming a brand of his own theme park, the Chinggis Khaan Statue Complex. The Cenco Toour Bureau, a Mongolian Company has spent $4.1 million dollars on the giant steel statue and surrounding buildings.

The scale of the statue is amazing. 131 foot tall giant on horseback rapped in 250 tons of shiny stainless steel. You can take an elevator and exit between his legs ( We are all his children?) to an observation deck to see the Mongolian steppes.
Top photo from hubpages

2nd photo from Flicker

from 8/3/09 New York Times by Dan Levin.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Sculpture and Atsco Oscar manniquin

Every so often you get lucky. On my way home from the studio, a friend called me to tell me about an estate sale. It was closing in 20 minutes. Go home? Check it out?

What decided me was that the estate was that of an artist. I found cool art books and a small Chinese votive figure, Quan Yin on a pig, but that's another post. Pleased at getting out for under $20, $19.50 to be exact, I looked behind the cashier and saw this artist's figure. I had to have it, a total deal at $42.00.

It was made by the ATSCO Company, in Los Angeles, Ca. in the 1930's. It's so beautifully articulated. Brass hinges and ball and socket joints allows all the Bakelite limbs to rotate, supinate, abduct and adduct. The torso can flex and extend. It's graceful in every position.

I was surprised at what this artist's figure is valued at, but even more pleased that it has a new home with another artist. This figure isn't decor, it's a working tool that I will use.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Sculpture and Lineage of 2,500 Years

I began this clay panel as a demonstration at the Hughes Water Garden Water Lily Festival. It's a copy of a terra cotta building fragment (bottom photo) from the Architectural Heritage Center's Architecture in Bloom, Botanical Building Ornament.

Working on this panel, it dawned on me that this abundant floral patterning of acanthus leaf and blossoms is a sculpture genre that goes back at least 2500 years to the Romans, and the Greeks before them.

Copying has a bad reputation these days, but carefully copying the original was like taking a master class in sculpture. Everything in this releif is organized in terms of rhythms and counter rhythms. It is so musical. Doing my best to reproduce it exactly, I learned a lot. The sweetest thing was the realization that I'm a part of such a long tradition of nature art. We really are a part of the living green world.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Sculpture and Scrap Metal Vandalism

Figurative sculpture is an odd beast.

Because it is life-like, even if it's badly done, it is more animate than abstract works. That makes the vandalism of it more macabre. Meth-heads often ruin bronze sculpture and memorial markers to sell to scrap metal dealers. Fine art for 79 cents per pound.

Here is a pair of severed hands that were sold to a scrap metal dealer. Portland police are asking for anyone who might recognize them or the sculpture they came from to contact Brent Bates at if you have any information that might be helpful.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Geology and Rugged Terrain

Who says the federal government is stodgy?

The photo above is circa 1969 and shows a United States Geological Survey (USGS) scientist up on the glacier. I love the caption's scientific double entendre: Well-jointed quartz monzonite exposed on the north side of the peak northwest of Picket Lake on the west side of Ensawkwatch Creek.

To access the USGS archives click here

Friday, August 14, 2009

Sculpture and Manuel Isquierdo

Manuel Izquierdo (1925 -2009) has died. He was a long term Portland resident, a beloved teacher and trickster. Manuel helped found the Pacific Northwest Sculptors organization. Walking through his studio, or rather studios, full of the tools of a lifetime of work was a lesson in itself.

I have a fond memory of him hosting the PNWS, making an enormous dish of paella (?) Can't spell it, but it was delicious. Jerry Joslin asked him to explain the meaning of one of his abstract sculptures. It was like watching a fuse ignite. Manuel was not one to suffer a fool gladly. He spouted and sputtered. "It means what it means!" but he kept on cooking. We ate and drank our fill and laughed and talked all evening long.

D.K. Row writes about his long and productive life and the art he made and the people he influenced.
click here

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Sculpture and Clean Up

Something that rarely gets factored into the beginning of any project is the clean up at the end.

I made up a couple of bouquets of residual wedding flowers and gave them away. Ran the mower over the rest of the greenery and put it on the compost. Took the time, after 4 days, to get that tiny rose thorn out of my thumb. Spent the rest of the day cleaning the studio and reorganizing the wood shed. Things changed from total chaos to calm and clear and ready to begin again.

So often I want to be done with a project but rarely do I savor the pleasure of clean up or rest in the space of complete. It takes a lot of work to get and stay empty, but what a lovely place.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Sculpture and Ephemeral Art

Time Based Art is the buzz art concept these days.

Arranging flowers is the ultimate time based art. Because of the nature of the medium, no pun intended, you cant prepare anything too far in advance. I created all the flower arrangements, corsages, hair ornaments, etc for a friend's wedding. So for Saturday's wedding, I could only begin Friday at noon.

Ready, Set, Go!

Doing flowers really is a combination of sculpture and painting. You deal with composing the different shapes of flowers, foliage and vase, and the painting of color against color against color. Too much of any one thing, it looks dumpy. Not enough repetition of shape or color and it looks chaotic.

You work as fast as you possibly can to get everything done. But it's all in the details. I wanted to use some barberry foliage for its party colors of pink, cream, green and maroon to make the other colors pop. That meant the tedious clipping with a fingernail clipper of every thorn of each leaf cluster. There's enough symbolism in a wedding without the bride pricking her finger on a thorn.

I did the big arrangements first, leaving the most fussy time consuming tasks for last (not counting barberry clipping), when you are fried. Hot glue guns are dangerous when you're tired. Bells of Ireland faint where a stem was bent. Wedding party arriving in 90 minutes! You're cursing like a sailor trying to do the last minute additions, gluing flowers on a tiny plastic barette for the flower girl. And I failed to factor in the time required for transport and installation. Yikes.

How could I have so miscalculated (again) all the work and time involved in a time based art?

Somehow magic kicks in. Plenty of miraculous time appears. No traffic. A parking space right in front of the door. The tables dressed out quickly, the arrangements surrounded by fatsia leaves, bright orange and green chinese lanterns, sunflowers and candles. The bride is exquisite. The groom powerful. Do the young know how beautiful they are?

The stage was set for a wonderful evening. It was worth every moment.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Another Stendhal Moment Plus Water Issues

This video is by Jon Rawlinson and features the Kuroshio Sea, the 2nd largest aquarium in the world. The music is "Please Don't Go" by Barcelona. Jon Rawlinson is a producer, cameraman and editor (another one man army?) based in Vancouver, Canada.

So many emotions and thoughts come up watching this video.

First the sheer dreamy beauty of watching these creatures move, then the scale of it kicks in seeing the silhouettes of people. Then I notice the sterility and density of the environment, with basically every fish swimming in the same direction, not much cover to hide out. How do they care for all these different species, what is meal time like? That leads me to wonder about all the science involved in caring for them. You can't take the smallest organism out of it's environment with it and you paying a steep price.

Rawlinson's choice of the melancholic "Please Don't Go" adds another layer as we watch a seldom seen view of the world drift by? One last view?


If this environment raises folks awareness of the need to protect our oceans, its doing its job.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Sculpture and Lilies

Most folks who make art about flowers are concerned with color. Color is wonderful, but what sends me are the forms each flower takes, how a flower grows from stalk to stem to bud. Ending in Baroque spirals, these lilies are floral fireworks. Relief panel measures 17 x 44 x 2 inches.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Shadows and the Semi-Immaculate Conception

"For behold, I bring you tidings of great joy!"

My neighbors are starting their family, L told me she was pregnant. I cut one of the giant stalks of lilies for her and her girl friend to congratulate them on their "semi-immaculate" conception.

Standing on the driveway, I noticed how beautiful the shadow was, like an Annunciation angel. Life imitates art.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Inspiration for Sculpture

Heaven in a corner of the garden.

Sometimes summer is even more magical than I could imagine. Last year these Conca d'or lilies from B and D Lilies were amazing at four feet tall. One more year in the ground and they are 8 feet tall. (Next year 16 feet tall ????) Ten stalks with ten buds each = fragrance you can smell from half the yard away. Each flower is the softest lemon yellow fading to white. The whole colony is animated by the darker pollen anthers that sway like a kinetic sculpture in the slightest breeze.

Photos by John Osswald