Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Sculpture and Kees Verkade


The lovers are meeting.


Can you see them?
photography by Jacques Dirand
On the right. Up the stairs. In the trees.
Over there.
All photography by Jacques Dirand
The September Veranda magazine features a French country estate, "Chateau du Tertre." It's in the Bordeaux area.  Of course the focus is on the house, but the gardens and sculpture by Kees Verkade are what you should see.

The work is lovely. The siting of the work is brilliant.
It's wildly romantic as the context of the lovers will change with every season.
Mr. Verkade's intimate pair of lovers, "Invitation" is a short distance from the house, within sight but slightly removed, sited in a formally pruned grove of trees. Shown here in the height of spring/early summer.

Close your eyes and see them in the fall with the trees loosing their leaves. Now see them clearly, unsheltered, in the winter. The art is inspired, gentle and understated but formal setting lets nature and the garden do the heavy lifting. You can't see the art without also understanding the context of them meeting in "the woods". The mood of the art changes with each change of light and weather.

Another sculpture, a bathing figure, unattributed but possible by Verkade, is framed by a simple box hedge and anchors a long reflecting pool near the house.
Most of us do not have a chateau in France, but we can use good ideas in our own small gardens when siting sculpture.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Sculpture and the Garden

"It is necessary to cultivate our garden." from Candide by Voltaire

 "Gardens are the most complex art and the most rewarding. Art, science and nature are all connected. Exposing people to nature is such an important thing." Kulapat Yantrasast

I'm not sure where I found that quote by Yantrasast. He believes that gardens make people better. The quote is a perfect beginning for an ongoing Shadows On Stone series,  Sculpture and the Garden, where I'll be writing and thinking about the complex arrangement we call a garden.

Guilt bronze turtle at Aspet, Saint Gaudens studio.

Pan sculpture above the pool,  near Saint Gauden's studio

Detail of Pan sculpture, guilt bronze.
I'd love your input. Any books you can suggest, any images that embody this complex art of inanimate and living objects, relationships, and time. Your thoughts on the Why of sculpture and the garden would be welcome.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Sculpture and Der Modelleur


Every page I looked at, "JACKPOT!!!!!!!!!!"

The book is a loose leaf architecture portfolio from 1905/1906 called Der Modelleure. The photos may not look impressive here, but click on them for an enlarged view. That photo above shows two larger than life sized dragons on the facade. Not for the faint of heart.....
Click on the image to better see the bizarre fish people.

These aren't small, they are entire facades of buildings!
 The buildings of early 20th Century Berlin and Dresden must have been absolutely hallucinogenic to see. Art Nouveau in full bloom. Not tepid Art Nouveau of fainting lilies either, these buildings crawling with dragons, medusa heads, etc are perfectly in synch with the challenging music of Richard Strauss' Salome.

These photos are a treasure trove of architectural ceramic building facades in Berlin and Dresden because they show the architectural clay models before they were cut into blocks and fired. Some of the photos show finished work, some are of works in progress. The photos show how they conceived and laid out the masses of clay.

Invaluable references for anyone involved in recreating and repairing the terra cotta facades of historic buildings. ... Or just wondering how they did it.....

The photos of these often enormous and beautifully detailed works also blow big holes through our contemporary notions of what "ceramic sculpture" can be, i.e. cute, small and crudely made.

I'll be featuring more images from this archive under the tag heading Der Modelleur.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Sculpture and Metropolis

The FUTURE is really old.

I just saw the restored version of Metropolis, the Complete Metropolis.

The complete Metropolis has restored scenes, found in film archives, edited out and unseen for decades.

Metropolis is wonderful on several levels. No pun intended, as the added sections make the plot more understandable. I'm amazed by the visuals of the segregated city of pleasure gardens and underground workers labyrinths. There are no "dance" sequences, but the movement of the workers changing shifts and at the clock are beautifully choreographed, and still very moving.

What I found interesting is how the present frames the past. Watching the heroine and children try to escape drowning by climbing the stairs made me think of the people in the twin towers escaping by descending the countless stairs in the dark. Context frames content.

Watching Metropolis is to see a bridge from the past to the future. Some of the acting (the hero and heroine) is stage, silent film, with  every emotion sold to the back row. Yet the understated father /villain is THE prototype for every cold, withdrawn intellectual ever since. Every film from Dr. Strangelove to Blade Runner owes an enormous debt to the creativity of the original. Go see Metropolis.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Sculpture and Plastic- Photographer Chris Jordan

Trash doesn't just disappear from our curbs to vanish from the earth. Well, maybe it does leave the earth, but only to appear in the oceans. Look at photographer Chris Jordan's Midway series.
Chris Jordan

Chris Jordan

Jordan says: "These photographs of albatross chicks were made in September, 2009, on Midway Atoll, a tiny stretch of sand and coral near the middle of the North Pacific. The nesting babies are fed bellies-full of plastic by their parents, who soar out over the vast polluted ocean collecting what looks to them like food to bring back to their young. On this diet of human trash, every year tens of thousands of albatross chicks die on Midway from starvation, toxicity, and choking.

To document this phenomenon as faithfully as possible, not a single piece of plastic in any of these photographs was moved, placed, manipulated, arranged, or altered in any way. These images depict the actual stomach contents of baby birds in one of the world's most remote marine sanctuaries, more than 2000 miles from the nearest continent." ~cj, Seattle, October 2009
These images have haunted me. How do we live in our  throw away world without leaving piles of trash, sculptures of death everywhere?

Friday, September 17, 2010

Sculpture and Location

The Sun will soon revolve around the Earth.

Hold that thought. Now add this one.

A sculptor's job is not just to make objects but also to make people aware of their physical relationships in space. And time.

So you could say the function of a sculptor is like the function of a preposition,* to better articulate your awareness of the space you're in.

You + (at, to from, around, beside, above....) + object = spatial awareness. Hopefully an aesthetic experience.
 All these thoughts from the 9/13/2010 NY Times article, A Tech World that Centers on the User, by Nick Bilton. Bilton draws from his new book, I live In The Future And Here's How It Works to talk about how our ideas about geography and location are radically changing.

With the new technology, if you need directions while driving or walking, you can click the button that says "locate me".  A dot representing you will appear on screen and as you move, the maps will change and keep up with you.

That's completely different from trying to find yourself on a printed map. Remember the frustration of turning the map upside down or sideways if you changed direction or had to retrace your route?

Quoting the NY Times article: ...the best way to begin to understand the sweeping changes that the consumer of entertainment and information is now in the center. That center changes everything. It changes you sense of community. It changes the way you view the information, news and data coming directly
Now you are the starting point. Now the digital world follows you, not the other way around.

Like I said at the beginning. You, in your particular location on earth, are back, once again, at the center of the universe. And our spinning culture will have new/old perceptions of we articulate space.

(*Preposition : a function word that combines with a noun phrase to form a phrase which expresses a modification or predication. Webster, 10th edition)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Sculpture and 3D Printing

If you've never seen sculpture arrise from a primordial goo, you've never seen 3D printing. You know it's state of the art technology, but it still seems like magic.
Peter DaSilva for The New York Times
Scott Summit, co-founder of Bespoke Innovations, with a prosthetic limb.

Kevin Moloney for The New York Times
Charles Overy, founder of LGM, with a model of a resort in Vail, Colo. “We used to take two months to build $100,000 models,” he said, adding that now they cost about $2,000.

Read the New York Times article, A Technology Sets Inventors Free to Dream, by Ashlee Vance.

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. Arthur C. Clarke, "Profiles of The Future", 1961 (Clarke's third law)

Monday, September 13, 2010

Sculpture and the Garden

What do we mean when we say a plant is sculptural?

Do we mean its shape is easy to understand?
Euphorbia Obesa

Is it sculptural if it acts as metaphor and makes us think of something else?

Read about this Edifice Complex.

Is a plant sculptural if it has directly inspired sculpture?
photo credit

Medieval  Crosiers photos from the blog, Catholic Eye Candy
Can a plant be sculpture?

Friday, September 10, 2010

Sculpture and the Design Hell Condo

For vacation we rented a condo in Provincetown, Cape Cod. Newly built, away from the commotion of Commercial Street, attractive landscaping, lovely deck.

And then we went inside...........

The online photographs we'd seen did not do it justice.

We pondered the space as if we were forensic detectives trying to understand the owner's motives.   The clash of black and white pattern on pattern, objects and styles was assaulting. What was the owner thinking?

The black and white patterns on the wall paper, stairs, and the hall carpet visually flattened space. Several times I caught myself trying to understand what was pattern on pattern and what had physical depth. Even found myself testing spaces with my foot before stepping further, as if the vacation rental had suddenly become a visual field experiment.

Judge for yourself.

In the photos below, what is pattern, what has depth and space? See how the banisters flatten out and become 2D when they're in front of the wallpaper?  What is the black of the stairwell and what is the black stripes on the carpet? Add movement and the result is vertigo.

I ask again, "Who does this in a rental?"

I was in the space for less than 15 minutes before I started taking things OFF the walls. I couldn't relax. It reminded me of the Oscar wilde quote: "My wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. One or the other of us has to go." The wallpaper stayed, but a lot of the art came down to live in a closet, behind the couch, or on top of the refridgerator for the week.

Who makes stuff this awful?
Who buys it and thinks it a good idea for furnishing a rental? These hideous plates stalked you in the kitchen.....
The Girls by John Waters. Not cheap, though it looks it, at $650 for three.
That was answered when I took these scary "porcelain collector plates" down from the kitchen walls. They're by long term Provincetown resident, the prince of bad taste, John Waters. A very limited edition................. Thank god.

The house decoration was a major incentive to spend more time at the beach....

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Sculpture and The Last of Summer

It's so easy to fall into the trap of working all the time.
Even going on vacation requires tremendous effort, what I call "achieving escape velocity". That means finishing every necessary project.

It's time to take a break and enjoy the last of summer. It's raining today and I'm loving it. The garden and land badly need it. I can feel everything relaxing in the soft rain.

Here's a few highlights of summer at Gracewood Studio and garden.
I wait all year for these Conca D'Or lilies to bloom. I'm 6 feet tall and look up into their blooms. The fragrance fills the entire garden. There are lovely white Casablanca lilies in the garden, but while these 8 foot tall monsters are blooming, they're all I want to look at.

Travel took us to the east coast and to California, making stops to see sculpture.

I made a pilgrimage to the home and studio of August Saint-Gaudens, a national historic site in Cornish, New Hampshire. Many posts on this coming up. It was inspiring and humbling. He was an amazing sculptor. 
Amour Caritas by Augustus Saint Gaudens as seen in the reflecting pool.
Above the clouds, at sunset at San Simeon, Ca.
Also upcoming posts on the sculpture at San Simeon, aka Hurst's castle.

Aside from vacations, I love working outdoors in summer, when just looking up from working gives an unexpected pleasure.
Have you taken a break today and looked up or down?

Monday, September 6, 2010

Sculpture and the Farwest Show #4

More photos of the flame panels and art at the New Varieties Showcase booth at the Farwest Show.

I think this photo, below, looks like a Rousseau painting. It just needs a lurking monkey or tiger....

Gracewood Studio bas relief panel, 4x6 feet

Theresa Cheek of Art's the Answer wrote in to ask, "What happens to the panels now that the show is over?"

Like any trade show, many people worked long hours and moved TONS of materials for a brief three day dazzle. The party's already over. The panels are getting rained upon in my driveway.

I'm going to remove the panels from their frames and see what they look like painted a dark faux bronze with lots of bright "metal" highlights and green verdigris dripping everywhere.

Then maybe it's time to open an Etsy shop instead of packing them into my overstuffed woodshed...?
The frames were designed to hold the weight of AAC concrete, so I'll design and carve bas relief panels for them.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Sculpture and the Farwest Show #3

Here are both panels almost finished. I went back and took a last look at the Buddha sculpture and realized that it was much greener than I remembered it. Didn't want these panels to be too bright so I mixed up a green/umber tint and applied it liberally. I said a quick prayer as I was leaving on vacation at 4 the next morning. This was a make it or break it act.

The 4 x 8 foot tall panels were designed to have the lower two feet buried inside the raised planting bed of the New Varieties Showcase booth at the Farwest Show

The Farwest show is a big production. Oregon grows much of the nursery stock for the entire country. The nursery industry goes all out to show the newest plants, latest technologies and horticultural practices. Walking the show and getting new plant catalogs was an unexpected perk.

        Here's how it looked. 

The New Varieties Showcase is a collaboration between breeders, growers,  and a team of designers and contractors from the Association of Northwest Landscape Designers (ANLD). The lead designer for this Asian themed space was Iftikhar Ahmed.