Monday, May 30, 2011

Sculpture and Louie Schwartzberg

Time for some beauty.

Louie Schwartzberg is a fimmaker. I love how his work has both opened his eyes and his heart.
He has both the latest technology and the patience of stone.

The images of the bats at night are amazing. While you watch this film, think about how Schwartzberg had to understand both space and time to position the camera to catch the animals, the plants and the moon. (All moving constantly.)

Cactus flowers only last one night so the set up had to change depending on what might occur.  In order to capture all this, remind yourself of all the filming that didn't work, the set up was off, the animals went to a different flower. Schwartzberg's work a dance of planning and improvisation

Schwartzberg's website is Blacklight Films
Watch more

Friday, May 27, 2011

Sculpture and the Foot

How do you repair a shattered calcaneus (your heel bone) ?
Very carefully.
These X-rays deserve a labeling of Architectural Sculpture of the highest level.

The surgery that will enable B. to walk again seems to be an exquisite combination of fine jewelry making and a box of drywall screws. 


Think about how the surgeon had to spatially understand that calcaneus bone.

He knew it intimately in it's shattered fragments and kept in mind how to reassemble them back into a functional bone. He had to plan the screw placement to use just the right number of them and place each one so that none of them ran into another. Add to that performance the element of a ticking clock,  a suffering patient, and a very small working area.

That's all in a day's work for the good doctor who probably doesn't think of his work as sculpture.
I do.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Sculpture and the Gallery Without Walls

My relief sculptures, The Four Seasons of Love, are is in a book!

It is so nice when a gallery goes above and beyond what is expected to promote their artists's work.

The Four Seasons of Love are on page 7

The Arts Council of Lake Oswego's program Gallery Without Walls is going into new territory creating a cell phone application that guides you through the exhibition with maps and information about this year's sculpture.
They've also published a book and CD of the show that is available on
Click here to see the book

Bravo and Thank You to the photographer Deb Holister and all the volunteers at the Arts Council of Lake Oswego.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Sculpture and Indians

What could come after sculpture and feminism?

Sculpture and Indians.

Being a bronze Indian is hard work.

I had my "Bouquet for the City" sculpture at the Heathman Lodge for the American Rhododendron Society Convention. Walking back and forth from the parking lot I kept passing this lost soul.

(Background: The Heathman Lodge looks like a giant log cabin. Very "Western" looking.)

The bronze figure is well modeled, the siting is perfunctory. It's right near a noisy heating / cooling unit. I looked for a signature or a title but was unable to find one. Perhaps that's for the best.....

What does this figure represent?

A "western experience"? a hotel parking lot?

The Homeless is more like it. The white folk go inside while he stays outside in the rain.
I know a statue is inert matter, but its creation and intent are spirit and ideas, and those are very much alive.

The hotel vans idle, filling the area with exhaust.

While I love figurative work, I find most figurative bronze incredibly depressing. While the modeling may be skilled, there seems to be no thought behind the work.  

Art has the power to speak to us, to move us. Isn't it a pity when the content is empty cliche and status quo?

Wildlife is a valid sculpture genre.

Does this Indian fall into that category?
(Ducks and Bucks, Stags on craigs,
and a Noble Savage or two on the mantle or in the parking lot?

Is this Indian statue the corporate equivalent of a lawn jockey?

Is there a curse worse than to be romanticised?
Even in the art-afterlife this Indian has no real estate

Ignored by the hotel vans and guests, 
his prayers fall on deaf ears. 
"Oh Great Spirit, Deliver me from this waste-land!"


I don't have any answers, but I do have questions:

What do you think of artists appropriating First Nation/ethnic imagery?

Having marginalized aboriginal peoples, why do we value their images and art, especially if they didn't make that art?

Your Thoughts?

Friday, May 20, 2011

Sculpture and Feminism

Dominique Strauss-Kahn
How does the recent behavior of Dominique Strauss-Kahn relate to sculpture, and how does sculpture relate to feminism? 

Sculpture has always been one of the macho arts. When I was in school, women weren't even allowed on the foundry crew. Too difficult for the "little ladies." (That was changed by a group of determined women sculptors who proved they could do the work.)

What hasn't changed much is the genre of female nudes... aka Bronze Barbies. Guy's love to make them.

It's always the hot babe. 

My dislike of this genre stems from the fact that rarely do the Bronze Barbies portray an individual woman. (Obsession I can understand. Look at the work of Gaston Lachaise. )

The sculpture I'm talking about idealizes features to the point of being generic. It's pretty and it sells.
The breasts are always perfectly pert or gravity defying DDD's. Women know that breasts come in a myriad of shapes and sizes. Don't male sculptors know this? Why do the bronze breasts and bodies all look alike?

The Bronze Barbies never portray any of the stages of a woman's life. (Barbie is over 50!)
Spend some time with 'Celle qui fut la belle heaulmière' (the Helmet maker's once beautiful wife) to see what Rodin could do with an older model. The sculpture isn't pretty. It's life. It's Art.

Writer Isabel Allende speaks passionately for women and Feminism in this TED video.

"What I fear most is Power with impunity. I fear abuse of power and the power to abuse."

Images of "sexy" women bought and sold are so woven into our global culture, so pervasive that we don't really see how odd it is. The next time you see a bronze nude of a woman,  let yourself really Look and See the work. Ask youself: "How true is this sculpture?" or better "What story is this telling? ............What is this selling?"

Your response?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Sculpture and Ecofauna

What comes after a giant foam lion?

Big Bugs! 
Not as big as a Japanese sci-fi movie, but way too large for most folk. These sculptures are scientifically accurate reproductions of insects from around the world.
Visit Ecofauna's website to see more.
Ecofauna was created in 1996 in Italy by Lorenzo Possenti  a sculptor with Natural Sciences degree.

Real insect (bottom center) and 20 times enlarged 
Do you have a favorite insect ?

Monday, May 16, 2011

Sculpture and Parade Lions

It doesn't have to be serious to be sculpture.

I planned on a focused series on sculpture and the garden this month. Between daily visits with my fragile 87 year old mother in law, broken plumbing and damaged floors, that's not going to happen.

Instead I'm going with the flow and letting myself be surprised with the posts that do show up.
Not what you expect to see in a back yard!

Picking up the new toilet from the warehouse, I saw the king of the jungle across the street!

Peering through the gates, I couldn't stop laughing.
Why does changing the scale of something make even a foam lion magical and funny?

This is also a good example of how a great paint job makes a mediocre carving work. The bitter truth is that color trumps form every time.

Put the emphasis where it's needed most, on the face, with good color and the rest, like that big sloppy seam across the chest, is given a free pass.

Turns out this noble beast represents George Morlan Plumbing Supply in parades. 

Wouldn't it be wonderful if more companies sponsored sculpture?
A noble beast amidst the broken toilets.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Sculpture and the American Rhododendron Society

Thank you Paradis Express for featuring Bouquet for the City.
Bouquet for the City triptych by Patrick Gracewood ©2011 Acrylic on GFRG. Each panel 45 x 17 x 3 inches
 There was no room near the American Rhododendron Society's registration desk to set up Bouquet for the City, so I installed it in the plant sale room.

The good news is that everyone upon registering immediately walks into the plant room. The bad news is that it's hard to compete with thousands of rhododendrons in full bloom. Plant folks are focused on plants.
 I"m standing in front of 48 square feet of bas relief, people would ask me about the plants on the table.
"Do you know the parentage of Washington Centenial?"
"No, I'm the sculptor of this portrait of rhododenrons."
(I could watch the word sculptor enter their awareness, bounce once and roll off to a dark corner. A few would then actually see the art, most didn't.
Showing art in alternative venues is not for the timid.)
If you can't get their attention, join them. I bought an azalea called "Fragrant Star" some epimediums, a cimifuga and learned to say "Indumentum" without laughing.

Sculpture and the Oregon Food Bank

Fellow gardeners up the street have an annual Mother's Day Plant Sale to raise money for the Oregon Food Bank. Since I'm not into propogating, I try to contribute "high end" items like this trio of zinc planters and garden stool.

In four hours and lots of plants, we raised over $300.00 for the OregonFood Bank.

 I found the planters on the curbside and planted them with Agave attenuata or Foxtail Agave.

No wicked thorns, just a very easy plant that in Oregon does just fine in shade and will actually burn if suddenly transferred outdooors.

The funny thing is that they didn't even make it to the sale table. The woman who organized the sale bought them for her front door!

 Here's a planter that I modified into a garden seat.

I'm not a big fan of zinc planters as they're not very strong.
This planter has no drainage holes.

A bad planter but it could be a fun garden seat!
Here's how I did it.

 I cut a plywood square the same dimensions as the top and pin-nailed wood to register the seat on the base.

I used two layers of closed cell foam as it doesn't absorb water. Then I used a vintage style fabric and streched and stapled it to the underside of the plywood.

It's really nice to have a small scale easily accomplished project that does exactly what you intended it to. It sold!
All for a good cause.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Sculpture and the American Rhododendron Society

Bouquet for the City by Patrick Gracewood © 2011bronze relief 45 inches by 51 inches.

My relief sculpture "Bouquet for the City" will be at the 65th annual convention of The American Rhododendron Society in Vancouver Washington this week at the Heathman Lodge.

Titled The World in Your Garden, the convention features speakers from around the world, and tours of outstanding public and private gardens and nurseries with the focus on rhododendrons. 
Painted plaster panel at left and roughing out the composition of the entire triptych.
Here's how and why the sculpture was made. 
In front of my old studio there was a forest of these tree sized rhododendrons. The father in law of my landlord (in her 70's) had planted the grove. They are Rhododendron loderi, the cultivar "King George".

Early in May, bright pink buds unfurl into enormous white blossoms that perfume the entire area. The fragrance is like the most sweet pure air imaginable in the cool spring air. It had the power to stop me several times a day with its beauty.

Homes and businesses in Portland, Oregon have thousands of rhododendrons of every color.  While driving, the title occurred to me: "Bouquet for the City" each flower, each plant an offering.  

I modeled the first panel one spring, pleased with it, I wanted it to be a triptych but had to wait an entire year before it bloomed again. Believe me, when the buds first appeared, I had my easel set up and ready to go!
 Clay panels almost completed.
Completed relief in plaster.
 Another Rhododendron Loderi, Venus.

Don't think bush, think tree. 
This King George is only 4 years in the ground and 6 feet tall by 8 feet wide. 
(Probably going to move it or the pear tree. No room for both.)

Monday, May 9, 2011

Sculpture and Jaume Plensa

I love how sculptor James Plensa, dealing with the most physical of the arts and using the most advanced technology, speaks of myth, poetry and eternity.

Photo by Christopher Furlong/ Getty Images
Sculptor Jaume Plensa installed "Echo" in Madison Square Park last week. The 44 foot tall portrait head floats over the landscape like a dream apparition. The title, "Echo" evokes the myth of the Greek nymph condemned by Zeus to repeat the words of others.

Plensa when asked how he creates his work speaks of poetry instead of technology. He says Shakespeare is the best definition of sculpture, citing the "sleep no more soliloquy" from Macbeth

"You are working always with physical elements. You are always touching, touching, but you can't describe it."

Paume is famous for the Crown Fountain in Chicago. It successfully combines sculpture and photography. He says that photography captures the moment while sculpture thinks about eternity.

From The New York Times article, Momuments. The Poetry of Dreams, by Carol Kino. 5/8/2011

Photo by Benjamin Norman for the New York Times 
Photo by Benjamin Norman for the New York Times

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Sculpture and the Garden

When a garden is most beautiful, it seems as if it has always existed,
yet nothing is more artificial.

You say, "A garden isn't artificial!"

Look around any city or suburb to see all the places where gardens (and art) don't exist. There may be space and plants but there's little thought, planning or care. It isn't a garden, it's a yard.
Plant trees in front of windows and then prune into lollypops. Does this count as topiary? As a garden?
Sculpture and the Garden is an ongoing dialog about how we create spaces.

Sculpture isn't just the art object we create.  It's in the artist's and collector's best interest to expand the definition of "Sculpture" to include how and where that object is placed and seen. Sculpture is about the relationships between the art, the viewer and the site.
In a yard of total expedience, one inspirational line of bluebells.
I'll be asking artists and you for your ideas and opinions.
Do you have a favorite sculpture that the siting makes even more special? Where the siting context reinforces the art's content to make a unique place. Let's talk....

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Sculpture and New Technologies

Figuring out Facebook fan pages and social media marketing, maintaining and updating blog and website, and  trying to develop actual print brochures and greeting cards for my sculpture makes me long for simpler times......