This design, a circle enclosed in a square, has a long history behind it. From mandalas in the East to Leonardo di Vinci’s “Proportions of a Human Body” in the West.
I have been drawn to this form for as long as I can remember. Perhaps it’s the paradox of a circle and square living so comfortably together. Perhaps it’s the problem of squaring the circle, long proposed by Greek mathematicians, that has a special allure for me. Then again it may be nothing more then my love of contrasts.
I have returned to this form several times and I suspect, this won’t be the last time.
I was pleased to find out that Gatekeeper just sold. Selling should not be a sign of “worth” or “approval” and yet, it would seem to me that the sincerest form of flattery is not imitation but selling. Someone may compliment a work but may not really “value it”. Some compliments come very easily or without any real conviction. If you are actually willing to pay for a work, the praise is not abstract. The worth is clear.
It does seem shallow to desire approval but this aspect of the creative process seems intrinsic to it. Art is about making a statement. Art is about having an interaction between the work and the viewer. Sometimes the reaction is emotional, sometimes intellectual. Sometimes the reaction is a just response based on pure aesthetics and sometimes the reaction has a political or social aspect. Either way, that which evokes a reaction is worthy of being called art.
Between the holidays and our house renovation project, I have not made any blog entries since mid December. And, as mentioned in a prior blog, I have not worked on Foundlings for months now. It is a feeling not unlike traveling. The familiar routine of working in the studio is gone replaced by daily new distractions. I am a creature of habit but I do try to let go. Let go of habits, let go of routines and let go of expectations. Sometimes I am successful, other times, not. So I am exloring what it’s like not to create. I will not get to do any work until I can get back to my workspace, even though I have another Art Expo coming up in April.
That is not to say that I have not been creative. In the midst of the renovation I have designed another stained glass window for our home. It will probably take a year or so to create (I design the window and a talented stained glass artist, Laura Carbone actually builds it). Choosing a rather complex type of flower, a pair of irises, I am not sure how this will come off in glass but like any process, it will have to unfold.
I do hope to get back to the workshop, amongst a sea of plaster dust by March. With luck I will have a month or so to create a piece or two for this year’s Expo.
Douglas, a dear friend of mine, gets me such worderful parts to put in my Foundlings. Often I wonder if he has such a good eye and truely understands what I look for or if he just sees something wierd and assumes that I would like it. Whatever the reason, he found a wonderful door knocker that I used in a piece. The knocker was just beautiful.
After I was done puting this Foundling together, I just wasn’t happy with the work. I was so sure in building this piece that it would “work” and yet, after completing it, I was never completely happy. So it sat in my workshop for months, not quite completed and not quite sure what to do about it.
Much later, perhaps many months later, another friend mentioned that a frame shop was going out of business and I was able to buy a lot of frames, some whole, some broken. One frame was casually put down on my workbench when I suddenly looked up and saw the uncompleted Foundling, hanging, just waiting for something that might finish it. I took down the Foundling and casually laid it on top of the frame. That did it. I’d like to say that I planned this but no, just fate. Adding keys to go with the door knocker, added the finishing touch.
My home is undergoing a major renovation. The good news is that it will double the working space in my studio. The bad news is that I won’t be able to have access to my studio for a few months. That’s a problem.
Speaking of problems, I just heard a brilliant quote by the artist, Mark Rothko that sums up a question I have long thought about. The quote is, “Amateur artists create. Serious artists solve problems”.
It seems to me that making art is not merely about “creating”. Anyone can “make a mark”. Leaving technical skill aside (which is one yardstick by which one can measure a work), I think the pursuit of art is an exploration: How do I show light?; How do I describe a form?; How can I break though traditional artistic norms? It is in the pursuit of solving, or at least exploring these problems that elevate the simple act of creation into something more profound. Something “bigger“ then just creating.
In creating art you aim for a vision and you never get there but sometimes you get close. Sometimes, very close. There are other times where you miss completely your vision but in the process you find a completely different approach. Surprisingly this can be better then what you were originally aiming for.
When you miss entirely what you were trying to do, then what? Keep the piece as a record of what you tried to do? Decommission it (a nice way to describe destroying the work)? Throughout history artists have destroyed their works, painting over their canvases or smashing sculptures. Sometimes in anger, sometimes in despair and sometimes in frustration. No one ever suggested that creating was easy… or straight forward but this still doesn’t answer what to do with works that don’t live up to your vision.
This Foundling is called Pan and was one of my first ventures into using silver tones. I have had some real successes using silver and it has been surprising. I had thought that only gold, with its warm color, would work with my Foundlings. This work, on the other hand, seems not to have achieve what I was working towards—but I liked the silver.
Do I keep this or do I take it apart? There is real beauty in creating another piece from a “less then successful” work, not unlike creating a Foundling from material thought worthless. There is always a fear that in the future I might regret my decision to take a work apart but in the past I have actually returned to works, long finished, and continued to work on them, integrating them into larger other pieces. This has frequently been successful and a very gratifying approach. So what to do?
I guess I will wait.
I don’t consider myself morbid or having a particularly “dark” senseability. When creating a Foundling I am usually driven only by an aesthetic vision (although the thought of “How will I ever get these parts together?” does enter into the conversation from time to time).
It is fascinating, however, to see people’s reaction to a new piece I am working on. As a focal point, this piece has a baby’s head, cast in concrete. Personally I see a sleeping baby. For me, using elements, like parts of the human body, pushes a piece into a surrealistic direction. I enjoy how people see so much of themselves in my work when I do this. On the other hand, this does open the work to a very literal interpretation.
Some reactions are so strong, seeing death or dismemberment, that I feel like I am intentionally provoking an agitated response. I am not. Like using bones in my work, first and foremost I see form. Sometimes the bone speaks to a reference to nature and life or sometimes to a religious theme, like a reliquary but never do I seek to merely inflame.
In the end, as with so much of my work, I seek to see the beauty in things normally overlooked and have an opportunity to see things freshly.
I had sold “Satari I” last year. It had become a favorite of mine and like a child going off to college, I was pleased that it was starting a new life but sad to see it go. So I made a variation of it I call “Satari II”. It came together relatively easily and I was glad that it was similar enough to earn the title Satari II but differnt enough to not feel like it was a copy.
It is important in this piece to have a symmetry like a mandala. I struggled to do this and yet, the flower is off center, not by much, but enough. Usually I just try to remind myself that perfection is just an idea and that it doesn’t really exist. It is something I always aim for. In so many ways, the perfection I actually seek is in the imperfect pieces I use. A crack here or a stain there. Even the boxes themselves are usually not square. I see the beauty, as well as the human condition, in this short coming and yet, I wish this was centered a little better.
In this piece I am using a Christmas tree stand, a cultivator, rulers and an antique discus. How to get such diverse objects to live together? Certainly form is one part. Then there is texture, color and size but there is something more. Concept will give me a direction and a focal point is important but in the end it is only the balancing of these elements that ensure that they will live together as a Foundling and not as merely a combination of elements.
This balance is a kind of style and just as in some paintings you can see the hand of the artist, in my Foundlings you can see my hand through the balance I choose.
Art Expo / Solo came and went. It was exhausting, it was chaotic, and it was a challenge to get all of the Foundlings done in time for the show but in the end, it was a good show. I sold five pieces and made lots of connections.
The show is definitely worth doing but the act of selling, no matter how much recognition is gained by someone purchasing your work, you have to let go. You have to physically hand over a piece that you have lovingly, and sometimes frustratingly (see Now It’s Personal), put so much time and effort into. Yes, you tell yourself that these are your children and all you can really hope for is that they each find good homes. Yes, you can do that Buddhist thing and say that clinging causes suffering and yes, life is about letting go.
This piece, Daybreak, was finished just in time for the show. I was just getting used to seeing it in the morning, hanging on the wall in my home when I had to get it to the show.
Albert bought the piece. A really nice guy who I have much in common with. A very talented artist as well. And that was it. It was sold. Gone. I do try to remind myself that inspiring people with my work is part of the process and yet, I am disappointed that it is gone. At least it found a good home.