The pandemic has been going on for over 100 days. Self isolating and social distancing has made the days much the same. Without going out to dinner, seeing friends or going to the movies, every day is eerily similar. This has imposed on me a kind of solitude and it has inspired me to create more works. I have been very prolific.

When I am creating I am lost in the moment. I am not thinking of the pandemic, about the loss I have suffered, or how long this will last. When I am creating the “sameness” and sadness are gone.

Antique fairs are cancelled, visits to garage sales or antiques stores have stopped, and my stock of ingredients has been dwindling. This does force me to reconsider the material I have and it forces me to reconsider how I create a new Foundling. Perhaps I need to reconsider what all of this solitude means as well.

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Reliquary IV 72dpi_IMG_9362Sometimes the decommissioning is about adding to a Foundling or perhaps embedding it in a larger work. This  new direction can easily breathe new life into a piece.  At other times, disassembling affords me the ability to  use ingredients that might be better used in a new way.

In this Foundling, the box, bone and brass plate with the round holes have been in an incomplete state in my studio for years. The carriage step, the pendulum-like piece hanging down, has been waiting even longer to be used. Only when disassembled and reassembled with the new ingredients, did this piece literally and figuratively, finally come together.

In this process certrain things are becoming clear: I am getting much more skilled at my craft, both with the use of tools and how I “engineer” these Foundlings; I have a much higher level of satisfaction with these new pieces; and I seem to have a clearer idea on how to create a work of art in the first place… but the path is still not a direct one.

 

Traditionally appreciated by Chinese philosophers, scholar’s rocks, lower right, can be any size or any color. These abstract forms were meant to represent nature in miniature on which the scholar could meditate on the beauty and mystery of nature.

This Foundling, Last Stand II, features an elegant piece of driftwood, that to me, conveys the same sense of abstract beauty that rocks represent. Framed within a circle and a square, a form I return to again and again, only heightens the natural elegance of the wood worn down by the power of the sea.

A work in progress laying on my workbench, waiting to be engineered, stained and finally assembled, “Last Stand II” still displays such mystery, even lying down.

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A dear friend died suddenly a few months ago. She was bright, kind, and a loving wife & mother. She had a love of nature, of books and always went out of her way to help others. Her kindness is what stood out most to me.

With such a loss, there is a kind of helplessness that sets in. Death is a part of life and yet, it is so easy to turn a blind eye to it, until we are confronted with it. There is little to do but move through the grieving process.

For me creating is also a healing process. It does’t remove the grief, nor is this merely a distraction but it does allow me to meditate on the loss as I create something new. This Foundling is the third “memorial piece” I have created.

In 1928 Charles Demuth painted “I saw the Figure 5 in Gold”. I have seen this image in every survey of art class I have ever taken and in person. Demuth was making an abstract portrait of William Carlos Williams’s poem “The Great Figure” which evokes imagery of a fire engine.

The painting with its beautiful form and use of type frequently inspires me. I have always loved all forms of type, especially numbers. To me, letters evoke classic monograms and abbreviations which, by their nature are too literal. Numbers on the other hand are abstract… in a literal way. Is the ”three“ about the three bells or is the three merely an element to break up the form? The bells remind me of a fire alarm as well (three alarm fire?). Creativity is a curious thing.

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Rusted Type IMG_8821I am back from my travels to Norway, Denmark and Sweden and return to a country I don’t recognize. The Covid-19 virus has locked down so much of the country, leaving the city strangely empty. Panic was not present in the countries I visited… at least not while I was there.

What was present and throughout much of the world is a history that we don’t have in the United States. Being only 240+ years old, something “old” in this country is over 25 years. To the rest of the world it can be a few hundred or a few thousand years old. It is also no surprise that the Scandinavian history is beautifuly fused with the new. This combination speaks to a history, sometimes known and sometimes to an unknown past, that is so central to my work as well. This combination speaks to me so deeply.

In this sign the old type is presented in a new way with a background of beautiful rusted patina. The delicate script so effortlessly dances over the serif font behind it. Is it old, is it new? It really just doesn’t matter. It’s beautiful and it inspires me.

It would seem that it’s all a process, fit two pieces together, figure out how to secure them. Take the next pieces, secure them. Keep going until the entire work is all secured. Take the whole thing apart, stain it and them put it together again. Once I am sure that the entire piece fits, take it apart yet again and glue the pieces as I put the final piece together.

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It’s done, the creation was not nearly as direct a process as it could have been but I am pleased with the outcome. It did turn out to be more of an illustrative piece than an exercise in the beauty of a repeating form and yet, there is a repeating pattern of dots from the molding, to the metal grate, to the die holder, to the delicate row of chicken feathers.

In Memory II is about loss but it is less about any particular loss and more about loss in the abstract.

Although some people might find loss sad, in fact, loss is only a reminder of what you had—or still have. You can easily dwell on a loss or you can rejoice in the fact that you had the opportunity to have: met that person, acquired a possession, heard that song or had the good fortune to have been in good health. The choice is ours to make. Even more important, loss creates a space. It is only when there is space, is there room for something new.

As with all of my work, although contrasts or beauty are integral to my pieces, these Foundlings are more about the unexpected. It is my hope that this wakes us up to all we have and all we have to be grateful for.

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From time to time I use rivets, acorn nuts or bolts as a repeating design element. I suspect that this comes from a deep love of form and texture. Not unlike music, these “notes” add a subtle element that unites a work.

I would like to add these elements in an exact way and yet, they never really line up perfectly. Clearly my skill only takes me so far. I can be disappointed at my limitations but then, I realize that this inexactness adds a kind of warmth to my work. It humanizes it. If I made “perfect” elements, a kind of coldness would set in. This is what separates a human quality from a machine-like quality. This could, of course, just be a rationalization but I can’t dispute the warm quality of these Foundlings.

An art teacher once told me that the difference between a perfect circle and how you draw it, is called style.

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StainGlass_Blog_ComboFinally, after more than two years, the second stained glass window has been completed. Many complications and complexities made its design and creation a long process. For example, since there are many more pieces than the original window, there was more lead cane. More lead cane meant more weight and more weight put pressure on the glass causing some breakage.

As with most things, we never know how long a path we are on or how long a project will take. Unforeseen events or distractions may slow the process but in the end, anything worth doing is worth striving for. I am a believer in effort. Effort is a kind of care and this care has effects. Whether it is a project, or a friend, or a work of art, you can see this effort (or the lack of it) and it can make or break a task. It can also take your breath away. Inspiration is like that and it is what makes life worth living.

And I want to thank Laura Carbone, who built this window. Her patience, skill and artistry made this possible.