My foundlings are largely a pursuit of aesthetics. There is a lot of art that have political themes these days but I have avoided wading into these waters. It is not that I don’t have particular views, far from it. I am very interested in politics but for me, for now, this is simply an area I have no need to explore.

That said, I had found a small brass woman’s bust about four inches tall. Very “Alphonse Mucha” in style. Any time I used it, however, it seemed too predictable and not well integrated into a work. I tried lots of combinations with completely incongruous elements, just to see if I could get these elements to “speak” to each other, when I landed on a Victorian gutter screen that looks like a cage. I put her in the cage… all of a sudden I had a political piece. The piece became more “narrative” than merely aesthetic.

The cross band, depending on how you view the work, obscures either her eyes or mouth. I first thought of blind justice or women being trapped,.. or gagged. I realize that being a male depicting a woman in a cage can be provocative. Am I endorsing the subjugation of women (absolutely not); am I commenting on the injustice women face (sort of)? Even if this was not my original intension, a statement about how poorly women can be treated is worth repeating (and worth eradicating).

Art is not made in a vacuum. There is a context that reflects the culture in which it is created and the artist’s place in it. I don’t actively avoid making political statements but when a piece takes me in a particular direction, in this case into politics, I have learned to respect it as I respect all people, especially women.

I am very sensitive to patterns. I often joke that I see patterns almost every-where… and I take diagonals very seriously as well. Perhaps this is due to my traing as a graphic designer or perhaps it’s just a personality quirk. Whatever the origin, seeing patterns and working with them is intregal to my Foundlings.

When I use patterns in repeating forms, they tend to evoke geometric references to mandalas in Hindu or Buddhist traditions. At other times I use patterns to contrast each other and set up a kind of tension. Either way, they have a way of focusing the mind.

I create my Foundlings not just to please, not just to be inspiring with their beauty but to focus on our surroundings and our place in it. To appreciate what may be discarded or worn beyond its “usefulness” and yet still have an important part to play in our world. My work is sometimes called “recycled” art. This is true but I think it misses the point. I am not merely taking discarded material and making it “art”. I am exploring how we turn a blind eye to what we consider unimportant when, in fact, what is unimportant is largely a value judgement based more on what we think we value than what is truely valuable.

I set up for Art Expo/Solo tomorrow. Like a road race upon seeing the finish line, I usually pick up the pace to sprint to the finish. Likewise, I have picked up the pace to complete as many new pieces as I could for the show. It’s been exhausting but gratifying.

I have this running debate (forgive all of the running references) with myself about the type of pieces I should create. Make what sells, or make what my creative instincts guide me to, whatever the direction. Not that these are completely different directions. I do like to create classically “beautiful” work but I don’t want to merely do “pretty.” You can photograph a flower. The subject is pretty so you get a “pretty image”. Pushing yourself, you can photograph a flower but still have a voice and something unique to say.

“Portal” came together very quickly, just in time for the show. It is pretty and
I think it will sell. I am not breaking any creative new ground here but it was a very satisfying process. I will be proud to show it but it always saddens me when new work sells. I always hope they will stick around for a while.

portal_front_72dpirgb.jpg

LastStand_II_front_72dpiRGBI have to remind myself not to take things for granted. This is a rather important lesson for creating—as well as for living a full life. I have to fight doubts and expectations. Some of them are; I have to work big as I have been doing only small works lately (or visa versa); I can’t use a certain part as I just used a similar part in a recent piece; or the direction of a work is just too predictable. I have been doing several round works of late.

Am I creating too many of these? These circular pieces reflect less of my desire to do round pieces and more about what’s available in my studio as my stock of ingredients dwindles. The pandemic has taken its toll on my inventory. The big circular frame is the last one that I have. The wooden board with the grid, the last of six panels. The brass Gothic arch, the last of two that I had.

I don’t get sad about running out of material and I don’t know when or where I will be able to stock up on more material but I do have the understanding that with the new ingredients will come new possibilities. And that is an expectation worth having.

From Chinese Koans to the Hindu notions of reincarnation and from Taoism to Zen Buddhism; I have been greatly inspired by Eastern thought. That is not to say that I have a deep understanding of these beliefs nor am I, strictly speaking, a practitioner. Suffice to say that the understandings that I have, had a deep influence on my views of the world and a strong influence my art.

I had a small raku tile in my studio for years. Its strong association to the East limited how I thought I should use it. Because of the pandemic, with antique fairs cancelled and shops closed, I had to rethink the ingredients that I have in my workshop and push to use them in new directions.

Letting this tile “guide” me, I created Ichi (Japanese for “one” or “first”). Rather than using the dark stains that I usually use in my work, I let the lighter wood and signs of wear guide me. The dovetail corner of a box, flattened out, had such a beautiful texture. This Asian aesthetic is a very different direction for me. When I have tried to do this before, a kind of minimalism, I found it to be as difficult as building some of my most complex Foundlings.

I am not sure I will be able to continue in this direction but when a piece whispers to me, all I can do is follow it.

Ichi Working IMG_9239

10 July 2020.  There are two aspects of creating these Foundlings that seem so different at first glance and yet are actually part of the same creative process.

The first is vision. To have a vision that suggests a direction is the first hurdle. The process is never a direct one and is largely trial and error. I have talked about this before as it is a kind of “sketch”. Instead of erasing I simply move things around until they seem “right”.

The other aspect is the engineering. Not having a lot of experience with: using power tools; knowing what to do to construct these or; for that matter, knowing what I was able to do, was a real learning exercise. Working with such different materials and trying to figure out not just how ingredients fit together but to build the pieces so they would stay together, was entirely a new thought process for me.

As different as these aspects seem, they both entail a kind of understanding: of the aesthetics, of the materials, how things can fit together and of the direction needed to actually build these. Both involve looking deeply past what is, to what could be. The aesthetics and engineering has been a very gratifying… and sometime frustrating process.

HoneySuckle_LoRes_IMG_9482

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.

MadHatter_Backround_LowRes

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.

ScholarRock_Foundling

Judy front_Mailchimp72dpiRGB.jpg

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.