December 7, 2013
I thought that perhaps I should make a teapot. I no longer have a potter’s wheel although I do have access to one. But I do have plenty of plaster forms for rounded objects which could easily be put into service in making a hand built teapot. Had I mentioned this to my husband? Perhaps not because I could see that he was set on putting an order in for a teapot from a professional ceramicist. Most likely the professional ceramicist would make a pot more easily and more technically proficient than me.
Yet the idea that I could come up with a good teapot had not left me. I had been studying teapot designs on Etsy and even juried online exhibitions of my favorite designs. I mulled this over as I sat down to work on paintings for my miniature art show. What emerged from my paint that day was a series of paintings of imaginary teapots. Theoretical teapots, I named the series. They all have a handle on the side so as not to interfere with putting in water or removing expended tealeaves. I imagined them large and providing tea for the multitudes. I liked how the series progressed, and allowed myself great experimentation with faux finishing tecnques, stamps and stencils. I liked the series so much that I started stealing paintings of other objects and making them into teapots. An example is an old painting of a seated Buddha in meditation. Add a handle, lid and spout and he is born anew as a vessel for pouring tea.
December 6, 2013
In my painting of dogs in the woods I did a similar thing to the Bruegel painting of the hunting scene by putting a white dog behind a white tree. Only I was not as confident as Bruegal in making the cognitive shift from dog to tree when they are the same color so I outlined the tree and changed the tone somewhat. But the idea remains the same.
The dogs depicted in the painting are from drawings I made of my father’s black sheep dog. I used these sketches in a number of drawings and with this painting the sketches are now officially retired and have been discarded, lest I be tempted to use them again.
As usual, the painting is a little too stiff for me - most likely because I’ve just switched media from pencil illustrations. A few more paintings ought to work that out and the paint will swing again.
December 5, 2013
Fornicat wears a salacious grin
on account of where he’s been
Other Toms say he isn’t fussy
But he does prefer his Persian Pussy
Lover Cat wears a contented smile
He’s been with his favorite Puss for a while
Cavorting among flowers in the month of May
And in a room to themselves in a country chalet
December 4, 2013
I have never been to the great American Coon hunt but have always been curious about it. Not being a hunter or hunting inclined I’ve tended to avoid such events here in South Carolina. But even for non-hunters the event may be worth a look. For one thing, no animals, racoons or others, are actually killed. The sport is to test the ability of hunting dogs (aka the coon dog) to rustle up racoons and have them run up into a tree. Apparently the dog that gets the most racoons up a tree wins the contest.
In order to participate in the call to local artists to create and lend work for the coon hunt/wild life exhibition I ransacked my domestic oeuvre to find paintings or drawings that might feature wildlife. There was a cavernous space to fill and not many contributions of artwork so I lent a total of eight pieces to the exhibition, seven my own and an eighth a work by the Chinese painter, Gao Guan-hua that features an insect. I didn’t want to be a hog. I just didn’t want the show to open with a blank wall or two. In addition to my own work I rustled up a nice wildlife photograph from my husband, Nat Wallace, and some beautiful ceramic plates by Jeri Burdick featuring various amphibians. The ceramic plates are my favorite art works in this exhibition. They are the only pieces that are sculptural and I am certain will be the highlight of the show.
Some of the work I put in this exhibition was new, but some of it went back a few decades. The picture of the wild boar depicted with this blog was an ink painting on a long horizontal scroll that I did while a graduate student in Chinese art back in the 1980's. I chose this piece because it was life size and therefore filled a wall, and depicted an animal that had some relevance to the South Carolina hunting scene. I had read an article some time ago about wild boars in South Carolina and their sporting interest to hunters. I don’t know if boar hunting has been maintained since I read that article but if so, then the submission was apropos. I hope that someone enjoys it.
November 25, 2013
Needless to say, my clay, when folded either broke against the creases if it was too hardened, or undulated to look more like the folds of fabric than stiff paper if bent when too wet. But since I usually allow the medium to speak for itself in my work, I went with the flow of the folds and created something that looked like a rectangular piece of fabric.
Although there was no origami, I retained a Japanese aesthetic for the completion of the mosaic. The palette of colors for the mosaic was black and white with shades of grey throughout. The small tiles of seal script could be Japanese as well as Chinese so I incorporated them. They read “the breath of life,” “having a home,” and “enlightenment.” I encased the mysterious piece of cloth in a bamboo shrine. For this I happened to have a cast that I took of an old bamboo handle from a brush that was no longer usable. The crown for this shrine to the cloth was simply a large piece of flint which I obtained a few years ago from a course in making neolithic style arrow heads and knives.
This small mosaic was another milestone. It was the last mosaic for my upcoming exhibition of small works. For the duration of this month and well in to the next I’ll be returning to small acrylic paintings on paper, and my ongoing illustrations for the Small Book of Marvelous Cats.
November 24, 2013
I recently thought of the possible healing power (or I suppose coping through understanding power) of art on the occasion of a dream recently and one from the past. If any dream could be a portent of things to come, a dream I had a few years ago about meeting a Zen monk most assuredly would be. In that dream I was walking along a path in the countryside and came across a zen monk with long black hair and a long black beard. He had his arms and legs neatly folded in a meditative pose. When I asked him for a bit of advice on my art he replied that I should paint the terrible and paint the ugly but make every mark beautiful. I asked him if this meant that I should be detached from the subject matter or if I should be confronting it in an attached way. The monk looked serenely off into the distance and replied, “It is difficult to say.” That last phrase was something I often heard while in China so it was not surprising that it was imbedded somewhere in my unconscious ripe and at the ready for dream pickings.
I thought about that first dream after I had a decidedly unpleasant nightmare due most likely to the bouts of vertigo and headaches from my illness. I had a sick dream to match. In this unwelcome nightmare I lifted the lid on a washing machine and saw my own head spinning around in the laundry. Dream logic being what it is, there was no problem with how, being without a head, I was able to see this apparition. Nevertheless the image stuck with me and I decided to make an art work out of it based upon the advice of my dreamland Zen monk. But how to make something hideous beautiful? I decided to make a mosaic that kept with the laundry and the floating head theme only creating something ambiguous and gem like rather than ghoulish. The head I used in the mosaic was made from a cast that I taken earlier from a porcelain doll. I painted this with underglaze colors and a clear shiny overglaze. I then created thin folded pieces out of earthenware clay and painted them to look like towels or other fabrics. The small fragments of very colorful fabric designs with gold enameling were the remains of a ceramic dress that I broken a few years ago when I dropped the mosaic that it was embedded in. I was happy to have an opportunity to recycle this. For the background of this mosaic I felt that should use washing machine watery substances. The strings of pearls and glass beads function as bubbles and the iridized green glass as detergent waters. I put everything together and named the piece “Lost in the Laundry.” Anything can be lost in this laundry....a sock, a dress, towels, a head or two. But can they be found again and made sense of now that the dream is a concrete reality?
November 21, 2013
November 20, 2013
I recall reading that Michelangelo used to envision images in the cracks of his ceiling or in the patterns of wood grain in doorways. There must be something in the human consciousness that seeks meaning in forms like that - a need to connect the dots and make a visual language out of otherwise senseless marks. That is why it feels right and peaceful to see forms in the clouds.
In my latest work, I am making the clouds in which to tease out a meaning. The one posted here I call “Rooms in a Stream of Consciousness.” It is so named for the collage pieces embedded in the composition that are prints from stone seals that say alternatively “a small room” or “One’s own room.” I have tucked these in between the swirling forms to which I have added structure and color to create a visual narrative.
November 19, 2013
Times change and with that comes the departure of loved ones, moving of households, new marriages and the ending of old ones. Sometimes these changes have resulted in my art work finding a better home, like in a museum where it is well cared for. Other times these changes have meant the loss of my art - the once cherished paintings and mosaics given away or relegated to a closet. At least the closet, if it is indoors, is better than a storage space that is not temperature or humidity controlled. I’ve had the experience of moldy art returning to me from southern storage facilities.
Some years ago I made a pair of mosaic masks in celebration of a marriage that recently ended. The masks were made in ceramic from casts of the then happy couple. They were decorated with glazes, fused glass and a healthy helping of gold tesserae. The golden masks were lovingly made and nicely displayed for a number of years. But with the end of that relationship I was recently contacted about selling these. I replied that even in good times it is very hard to sell art. I posted them on my website...there were few lookers no takers. I posted them on my Etsy shop as a sale item...there were more lookers no takers. So here is one posted on my last on-line venue - the blog. The golden mosaic mask, once a proud part of a household, now feels a bit like a once noble but now stray cat. “Won’t someone give me a loving home?” She seems to say. Or one could hope that although relationships are fleeting, whether by divorce or demise, the art that commemorated these relationships can rise eternal above and beyond an original purpose. This is certainly the case, I would like to think, of these art masks that aren’t really portraits but decorated impressions that supercede the ephemeral lives that brought them in to being. And since they are built of hearty materials they won’t go moldy in storage.