March 24, 2008

Break Through

In my last blog I posted an art work that was made with fragments from a broken vessel. Over the Easter weekend, there was another studio accident which led to some unexpectedly interesting possibilities. While putting the final touches on a small mosaic mask in my studio, I heard the doorbell ring. As I jumped up to answer it the cleaning cloth that the mosaic was resting on caught on my belt and yanked the art work off the table and sent it crashing to the floor. I picked up the pieces slowly enough to allow my composure to return before answering the door. When I finally did answer the door I explained to my guest my hesitation. Although it is of course not entirely rational, she felt somehow responsible for the broken work so she helped me think up ways that it might be put together again. We both agreed that the hours of labor put into the piece warranted some kind of clever solution for salvaging it as a work of art. The glued pieces could simply be glued onto the surface again but the base section broken off the side left a tell-tale seam on the back of the mask when reattached. My student had the bright idea of cementing over the seam to hide the fissure. I did so later after she had left my studio but I wasn’t happy with the rather obvious patch. So I made a thick coating of tinted cement over the entire interior of the mask.
Then I did something that I had seen done on early African American memory vessels - I pushed objects directly into the wet cement to make a spontaneous design allowing the wet cement to ooze up between the interstices. I used fused glass with gold enameling, costume jewelry, and anything else that was fun and lively. The concave surface offered design possibilities that hadn’t presented themselves in flat and convex surfaces. The other side of the mask was a cave in which objects could grow like stalactites. It was a yin to the yang of the face. It could be a metaphorical other - the things that are in the back of the mind.
Thematically, I kept the first decorated interior related to what was on the surface on the other side. The face of the mask was decorated with white porcelain shards embellished with green heads of dragons. In traditional Chinese folklore, the dragon races through heaven in pursuit of the pearl of happiness. So on the secret interior of the mask I hung several pearls - both fake and real in addition to a ceramic fish - the symbol of prosperity. This completes the mask as an art object - with a decorated side and a secret interior.

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