January 18, 2014

The Internal Person in a Teapot

Open the store! Turn on the lights! Turn up the heat! Spread out the paint and start to create!

I’m back at home and creating the final works for my February exhibition of Small Works. About 95 % of the work is done. What remains is to put the final touches on everything and to type out labels. If this is completed this week, then I may in fact make some last minute small hanging ceramic pieces.

Some of my favorite works for this exhibition are the very smallest ones. The acrylic painted and printed teapot above is only about three inches across. Enlarging the work creates interesting hills and valleys in the paint. The texture of the teapot was created by cutting out sections of Styrofoam, poking textural holes into it, then printing the pieces with acrylic paint into acrylic paint. The center stamp is the ancient Chinese word for “the person inside.” This phrase resonates with me on a number of levels and perhaps why this is one of my favorite paintings in my series of vessels.

In ancient China and possibly into the early twentieth century women of a certain means were not allowed to leave the home. In wealthier households this meant the family compound, which would have had a complex of buildings, courtyards and gardens - an upscale prison. Hence an old fashioned name for a woman in China was “Nei Ren,” or “Inside Person.” I made this stamp because for two years, my illness kept me housebound much of the time and therefore I felt an unwelcome but sympathetic kinship with Chinese women of yore. Even when I was well enough to sit up and draw and finally to sit up more than five minutes at a time at the computer, the actions seemed to mimic the “Inside Person’s” home generated outpourings of domestic craft - like small feminine embroideries.

After listening to some taped lectures of Joseph Campbell, I chanced upon another way to interpret the “Inside Person.” In his lectures, Joseph Campbell discussed the human search for meaning through myth and the search for truth by getting in touch with one’s inner self. I must paraphrase here but Professor Campbell exhorted his students and other listeners to carve out quiet time - especially away from news media and to place oneself in a solitary space. It is only by this means that one can remember who he really is. And this must be effected by cutting out the exterior noise and distractions for just the right amount of time it takes to become acquainted once again with one’s inner person. In this regard, the words on the small teapot are apropos for me because I generally spend such quiet time drinking tea - sometimes literally from a single serving teapot. Perhaps all the works in this exhibition, because of their size, are single serving art works meant for individual meditation.

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