I came across the inevitalbe misguided comments such as “women via the male gaze” ie idealized beauty; and “never head on!”
Let’s please all remember that many of these images are commissioned portraits (commissioned portraits were the bread & butter of most artists), and some few are painted by women. Reading them through a shrill politicized lens denies the merits of the work and the intent of the sitter as well as the artist. They represent an educated upper echelon of society that is concerned with culture, and how that culture wants to view itself and think of humanity in general- ie humanity and the individual as a worthwhile endeavor.
A painted portrait is much more than an image to politicize- it is an investigation of an individual and an era. And yes, they show beauty (in male figures and portraits as well), as this was an expectation of art, as was skill. A skilled artist knows that a 3/4 portrait allows subtlety of expression in capturing volumes of the face as well as clean edges, it is also the most technically complicated view for the painter. A “head on” portrait flattens the face, so too a profile, which is always unfamiliar to the sitter as they never see themselves in profile.
The garage is the shop/studio, and is heated/air-conditioned and insulated.
Downstairs is a cosy living room of the same dimensions, with another fireplace.
Great for that big commission, or for getting my own work moving. I have no excuses now…
I wasn’t selected for the public art commission in Broomfield, CO- but
I suppose it was good to make it to the finalist round for a national
This leaves me more time for my own work: ie quietly going insane.
This landscape was taken yesterday in Shawnee Park, one of my cycling destinations. There is a 4.5 mile loop around the park with lots of great hills, a lake and small ponds, deer, turkeys, hawks, and an RC Airport. I bike from the hills in the background of the pict to the park, then do a few laps, and bike home. That makes around 20 miles. And on the way home there are also deer, hawks, lakes, rivers, and I’m sure there are turkeys (other than the one on the bike) as well.
This post is part of a new section I am working on: De-Commissioned work. These are commissions that I proposed and was not selected for, but that would have more closely reflected my true direction in the arts than many of the commissions that I have been selected to create.
This pigeon-holing of creative potential/direction is one of the dilemmas of public art; ie- oh, you sculpt fish, or chickens, or the nude figure, or complex abstractions…luckily I haven’t pigeon-holed myself too tightly.
This Downwinder (term familiar in the Western US for those effected by fallout of nuclear testing) work is the impetus behind the current Standing Female Nude with Heavy Ball.
May 6, 2005
Dear Memory Grove Downwinder Memorial Foundation,
To grow up in the West is to live in the constant presence of the nuclear age.
I grew up in Montana, with an ICBM command post at the doorstep of my father’s secluded ranch. Every Friday afternoon air-raid sirens would sound throughout the city and all schoolchildren would hide under their desks in a “duck and cover” drill. Even as a second grader I realized the futility of this action, but went ahead with the rest of my classmates, knowing that any other action would be equally futile.
We later moved to Boulder, Colorado and lived less than ten miles from Rocky Flats – the military plant where plutonium triggers for nuclear warheads and other ‘hot devices’ were manufactured during the Cold War. Although this site was eventually decommissioned, it has now been slated to reopen for the creation of new classes of nuclear warheads.
For thirteen summers I worked on the Continental Divide above Boulder guarding a remote wilderness area of two glacial valleys. These glaciers contain a hot radioactive layer that global warming may soon expose. This hot layer occurred when a winter storm swept Nevada’s nuclear test fallout into Colorado. These glacial valleys are the primary source of Boulder’s public drinking water.
Now, as the United States military prepares to resume nuclear testing in Nevada, this memorial may have the sad burden of commemorating our future as well. I believe this project requires a work that is both emotionally poignant and intellectually challenging – an artwork that exemplifies the past and also warns against a possible future. This subject matter demands the highest level of integrity in approach as this memorial will stand for so many who have suffered terribly.
My figurative work, while grounded in a deep understanding of the human form, is primarily motivated in capturing the inner life of humanity. It explores issues facing the modern individual; including isolation, existential contemplation, and mortality. Rather than illustrating a particular malady, my aesthetic alludes to the broader issue of duress. In this pursuit I’ve developed unique sculptural surface qualities that utilize the extreme heat of the casting process to craze the figure’s surface with flashing and irregularities – implying the pressures of mortality upon the body.
Within this process, sensitivity to the model and what is unique about their body and persona grounds the work. Strength of figuration is crucial to afford the chaotic casting process and subsequent abstracting effects. This approach creates patterns of flashing where molten bronze partially shatters the mold and areas of shrinkage where the molten bronze chills into itself, creating pitting and cavities within the figure. Subtle weld lines are also left upon the figure as remnants of the creation process. These intentional imperfections of flashing, metal shrinkage, and welding tangibly exhibit the incredible forces that act upon the cast figure – forces that parallel those of radiation upon the body.
An initial concept for this project includes a grouping of life size human figures in bronze, separated by the on-site creek from a small elevated stainless steel sphere. Each figure’s gesture is wearied and contorted by the overwhelming burden of an invisible physical weight – a spherical negative space “held” in the figure’s hands. The figures also resist an invisible attraction between their burden and the stainless steel sphere on the opposite shore of the creek. These invisible forces of weight and attraction affect the entire figure, –implying radiation acting disruptively upon the body.
The relationship derived from the weighted figures standing on the opposite shore of the creek from the polished stainless steel sphere personifies the malignant invisible presence of radiation. These figures, created through this unique casting process, express the dilemma of humanity within the nuclear age.
It is rare for an artist to encounter a public commission that so closely aligns with their most personal direction. Use of the literal figure and the particularly identified issue of fallout-related illness must be approached with non-literal means and I believe my work could uniquely allow a deeper level of response and interpretation.
Thank you for your consideration.
This figure made the journey from Utah to Kansas, and from the first place to the new place- without being destroyed, although she was altered quite a bit.
I set her up a few days ago to see what would come of her. I have her fairly well back to life, as E took this pose for a bit a few nights back (have yet to get E back into the reclining pose, as we are still putting the house together). I began this pose with photos from a model, it got out of proportion pretty fast as I had taken shots from weird angles. I was going to kill it, but E took the pose for an hour or so back in Utah, and it self-corrected quickly enough. The photos are lost in boxland for now…or maybe forever- the pose had a line of weight attached to the ball she held, so that she was pulling foreward as well as holding the heavy ball. E has just held the ball, and I sometimes forget about the other force line- which was very important to me when I set up the pose originally.
I’m working between pushing anatomy and having it maintain human quality: in other words not flatten it with eggheadedness, yet challenge myself to show a bit more of the underlying structure. I really need to quit fussing over it and pull things apart a bit more.