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Monthly Archives: April 2008

This figure  languished in the studio through the winter- looking quite a bit different. Yesterday afternoon darkened with storm and felt like twilight. I figured I’d work on him till the rain began. I plunked him down on the gurney and took a look, and actually started getting a steady stream of direction. The rains began in the early evening, and I was done.

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The series of Centaur Chickens is now my H5N1 series, in honor of the
Chinese gvmt’s admission yesterday of the virus jumping from human to
human.This is no surprise to the WHO, or to the viral community- who have mutated through thousands of generations since I first created this hen.
I created her last spring in my plaster figure spasm, and had some issues with her figure mold beginning to collapse (rubber molds will deteriorate over time) creating weird areas. I thought I’d move on to other things and repair her later- and later became now, a year later. I brought her out of the basement and looked at her anomalies,and determined a triage plan. I ripped down with files and built back in with plaster, and she lived through it all. I painted her a bit differently- and she came out with a stronger metallic sheen than the past few painted forms. I used two layers of thin washed color (vs 1 heavier layer) over the opaque base layer of stainless steel- the stainless steel paint is a craft paint that has real stainless steel suspended in acrylic. The result is a complex French Brown patina.
This hen is a mix of a Polish Chicken, a breed kept as lawn ornamentation that are nervous critters as their vision is impaired by the pom-pom. She also has a V-Comb, which has a nice devil-horn quality. The female form was sculpted from a 24 year old model who posed back in my MFA process (hence the mold being old enough to begin to slump).

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This piece has been used as a doorstop since 1997 when I created it as an example for my high school art students. I made a deal with them that I would only work on it during class after helping everyone. The stone was more than twice as large as theirs- the deal was that if I didn’t finish, then I couldn’t demand that they finish either.
After lugging it around for ten years its ugly factor began to really sink in, and as I became more despondent over my current work I just wanted to smash it. Instead, I decided I’d transform it. I challenged myself to keep the original intent and theme, but see how far I could push the form while remaining true to the original sculpture.
The small side-by-sides below show some before/after work.
The original idea was to combine an animal with an emotion: in this case it was anger with a snake. The fangs wrap through the head and emerge as horns, showing the self-destructive and aggressive result of unresolved anger.
The new approach added the Ouroboros, the gyre of cyclical devouring and rebirth.

The form now demands the viewer move around. This static view of the side doesn’t convey the dynamism generated by the multiple negative spaces- more spaces than can be seen from this angle.

The first priority was to relieve it from illustration. When there are 40 students in a class, and most of them squirrelly boys, the snake/dragon illustration helped keep them amazed. For us grown-ups though, it can be more than a bit trite.
The next challenge was to loosen it from the Block- it still read like a form fitted into a rectangular block (the maquette was a soap sculpture; also a block).
Adding gesture, flow, dynamism, rhythm, balance- these all began to occur as I smashed out the most obvious bits. I knew I was getting there when it became necessary to pierce the form. Back in the day I used to sculpt abstract wooden forms, and the dynamic of negative spaces plunged through the form was a core aspect of my work. To have the stone suddenly require an opening began a real transformation of the heavy and dead original form, to the fluid dynamic of the finished work.

So for an artist working as a teacher, the classroom may be a place to show technique, but creating higher level art in that environment is problematic. Which then begs the question of the art classroom, but that is going in the wrong direction. What I’m positing as a near impossibility is an instructor’s ability to create high level intuitive work in an overcrowded high school classroom environment.

Or maybe it still sux, but just a factor or two less.
Not a doorstop anymore, at least.

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