Ouroboros

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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