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Magic Backyard Incinerator Maquette

On: October 25, 2009
In: Artmaking, Creativity, Studio Journal
Views: 1688
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One of the most vital requirements in art-making, in my humble opinion, is bell-ringing authenticity. To that end, one of my favorite quotations is here on my blog’s sidebar from J. F. Stephens, “Originality does not consist is saying what no one has ever said before, but in saying exactly what you yourself think.”

For me, in both 2D and 3D art, (and in writing about them) it has been a long haul to connect my personal impulses and my technical capabilities so that I get a result which comes dang near to what moved me to attempt it.

As if you did not know, we humans often tend to have ‘way more complicated ideas than we can bring forth. When I sewed all my own clothes in high school, my biggest mistake was in making conceptual errors which lead to technical difficulties: not matching the fabric to the pattern or vice versa. I would pick a coarse kettlecloth and ask it to drape in soft mini-folds….or I would attempt to tailor double-sewn pockets with button-down flaps out of whisper-thin silk. In the right hands, those choices could work, but not for me at my skill level. I could think it up, but not do it.

Pictured here is one ceramic sculpture that comes together better than my home-sewing. It’s about 18″ tall and its working title is Magic Backyard Incinerator Maquette, because someday I intend to make a life-sized one.

It’s one of the works I created in my Super Schmierer Skyline College 2009 Summer Session. I think I have mentioned that I put 2500 miles on my car in six weeks in order to study with someone I absolutely knew could help me connect Authentic Impulse with Technical Execution: Tiffany Schmierer.

What I enjoy about this piece, besides its wonderfully figurative presence, is the journey making it took me on. When I was quite young we lived in LA’s San Fernando Valley. In the backyard was this imposing Cycladic figure with fire in its belly and smoke coming out its noggin: our incinerator. Every house had one, because, amazingly, there was no garbage collection in all of Los Angeles County. That is, until folks noticed the rotten air quality and backyard incinerators were banned by Proposition A in 1957. Gone was my fire-breathing buddy. (Where? To the dump? Hrmmm.)

We moved to Northern California soon after and I never thought about it for years and years and years, until I began visiting the objects of my childhood in my art. I needed photos to make this maquette accurate. I got them here and here and here.

I also got news write-ups which explained what I had not known and even my mom could not recall: exactly what happened to make the incinerators disappear. And! I found this exquisite poem, “In the Days of Backyard Incineration,” by John Nimmo. It so moved me that I transferred the last part of it onto the back of the maquette, as you can see here, which really turns this piece into a sculpture by lifting it even beyond my intentions (but, for once, not my capabilities) to a supremely thoughtful place.

When I make the big one, I will be able to inscribe the entire poem which, (poetically) observes that waste is waste, however satisfactorily we think we are getting rid of it. No small point, considering the size of our planet and its population.

All that from authentic curiosity and technical exactitude. More magic. Hooray!

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3 Responses to Magic Backyard Incinerator Maquette

  1. Liz Crain says:

    Thanks Connie and Wendy for your enthusiasm for this piece. Yes, it IS like an old friend and I can see the smoke too. Someone in my class suggested I make a small tray insert for the bottom and burn incense in it…just might do that! The big one I hope to attempt in the coming year: it is a very pleasing simple shape, although larger has other technical problems as you both probably know!

  2. Wendy Edsall-Kerwin says:

    I love the look of your incinerator. The dirty, man vs nature feel to it is great! I can picture it with flames spewing out it's mouth.
    I also love the story to go with it. I had no idea that people incinerated their own refuse at home. This piece has a comfort to it, like it's an old friend.
    I also like your description of technical limitations. I've had pieces that waited a long, long time until I was able to figure out how they needed to be made.

  3. Connie Williams, California, USA says:

    Great likeness….just like the one in our yard that I remember from way-back-when. You are going to make a big one? Oh my! It's such fun to tag along and observe your artistic journey!