• Phrygian Phreedom

    On: November 1, 2009
    In: Artmaking, Creativity, Studio Journal
    Views: 1663
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    Here’s another work from my Tiffany Schmierer Skyline College 2009 Summer Session: Phrygian (the cap’s style) Phreedom (because it is based on the face of Statue of Freedom on top of the US Capitol Building.)

    Anyhoo….I have a thing for these sorts of classical faces, both the originals from Ancient Greece and Rome and the Neo-classical interpretations down through the ages.  I have worked with the fearsome face of the Statue of Liberty, and while it is inspiring, it has a certain stern quality. Take a look at some close ups. There’s a straight-ahead no nonsense eagle-like stare to this statue.

    Contrast this with the sweet face of the Statue of Freedom! Still inspiring, but perhaps more egalitarian than eagle-like. The more I looked at this face, the more I wanted to make a larger than life-sized head based on it. So, using the techniques I learned a few summers ago from Stan Welsh, I built the basic Big Head shape.  I so appreciated conferring with Tiffany over the technical and aesthetic fine points as sometimes it comes down to millimeters and the fine dance between darks and lights….it really does. We proved it.

    What a nice face, but what to do about all that fancy headgear on the original statue? Yes, I suppose it could be made of clay, but it would not only be a dicey proposition to execute and forever vulnerable to breakage, it was also a complete aside to my inspiration: that face.

    If one is making a 3D sculpture and is not working from a 3D model, live or otherwise, it is useful to have lots of resource photos, from as many angles as possible. I love the internet for that function alone. In my Statue of Freedom visual travels, I read this whole wiki article of its history, and simultaneously answered my question about what to do about the headdress: The Phrygian cap, aka the Freedom Cap! It was the sculptor’s original choice….and it would be mine because I loved it and it was a tiny way of thumbing my nose at Jefferson Davis’ wrong-headed policies. I would give her the headdress she was supposed to have.

    Yes, this hat has appeared in many guises throughout history, and yes, it is a Smurf hat shape too. So???? I love all of it, the sacred and the profane. And, did I say I love this face? I imagine making other versions of it. In the meantime, some of you may recognize it from my Facebook and Twitter avatars.  As I said, I have a thing for this kind of face, so ultimately it is a reflection of me and I am comfortable with that. Phreedom, indeed.

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  • Thursday’s Tile: Petrichor

    On: October 29, 2009
    In: Community, Studio Journal
    Views: 854
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    This intriguing array, one of the oldest intentional groupings of tiles on the Five Senses Bench, was not only a fantastic attempt to cover a lot of square footage, but also a fun way to play with word shapes enough to evoke their meaning visually. (A new kind of font, I guess.) Even though it’s huge and on the back area of SMELL, I truly wonder how many folks miss it, thinking it is just a fun pattern.

    C (I’m not remembering his last initial right now) took a lot of pains to develop, cut, glaze and arrange his two words. Can you read them? Maybe you can make out “AFTER” pretty easily, but the word below it is harder to get because he changes to lower case and that third letter looks like a Y or a W. Those four “splashes” attached to its top create the diversion,  but it is the letter “I.” Now can you read it? AFTER RAIN! What a great smell that can be!

    I have heard that smell is our most primal sense, brain-wise, bypassing everything and directly engaging the Lizard Brain, meaning there is strong emotion/memory tangled with it. See if you can recall your own version of After Rain right now. I get a wet asphalt playground smell, but I hope you get something more woodsy-earthy.

    Did you know there is actually a name for what C wants us to olfactorially recall: petrichor. What a lovely ancient-sounding word, but apparently only coined in the late 20th century. When I ran into this word, months and months after C had moved on from Ceramics to his other transfer course requirements, I wrote it on a piece of paper, and kept it with all my bench-making supplies. C and his girlfriend happened by one afternoon to check on things and we had a sweet little petrichor party!

    As a matter of fact, I now never smell the world After Rain without thinking “petrichor-C-bench” so I guess that is in my Lizard Brain now, too.

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  • Magic Backyard Incinerator Maquette

    On: October 25, 2009
    In: Artmaking, Creativity, Studio Journal
    Views: 1890
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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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  • Thursday’s Tile: A Small But Symbolic Effort

    On: October 22, 2009
    In: Community, Studio Journal
    Views: 568
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    This week’s tile remains a permanent testament to the era of its making. It’s located on the vertical back right of the Taste area of the Five Senses Bench, next to the long tongue licking the fire, which is another interesting story to be told another time.

    Do you remember “Freedom Fries” from early 2003? When our ally France refused to support US intentions to invade Iraq, the elected legislators in charge of the US House of Representatives restaurants, cafeterias and snack bars, following the lead of some uber-patriotic restaurant owners, renamed French Fries and French Toast on all the House menus, removing the word French and substituting Freedom.

    Oh la la, that must have stung those recalcitrant Frenchies and made them reconsider! Nothing like petty playground bickering to foster important international alliances and aid in war-mongering. Those were the times, though, lest we forget.

    I remember some TV and online news squawkings about it, and on SNL’s Weekend Update Tina Fey reported, “In a related story, in France, American Cheese is now referred to as “Idiot Cheese.” Indeed.

    You can read all you never knew about Freedom Fries in this fascinating Wikipedia entry. I especially enjoyed learning that the renaming was (quietly) reversed in 2006. Oh, and the Historical Parallels are enlightening: Apparently, if we human tribes refuse to name something, then it doesn’t exist, or at least we give it no additional energy, just like in Harry Potter.

    But, let’s get back to this super-sized clutch of turmeric-colored beauties in their tricolor container. The Bench had its guardians, folks who took a special interest in its progress, and GN was one of them. He was in on many spontaneous brainstorming sessions, proudly explained all about it to passersby, yet never seemed too keen on actually decorating a tile of his own. I goaded him! When he finally came up with this personal French twist, he was chuckling and whistling the whole time he worked.

    There are other versions of fries on the Bench, but these were the first and they reflect the artist in an oddly subtle yet garish way. He declared freedom from Freedom, made the fries and their container French again, and his “small but symbolic effort” (which is the exact phrase those menu legislators used) provides an everlasting foil to the follies of governments and their battles.

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  • Local Talkers: Third Quarter Gathering

    On: October 18, 2009
    In: Artmaking, Creativity, Studio Journal
    Views: 597
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    Quick now, how many weeks in a quarter of a year? How many playing cards in a suit? How many donuts in a Baker’s Dozen? Yep, thirteen and thirteen and thirteen!

    And, now, how many columns in the photo above? Oooooh, twelve! Looks like, after hitting the half year mark last June in my year-long one-a-week small face jug project based on the question man-type column called “Local Talk” in the Santa Cruz entertainment rag the Good Times, I just might have gotten one done in the Third Quarter.

    But, oh, what a good one! And oh, what a great lesson in the creative process! Am I bothered and beating up on myself over not working The Plan? Absolutely not. Did I earlier? Maybe, although I was so busy I don’t recall.

    Basically this project is going like this:

    Last January, Week One, I tremblingly cut out the column on that first crystalline Thursday, went to my studio and made a small jug. I sweetly imagined myself doing this each Thursday the entire year.

    Might have done that for the first five weeks.

    From February to April I wound up making jugs every 2-3 weeks, a more economical use of time! I bisque-fired the first thirteen from Quarter One and wrote a few blog postings about it.

    The blog photos and the writing gave an accountability to the project like I had never experienced and I created the jugs for the Second Quarter with anticipation. It was great fun to introduce them.

    So then here came the busy summer, the busier fall. I have made lots of ceramic pieces, just not my Local Talkers.

    Of course, I still collect the Thursday paper and date and number each column. If I start to fuss over the backlog, I breathe and take a much longer view. How do you take care of your dreams? Gently. Lovingly. Determinedly. With humor!

    Look at all that potential up there! I scan those faces, absorbing them and conceptualizing. This apparent pause is rather normal and not a cause for any flustering doubt or flapping guilt. It is a time of Gathering: ideas, columns, steam, right intention and focus. When I get back to the making, addressing each week in order, I will make one lovely face jug at a time with all my heart, just as I imagined.

    I will still bisque the whole lot of them before I add the colors. I did research and test some of my color ideas over the summer: more Gathering! When I have the whole year, the full deck, the Baker’s Dozen times four, they will begin to become the body of work I intend. In the meantime, I take it bird by bird.

    So that’s what’s happened in Quarter Three. That and this:

    All my gentle, loving, determined, funny and irreverent wishes for the rest of the year!

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  • Thursday’s Tile: Cupid’s Bow Lips

    On: October 15, 2009
    In: Community, Studio Journal
    Views: 834
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    For most of the semester KB was unable to work on her ceramics assignments. She’d try to stay focused inside at her table, but most days she soon found herself outside talking to me while I worked on the Five Senses Bench. It was the perfect combination of her undeniable need to process several huge and heavy curve balls in a young life and a willing and safe non-family adult to absorb and mirror back perspective and existential hope.
    Over the months, as the season turned and it was harder and harder to work outside, she revealed her tale of illness, cruelty, death and losses. I admired her intelligence and sensitivity and told her why in specific detail.
    Many times we both were weeping, right there in a major campus passageway, but we would soon catch ourselves up and start laughing over our helplessness in the face of all she described.
    Eventually, irony and humor began to dance with us more often than not. We made lots of other observations about people and friends, plans for the future or good food to eat and many times she’d suggest a bench tile idea or two, which, as was my practice, I immediately wrote in my Five Senses brainstorms lists.
    I can’t recall if she finished that semester, probably not; but in the Spring, when she returned (to finish her Incomplete?) she added one more sweepingly magical tale of disappearance and reappearance which included all of the players from the Fall and a ceramic object she had created. I wish I could tell it to you all, but I just wouldn’t feel good doing it. The intimacy and trust she showed me still resonates.
    What I can tell you is that those Cupid’s Bow lips are her lips, life-size and sculpted from life. Her tile image suggestions had a lot to do with increasing the scope of  the Touch area beyond concrete, physical touch. She wanted to see emotional touching and several tiles reflect this; even the tiny spacer tiles in this area are purple hearts for feelings.
    KB’s lips are on the back of the Touch area, waiting to kiss anyone who sits there. To kiss and help feel better, to kiss and make-up, to kiss and give love. I see and feel the kisses and  I also see and feel those lips telling me a life story.

     

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  • Thursday’s Tile: Triple Stack

    On: October 8, 2009
    In: Community, Studio Journal
    Views: 801
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    I hereby inaugurate Thursday’s Tile, in which I intend to feature specific tiles or tile groupings and the fun observations I know about them, all from the Cabrillo College “Come to Our 5 Senses Bench,” which I blogged about way extensively last posting. Some weeks Thursday’s Tile might be the only thing I write about, but, boy, does it have heart…as everything about this bench seems to have. So (drumroll) here goes.

    Here’s a beefy pancake triple stack, nearly life size, swimming in syrup with a polite pat of butter for garnish. And you just KNOW more butter is coming. These are so thick as to make me think they have chunky whole grain additives and maybe some berries in between the layers. I particularly love the way the syrup drools and pools.

    Sometimes just looking at all the food tiles brings on the eatin’ urge and my own drools. You can find this mouth-waterer low down in the overhanging foot area of, where else? – Taste!

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