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  • Stuckism: An International Non-Movement

    On: November 17, 2016
    In: Artmaking, Community, Studio Journal
    Views: 571
     3
    graphic of 20th - 21st century art movements

    Graphic courtesy of A Modern Blog by kchaloux.blogspot.com

     

    Knowing me as you all do now, you might think I made up Stuckism, especially when I’m bemoaning creative blocks.  I did not.  It’s legit, though. See that turquoise circle down there on the lower right, sticking out beyond all those played-out Post-modernisms? It’s in the vanguard, but taking aim over its shoulder at Art’s 20th Century Pompous Bad Guys: “Against conceptualism, hedonism and the cult of the ego-artist,” proclaims the subhead on their Twenty Point Manifesto from 1999.   I like Stuckism, it’s cheeky and makes more than a few savory points I can relate to. It may also have saved my artistic soul.  So let’s cherry pick and see how the thoughts of some grumpy British painters apply to a philosophical American ceramicista.

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  • Influences Orbiting Around the Rare Earth Exhibit

    On: October 20, 2016
    In: Artmaking, Community, Studio Journal
    Views: 296
     2

     

    Three ceramic sculptures of incinerator, gas can and communication device

    Ceramic Works by Karen Hansen (foreground) and Liz Crain (middle and background)

     

    One great thing about a National Ceramics Exhibit in the neighborhood is there are bound to be several invitees who one might know personally. Or even have studied with. The Rare Earth Exhibit at Cabrillo Gallery is about half way through its run and, since I walk by it twice a week going to my Beastly Beauty Philosophy class, I usually pop in for another gander. To see what I didn’t see. To notice what I didn’t notice. To appreciate not only the anointed company my work is keeping in general, but to acknowledge my connections to the meaningful work of five women I have either studied with and/or feel a tribal closeness to. I am sharing photos of a portion of their work on display and thanking them for the ways they have touched me.

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  • Catching Up with the Local Talkers of 2009

    On: January 18, 2010
    In: Artmaking, Creativity, Studio Journal
    Views: 468
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    This time last year I embarked on a project I knew for certain would take a minimum of a year to complete, which was part of its appeal: to make one small jug a week inspired by the expressions of the respondents to the Local Talk column in the weekly entertainment tabloid called the Good Times.

    I shared my quarterly progress with you and last wrote in October, noting the fact that, while I had faithfully gathered the weekly columns and made lots of other ceramic art, I was OK with the fact that I had finished only one of the 13 jugs in the Third Quarter…and the hands-on studio time for the project in the Fourth Quarter was not looking promising.

    You can find the other posts in order here, here, here, here, here and here. I truly recommend reading the first and the last ones, for the original set up and the “we left off here” aspects.

    But up top and just below are photos of the still-green evidence of my earnest studio time in the past week, when I returned at long last to Weeks 28-39!

    I was concerned that after such a long time away from these faces, my “hand” would be different and it would reflect in an observable and unwanted difference from July to January’s product. Not so! While I felt differently inside and held some completely different mental conversations — many of which were based on the powerful learning I did last summer at Skyline College with Tiffany Schmierer and last fall with Cynthia Siegel — what came out was pretty seamless. Whew!

    I have an opportunity to work in my studio at least this much in the coming weeks and would love to get all these lovelies, current and future (Weeks 40-52), into the bisque kiln by month’s end. I am rarin’ to solve the puzzle of how to decorate this body of work and also how to display it to best effect. I have some tantalizing ideas on both fronts.

    After a year’s practice, it has been odd to not set out each Thursday morning in search of the current week’s copy of the Good Times, but it has taken one tiny bit of pressure off my days, allowing me to absorb the fact that I really did collect the whole year and now just can enjoy the heck out of making good on my promise to myself.

    More on this real soon!

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  • Outside Adjustments, Inside Surprise

    On: December 27, 2009
    In: Artmaking, Creativity, How To's, Studio Journal
    Views: 645
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    A few posts ago I showed ya’ll the results of my figure sculpture studies with Cynthia Siegel this past semester. I wrote that post before Cynthia reviewed my work and,  following our brief but thoughtful discussion, there is a bit more to share with you concerning the Two Hour Challenge sculpture of runner Maggie Vessey. Up top is a shot as close to the angle of the source photo (below) as I could get.

    Here’s why it’s great to have instruction: Cynthia pointed out aspects of this pose that, given a bit more time, I might have addressed, but one never knows! I will just list these points and you can see for yourself:
    1. Maggie has thrown herself down, and is maybe still a little bit in motion. She may have even been rocking slightly. Her butt does not rest on her shoes, as I have modeled it! And even if she was completely still, a runner’s muscled thighs and calves probably wouldn’t let her fold up into a compact Child’s Pose. What I have made is resonant with wet clay not quite being able to stand up in the air AND with the strong emotional folding in of the figure.
    2. Maggie’s back is arched. I have modeled a sway back! I kept trying to keep the clay up in the torso, but did not get this all-important line. I feel pretty sure, given more time,  I would have restated this until it was fairly accurate. After all, it is the one view I did have!
    3. The proportions of the negative space and angles of limbs needs compacting. I have elongated things. Arching the back correctly will help this problem too. The lower leg shin needs to curve upward more.
    4. The arms are pretty well done, but they aren’t inserting into the back correctly. There is more of a transition that includes the shoulder blade and that web of muscles….that alone would help with a better back/shoulder curve.
    5. Muscles are convex. My thigh muscle on this side is concave…I got it strong on the other side, though!
    Now for the Inside Surprise! What drew me to this photo was the memorable and compelling emotion. That’s why I saved it for over nine years, wanting to align with and honor it in a piece of art. Far more than realistic replication, for me, that emotion was the most important aspect to capture, even in a short academic exercise.
    Every item I still need to adjust to make the figure’s Outside more true arrived because I was paying more attention to the felt narrative I wanted to express. I got into this position while sculpting and so did Cynthia in our talk! Cynthia even put the whole pose into motion in her discussion of movement and musculature.
    If I draw, I craft one view, with many others implied, if I’m lucky. If I sculpt, like it or not, I must address all views, even the ones not easily seen.
    At one point in our talk, Cynthia and I picked up this smallish sculpture and discovered the Inner Truth of this pose. I treasure this unrealized, expressive, protective, intimate inside view!
    Here is the fearsome power of misery, anger, defeat and the active defiance of all of it too! This is what arises in me when I look at that photo and what my hands wanted to make.
    Ultimately getting the figure accurate, in my personal view, is meant to support the message of the work. Like a musician bending notes or playing ahead or behind the beat, a sculptor can choose to simplify, abstract, or distort, too. And if they know where academic, even photographic, realism lies, they are that much more agile in expressing their intentions.
    Ultimately, keeping the Inside alive while Adjusting the Outside, sounds like a life skill as well as an artistic one, and in that case, I’m signing on for the duration.
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  • Bony Proportions and The Two Hour Challenge

    On: December 13, 2009
    In: Artmaking, Creativity, Studio Journal
    Views: 422
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    This past year I have sought out the teachers who can tell me what I want to learn in ceramics, a practice I definitely want to continue! Sometimes they are wise colleagues, but more often it has been certain college instructors. Last Summer it was Tiffany Schmierer at Skyline College in San Bruno, CA. This Fall it has been Cynthia Siegel at Cabrillo College in Aptos, my regular haunt.

    Cynthia is an exacting master. When she communicates, she expects attentiveness, responsiveness, engagement and active execution. I revel in that! She means what she says and has scads of expertise to share. So, without writing a chapter and a half about this semester, let me show you, mostly in photos, what transpired.

    The photo up top contains the digest version of weeks and weeks of exploring reference material for the skeleton. Rather than just making figure sculpture(s) all semester, Cynthia recommended that I delve into the human bony proportion canon of Robert Beverly Hale, and then set about carving a skull, ribcage and pelvis set on an armature in order to have that learning ‘go deep.’

    Folks, I was daunted! What the hell kind of shape is a pelvis? I must have made three of them, each stinking on ice. How to translate 2D drawings into proportionate blocks of clay and then ‘find’ the pelvis or ribcage or skull in each one? How to make a temporary armature? How to keep the soft clay from stretching out of its boundaries? How to breathe any kind of life into such an attempt, even if I never plan to fire or keep it? (Hint: find those S curves!!!!)

    The photos here show how far I got…..hours of searching for those shapes, consulting with Cynthia and adjusting. It was grand. I am not done, but it is just possible I can’t be. Here’s the work in infinite progress. Skull looks a little too round in the photo, too much like Jack Skellington. (Not done!)

    What can never show is what went deep inside my mind and sense of touch and form in space from this exercise. It is forevermore beyond cognitive because it lives in my muscle memory too.

    That could be the end of our story. It certainly was the end of the semester as next week is Finals. Bony Proportions Skeleton: Check! But, Noooooooooo, Cynthia wanted more from me. She issued this Throwdown: Take two hours and make a figure, any position. Don’t worry about finishing, just bring it Monday to the Final.

    What a genius assignment! It allowed me to translate my newfound skeleton framework knowledge into a narrative and to use that knowledge while it was still fresh.

    I chose an old newspaper clipping of a local high school runner, Maggie Vessey. She had just lost a race badly and apparently had thrown herself down in the Agony of Defeat. I had kept it because it was so evocative. Here was my Two Hour Throwdown subject! (Pun intended.)

    The challenge was to find the skull, ribcage and pelvis positions underneath the clothing and the muscles, to add the appendages and breathe life and gesture into it. At least that is what I wanted out of my two hours. Not getting lost in the details or perfectionism were other factors.

    More challenges came from making a 3D piece from a 2D shot. Just what might her left side be doing? I crouched into this position and my own body gave me suggestions. Staying on task, lively and attentive is sometimes a problem for me, so I was proud when I did not stray from my task for more than 4 minutes the whole time.

    Here are shots of the result:

    Wow, is what I have to say…not because the piece is so stellar, but because it is evidence of a whole new way of understanding the figure. I am so glad I got to experience my skeleton knowledge while it was vivid. One less vague area with light shed on it. Thanks, Cynthia!
    P.S. Since 2000, when this photo of Maggie Vessey was taken, she has gone on to be 2009 World Champion in the 800M. Go Maggie!

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