I spent two days clearing the overgrowth from our neglected garden on the suggestion that my creations would look less like trash strewn haphazardly about. During this time I recalled memories of working along-side my grandmother in her garden when I was a teen. Names of the plants came to my mind and I could almost hear her voice as she instructed me on the care of every plant. She passed a wealth of knowledge down to me along with her love and respect for nature. This was a great gift and I believe I should pay it forward by working to raise awareness through my art on the threats to our beautiful planet. As I cleared, I also realized that my initial idea for this installation could not convey this deep respect for nature. I became convinced that no matter how neat the space if I did not pursue a more realistic representation my message would become as jumbled as the landfills and floating trash islands I am concerned about and might be lost altogether. I wanted to work WITH the spiritual qualities I could feel rising from this peaceful little garden, not against them. So I went back to the drawing board……
The first step was to explore the collection of material I have so lovingly cherished for two years. Pulling out the many bags and boxes of colorful styrofoam, cellophane bags, plastic bottles with colorful labels – I began to ‘see’ flowers. Using google search I entered terms such as “yellow flowers” and “blue flowers” and scrolled through the images. As I narrowed down my search I would also see flowers so beautiful that I longed to be able to recreate them in my studio. So I would go back to my piles and boxes of post consumer packaging and search for material to make it work. This process for me is not a hurried, careless pawing through my stuff but rather a deliberate and thoughtful sifting. To me the results are always worth the extra time.
So now I will let those results speak for themselves. I hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoyed making them.
The process I follow is about exploration and discovery. I start with an idea and I can usually picture in my mind what I hope the finished product will look like. After I get started I sometimes find it necessary to be open and adaptable. Plastics and foam have a ‘memory’ and sometimes it just doesn’t look like my vision. Or, I might find during the process of working with the material that another form develops. I try not to get too attached to my original idea about form so I can see new possibilities as they occur. That doesn’t mean I don’t sometimes struggle, I just work intuitively. By allowing myself this freedom to explore I am allowing my vision to evolve.
My material selections will change as I work like a painter choosing different color schemes.
Nature provided models for some of the flowers……..
Others were taken from images.
After I decided on a form I spent time carefully sorting through my materials until I found something that fit. Sometimes while sorting I would come across a piece of material that suggested a flower. Then I would go back to searching for images until I found the flower that fit my stuff!
So I have begun 3-D Thinking for the second year now. I am working independently this year and for the first project (and maybe the only project) I am working on creating an installation piece. I have several ideas I am kicking around. Nell suggested I make a digital collage using images of my work from senior seminar, which sounded like a very good, and exciting idea to me! For the first collage, I have created a solarium.
the love you take is equal to the love you make……..
Our final critique happened in the courtyard on a really beautiful day. As my classmates shared during their presentations I reflected on the past semester and what I have learned from the process. I was overwhelmed with emotion when it was my turn to present my table to the group. I recognized the traditional elements in my “piece”, a table I intended to use for drawing, as a thread from my past. I realized I have come to a point in my life where I am no longer being held back by the limits imposed on me as a child. I now have the opportunity to accomplish my dreams in a supportive environment. I am here now.
The Death of Waldemart
In the end it took less than an hour to dismantle and dispose of “Walde” in a manner consistent with the projects theme.
14 hours of work reduced to a can full of recyclables. What I learned from this project, however, will stay around and continue to grow with me. Never again will I grab an item off the grocery shelf and toss it into the cart without examining it for certain elements that deem it “sustainable”. I am much more cautious in my approach to consumerism. And I found a place to keep a small part of my friend where he can keep an ‘eye’ on things…..
So our new project is for each of us to design and build our own personal table. The instructions are to figure out the dimensions for the kind of table we want keeping within a few guidelines based on the sizes of the clamps we have available to use when glueing. After we each figure out the size we want and construct according to the guidelines and instruction provided by Nell, we can then be as creative and/or functional as we desire.
We received preliminary instructions in class on March 29. On April Fool’s Day a few of us headed off to Home Depot to buy our wood. Had I not forgotten my camera I would be able to post some pretty amusing photos of myself, Natasha and Seung-Yung as we tried to find the best pieces of pine for our project. I did appreciate having my comrades with me, I felt less self-conscious and out-of-place in that “man world”! We returned to ASC victorious and unloaded our beautiful wood from my truck to await its fate the following morning.
I need a drawing table for my lil’ apartment that I can move from room to room as needed. I also want an easel I can use on the top or take with me if I want to draw or paint in the field. My plan is to dismantle and re-assemble an easel I bought from a craft store that is not really very stable and convert it to be a shorter more stable version for my table project. I designed my table to be 30″ long and the width of five 1″x6″ boards which in reality comes out to be 27 and a half inches when assembled. In short, my table top will be about 27″x30″.
Sawing and Sanding
(or the real reason men have muscles)
A chop saw is a big circular saw that looks and sounds a little scary if (like me) you have no prior experience with power-tools.
But with a little common sense they are really not that difficult to use. The hardest part for me is the measuring and figuring out dimensions. After this was made a lot easier by our esteemed Professor, I proceeded with the cutting of the wood. Just let me say…..
I FELT POWERFUL USING THAT SAW!!!!!
Seriously, it was a very cool feeling to use that saw. I think I could chop wood all day. At least some days!
Anyway, moving on, the next step was to glue the sections that would form the table top together and when it was dry to sand the wood smooth. Using handheld Sanders the wood was finished nicely.
As I started the glueing process I really began to like this project. I have always loved creating things with my hands; whether it is a piece of art, a garden, or just a clean and organized living space, I’m all over it. So as this project developed I began to visualise ALL KINDS of wood projects in my little head. More on this later……
Figuring Out The Unexpected….
Some of the challenges I had included how to fit rungs between the legs. We used biscuit joints for the table-tops and the skirt to leg joins.
This involved using a saw that plunges a groove into the wood where the join will be.
So that after assembling with glue and clamping tight for 2-3 hours, you get something like this:
But I was making the rungs out of 2 x 2 which is really more like 1.5 x 1.5, so there was not enough width to make biscuit joins. Following Nell’s suggestion, I bored holes in the ends of the rungs and the sides of the legs where the join would be:
And used a wood dowel (3/8″) instead of the biscuit:
I had this:
Next step is to plunge for more biscuit joins:
And glue the top to the bottom structure. Unfortunately, my wood had some hidden defects that showed up as soon as I tightened the clamps………
I tried using more clamps to counter-act the bending/cracking thing that was happening (to no avail) and in the end I had “FrankenTable”
So I adopted a wait and see attitude and went home for the night!
Next: The Result!
Only a bit of a droop left on the right side! The crack disappeared and the glue sanded off leaving a nice smooth finish. The table is not perfect but it fits into my life right now.
The next step was to make the piece I want to put on the top to keep the easel from sliding off when I’m trying to draw. For this I used a piece of leftover 1×4. I mirrored a pattern on paper and traced it on the wood. Using the jigsaw, I carefully cut along the lines I drew as closely as possible. Then I sanded it to near (not quite) perfection to match the table. Using the same method for joining I attached it to the table and viola!
Ready for the finale!
My personal evolution from frenzied, enthusiastic consumer to environmental consciousness has steadily come full circle over the past 35 years. When I was a teenager in the 70’s I fell in with a lovely, lively group of “hippies” who enjoyed traipsing to the north Georgia mountains almost every weekend. There we often back-packed up the beautiful Appalachian Trail to N.C. and camped at Bly Gap. Sometimes we hung out along the banks of Moccasin Creek, camping in tents and swimming in a waterfall you could only access if you were brave enough to cross a very slippery tree that had fallen across the water. On one infamous trip over winter break we barely made it to a cabin belonging to someone’s parents before snow made the road in or out impassable. The cabin was very primitive with gaps between the logs allowing the cold to continuously seep in unmolested and no indoor plumbing. We cooked our meals in the stone fireplace, gathering wood from the ground when our supply ran out, positioning it to steam near the flames of our existing fire until dry enough to actually burn. It was the hardest work for survival I have ever done, but the act of making my way through the snow looking for twigs, vines, and fallen logs, cemented an appreciation for the beautiful fierceness of nature that has never left me.
Not too much later I married and began a family, birthing my children at home hippy style. My husband was in school and we had little money, since I chose to mostly stay at home with my babies. We did not own a T.V. for the first 10 years and entertained ourselves with books, music, walks, and trips to local parks. Real consumerism did not hit me until we joined a church attended by some of the more prosperous members of the community. I felt somehow less than other members, our car was 15 yrs. old, we did not own a home, and my children wore second-hand clothes. In retrospect, I realize my immaturity and lack of self-confidence was the real problem, however, I focused at the time on what we did not have materially. Then came a brand new local Wal-Mart! At the same time, my husband received a promotion and I was able to stretch our dollars to cover newer accoutrements for the home like never before! Drapes, pillows, dishes… all sorts of decorative items to make me feel more like ‘them’. Did it work? Sadly, no. In the long run we ceased to be a family, going our separate ways.
Eventually, my oldest daughter, Sara, became my teacher. While attending University of Az. studying political science, she began to discuss the ways in which our economy and community are affected by a capitalist economy’s approach to consumers. She spoke of one business in particular, Wal-Mart, as being a “big box store” and decried their abundance of “practically useless junk” as being especially harmful to the environment. Since I often shopped at Wal-Mart, I began to refer to “the store that must not be named” when mentioning a purchase. When our class was assigned the trash project I began to think of all the ways my own habits were contributing to the ongoing problem of too much trash. I started out by collecting all of the plastic and paper leftover from one week in my household. I have been recycling for a long time, but I seldom take the time to really pay attention. Usually, I sort leftover packaging as I go and then throw the bags and boxes into my car once a month and take it all to the DeKalb Farmer’s Market. While exploring themes for my sculpture I returned to the eyes that I had used in my previous work. Suddenly, BOING! it hit me, and one quick sketch later I birthed “Waldemart”.
“Retail Therapy” resulted from my focus on my consumer habits. I have never responded well when told I “should” do something. I normally follow the example of people I admire and care about, like my daughters. Usually after bashing my head against a brick wall for quite some time. So I wanted to make this about my change through personal growth. It would take hours to tell my whole story and I really believe most of it pretty boring and predictable. Instead, I wrote out 12 steps for recovering from “over-consumerism”. I hope to someday be like my daughters and inspire others. I also hope to find peace within myself. A process I believe is well begun.
I decided it might be time for some:
- Step 1: Admitted I was powerless over big-box stores, and my plastic consumption had become unmanageable.
- Step 2: Came to believe that “green” knowledge could restore me to sanity.
- Step 3: Became willing to turn my buying habits over to the idea that less REALLY IS more.
- Step 4: Made a searching and fearless personal “trash inventory” of the stuff I throw away.
Okay now, step 4 was really revealing. In one week my household (myself and one 10 yr. old child) accumulated three bags of material for recycling!
- Step 5: Admitted to myself, my spirit, and all who read this blog that over-consumption is in my nature.
- Step 6: Was entirely convinced I needed to change the way I “consume” the earth’s resources.
- Step 7: Humbly began to approach reduced consumption as a means to help save my planet from destruction.
- Step 8: Made a list of all the ways I can reduce and reuse.
- Step 9: Began to reduce my unnecessary consumption whenever and wherever possible.
- Step 10: Continued to take “trash inventory” and promptly adjust my consumption as needed.
- Step 11: Sought through research to improve my conscious understanding of eco-friendly principles and meditated for the power to carry them out in my daily life.
- Step 12: Having had a spiritual reality check as a result of these steps, I will try to promote the idea of consumer accountability by setting an example and practicing eco-friendly principles everyday.
Let it begin with me (once more, with feeling!)
A long, long time ago, a bunch of Europeans got fed up with how they were treated in their own country and moved to “The New Land”……..
In the apparently inheritable logic they possessed, these “settlers” began to take over the land and resources of the people living on these once vast plains. Eventually moving further and further west, claiming any and all land for themselves and refusing to recognise the rights of the people they encountered, these first “Americans” established towns and settlements for themselves. Ultimately up-rooting any community in their way, mostly on the basis of “primitive culture” more accurately translated “white makes right”, the new Americans murdered, plundered, and tricked the native population out of land they had lived on from time unknown. This included going to war with Mexico to “claim” the land now known as Southern Cal, New Mexico, Texas, Nevada, Arizona, etc..
And here we are, a couple hundred years later acting all indignant over “illegal immigration”……….
Watch as some local yokels abuse a descendant of the native people of the southwest area of this country who has the courage to confront their racism. Warning!! Strong Language!
When I found the image of the Statue of Liberty, so many thoughts immediately crowded my brain. “Bring us your poor…. your down-trodden…”. Just what did this mean at the time? What does it mean for us now? More on this later…
In the beginning was the bump. I went to my personal diary for ideas. I carry my little green book everywhere and try to write any interesting (to me) thoughts that shoot, stagger, fall, rest, linger or malinger inside my head. Most of my notes make sense only to me. I do find this practice useful for recording fleeting ideas before they disappear forever. Anyway…… I came across some words I had jotted down a year ago while reading Under the Tuscan Sun, by Frances Mayes. Benison (a spoken blessing), apogee (point in an orbit most distant from the center), oneiric (pertaining to dreams), porcini (an edible mushroom).
My mind kept drifting over apogee, benison, and porcini, as I physically drifted around the classroom browsing for materials.
I was first drawn to the cardboard tubes so I cut one into sections and arranged them into a circle on the table. A half-formed idea developed into a drawing.
Looking around some more I selected some beautiful gold cloth and a sheet of corrugated packing material. By the end of class on Thursday I had a pretty clear mental picture of my sculpture to be. Shaped like a bowl and filled with the circular shapes resting on the elegant, gold fabric, I envisioned something simple and beautiful.
“The Process Changes” or “Another Bend in the Road”
Over the course of the rest of the day and into Friday, my life took an unexpected turn. Feeling overwhelmed and heartbroken, going through the motions of running errands while trying to wrap my mind around events from the week, I found myself in a dollar store holding a cellophane bag of googly eyes and thinking “look! a bag of me! “. I also grabbed a bag of pipe cleaners in spring colors that reminded me of childhood. Back in class on Tuesday I played around with the idea of loss of control.
Life is messy. Without a doubt. Any order achieved is not easily preserved. Just when I think my ducks are in row the seasons change and off they go headed south for the winter. No matter how carefully I protect the fragile order of things it often blows up in my face. Leaving me, well, all googly-eyed and lost.
Although still enchanted with the circular shapes from the original plan, I was not happy with the weight of the cardboard tubes. They felt too rigid and the thickness of the cardboard was distracting. Instead, I used the paper I had peeled off of the corrugated packing material and rolled sections up into delicate cylinders.
Repeating my process from the maquette, I “corralled” them with a piece of the corrugated packing material. I liked the contrast between the smooth cylinders and the corrugated paper. It repeats the shapes and compliments them at the same time. The appearance is ordered, grouped, neat. The material itself is used for packing and protecting fragile items.
The idea of gluing the eyes on the ends of the pipe cleaners, after twisting them into springs, came to me in the store. Once I had created cylinders it was logical to have the eyes springing out, exploding into a frenzy. This is what happens when the lid comes off. When the carefully constructed life meets reality.
Life is boing.
I shaped the pipe cleaners into cork screws by twisting them around a drawing pencil.
Sometime during this process I realized how representative this was of the role art has played in my life. With art at the center of my life, whenever things did go boing, I have always had my creativity as a source of comfort and distraction.
“The Carefully Constructed Life”
Taking photos allowed me to see this piece from a different perspective. The creatures seem to have a life of their own.
As does the shadow……
Coming soon…. Tales of the Creature!
When this assignment was first presented, I was unsure of how to proceed. I began by sketching the forms into my log. In observing the sculptures I began to see things that were interesting to me, so I wrote those into the sketches and as I proceeded with drawing and writing, I began to understand what I was “looking for”. I found this exercise very helpful for getting the creative thought process started and I will use it for future projects. After we finished and began to discuss the ideas of form without function, cold vs. approachable, and eliciting response, etc., I realized I had never really understood 3-d process. From the first class I have kept a sketchbook log, as Nell suggested, and I am looking at everything with renewed intensity. This makes me so much more aware of my world than I have been before. I am noticing things I have overlooked, or looked past, and this gives me a fresh environment without “leaving home”. I like this! I think that by “deep-looking” I am interactive with my view. I am no longer merely looking at, I became a part of the play.
The first form. As I held the modeling clay I allowed communication to flow from my hand to my mind. Dry, squishy, weight, squeeze, push, pull, bumpy, texture, giving, taking, in, out, birth, smooth, soothe, wrinkle, old, new, age, change, grow…….. I wrote these thoughts down as they came, breathing ‘yoga style’, calming the clutter that normally occupies my head.
Without any purpose in mind I began to shape the clay, paying attention to the qualities I had recorded. As the clay lengthened in my hand, Henry Moore at the gardens came to my mind. I broke off a small piece and rolled it between my palms. I was transported back in time to the studio where I spent endless hours, hand building and throwing clay. Such love I felt at that time in my life for the process of creating. Hands in the dirt. Child-like delight in play. Warm and comforting. I was resting in a safe memory. I began to shape the second piece into a more organic, cave-like form where I could stash this perfect memory. Keep it protected for a time.
Attempt at the opposite. Perhaps this is too obvious. I put active thought into this response to the first piece. The fact that I had ‘destroyed’ the first form in order to create the second led me to want to make a distinct connection between the two. So I chose to make stepping-stones representing a change from resting to moving. This parallels my life, I have been still for a time, now I am moving towards a goal greater than merely surviving. I am on the move.
I am intrigued by what people believe. Beliefs are behind action…. we act according to what we believe, whether we are aware of this or not. From the moment we take our first breath until the last air is expelled from our bodies, we believe in something. Chicken Little believed the sky was falling because he did not see the acorn that fell on his head. Today many people base their beliefs on ideas that are not very different from Mr. Little’s. Outside a small town in France people are gathering in anticipation of the end of the world (as we know it) and believe a nearby mountain will open wide at the moment the Mayan calendar ends on 12/21/2011, revealing an alien landing strip……… hmmmmm.
As for myself, I believe in intuition. I am on a journey to learn how to listen to my inner voice. I know it exists because when I am in the process of making any sort of art, intuition often takes over, leading me through the process to completion. I often make decisions without conscious effort, drawing from what I have learned about art through the years. I have begun to pay attention to this ‘inner voice’. Sometimes what it reveals about me is not all that pleasant, but it is always revealing. As I explore this process I have become more aware of my long held beliefs and have begun to release some of them as harmful, while developing others. I am also looking more closely at what others believe, and why, and how these beliefs have influenced societies past and present.