Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Big Long-term Project

Last week I bought a gorgeous barrister bookcase at the East Barre Antique Mall. I have been wanting a large, significant piece of furniture that would allow me wide scope for a major piece in my collection of cabinets, and I think this is it. It is missing the glass, pull-down fronts, but is otherwise in excellent condition. I think I can retrofit glass in the front of the shelves if I want to when the piece is finished.

Right now I'm just playing by putting a few things on the shelves, as I try to figure out where the piece is going. I think it will have something to do with the movement of time; perhaps the shelves are different geological strata, or different kingdoms (animal,vegetable, mineral...), or different narratives (it is shaped a bit like a comic strip...). I have time to play. 

The wonderful thing about these bookshelves is that they are modular. Each of the shelves can be separated from the others. The cap at the top lifts off separately, and there is a drawer in the base. It is very elegantly constructed.

I have put a few pieces from the Parade series on top, just to look at them. There will definitely be something on top, but I'm not sure it's these figures...

While nosing around in antique and junk stores I found 23 volumes of diaries from 1945 - 1968, handwritten by three members of a central Vermont family. This has sent me on a hunt to find out who these people were, and I pretty much know now. Reading the diaries has been fascinating. They will certainly find their way into this cabinet.

More Little Sculptures

Beach wood cobbled together to create little figures of man and beast.

And one that I made awhile ago (with a cork body and fishing worm penis) to which I added arms and a stand:


Last month I spent a week in Maine at Popham Beach. It was wonderful seeing the sun come up over the Atlantic every morning, and walking on the beach daily. I was able to find and collect some driftwood, which I love to use in making small sculptures. Here's one that I really like. It's about 15" long.

Back to the Men's Cabinet

I decided that I didn't like the Men's Cabinet -- too preachy, like the Black Death work. It's hard to walk a good line that doesn't press my personal agenda and give my opinionated voice too much sway. Here's what it used to look like:

I kept the front image (that sweet, centered, grandfatherly man), but completely re-did the interior. Here's what it looks like at this point. I haven't permanently affixed the pieces (like I need to hang the tools on the lower right), but it's just about where I want it. I have modified the image on the inside of the door to the left, covering over my carved text (see below), to "label" the areas of the box (A Man's World, Body Care, Home and Family, His Workshop, and Outdoor Life). I'm trying to give an overview of the components of a person's life, and the artifacts that have been a part of it. These objects, with the history they bring along with them, seem very potent and numinous to me (though of course these objects did not belong to one particular person, and are even from a variety of decades). But there is something so poignant about the fact that people die, but their stuff -- things they touched, used, valued -- lasts longer than they do...

I want to make some good gifs of these boxes, because I think it's important to experience them as cabinets and see the transition from closed to open to closed again. So much of what I'm doing with these cabinets, I think, has to do with the passage of time, and a gif makes time a deliberate part of the image. Here's a lousy one I made, but you can see the direction I want to go. I am hoping to have a friend help me make better, high-res gifs.

Sunday, October 4, 2015


I have neglected to post images of a piece I made to apply for an exhibit at the Paul Robeson Gallery in New Jersey about the other creatures we regard as "undesirable" who live in and around our homes.

In my description of the piece, I wrote: While we may imagine that our homes are an "inside" that is separated from the "outside" world, not only is there a permeable barrier between one and the other, but of course our human lives are intertwined with (and continuous with, evolutionarily and ecologically speaking) the lives of the other living things on the planet.

Insects (and other  invertebrates) are fascinating. Many of them go through metamorphosis, from a fertilized egg, through a larval stage (or stages), to their adult state. In many cases they live in different environments in each of these stages -- developing in water and then emerging as flying adults (mosquitoes and dragonflies); developing from eggs laid underground, and later emerging as ground-dwelling or flying insects (some beetles and wasps); or even "ballooning" through the air on wisps of silk, as some newly-hatched land-dwelling spiders do. We may encounter these creatures when we are digging in our gardens, swimming in a pond, walking down the street, or sitting on our porches.

I have made oil portraits of many different small creatures on metal disks of various sizes, arranging them in three strata -- underground, aboveground, and in the air. These images feature a variety of "creepy crawlies," like spiders and slugs, in addition to insects (that are distinguished by having six legs and three body segments).  

Underground and Ground Layer (at bottom):

 Ground and Plant Layer (middle of piece):

Sky Layer:

 The painted disks are drilled with two holes (referencing buttons, that attach one thing to another, like humans to animals...) through which a fine annealed steel wire is threaded to create a grid that is held three inches off the surface of the wall, allowing the disks to cast shadows on the wall behind. We humans cast our shadows on the natural world, and nature (and its creatures) casts shadows on us. This is a dance of reciprocity we would do well to acknowledge and celebrate! 

Here are a few detail shots of individual disks:


Box at The Front

The Front has expanded into a new space at 13 Main Street, Montpelier VT, open during gallery hours (Fridays 5-8 PM, Saturdays 11 AM -8 PM) through Halloween. The first opening of this space was yesterday, October 3, during Montpelier Arts Fest, but you'll have a chance to check it out through the end of the month. Enter through the 6 Barre Street entrance.

Here's an overview of the exhibit. My piece is a box on a stand at the back, with a mobile of bones hanging over it. These are not great photos, taken with my phone, but at least you get the idea...

The text on the front of the box says

The top of the box has objects that reference efforts to extend human life through various means, ranging from "prayer" through "early pharmacology,"  described on small labels next to each technology.The inside of the box has a herd of wooden animals running through it.

The mobile hangs 36" above the top of the box.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Creative Costmos Opening

Last Saturday, August 8, was the opening for Creative Cosmos at the Chandler Gallery in Randolph. The gallery had scheduled Artist Talks at 4:30, and it was really a very good thing to hear the four artists who presented (myself, Jim Robinson, Cami Davis, and Bhakti Ziek, in that order) talk about their work. I really think this is something that galleries should always do at (or before) receptions. I understand that in many places in Europe and elsewhere in the world, an Opening is literally that -- someone (often an academic or critic) speaks about the work in a space outside the gallery, and then the doors to the exhibit are opened and people are allowed in to experience the work for the first time. What do you think?

Here's my piece in context, followed by Bhakti Ziek's installation: