Friday, January 29, 2010

What Art Supplies

The question is: what DOES art supply? That is the one that plagues many artists, holed up in our studios creating things that nobody may ever see, while the world suffers from earthquakes, hunger and war. And yet we do it because that is what we are meant to do. The slim hope in artmaking is that the work will carry something good into a place that desperately needs it. Art materials are messy and seductive; the pull of porcelain is enough to keep me going. The notion that the Incarnation blessed matter makes me feel privileged to work in this material.

In my studio now are several objects in process, all of them art supplies, continuing that motif begun long ago--see "Art Toy Triptych" and "Chlora's Hope Chest", where the art supplies are those of a child. With the recent "Typo", "Chlora's Writing Room", "In the Making", and "Rochambeau", the art supplies have grown up. Three varieties are blended in my work--clay, writing, and painting--and they got intermingled in a coffee can in the recent piece "All in One". With these works in process, a big paint box and clay box, my trio is complete. Maybe. It'd be fun to install all of these items together.

Above, in the kiln, is greenware ready to go directly to Cone 6...several pieces that mimic ceramic tools. The box is modelled after a 50 lb. box of terracotta from Armadillo Clay, my Austin supplier. Clay in the kiln in more ways than one! The other items are a turntable, a flap for the box, and a rolling pin with its handles. Here's some process shots, first of the box, which I think will be titled "Ex Nihilo":
The ends of the box are adaptations of Andrea Pisano's "Creation of Adam and Eve", stone reliefs from the exterior of the Campanile of the Florence Duomo. I've used a terracotta Mason Stain slip on this which should come out the color of cardboard. With the box flaps in place, the piece barely fit in the kiln, and then one of the flaps fell off and broke. That gave me the "opportunity" to remake is now a two colored slab, done in sgraffito, showing the Hebrew slaves building clay bricks for Egyptian monuments.

The turntable is a simple two-part instrument which has an engraved design from the labyrinth at Chartres Cathedral.

The most difficult piece has been the rolling pin. I used tinted clay for this one, as I wanted to do a deeper relief carving. Underglaze tends to fill in the sharp details, so this is an experiment. It took considerable web research, but I found lots of Sumerian cylinder seals, and narrowed them down to designs from the epic of Gilgamesh. So six scenes of that ancient warrior are incised into this rolling's called "Gilgamesh Repeating Himself." ha! Here it is, the handles to be attached later as I figure they would warp if stuck on the roller now. Let's hope the roller doesn't blow up...I know it'll crack and can deal with that.

Next up, the second half of "What Art Supplies"-- the oil painting stuff. The paint box is taken from my beloved old metal fishing tackle box that belonged to my Granddaddy Brown and then my Dad. Here's a picture of the real thing, which is full of paints I have used since college.

And last are clay paint tubes, just blocked out. It'll be fun glazing these guys! Also a can of linseed oil. A palette and wiping rag are yet to come. I think the paint box will sport an unfinished Michelangelo, the "Manchester Madonna". The oil can has something to do with anointing, the palette may be from Velasquez's own one in "Las Meninas". And the rag may be stained like a color field painting. Or Veronica's veil...we'll see as things progress.

Art and life and love are messy. That's just how it is.