Sunday, March 13, 2011

Time Warp

"Presence is Fire" , an ensemble that will be installed in an actual fireplace (no burning please, although it probably wouldn't hurt porcelain which fires at 2300 degrres F).... includes a set of andirons over a pile of embers, and newly set with a load of fresh logs. The fireplace figures into the December Chlora story, with home and hearth decorated for Christmas. Above the mantel hangs a cuckoo clock. Like most cuckoo clocks, it drives everybody nuts. So Chlora decides to do something about this.

The clock was based on a Black Forest model sent to us some time ago by our friends the Dyllicks who live in Freiburg. Plus I found lots of others online, most with hunting themes, some with evergreen trees. Your run-of-the-mill cuckoo clock is basically wood-toned and roughly carved. A phoenix rising from the fire seemed to be needed on this one, so I found an image of one carved on an English chest from 1890; nicely shaped and gilded

Since Chlora's Christmas story gets into fawns, I also copied a deer on my clock, and the fir trees. Chlora paints the cuckoo red (of course; she needs more redbirds). And then the clock needed more color and I happened upon a polychromed one in an antique mall.

To top it off, what could be cornier than Salvator Dali's Persistence of Memory with its melting clocks? I painted it over the bend in the roof...hence the title, "Time Warp." This may be the only Dali I really like. It is quite small, at MOMA, and is one of those paintings that fascinated me as a child. The obnoxious clock gets thrown into the fire, in Chlora's story, on Christmas night, along with her wooden train and her training bra. Here it all is in MY fire, the kiln!

In Training

Another piece that figures into the December story is Chlora's training bra. She received this detested item of apparel in her Christmas stocking and promptly threw it and its package into the fireplace. The lacy little stretch number, size 28AA, was quickly made from rolling the porcelain into an old lace hankie, forming two flat cups, and adding on all those elastic straps.

Deciding on the images from art history was harder.

Three booby paintings auditioned for this role. This contrasting pair from the Louvre got to be the cover girls. Left, Franz Hals "Gypsy Girl", the provoceur of 1628-30, on the right, Rubens' s Susanna Fourment of 1622-25, the sweet gamine. Both of them could use some poetic uplift.

!On the back of the package is a mashup of verbiage from training bras of the 1960's...what odd research that is!-- with the Song of Solomon 8:8 : "We have a little sister and she has no breasts. What shall we do for our sister on the day she is spoken for?...

After her bra burning, Chlora figures she will agree to grow breasts only if they look like the blonde bearing her breasts by Manet, below, in the Musee d'Orsay. Wow.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Chlora's Train of Thought

Part Two of this large ensemble piece, "Presence is Fire", is a toy "wooden" train. I've got a cute little vintage Fisher Price "Huffy Puffy" train that served as a model. But it had only 3 cars, and it took me awhile to figure out just what cars were needed...all this harkens back to Christmas in the early 60's when I was obsessed with fancy electric trains. But Santa brought a plain wind-up train, no frills attached. Anyhow, Chlora fared even worse, receiving a wooden train. In the December story when she is asked to put more wood on the fire, in goes her train....along with some other items, as you will soon see.
The train ends up having four adaptations painted on it. At first I thought it might be a death train, as in we-are-all-on-this-train-relentlessly-going-one-direction. I explored Anselm Kiefer's huge paintings of train tracks to Auschwitz. Then I came upon the lyrics of the old song "People Get Ready a Train's a-Coming", by Curtis Mayfield, I realized it was a hope train from the civil rights era. The four paintings chosen represent the notion of "presence and absence"--two of each. On the Little Engine that Could, we have Monet's Gare St. Lazare, the version in the Art Inst. of Chicago. Next, I looked for Jesus' cry on the cross, "Father why have you forsaken me?" and came up with a gripping "Golgotha" by Munch, where people are abandoning him.

.Third, on the dining car is the unmatched image of loneliness, Degas' "Absinthe Drinker". I was tempted to construct a small Venus de Milo to put in the absence car, she with the missing head and limbs.

The Little Red Caboose brings up the rear of the chariot of fire with a woodcut from the Nuremburg Chronicle of Elijah and Elisha. I first discovered this image when thinking about the mantel over the fireplace...and it linked to mantle, ie. the cloak, that Elijah hands off to his successor. Different spelling, I discovered! And 19th c. trains were dubbed chariots of fire, of course. Furthermore, my good friend Jeff Smith turns out to have written a book about Nuremburg, says there are six copies here in the HRC, and he brought over a facsimile for me to work from. So on the engine and caboose we have Presence, bracketing the absence in between. Since trains are all too metaphorical, it is all derailed, a real train wreck. "Chlora's Train of Thought".

Presence is Fire: The Mourners

The next few blogs will highlight more about the sources behind a piece. Here is the beginnings of "Presence is Fire", an ensemble that is nearing completion

For some time, I've had this idea about making a fireplace; that is, the logs and andirons that go into a fireplace. Initially the andirons were going to be a pair of wooden African figures. A Nigerian pair from the Dallas Museum of Art was intriguing--they are the right size, kneeling and reverent. But wooden andirons make no sense.

Then I came across the catalogue for a exhibition at the Met: "The Mourners: Tomb Sculpture from the Court of Burgundy." These alabaster figures are so subtle and expressive, each about 15 " tall...perfect. The top photos show them installed in Dijon, then at the DMA and processing at the Met (kudos to my friend Russell Sublette, who designed the DMA installation and showed me around the show, plus behind-the-scenes in the Hamon Wing that I helped program so long ago).
In December I got to see the Mourners exhibition at the DMA. Stunning. From the 75 or so on display, I honed in on two of the cantors. One with an open book/open mouth, the other closed.
FRAME (the French American Museum Exchange) under the sure guidance of Rick Brettell, organized this show, and they put full photographic coverage of the figures online. See this link:

I even tried to get permission to sculpt in the DMA gallery, knowing fully well from my museum career that this would be unlikely. It was. Sigh....isn't easy to copy 3D objects from photos. Anyhow, I managed, quite imperfectly to replicate the two, giving me further appreciation of the Gothic stonecarvers whose naturalistic detail is so refined and emotive. And they don't get to subtract their mistakes like I do...
The cantors as andirons are Part One one of this complex ensemble, already entitled "Presence is Fire". It will debut in the "December" story.

Friday, March 4, 2011

The Gospel Accordion

Right before the Abilene show opened, I finished up the accordion and the box of pastels. Greenware pictures of it are way back in this blog somewhere. The accordion was a technical challenge, one of those pieces that just would not click...until suddenly the goofy title flitted in, and so did the Book of on the backside, the intricate page of the Four Evangelists.

On top is a bust of Beethoven, on the end is Hans Hoffman's "Cathedral". And folded into the bellows of the accordion is George Bellows' "Both Members of the Same Club."

Drawing on the Past

A colorful addition to the bounty of art supplies--this one a box of pastels, with fixative, sketchpad, charcoal, erasers, stumps, pencils. This porcelain rendition is especially pleasing to me because it evokes several works of art from the Dallas Museum of Art and elsewhere....and the main player is Mary Cassatt.

Reformed in Abilene

SEPT 9- OCT 28, 2010

Good grief, I'm playing catch-up....months of activity I never got around to putting on this blog. Had a small but sweet show at the Center for Contemporary Art in Abilene, TX. It was also a good premiere for the NOVEMBER Chlora book online (which of course is still in process). We used some of the furnishings Corky Cunningham made for the installation, several of the same pieces from the MAC "Porcelain Reformation", plus a few brand new ones.

Carol Windham was my host for this exhibition, and staying out at her Seven Hearts Ranch in Clyde was an amazing experience...I had no idea the land would be so jewel-like at dusk. Rick and I got to observe some real live cowboys at work, cutting through cattle, vaccinating, whipping up the dust.
My opening coincided with a 30th anniversary of outdoor sculpture in Abilene, which brought in my long-ago professor at SMU, James Surls, to curate a show and host a symposium. Abilene really knows how to treat artists right!