Saturday, March 5, 2011

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.

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