Ok! Who gleaned the bridal undies? I came in today and there they were! I thought they looked nice with this pile of mattresses in the background.
I also found this lovely little trooper clinging to one of the building columns:
So-down to business now. I think perhaps the interview process for the GLEAN residency should include one more question. “Are you a pack-rat or do you have hoarding issues?” I, well, I do. I don’t actually know if that makes me more or less suited for this type of work. My last show, Cumulus, explored the theme of hoarding because it is on my mind a lot and I am often confronted with space issues. Throughout my life I have often had dreams of homes full to the ceiling of things. At different times in my life I have interpreted it differently and I am currently in a constant battle to streamline. Nevertheless, I removed 350 lbs from the Transfer Station today…happily.
I need to talk about my dad for a minute. Each time I glean, I go right for the broken glass. For years, when a car got broken into in the neighborhood, I would collect the broken auto glass. It goes back to my childhood and, as I stared into the broken glass ocean today, I thought of dad.
Dad did auto salvage and towing. I grew up with broken glass. Because of my dad, I understood recycling and the impact of our junk on a different level. I got to go to the junkyard, carry hand fulls of auto glass in my pockets (pretending they were diamonds). I was in love with that claw that bit the cars and picked them up. I have no fear of materials and I always thank dad for that. It was clear that he preferred to teach his son things like welding and pulling apart cars, after all Jr would follow in his footsteps, but I worked for and valued his attention, especially once I got to college and I knew my work made him proud. It makes me smile when I think how he would have reacted to hearing about this program. It would be one grunt, kind of a “ha!”. Then he would kick back in his chair and look dreamy for a minute. Then he’d say excitedly, “Hey, Vic-ya know what you should do?”
I guess that is why I had to bring home these three 2×8′ panels of safety glass. I really have no idea how they are going to fit into this work but I felt emotionally attached to them. I saw an employee dragging one into the garbage pile and he said it couldn’t be recycled (which made me want it more). There were several of them. I stopped at three, sighting the rule of design that says groups of three are more interesting than 2 or 4. Toward the end of my day I found three pieces of plywood cut at exactly the same dimensions. Kismet!
I think I have gleaned enough for a while, now. I’m going back tomorrow but just to sort out a few “maybes”. Nothing new! I hope anyway. Here are a few of the textural scores I brought home today. In case you’re curious, that image that looks like a bee box with beeswax in it…yup.
Now that I have one piece “finished,” (yikes! I need to pick up the pace!) I find myself going back to a familiar question: Why do I use found objects in my sculptural work? My apologies in advance for what is certain to be a long-winded rant.
I think this is an important question and an old question. I am not rehashing Marcel Duchamp’s declaration, “if the artist chooses an object to be art, then it is art,” I am asking what is a found object? Duchamp chose to display a bottle rack to be art because he thought it to be a completely mundane and neutral object with no aesthetic or emotional burden (so he said…). But the response after the initial shock of ready-mades was surprising; viewers found the objects to be aesthetically attractive and the burden of nostalgia, whether a historical relationship or a new encounter within the art institutional context (the bottle rack is no longer a common place object and some may encounter it for the first time as Duchamp’s art object) was ever present and contaminated his intentions. So, what is a found object?
Since the 1910’s some objects that used to be hidden away in kitchen cabinets have come to be exhibited on countertops. No longer shunned and buried in filigree, floral motifs, and gold pinstripes to hide their utilitarian purpose and cold mechanical form; a type of ownership, pride and respect(?) came to these practical objects. We developed relationships and experiences with these objects. My grandmother still prefers her mother’s 15 lb pizzelle iron that has to be flipped every 20 seconds on the stove top to her new electric iron. So, What is a found object?
Product designers toil over an object’s form and summon forth the collective aesthetic of the day to try to sell you something that you already have, because the object beckons you with it’s form that romanticizes the function, yet appears to work that much harder for you than the one you already have. So, What is a found object?
When I decide to crochet something, I grab a ball of yarn. I don’t make the yarn. I don’t shear the sheep. Some might, but I don’t…even then, isn’t the wool found on the sheep? I often buy yarn used from thrift stores. I have seen microcrystalline wax at a thrift store. I’ve seen paints and canvases at a thrift store. I’ve seen them at the transfer station. Raw materials are found materials unless I grow it on the top of my head. SO, what is a found object?
Found objects are like any other material. Objects have properties, intended uses, limitations, notions, and value just like any other material, except with the added detail of details (as in function, narrative, adornment, history, and so on). I think this element of details is what hinders some in respecting found object art. I don’t think the fact that the artist didn’t render the object from a block of marble with their front teeth is what puts off some (dare I say craftsmanship is self-inflicted by one’s own creativity in perceiving external judgment? Can one’s self be an external judge?…I get really fussy with details no body will ever see…). I think the reluctance is in the expanded awareness in the potential of objects one encounters in the everyday to create an extremely rich and complex experience when reconsidered. What happens with the expanded awareness? This!
Going back to the dump today after 2 weeks. I keep thinking I have missed something really good that was going to make the perfect art piece. In the meantime I have been in my studio for hours and days experimenting with all kinds of materials I have never used before. The first thing I grabbed in my gleanings was bright orange construction fencing. It sat for weeks and I almost gave up on it. How to make it not be construction fencing? Then creativity kicked in and I used it to stencil patterns on recycled canvas. Now it is being woven into another plastic screen….and I keep getting more ideas for it. From this I have learned not to be too quick to discard anything. It takes time for materials to become familiar enough for me to start working with them. I must have had some unconscious sense that I wanted to use the fencing when I first grabbed it. I guess I need to trust that intuitive part of my brain.
This entry has a nice series of progression images for everyone to enjoy. In my previous post you saw this sculpture as a pile of wood and then a glued up pile of wood. Over the past two weeks I have taken away a lot of material and have begun to find the figure underneath it all. To the right you can see how the piece is roughed out with a chainsaw before I begin with hand tools. The general profile is laid out and I have a lot of flat surfaces in which I can draw with a sharpie to define the figure. Many of these marks can be seen and they are pretty indiscriminant right now. Their purpose is mainly to show what I want to take away and what I really don’t need to touch yet. Flash forward a week. Hand tools have now come into play and progression has slowed way down. It always amazes me how fast the first stages go and consequently how slow the later stages go. Here I am working mainly with gouges and knifes. You can still see sharpie markings but those are completely different from the last images. As I carve I am constantly drawing on the wood plotting my next move. Eventually I will go away from the sharpie and move to a pencil when I am no longer certain that particular mark will be cut away but for right now I am solidly in sharpie territory. You’ll notice the laminating seam running along the right side of the nose. The figure has his head turned to the left just a little bit in order to keep that from landing in the middle of his nose. This particular figure will have clothing and hair which is a little daunting for me. I have done very little work with clothing and even less with hair. I’m very excited to play with these elements but I realize that they probably will either make or break the final piece. The image to the right is a few days after the last picture. You will notice more defined facial features. I love the knot which just happens to fall right at the corner of his left eye. That is one of those elements that the wood brings to the table and which I could never plan for. The hair is starting to take shape but the style is kind of still up in the air. Right now it is kind of a faux hawk but I am afraid if a go forward with that it might date him a little too much. Usually when I have a problem of this nature I step away from the sculpture for a few days and work on something else. This hopefully will give me fresh eyes when I come back to it and luckily I have a while until our show. Time enough for the muse to whisper in my ear.
I gleaned the cabinet from the side of the road in my neighborhood. I have to separate my residency gleanings from the rest of my studio to avoid cross-contamination with things I have gleaned elsewhere.
My tests don’t look like much yet. I’m just answering questions like, can Shellac, Varathane or Polyurethane be used as a binder for casting? Seems like yes on a small scale but I’m not sure if it will work on the scale I’m envisioning. I’ve got a pretty clear picture of the installation as a whole but I’m looking forward to discovering the individual textures and processes. I got four cans of expanding foam on that first trip. I was really surprised that they were there, completely unopened, until…the first can I tried. The plastic nozzle broke off while I was attaching the extension…so, no good. The second can I opened worked but seemed like it had no pressure or perhaps that it was plugged. It trickled out slowly. I used what I needed for the test and then set it down on the studio floor. When I returned in the morning, it had turned itself into A BEAUTIFUL SCULPTURE!
The fabric was unexpected and it was an inspiration. It will surely be making an appearance at the show.