CLAY: Playing in the mud

I am primarily a three-D artist.  I enjoy charcoal and pencil sketches and do sketch all the time; but I really love sculture.  I especially love playing in the mud: Clay!  I  made a series of cups once, but the artist in me kept getting in the way.  The series was pretty much non functional but fun to look at!   Once in a clay class the assignment was to create a tall coiled vessel.  I coiled and coiled until the professor pointed out that if I got any taller it would not fit in the kiln.   It just sort of came out that way.  It’s almost like the clay tells me what to do.

For me, working with clay is indescribably satisfying.  I spent hours and hours and weeks working on my monster.  Many predicted it would blow in the kiln and would not fire their work with mine.  Opening the door and finding the monster smiling at me was a thrill that is indescribable to anyone who has never fired clay.  (Sometimes it blows.  If one thing blows, everything goes.)

Another problem with clay is that clay scuptures are heavy, fragile, and there is not a large market for clay.  Bronze- yes.  I have a series of Jazz musicians that I hope to make bronzes out of someday.  They were inspired by actual jazz musicians that I saw in New Orleans–that’s why the trombone player is the tallest and a woman at that.  Bronze is expensive so I am hoping at this point.

All sculpture is rather risky.  I work in wood also.  A slip of the chisel or knife and too much is gone.  Then you are left with a choice: adapt and improvise and incorporate the mistake into the art, or start over.  When I taught art this was a philosophy that I instilled in my students.  I would very seldom let them start over.  The art that comes out of a mistake is often more than what comes out of the artist.  A happy thing to learn.  To adapt and improvise is a skill that never goes out of fashion.

I’ve done a lot of paper mache-it’s cheap and you can do a lot with paper mache besides a pinatta.  My students have done even more.  The largest was wire frame dragon that a student made in the Cortez summer workshop.  It finished about 4 feet wide and about eight feet long.  We coated the final with concrete to make a very impressive work.  I’ve made smaller dragons, myself.  Paint them with a faux stone or faux  iron finish and most people won’t know the difference.  Quite fun actually.

I really love masks.  I’ve taught mask making in the Ozarks and on the Navajo Nation. With paper mache masks the sky’s the limit in imagination.   Long noses, huge ears, imaginary creatures…..  I went to a  workshop at a paper mache factory (?) in New orleans and picked up some techniques for large masks.   I used to host an annual mask show and was surprised at the people who came from miles around to see the wonderful and imaginative masks created by my enthusiastic students.

Masks are powerful.  Once I had a student who came to us in Kindergarten at age 6.  He had been kept out a year because he would not talk.  His parents assured us that he did talk, but no one at the school had ever heard his voice.   The week of Halloween it was customary for me to have the Kindergarten class make paper plate masks.  They would color them and then I would cut out eyes and mouth and string them up.  This young man was the first to present his mask.  He had scribbled with black crayon and with no attempt to make anything special.  I cut the holes, strung it up, and placed it over his face.  He instanly began running around the room and yelling “I’m a monster.  I’m gonna get you!”  The other students were just as amazed as I.  We had never heard him talk!  I requested a young lady to go get the special ed teacher and ask her to watch through the window of my classroom.  This she did.  The special ed teacher in turn got the classroom teacher, the principal, the school secretary, and the coach.  All were amazed at the transformation.  As the other children put on their masks this young man continued to interact.  When the bell rang and I directed the students to remove their masks so as to safely walk down the hall, this young man resumed his introverted and silent aspect.  With eyes downcast he walked past a group of amazed adults.  That day, the special ed teacher purchased a variety of halloween masks and the young man learned to communicate behind the saftey of his masks.

When you think about it, we all wear masks.  Make-up is a mask and I know many men and woman who will not go out in public without it.  I am a performer.  I love to perform, however, I really am very shy.  I always wear a costume.  I can do anything if I am in costume.  In costume I am an over the top entertainer.  I’ve laid across tables and played the clave.  I can imitate with a comedic flair-as long as I am in costume.

I’ve digressed.   I hope to get some photos of some of my work.  And as I do, I will add them to this site.

Please do check in periodically and see what I have:  I am a consummate creator of art.