On the subject of See Canyon Veil...
Instinctively I read the sculpture from left to right starting with the front of the installation. I determine the side bathed in light to be the front. The first piece floats at my eye level. It’s size is reminiscent of an 8” x 10” portrait, yet it is not made of paper. It is dense like stone but thin like the strongest of seashells. It is one of many, all closely uniform in shape. They are porcelain tiles, hanging in the center of the exhibition space, long and uniform. First row hangs one tile, the next row two tiles, adding a tile each row till the rows hang five tiles long. The vertical rows of five continue for many feet. I walk along the rows, counting my steps. I count twenty five steps as I reach the end of the piece. It ends like it began with the last four rows minus a tile till again I am faced with a single tile floating at eye level facing me like a portrait.
The many tiles as a whole share similarities, besides their size, they all are white, they all have like marks. The pieces are complete both as an individual and together as a whole. There are a few whites from cool to warm. Their color and stone-like quality of the porcelain convey a feeling of examining fossils. Fossils that have been excavated, preciously cleaned up and then assembled in a fashion of a trained hypothesis. Much like one would view the skeletal remains of the dinosaurs, these assembled tiles offer an opportunity to let the imagination go back in time, and back in history.
The length of the installation that faces the light displays marks that I try to categorize in order to understand what I am experiencing. First I am pulled to the shapes that look like the vertical lines of tree bark with rosy like knots that lightly swell out of the surface of the tile. Much like a tree, the lines shift when a knot occurs in its path. The knot and lines have a synchronicity much like a rock in a stream. The rock does not stop the stream but becomes a part of it’s landscape. Each line is tediously carved with patience and compassion. Patience, as it would not be an exaggeration to say that close to 10,000 lines were carved. Compassion, as each line received full attention while it developed into being. The bark-like lines are not dug out like an impression nor are they additive like a growth. The lines are slightly torn away marks from it’s own surface. The tears are not jagged like the unplanned rip but carefully torn, creating a scalloping pattern as the material was delicately lifted and pulled away from it’s skin.
Not all of the tiles have this same carving nor the same density I am attracted to a tile much thicker. The idea of a fossil starts to become more believable. I start to see what reminds me of a trilobite, remnants of life long before humans conquered the earth. The spiral shape of the trilobite is cut at reaching the edge of the tile but it’s pattern continues on to the tiles next to it. The continuing of the image causes me to take a few steps back, and then a few more to see the image in its entirety. The trilobite starts to change and grow. I now see a heart, a muscle pumping and causing flow. This flow makes me look at the composition of the floating tiles as one. From this distance the tiles become less decipherable. To focus on the entire piece I have to let go of control and just be in the moment.
See Canyon Veil is placed floating in the middle of the space; I am curious and drawn to the back of the work. The back purposely has no light source of it's own. The tops of the tiles flow with a gold light that spills over from the front of the piece that is bathed in light. Besides the edge glow, these sides of the tiles are in shadow. My eyes have to refocus to make out traces of preserved remains of plants or other once living organisms. Some of these impressed marks bear a rust, blood like stains of injury long ago.
See Canyon Veil is dedicated to the lives of Rachel Newhouse and Aundria Crawford.
On the subject of Quarry...
On the subject of Quarry...
Quarry- a place, typically a large deep pit, from which stone or other materials are or have been extracted.
Quarry is my third large-scale wall installation comprised of ceramic and mixed media. Upon the first visit to my completed installation the need to genuflect is practically triggered like an automatic reflex. The reverent and somber atmosphere I have created, slowed my steps to an intangible physical awareness that I am now in someone else’s space. I walked toward the monumental artwork directly in front of me, my sense of sound and texture was activated with the feeling and noise with the crunch of sand underneath my feet. I became an unexpected explorer just then understanding responsibility for the experience.
A blood iron red back wall stretches approximately twenty-four feet across the space. It bears seven architectural elements. These seven elements are saturated with gold paint. The subtle lighting in the room is just enough to reflect several hotspots off the gold. It takes a moment for my eyes to adjust. As I move closer my sight figures out how to navigate between the reflective gold and the largely encompassing shadowy areas.
The seven gold architectural pieces are door like rectangles, each with a boxed triangular cover slanting down toward the viewer. The height is considered so that I must look up. Tipping my head back, not so far as toward the heavens but just far enough to acknowledge an existence greater than myself. The architecture has a sandy, stone-like texture and roughness that makes me want to believe that they have been carved as seven solid pieces from a gold veined mountainous stone. The architecture created seven implied spaces or portals that protect the displayed sculptures much like the nature of a reliquary. These reliquaries are protecting two handmade artifacts each. One of the artifacts seems to be floating in space while the other is firmly placed on the ground. The floating artifacts are different in each reliquary some are small and others much larger. I have deliberately positioned the narrow, longest artifact in the center portal of the seven spaces. When I walk up to investigate the work further my attention is brought back to the sounds of my own steps as the crunching sound beneath my feet becomes more prevalent. I look down to see the sand has become more concentrated and that I am now leaving footprints in the sand. My presence has left finite marks in this place; I am a part of it. Returning to the slender floating artifact in the center, I am attracted to it’s fossil, bone-like quality that still emanates with the warmth of life. My eyes run up and down the artifact before I start to question it’s ability to float. It takes a moment to find the barely perceptible gold threads that suspend it perfectly in the center of the protective, triangular gold hood. Returning my gaze to examine more closely the slender artifact, I see the reference to a human leg and mentally declare it as so. It is beautiful, a petrified piece of human existence. It is warm in color with hues of cream, rust and blood. It is slightly textured like the gold reliquaries suggesting it was excavated from the same part of the earth. However, the artifact also contains larger, dime size debris embedded in the leg putting the artifact at a much younger age, displaying less years to break down and weather away. All the floating artifacts expose the same fossil like aesthetic. My attention is pulled back and forth, caught between the decision to study the artifacts on the ground or to continue to study the other six floating artifacts. I start to move down from the center. To the left of the slender extended leg, I take some time to realize I am looking at a right leg torn from a seated lotus position. All seven reliquaries contain the collective body parts to make up one woman save for her arms and abdomen. This space is a tomb.
The artifacts on the ground become markers of the dead. They are set center of the reliquary’s width and directly downward of the tip of the triangular hood. This placement creates another layer of protection, preventing me from walking into the footprint of the architecture. These markers are cold and stone like, almost deplete of color. Only soft, shadowy, scratches that have the appearance of being bleached from age are left behind. They appear to be much older than the artifacts they protect. These markers are cairns. Perhaps they act as a burial monument or serve some unknown ceremonial purposes. I like to believe they are directions for the unseen traveler. They are balanced several high. One stone like object delicately placed on top of the other. Although the cairns measure no more than fourteen inches high, they create a distinct presence.
I step backward, back toward the entry of the installation. I find the bench about halfway there and sit. I am far enough back where I can take in the space in it’s entirety. There behind the light, in the shadows the artist in me returns to my consciousness. It all comes back in waves, I am the curator, I am the caretaker, I am the creator responsible for this space. I am tired both physically and mentally, not just from the months of making essential endless kiln firings for the ceramic elements but also the construction of mixed media components and the emotionally consistent tone needed to bring about the installation. I had made the artistic decision to exclude the hands and abdomen from the reliquaries as symbols. Sitting there exhausted, I am glad I did. To give all that I did I needed to protect the hands as a symbol of my creative and physical agency, while the abdomen served as the part of the body that houses my soul.
Quarry, detail, 2015
10' H x 25' W x 4'D
ceramic, paint, sand
Quarry is dedicated to Kristen Smart, a former Cal Poly student.