Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Week 15: "Cavatina"

So far I have focused on bits and pieces of my process and work leading up to the Shadow Circus Exhibition at the Marietta/Cobb Museum of Art. This week I would like to demonstrate the creation of one of my new pieces from start to finish.

As with many of my pieces, the inspiration for "Cavatina" started with the object itself.  To say that my friend, Darrell Ezekiel, and I love to scavenge is a bit of an understatement. Perhaps it is closer to an obsession. So, one unseasonably warm day in December found us at a local antique market, Scott's, looking for interesting objects to add to our collection or use in our work. It is there I saw this old, dusty, wooden violin case that immediately sang to me. After learning that the case was 150 years old from a Paris estate, I was hooked.  How could I pass on a piece whose beautiful patina hinted at its rich history?

I immediately knew the story would revolve around finding the contentment and ecstasy along life's journey and for me those moments of grace have always been shared.  I started working on two figures simultaneously.  As with all my work, I build the figures piece by piece.  I start building the torso and head separately and then attaching them.

I then add and define the upper arms while working on the forearm and hands.  After the lower arms are attached I then further refine and add definition.  This process is continued with the legs: attaching the upper legs first and then working the calf and foot separately and attaching.

The challenge in particular for this piece was working with the body construction to create a position that evoked the emotion I wanted the figures to relate and that would work with the violin case.  Since clay shrinks as it dries and in the kiln,  I had to take that into account during construction.

To finish the pieces, I applied multiple layers of slips, underglazes, and stains. As mentioned in previous posts, I tried to contrast the defined structure of the figure with mark making and a loser application of color.  I wanted to make each character distinct but seeming to belong to the same melody.

After these figures were fired in the kiln, the assembly process begins.  I love this part!  Much of the building process I need to focus on the technical aspects of proportion, expression and collaboration with the mixed media.  However, during the assembly process I can have fun working with the different media in my studio to further build the narrative of the piece.

A reoccurring theme in my work is how we are all tethered to a terrestrial journey.  Wheels are a symbol of this--so I added vintage wheels (another pickin' find).  I also cleaned and varnished the case, being careful to bring forth the patinas in the woodwork and hardware.  However, my favorite little creative adventure was creating the string instrument held by one of the figures.  As serendipity would have it, when I cleaned out the case I found an old bridge.  This became the body of the instrument in combination with small bits and pieces of scrap I have lovingly stored in my studio.

And the result became "Cavatina."  A simple, sometimes brilliant aria in an opera. A small melodic piece in a larger body of work.  And for me that is grace.  It is fleeting and never repeated in the same way, but when achieved it is a brilliant moment in the melody of our life's journey.