Tuesday, May 29, 2012

g won't let me use the good title

No sculpting over the long weekend.  I did accidentally start a new drawing but it's likely to be neglected until the sculpture idea well dries up.  Sculpturally speaking, it's been a good start to summer.  The long weekend was nice but Saturday was a standout day.

 Violet spent quality time with her buddy Zeke.

 We got brave enough to venture over to the Ware Shoals Catfish Feastival.

 There were strange buildings and merry go rounds.

 And teeth!

 Blue and Violet had a great time.

 G and I both found the merry go round to be more nauseating than when we were kids.

 Then we stumbled upon tons of hot air balloons just outside Freedom Weekend Aloft.

 The balloons came up as we drove by and we stopped and watched as they drifted over us.

 Literally....right over us.

And the Plantation produced it's first crop of vegetables.  I'm so happy I'm going to break my rule and eat something green.

Monday, May 28, 2012

sculpture is the new black

Ask any of my Sculpture students what their most important class is and they’ll tell you it’s Sculpture.  Ask any of my 3D Design students what their most important class is and they’ll tell you it’s 3D Design.

I’m not saying they really believe this is true, I’m just saying I’ve trained them to answer this way.  It’s sort of a running joke I have with them.  I start early in 3D Design telling them that flat things are boring.  This is a not-so-veiled reference to Drawing, Painting, Photography, Printmaking & Graphic Design.  Most students come in as freshmen knowing they can draw or photograph or paint or design on a computer and they know this is what they’ll use to pursue a career.  Sculpture is bulky, it can be expensive and you need a different set of tools and equipment to do it.  This makes it almost nonexistent in the public school system and rare even in well funded private schools.  The lack of experience at the K-12 level keeps most incoming freshmen from thinking they’ll want to do anything but survive the required Sculpture course with a passing grade.  Very few students expect to love it and so by pitting Sculpture in a mock battle against all the other areas, I’ve found a goofy way to get students excited about it. 

With that in mind, I start early preparing my students to do more than just survive the required classes.  I explain that one of the reasons people avoid 3D work is that it’s harder.  You may be skilled in designing in two dimensions but when you throw that third dimension in, things get very difficult.  The design has to function and hold up from 360 degrees instead of just 180 (or 20).  You also have to learn other skills in order to create three dimensional work.  You have to be able to do some basic wood working, welding or easy chemical mixing and you have to know how to do those things properly and safely.  So I make sure my students know that 3D Design and Sculpture are more advanced levels of artistry.  And yes, I realize how elitist that sounds.

The fun thing is that in the advanced sculpture classes you can actually see the students start to come to the realization that making sculpture, in fact, requires a mastery of all those 2D areas.  One of my advanced classes recently completed a public sculpture project and between brainstorming ideas and installing the finished sculptures they had to:

 - Use graphic design skills to digitally render a sketch of their sculpture and manipulate it into a photograph of the installation site.

- Use graphic design software skills to create PowerPoint or Adobe slide shows for their proposals

- Use drawing skills to develop their ideas and render their sculptures from several views

- Use painting skills to add color to the surface of their sculptures

- Use photography skills to document the entire process and to create portfolios of their work

And at that point, the charade is up and my students realize that I haven’t been telling them that the 2D classes were not important, but rather I’ve been telling them that the 2D classes are crucial as those skills help make them better sculptors.  I want them to see that the 2D classes are not always an end.  Sometimes they are the means to an end.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

the flowers of guatemala

Joan Miro was said to have held the belief that "the marvelous was to be found in the most commonplace experiences" *

With that in mind here are some commonplace experiences from our young summer:

 my mom at the indoor shooting range

 my view during the shooting test

 violet running

 blue blowing bubbles

 bubble and sky

 and with trees

 5K field day...the tug of war finale

 5K graduation play starring blue as herb the gardener

 blue marching.  i think the white blur on the left is the glare from my head

violet trying on the hat after some chocolate cake

* Carolyn Lanchner's essay from the book "Joan Miro" published by the Museum of Modern Art.  Quote is from page 19 discussing the painting "Person Throwing A Stone At A Bird"

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

portrait as an annoying duck

Rarely do we get the chance to see ourselves they way others see us.  That is, unless a couple of your most sarcastic students create a tiny sculptural rendition of you.  This is apparently me.  Or at least the me that my students see.  Smooth, shiny oval head, evil eyebrows, a giant scowl and shouting the words "Wok Wok Wok!!"  (work, work, work). 

I haven't figured out the symbolism behind my body being a rubber duck body yet.  Very strange. 

Oh, and there's glitter. I loathe glitter. 

Well done, ladies.  Well done.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

summer so far

 blue lost his first tooth

whales have invaded the basement

Monday, May 7, 2012

How to eat an elephant

Please excuse the seriousness.

The running joke is that I have no heart.  Or if there is any organ in my body with some sort of emotional root it is likely made of stone or coal.  This idea is generally held by my students and sometimes by my wife.  The students get it from my ability to separate the personal and emotional from the observable evidence present in a work of art.  This simply means that in my world it doesn’t matter if the student stayed up for 72 hours working on the project that was designed to be a memorial for their grandmother if the project itself is poor quality.  We’ll look at the elements and principles of design and the handling of the media and if it measures up, great.  But if it’s bad, it’s bad….granny or no granny.  I also may come across as heartless when I generally avoid questions about my family or personal life.  I’m a hermit, what can I say?
I’ve also been accused of repressing any real feelings or emotions.  Of course, most of my accusers are simply transferring their own issues over to me, but that’s another story altogether.  The thing is, this may be a bit more accurate but I’m still going to reject the use of the word “repressing”.  I like to think of it as postponing.  Eventually something big happens and you really don’t have time to think about it properly at that exact moment.  And sometimes that big something is just too big to take on all at once.  My approach is to take in the event and postpone my reaction to it as much as possible until the event can be processed and my reactions can be productive.  How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time, right?

At the end of March, my dad died pretty suddenly.  He was 73 and he’d racked up a rather impressive list of surgeries and ailments in those 73 years.  Open heart surgery, mitral valve replacement, back surgery, all sorts of things removed, all sorts of things repaired and while these all seemed huge to me, the youngest son, to him they were only speed bumps.  Each ailment was promptly tackled and beaten into submission.  He’d use the time in the hospital to rest up before heading back to the shop to work.  Hospital stays were like power naps to him. 
I’m describing him this way not to mislead you or exaggerate the truth, but because my dad was a champion among men.  He was wise, he was charming, he was hilarious and he was an excellent father and grandfather.  
When he was admitted to the hospital this last time we all thought this would be just another speed bump.  When things took a more serious turn I had to fall back on my strategy of postponing.  That last day he was with us there were all sorts of things that needed to be processed.  I wondered what would happen if he didn’t get over this one.  It was tough to imagine a world without my dad in it.  It was also tough to see him near the end.  There were computers and machines and alarms.  It didn’t help that half our family is made up of registered nurses and we all know what the machines do and what the alarms mean.   
I didn’t want to see him like that but I was lucky enough to be in the room with him during his final hours here.  My mind was racing with questions and worries while my eyes studied the face and hands of my dad.  The hands were familiar in the way that your drive to work is familiar.  You know the next curve and hill before you really see it.  And when you do lay eyes on it, it is just as you expected.  These were the hands that taught me how to hold a welding lead when I was seven.  The hands that wrapped around mine to teach me the slow and steady motions that create a beautiful welding bead.  They were the hands that tickled me until I couldn’t breathe when I was a kid.  They were the hands that deflected sparks as they held steel in place for me to weld.  They were big hands because they could handle anything.
His face was familiar too but in a different way.  Maybe it was like the way you remember your elementary school.  It’s all right there in your memory and it’s definitely accurate until you go back and walk the halls.  When you are there again the scale of everything is off because you are full size now and you can never really see it like you did when you were a child.  His face was just as I remembered and yet somehow different.  I found myself focusing on the things that seemed different.  The form of his nose, the curves of his mouth, the form of his chin.  I knew those were the final moments and I somehow felt compelled to memorize his face.  As if there’d be a test later. 

The week after the funeral I shaved my face completely smooth for the first time in almost 20 years.  The goatee was too long and it was time for a change.  (You people with hair can get a new do or a new cut, but my choices are much more limited)  When the dust cleared after shaving I looked in the mirror and saw the nose, mouth and chin of my dad.  I walked downstairs and the first thing my wife said was “Dang, you look just like your dad.”  It’s not a moment I can describe using the limitations of words but it was quite significant for me.  Maybe I’ll get the guts to grow it back soon, but that’s a bite I’ll take another day. 
I’m sure this elephant is going to take me a while anyway.

His friends and students always called him "Mac".  This was a wire from a rose on his casket...twisted nervously while talking to people after the graveside service.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

23 reasons to go to the end of the road

End of the Road Studios in Walhalla is one of the coolest places you'll ever visit.  I now present you with 23 reasons to go:

1.  The building was designed by Stan and Robin, the husband and wife team who work here.  Stan and I were college roommates. 

2.  The main entrance shows you the combination of old and new, common and quirky.

3.  I hear they have awesome sculptures there mixed in with the landscaping.

4.  The beautiful gallery space is the middle area that connects the 2 working studios.  You'll need an hour or so to see everything in here.

5.  One of the things you'll see is the homemade lighting.

6.  Ok, this is shameless self promotion, but they also have some cool drawings to sell with those cool sculptures.  They take Visa.

7.  The guestroom.  You'll need some time here too.  That's one of Robin's deer heads on the wall with acrylic antlers.

8.  The ceiling in the guestroom.  Made completely of doors.  Awesome.

9.  Stan's studio.  The cleanest clay studio around. 

10.  Stan's birds.  These guys are everywhere and they are attached to the coolest objects you can imagine.

11.  Behind the bird, another great homemade light fixture.  You'll be inspired to make your own.

12.  Antique furniture and more drawings.

13.  Stan's birds.  They really are nice enough to mention twice.

14.  Pennies on the floor.  This is the kitchen and the floor is completely tiled in pennies. 

15.  The windows bring the outside inside.  But if you still want to go outside, there's seating available.

16.  The bathroom.  Robin's pop art pieces on the wall.  There's also a livestock watering trough as a bathtub.

17.  Another view of the kitchen.  More light fixtures and another great deer head by Robin.

18.  Robin's studio.  Yet another homemade light fixture. 

19.  Cool chairs and a monkey made by Robin.

20.  What do you do when you start running out of cool recycled siding for your cool studio?  You use license plates, of course.

21.  The clothesline.  Covered in some of Stan's mom's originals. 

22.  The rumor is that Robin cleared the woods by herself and Stan did the artistic landscaping. 

23.  Elvis.

The studio will be open to the public on Tuesdays and Thursdays through the summer and pretty much any time you want if you call ahead.  The next big sale will be in December but there' no reason to wait that long. 

You can find the End of the Road at 255 East Bear Swamp Road, Walhalla, SC and on the internet at www.endoftheroadstudios.com.  You can also call 864.506.6116 to chat with Robin about buying some stuff.  You could cover all your Christmas, birthday, Mother's day and baby shower shopping all in one place. 

I have unofficially appointed Robin to be my manager from this point forward.  You might want to mention that to her when you see her.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

and finally....

Graduation happened...

This motley crew walked the stage*, switched their tassels and became citizens of the world. I had the joy of teaching all but one of them in sculpture this past year.  Some of them even grew to love that third dimension. 

 Melissa even changed religions.  She once belonged to the cult of photography where she won awards and generally wowed people with her camera skills.  This year she converted to sculpture and her life has been amazing ever since.  Let this be a lesson to you all.

Oops.  Accidental photo taken while having our big group photo taken.

There's the big group photo of professors and art graduates.  We are proud of them and their work.  Now please hire them so they can afford grad school.

*Visual Arts falls at the very end of the alphabetical listing of graduates in the ceremony making this gang the last bunch to walk the stage.  Somehow the timing got confused and Jamie had to walk in slow motion across the stage so as not to crowd the graduate in front of him.  This threw Melissa off as well causing her to do some sort of slow motion creeping tip toe type of dance.  Everyone laughed at these two as they closed out the program with their eccentricities.