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10 Years Gone, Still Powerful.

Saturday, November 17th, 2018

Rae’s work will be on display again in the Spring of 2019.  The show:

Still Powerful: feminist revisioning of domestic objects by Rae Atira-Soncea, will be March 20-April 3, 2019, on the 3rd floor Commonwealth Gallery, 100 S Baldwin, Madison WI 53703

Reception will be Saturday, March 23, 2018 4-7:30PM.  Much of the art you can see in this blog will be on display, and we are hoping some of it will find itw way into your hearts, and that many of the pieces will find new hopes.  I relly want to see her art on display in the world, in homes and galleries, not in storage.

remembering Rae

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

After Helen called –I poured my grief into an embroidery. See it http://labweb.education.wisc.edu/~lnelson/memory-cloths/atira.html
She was such an amazing person. I met her as my student & she became my teacher — How to live with integrity, creativity, humor and love.
“Atira” is also the image on my home page, www.LesleeNelson.com
She changed lives.

Cosmic Sequence: Sky Broom

Monday, October 26th, 2009
Sky Sweeper in Sweeping Changes

Sky Sweeper in Sweeping Changes

Available! $500

… and back to the Brooms.  This week’s entry is a monumental broom, the tallest from Sweeping changes, titled “Sky Sweeper”.  Made of found wood, ting-ting, silver solder and glitter.  It soars over 8 feet tall, with a crown I always thought looked like a dragon’s head.  (I love the shadow it makes as well, with a strategically placed light)

The stick is a piece of ironwood, (Ostrya virginiana, hophornbeam), with another piece the rootball from I believe a willow, with the ironwood cleverly inserted into a hole and filled with a mix of sawdust and glue to make it disappear.  The hornbeam cracked as it dried, revealing its spiral grain, and Rae worked solder into these cracks, tappisky-stickdetailng lightly with a hammer.  a tiny bit of glue and a few sprinklings of glitter…

head_only

Detail of “head”

The skirt came from a florist supply house, they called it tingting.  Some of it is natural, some dark dyed, some gold and some silver with glitter.  About 1/4 inch at a time was wrapped around the stick, then another layer, then another, and the final layer with a few turns of silver cord.

skySweeperbase3

Skirt with base visible

You may have noticed by now I describe the process a lot.  I watched, held, and helped, as well as consulted and opined on the process a lot more than the design and symbology.  So I know more and remember more about those things, and am more comfortable relaying them.  Anything I say about the inspiration or meaning is mostly my own interpretation, or my imperfect memory of what I heard Rae describe at a show.

I have not yet described for any of the brooms what went into making them stand up.  Rae went through quite a process to try to figure something out in time for her Sweeping Changes show.  The totems were not really a problem.  The Celtic Totem actually has an iron I-beam under the skirt.  The bronze broom is welded to a circular plate with bolts through it.  But for the ones with fiber or broom or twig skirts, she consulted with several of her instructors, and tried to come up with something that would not get in the way of the broom’s lines. For this and several of the others, she ended up with two small iron rings welded to 3 soft iron bars 1/8″ by 3/4″, the rings surround the end of the stick, the bars go down and flare outward, and have small hold used to screw them down to platforms.  (we were not  very good about documenting process, so I can’t show you under the skirts, sorry.)

Sky Sweeper was inspired by Chinese Dragons, and stories/folklore Rae found concerning storms being caused by gods sweeping out their domiciles.  Sand and dust storms from the dry stuff, and rain and wind from the cleaning.

Mirror of Life, Mirror of Death

Tuesday, October 13th, 2009
Celtic Mirror Back

Also Known as the Celtic Mirror, this piece was first shown in 1994 at the show I highlighted last week.  Called “Age of Acceptance: Mirror Of Death/Mirror Of Life”  It stands 15″ tall, weighs about 10 lbs.   On one side, shown on the left, is a Celtic Design consisting of 5 triple spirals, or Triskelions.  The mirrors “handle” is a braid, which turns into a base consisting of 3 snake heads.  Lots of symbology here.

In her words from a later artist statement:

“My stories begin with the myth, the folk tale, the superstition and the stereotype hidden in our own homes.  The familiar object with the obscure story attached, the piece we are aware of, but don’t notice, the inconsistency that some of us avoid…  The relationship to women and the contradiction we live with daily…

…Similarly, the pot changes from a simple cooking implement, to a cauldron for unholy potions, our contrary roles of nurturer, healer, poisoner, witch….  The mirror becomes an object of vanity or magical sight. Mirrors gave me a gift of story about beauty,  about vanity, a view of women as perhaps less intelligent, more fragile in their beauty that draws rescue, or repels it with the contradictions of intelligent and beauty… Woman as more susceptible to “evil”, or  our powers to entice or attract “evil”, or be evil…  Contradictions in the face of beauty… ”

Mirrors are a common magical tool.  They can not only reflect the real world, they can be a window into the spiritual, the future, the invisible.  For this purpose, it does not need to be a perfect reflective surface, so Rae did not polish the mirror surface to its potential.  She had found pictures of old bronze mirrors from Greece and Rome.

Celtic Mirror Front

Celtic Mirror Front

The ‘face’ of the mirror is just reflective enough to give the impression of looking through a veil at a golden version of the room you are in, heavily distorted, and only coming into focus when you relax and look “through” it.   It is too heavy to use as a hand mirror, but stands well, and is stable on its three snake-head ‘legs’.

The mirror top was made of a circle of wax in a plate, with the decorations made by cutting out of a thin slab of wax. Details and the spirals were cut in with clay tools.  The handle was an actual braid of human hair, the snakes made by creating molds from Geltrate and plastic snakes, then pouring molten wax into the molds, and melding the wax to the hair, with a chopstick to give it rigidity to stand up long enough to place in the plaster and cast the bronze.

Handle and Base

Handle and Base

The name came last.  I am not positive about it’s exact meaning.  Like much art, the artist creates, has a vision, and the viewer (consumer? audience? ) interacts with it, their own experience informing their interpretations.  Literally, given the magical use of mirrors for scrying, the mirror of death could mean peering through the veil to communication with those who have left the world, miirror of life to view the present or future.