Posts Tagged ‘wood’

Classical Proportions/Narrow Perspective

Monday, February 1st, 2010

Available!  $900

Age of Knowledge, 1994: Women, Domesticity and Objects of Power

bronze, wood, mirror 26”h x 14”w x 9”d

I know Rae had fun making this piece.  The concept was straightforward.  She had been working for some time with the FatAn collective, preparing an anthology of works on Fat Activism.  She was never thin, though I do remember a time when we could wear the same jeans.  But she was a feminist, and outraged at the culture of artificial beauty that surrounds us.  She knew from experience that she could not lose her weight and keep her health, and who she was.

The modern image of female beauty is fairly recent, in its thinness, at least.  If you look at classical statues, the proportions of the women in them are much rounder than anything you’d see in a magazine.  So this piece is a statement of how our perspective has literally changed.  The columns (made from wedding cake decorations!)  and the pulchritudinous forms lounging at their feet represent classical beauty.  The mirror is made intentionally too thin to ever be able to see all of yourself in it, no matter how thin, and so is an analog to the internal image many women have that they are fat.


Happy Imbolc!

Caged Heat

Thursday, January 28th, 2010

Maple, copper, textiles

Caged Heat is a not at all subtle political artistic statement.  For Rae, politics was personal, and spiritual, and personal.  Some of you might recognize the title from a 1974 exploitation film about women in prison.

Since Rae server her time in 1973, and was still on parole in 74, it came at a time she was a bit sensitized to some of the stereotypes in this and other shows.  The basic idea is that if you put a bunch of women together in close confinement, lots of violence and sexual abandon will result.

Rae was always a sexual being.  She was an incest survivor as well.  And a feminist.  These things are not separate, but integral parts of her and a result of her life experiences.  Caged Heat is about the oppression, including self-repression, of the sexuality of women.  The heat is the sensual, sexual, generative power of the female body.  The cage is the Burka, Habit, Wedding Dress;  it is the shaming, the peer pressure, the law;  it is myth, story,  parable, custom; it is rape, abuse, mutilation.

The story is told with textile art, 7 small vignettes in embroidery and applique:
The story of Pandora
Woman as property, passing from father to husband, represented by the wedding dress and land title.
The biblical story of Eve
The Chastity Belt
Female circumcision
Heat-to-toe clothing
The Witch-burnings

The centerpiece is a large copper, um, well, see if you can figure that out yourself.  One little surprise for folks is the mirror inside the slit.  Rae even had a good reason for making it that size.  Take the more common size of female pudenda, get the ratio to a newborn head.  Now increase it so a fully adult head could fit through.

The cabinet the pieces fit in is made of slightly spalted maple.  Closed, it looks shrine-like, open vaguely lunar.  She was making a statement about organized religion, too. But the exterior of the cabinet also has some detail, she carved parts to appear that the wood was actually woven, like a basket, with some parts coming out, perhaps unravelling.  The message overall is that the heat will not be caged.

Rae was very fond of Caged Heat.  She even requested in her funeral instructions that it be placed on her wheelchair. And so we did, with 3 live rose plants, which we later planted out back at our house.

To end, here is in Rae’s own words her artist’s statement on Caged Heat:

Caged Heat

Women have long worshipped at the shrines of our own apocalypse.  The aspects of our horsemen are: Sin, shame, control, fear, temptress, uncleanness, vassal/vessel-hood.  This shrine represents these aspects, aspects that have caged our passions and actions on conscious and sub-conscious levels our interior lives.

These subtle and not so subtle stories, myths and practices have guided our actions, interfered in our relationships and even guided the laws and morals of many of our societies. And women have fallen prey to belief in these aspects.  We believe it of our selves, of other women, of our heroines.

Sin — in the figure of Eve, causing expulsion from the Garden of Eden

Shame — because Pandora released all the sorrows on to the world

Temptress — We cannot be left alone, we cannot be trusted, we can not control our own actions or bodies

Control — Her hair, her skin, and her body must be hidden so as not to tempt or be tempted

Fear — women might judge a mans ability, demand more from him or even seek her pleasures somewhere else, and there is always the fear — that she won’t offer him the best vessel for his pleasure

Uncleanness — Women bleed, we leak milk from our breasts and fluids from between our legs…

Vassal/vessel-hood — we hold the next generation, and we must be “protected” “wedded”  “bedded”…

Women have been reclaiming and struggling for their rights for the last 100 years.  For each step forward, weighted down by these stereotypes and myths, we are dragged back. In the form of backlash groups, woman to woman sexism, legislation, younger women redefining immediate past history, the ongoing ritualization of women’s lives, the lack of equality in almost every country in the world, the ongoing economic and employment sanctions/limits placed on us, etc.  And somehow, the majority of women still assume that the balance of power is still justified, that men still know more, understand more, are generally more trustworthy then other women, and so on.

This shrine was created within ritualized processes to make a change in the world.  With each stitch I visualized a world where women where respected, where we were valued for who we are and what we did, and we had equality.  Each image was created and researched to bring to light the myths that do effect the world view within many cultures.  The shrine was created as a form coming undone, while the vulva shape was created in a size that is of an equal ration to the human head — to symbolize the birthing of new ideas in adults.

These icon images were done in simple embroidery stitches.  Stitchery is an art form long used and perfected by women, and it has a long history of encouraging revolution.  It is also my first art form, begun around the age of 5 and continuing.

Bridget: Lady of Faith Lady of Infamy

Friday, January 15th, 2010

Bridget piece open

English Oak, Mahogany, embroidery.

This piece is breathtaking, truly.  The images I’m posting here do not, cannot do it justice.   Rae worked on this for over 3 years, researching, collecting images and stories, designing the embroideries, finding the wood.

Detail, center section

Bridget: Lady of Faith Lady of Infamy is a tribute to the Irish Goddess and Saint.  It contains images from each iconography, and deftly shows how they interact and mingle. The three panels represent the goddess on the left, the Saint on the right,

and in the center, an image of the woman who was both, surrounded by the many names given to her, and symbols linked to her: Horseshoe, Acorn, Holly, ferns, a yellow flower I don’t remember the name of…  She also put a copper cauldron, in the style of her Water Cauldron, below her image in the center panel.

detail of Goddess panel

The left panel features a sacred spring, with a flame rising from the water, and an ancient Oak tree shading and sheltering it.  The pool is circled with rocks, there is grass, a small Rowan tree, the sun setting in the distance. (or is it rising?)

The right panel has the tower from St. Brigid’s Cathedral in Kildare, a celtic stone cross, and the eternal flame

tended by the Brigidine nuns, who are “unlike any other Catholic Order, for they embrace the Goddess aspect of Brighid and honor that fully.”

Detail right pane

The triptych is embroidery floss on linen, and I watched it slowly form.  I even timed Rae working on a section, calculated how long a square inch took to finish, and then extrapolated.  There are over 600 square inches of embroidered area in the piece, and it took her between 3 and 5 hours to do a square inch, depending on how many different colors it included, how often she had to change needles or thread, and how much attention she could give it.

I had some scraps of English Oak from a project long ago, and so Rae was familiar with the deep brown, open grain.  We found some at BVC Hardwoods (Thanks, Larry!), and Rae designed the cabinet/frame to look cathedral-like.  When closed, you see a pair of Mahogany Celtic crosses, with velvet behind them.

Doors closed

Overall, a true object of devotion and beauty.

Witches Broom Borealis

Saturday, December 19th, 2009

Found wood, painted honeysuckle vine.

This broom started as a beautiful piece of wood with a natural spiraL created by growing together with a vine.  The skirt is honeysuckle, like that in Honeysuckle Dreams, but with each piece painted with pearelescent paints.  
The  stick was also painted,first black, then with subtle highlights of sparkling color.  The inspiration for both was an astronomy picture of a nebula called the Witches Broom.
Nothing hidden, no subtle symbology in this one, just a cosmic flying broom.

Wi5ches Broom Nebula

Ancient Mother, Modern Lies

Sunday, December 6th, 2009
Closed at MFA show

Closed at MFA show

Available! $1000

From the Age of Confusion: Ancient Mother, Modern Lies
walnut, silk, bronze, clay, mirror

AMML_detail

(click images to enlarge)

This is one of the pieces from her MFA show, Women, Domesticity, and Objects of Power.  As most of the pieces, its title begins: From the Age of…
Rae really liked creating this piece, I know.  It combines many different media, tells its story without translation or comment, a different story to each viewer.  She got to work with silk, and photo transfer images; wax figurines that were spin-cast; stained glass; terra-cotta; and wood.  Each aspect could stand alone, together they make an exquisite piece.  AMML_opened
I remember the piece started with the images on the silk, behind the bronze figurines inside the cabinet.  She had seen a set of lovely silk pillows/sachets with goddess images on them, and discovered the images were photo-transfers, so she selected a dozen images of women: the Laussel goddess, Marilyn Monroe, Mae West, others I recognize but can’t name, since I did not take any Art History classes.  She chose the size she would eventually make the box for each, then experimented with the technique till she was satisfied.
The little bronze figurines were painstakingly molded in wax, she carried around a Tupperware container with dental tools and would work on them during lectures and between classes, at meetings, and while watching TV.  They depict shamelessly large, brazen (literally!) voluptuous sexy women in a variety of poses.  The spin-casting technique was fun, too, I helped her set them up.  Instead of a large foundry, the molds were in small steel cylinders.  these were placed on an armature, the molten bronze poured in, and the lid slammed down, which engaged a lever and fulcrum, spinning the mold at several G’s, forcing the molten liquid into the small spaces before it cooled.
The wooden cabinet is reminiscent of a wall clock in shape, I had to help her determine the miter angles, she used spline joints all around, the only metal in the hinges and to tack the back on.  The walnut is carefully matched for color and grain.  The colored glass carefully cut to fit into the doors, I remember holding my breath during that, we only had one piece of glass to use, the last of its color, a beautiful smoking golden.AMML_top_open
AMML_top_closedThe top was another achievement.  Looks a bit like a birdhouse, maybe ready for a cuckoo to pop out of.  The door and it’s frame appear to be made of one piece of wood, so well matched is the grain, but it was not.  The door itself was a piece of Walnut burl, and the frame was carved to receive it’s curves.  Inside Rae placed one of her ubiquitous mirrors, framing a terra-cotta goddess like the neolithic figurines found in Europe, very much like the one in the Spiritus piece from last week’s blog.
I think you know who the ancient mother is, and I’ll let you infer yourselves about the modern lies, as Rae would have.  Enjoy!

Spiritus Muliebris: volutum per aspicio paternus: Totem Series

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009

(Divine Female: Evolution of the Patriarchal Gaze)patriarchal_web

basswood, ash, bronze, stone, broomcorn

Spiritus is one of Rae’s Totem series, which started with Celtic Totem, and also includes the Jumping Knot Broom.  Like Celtic Totem, it tells a story.  But not a folktale, rather the story of the historical record of how the female figure was represented in art, and in spirituality.
I remember Rae asking me what the Latin word for “gaze” was.  She tended to think I could answer any question immediately, and I had, after all, taken 2 semesters of Latin in High School…  So I looked up a variety of words for her, and she crafted the title of this piece from those words and definitions, taking no more liberties than is common in pseudo-latin for scientific names, and certainly few Latin grammar purists to complain.  The name is permanent now in any case, and fits the meaning intended.  The broom represents the evolution over time of the representation of the female form, specifically the sacred feminine form, the evolution of the gaze of the patriarchy.
The broom comes apart for storage and transport, like the Celtic Totem, with the stick part forming a tenon at its base, fitting into the base of the broom.  So I will start the description of the broom from the bottom, which is the beginning of the timeline represented, as well.
SPIRITUS_BASEThe very bottom is a block of Ash, with some beautiful grain in it, supporting a block of limestone, to protect both the stone and any floor it would have to sit on.  The Ash wood was sculpted to fit the irregularities of the stone underneath, and two holes were bored through the wood and the stone.  The stone itself then represents the Earth, the oldest (non)representation of the sacred female.
Above the stone is Rae’s representation of one of the oldest female figures found by archaeologists, on the Isle of Malta.  Several of thesefertility_Goddess_low statues, all without heads, dating to ~3500BCE were found.  Called by Marija Gimbutas the Giantess, she was obviously important to the people then, and her size, like those of the Willendorf and other figurines, implied that slimness was not a valued attribute in representation of the sacred female.  Rae added a head, I don’t remember what it was modeled from.  The broom makes up Her skirt and legs, with bolts connecting the base below, through the two broomcorn “legs” and into the body of the Goddess, who was carved into two large pieces of Basswood glued into one block.  A cavity in the body accepts the “neck” of the head of the goddess, who’s hare curls into a bun which becomes a snake, coiling up and around the rest of the sculpture.
spiritus_lionsspiritus_lions_backThe next figure is also very old, a curvaceous female with large breasts and buttocks, flanked by two lions, indicating her power and status.  Also very much not a modern pinup. The snake crosses her belly and continues up, she stands with her feet together on the head of the Malta goddess.  Some archaeologists have stated that since there is no head, and all the Maltese figures are “obese”, there is no way to state that it is indeed female.  But ther is definitely no doubt of the gender of this figure.
spiritus_top_frontStanding on her shoulders, with the snake curling around an ankle and between her legs, is a figure from Hindu temple walls, a Lakshmi, perhaps.  Hand on outthrust hip, large but not pendulous bosom, she appears confident and unashamed, but perhaps a little flirtatious, too…
Next is a highly decorated bust of an Egyptian goddess.  More aloof, regal.  More obviously decorative, her power from her rank and position, a beauty to be observed from a distance, with awe and respect.  Rae painted some of the neckpiece with opalescent colors, also used on the earrings of the Indian goddess.
Atop the whole is a bronze statuette, the Virgin Mary, which Rae began with a small statuette, added wax to create a halo with 3 small sand-dollars in it, and added a snake curling around the base of her robe (not under her foot), and 3 starfish on the rock at the base.
It was a lot of carving, a lot of sanding.  There was more wood removed than remaining in the end, and she faced lots of challenges with leaving enough for strength.

Ancient Wisdom Strikes

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009
Ancient Wisdom Strikes

Ancient Wisdom Strikes

Maple, Koa, silver, grass fibers

Ancient Wisdom Strikes was one of the most time-consuming of the Sweeping Changes brooms.  The stick was a solid piece of hard Maple, carved into two intertwining snakes, in a sort of Caduceus.  The snakes have little forked tongues made of silver, looking like lightning striking the outstretched arms of the priestess between them.

The priestess figure will be familiar to students of history, or religion, or religion.  Priestess or Goddess, with a snake in each hand, found in Knossos, Crete, by Arthur Evans around the beginning of the 20th century, dating to 4000 years ago or so.

Rae carved the figure from a piece of Koa, a dark, rich tropical wood that carved well and took a great satin finish.  The Goddess/Priestess has an owl sitting on her head, symbol of wisdom and spiritual power, and holds the two snakes with are touched by the silver tongues of the snakes, like lightning bolts striking and imparting energy to her through them.

Cretan Snake Priestess

Cretan Snake Priestess

Prestess/Goddess at top of broom.  Detail

Priestess/Goddess at top of broom. Detail

The skirt for this one is an antique-looking broadleaf grass, looking somewhat like corn sheaves, slightly thinner.

The symbology here is not subtle, the name of the piece tells the story.  Wisdom, sought after or not, can come with a blinding clarity and immense power.

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.

With Respect to the Whore of Babylon

Tuesday, October 20th, 2009
From the Age of Control

From the Age of Control

In the Collection of Helen Klebesadel

Since I’ve bounced from brooms to cauldrons, them mirrors, I thought I’d introduce one of Rae’s Cabinets.  The Whore, as she affectionately called it, is now in the Collection of Helen Klebesadel.  It consists of a solid black walnut cabinet on a walnut base, with copper panels filling the doorframes.  The top of the cabinet is a fairly good example of standard cabinetry, albeit with some odd angles, since from above it forms an isosceles trapezoid.  The base is unusual in that it appears to be on tip-toe,  its four legs including two widely spaced to the sides, and two very close together front and back, all tapered to be smaller at the floor..  The top edge of the cabinet, and the skirt of the base are crenellated, reminiscent of castle fortifications.

The design was intended to look medieval, for a couple of reasons.  In keeping with reclaiming objects of domesticity and power, in her researches Rae discovered references to the cabinets in feudal households, wherein the wealth of the house was kept (often that meant the few coins they might have, but certainly the precious and rare papers, and the best of the clothing, which often represented the real wealth of the household, in embroidered and beaded dresses and such.  The lady of the house would have the keys to this, often the only locked container in the home.  The walnut was stained dark, and the wood slightly distressed to make it look older and well used.

The copper in the doors consists of two lace doilies, and two engravings on lace frames.  They were created using two different techniques, one of which (electroforming) Rae experimented with quite a bit, and created some beautiful pieces I’ll show later, the other was just for this piece.  The latter was acid etching of an image.

Copper etching of Whore and her mirror

Copper etching of Whore and her mirror

When she decided to use images and symbology from the Book of Revelation, specifically the Whore of Babylon, she found a couple of woodcuts, created a photo-resist image on a sheet of copper of each, and then let acid etch away some of the copper, making a relief image in the copper.

Original image

Original image

The lace was actual lace doilies, stiffened slightly with wax, with a thin layer of metallic copper paint spread on them.  The electroforming process involved a large tank, thick ingots of copper attached to a positive electrode, and the lace with the copper paint had wires attached, connected to a negative electrode, and the lace suspended in a bath of copper electrolyte solution from a bar that moved gently back and forth in the solution.  Copper ions came off the ingots, through the solution, and onto the lace, until they were thick enough for her purposes.  Usually the “mandrel” or form is then removed, but Rae had put copper on both sides of the lace, so it is still trapped within.

Copper Lace

Copper Lace

The two pieces that back the images were attached to them using copper rivets, and the whole then re-immersed, to join them together, stopping when the etched images started to lose definition.

The inside of the cabinet has a glass tile mosaic on the floor, a circular mirror reflecting the viewer, and a lace lining.

Inside of Cabinet

Inside of Cabinet

I know Rae did a lot of reading and collecting material about Revelation, and some of the many interpretations of that work.  I don’t have a lot of it in my head, though, so can’t really give too much more.  Like many if not all of her pieces, though, there are layers of meaning that she intended, and even more that are invoked in the viewer.  Maybe you can see it at Helen’s sometime.

Celtic Totem

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009

OK, so one more Broom, then perhaps I’ll turn to some of Rae’s other  themes, especially if I start getting more feedback.  Any requests?  Cabinets, Cauldrons, Mirrors, Weavings, Copper Electroforms?  Eventually I’ll get them all.

Celtic Totem

Celtic Totem

The Celtic Totem, I think, was the first piece Rae did in Basswood.   She also used broomcorn that we grew in our garden plot at Eagle heights.  (The poor raccoons, who usually got most of the sweetcorn folks planted there, were so confused, it just kept growing taller, and never had any ears to steal!)

It was the most complex carving she did to that date, too, because it was to tell a story.  One that she related many times, unlike most of her other pieces, where if she told the story, it was to an individual or small group, and seldom repeated.

The story is a retelling of one she heard as a child, from her Irish ancestry.  As I recall it:

“Long ago, Ireland was a cold and rock island.  The cold, the poor soil, and the weather made it hard to live there.  The women cried because their children went hungry.  “

Base to Celtic Totem

Base to Celtic Totem

The base, with the homegrown broomcorn, carved to represent a rocky, mountainous island.

“Their tears fell through cracks in the earth and woke a Dragon sleeping there, who then heard their cries.   Out of compassion, she used her fiery breath to warm the land from beneath, making the island lush and green.”

“The women learned the power in their bodies,  had many children, and learned from the island.  They learned to grow food, to raise families.  They grew numerous.dragon-woman

From the wolf, they learned about community, about sharing and protecting each other.  And so they lived their lives well till they died, when the Raven took their souls back to the Earth.”

Celtic Totem top

Celtic Totem top

The broom “stick” is one large piece of basswood.  Rae drew the design on a large strip of paper, transfered it using carbon paper t the front, then flipped both wood and paper to do the same on the back, (just the outline), then sketched in the things that would be viewed on the back.  on each side she did similar sketches, then started removing large chunks of wood.

The carving process

The carving process

At some point, I remember coming up with the idea to mount the piece vertically, so we created a set of braces with “lazy-susan” bearings, and used a small pneumatic jack to tighten the whole thing up against a ceiling joist in the garage.

totem_carving

Rae was very proud of this piece.  She liked her Irish heritage, the symbols all had special power for her, and she wanted to do a Sheela-na-gig ever since she first came on them in her research.  A review of her show by a reporter from a Madison newspaper, I think, called it a “broom for a god”.