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Category Archives: sculpture

Talking through the top of your hat at the drop of a hat.

mixed media on paper

Tundra Swans

Our lives are brief tragic beautiful and surrounded by mystery.  Black marks on a white ground – that is all these words would be but for you they are building a bridge across time and space, following the thought of other minds. (1)

Black marks on a white ground, can they really build bridges? We read books the weather other people read too much into a gesture a look read the potential danger of a situation read it all wrong. Clarity understanding but what of the quality of understanding  has that is that as dense in meaning as the pace the ebb and flow of words across the page a rhythm so lyrical quick quick slow quick quick slow a dancing rhythm the pace of breath to breathe  swallow words whole digest. How much of language uses the body? Can you envision a world without words to define it?

The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan explores all of that.

The Brief, “Between 1878 and 1881, Edgar Degas drew, painted, and sculpted Marie in numerous artworks, most famously in Little Dancer Aged Fourteen, (a wax sculpture half-life size so about thirty inches would be my guess, it always interests me how often measurements are omitted when talking about art) which appears at the sixth exposition of independent artists in 1881 alongside Degas pastels of convicted criminals…

The Tragic, “Critics lauded Little Dancer as “the only truly modern attempt at sculpture, “and saw a street urchin, in her face clearly “imprinted with the promise of every vice”.

Hundreds of young girls lived this life, half-starved because of poverty, exploited and marginalized in a world that saw what? Not who they were or what the effort cost them, nor did they think of how few alternatives their lives offered them. Marie was fortunate, her mother was a laundress, and she had an older sister Antoinette and a younger sister Charlotte who according to the book history did make something of herself in the ballet.

The Beautiful, Degas was forty six when Marie modeled for him. Thirty seven years later, the wax/fabric/hair sculpture was still in his studio. It was only after his death that his heirs “arranged to cast the twenty-eight bronze repetitions”.

The Mystery, Her name was Marie van Goetham. What was Degas trying to capture in that wax figure of a fourteen year old girl and why did he chose to use real fabric for the skirt and real hair for her head? If it was me we were talking about, it would be because it was the most expedient route to capture what he was thinking. Oh and why did he never have it cast?   A mystery.


(1) The College Survey of English Literature the Introduction to William Cowper 1731-1800

Talking about size, the Tundra Swan painting is approximately thirty inches by forty four inches. It was an attempt to explore their communal dance,  a language which I find fascinating.


Garden Art

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Dwarfs, faeries and flamingos so offended an artist, you know the ones, adorning the lawns of our neighbours that one night he abducted them, the idea to hold them for ransom. When caught, his reasoning was that it offended his artistic sensibilities. The owners should pay for the eyesore they inflicted.

We actually don’t have any control over what is displayed in the public domain, or how it is represented, even if we are the artist. That is something we learned the hard way. Chris’ windows can be freely photographed and reproduced on coffee mugs, tee shirts, note cards with no credit to who made the work, the post cards are copyrighted, but apparently not the source of the postcard. Interesting world, interesting sensibilities that allow the original creator to be unnamed.

But, we do have by-lays as I am learning. Never having had neighbours before it is a new idea for me.

It is an interesting idea, to abduct, hold ransom that which offends our idea of beauty, aesthetics.

I have plans for our back garden. But, I can stand on the back porch and see seven neighbouring houses. Is this a public or private place, it is not street front, do I need their permission?metal sculpture

carpe diem

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A assembled found object sculpture that I made years ago, and moved to our new place.

That is the message engraved in the stone, seize the day.

Is Life Compromise?

I have been reading a booklet, 1001 ways to save the Earth. I think we are a day late and a dollar short, but I live with hope.

I am at item two hundred sixty-three, and have learned one new thing. Apparently, they are now building houses that recycle grey water for other things.

I had friends living in a community were water was scarce; they opened up their drain traps put a bucket underneath to catch the grey water and recycled that water into the garden. An easy solution, but not mentioned in the book. The book talks about a system that is installed to recycle grey water for other home uses. That for me is a new use of technology.

My first year in High School a group of us spent two weekends dredging our local gullies of abandoned waste. It was quite a pile we accumulated. We used some to create a monument in our local park. No one thanked us for our trouble. The community saw it as an eye sore and nothing else. No connection was made.

This was years after Rachel Carson’s book, Silent Spring. A fellow student was studying fungi that year. She was dismayed at their decrease in nature. For her it was like the canary in the coal mines, a portent of things to come.

When fresh out of college I was travelling Canada by bus and train with my own coffee mug. David Suzuki was still studying the life of fruit flies.

For me, the good news is finally people are waking up.

happy families

happy families

I unearthed another list today.

metal sculpture

These were notes I made after a meeting with a Landscape Architect and a Set Designer from Stratford Festival. The three of us united to design a collaborative work for the Stratford Garden Festival. I enjoyed working within a group, sharing ideas and thoughts.

Mercy: syn. Benevolence, benignity, blessing, clemency, compassion, favour, forbearance, forgiveness, gentleness, grace, kindness, leniency, mildness, pardon, pity, tenderness

Language: most direct route to intellectual engagement, emotion, and reflection

Nurturing/healing is more to do with physical reality, environment.

Healing is process – engagement with life. i.e. a burnt forest regenerating into another kind of community.

We eventually decided on a direction. The springboard for it was supplied by the set designer, a rod twelve feet long, eight feet high that emitted a soft fall of water, almost a mist. To that, the landscape architect designed a garden that was to be arid, rock and sand with a few succulents. It reminded me of the wash down a mountainside.

To this, I added three sculptures, one in front of the water bound to earth, one in the fall of water moving toward flight, the third to soar. This illusion was achieved by using clear glass as base supports, the two sculptures then float in space, falling, suspended for flight.

It was a winter’s work to build them. The day I finished the final inlays of tile and seashells the phone rang. The garden never was built, and I have yet to see the three together in the landscape.

A few weeks before we were to move I attended a local party. I said to people who had collected my work in the past that the garden sculpture was on a first come first serve basis, all free.

Well, the next morning at nine Christa turned up with a big truck, a trailer and a backhoe, with three helpers. They had it all moved within an hour.

My garden sculptures are now a meditation garden at a local resort.

Someday I will go see it, just not this day.

A view of the garden done with found objects

wire and mirrors

I am always suprised

Christopher designed an art piece for a forty-foot by forty-foot concrete egg crate sky light for the Social Sciences building at the University of Western Ontario.

It was an exciting abstract work. The coloured glass was diffused into the three-story stair well by using sand blasted glass at different angles, becoming a sculptural work as well as one of pure colour.

We travelled to New York to make the glass selection. My first and only time in that amazing city.

The night before we had tickets for The Importance of Being Ernest. The next morning, at a local coffee shop sitting at the breakfast counter a man caught our eyes; he kept looking at us speculatively.

We ended up that day having lunch with him, an artist from the American Mid-west along with the owner of the glass house, an accomplished violinist.

The conversation was interesting. The artist felt that glass was an illustrative story-telling medium. In the Christian and Heraldic tradition that is true.

But my feelings were, it held the potential of music. Think music of the spheres, tuning the universe, an abstracted world harmony.

I couldn’t contribute much to the conversation as I was carrying over forty colours in my head, and all their subtle variations. After lunch, I had to decide which way we were jumping.

The completion of the commission ended with a dedication ceremony. More than one person wanted to know whose colour theory Christopher used in its creation.

The obvious answer is his own. I am always surprised. As artists, the inspiration for any work is a personal journey.


Black and White

Moving has unearthed many treasures, this is one.015

This is our back porch in July, we moved in August.

This quote is from Victor Pasmore’s other catalouge, The Space Within. He does use colour, and many of the works are labeled as just that, Colour Construction in five colours for example. The catalogue is almost all in black and white and grey, and those images seem to me to be all the stronger for it.

If we take a sheet of paper and scribble on it vigorously we become involved in the process of bringing into being something concrete and visible which was not there before. The shape and quality of what we produce is the outcome of forces both objective and subjective: a particular tool, a rotary action and a human impulse. The more we concentrate on this operation the more we are drawn into it both emotionally and intellectually. But as the line develops organically, in accordance with the process of scribbling, we find ourselves directing its course towards a particular but unknown end; until finally an image appears which surprises us by its familiarity and touches us as if awakening forgotten memories buried long ago. We have witnessed not only an evolution, but also a metamorphosis.

In calling this development a work of art we are initiating a new creative process into the history of Western culture because, if we analyse the means by which our object was brought into being, we find that it was essentially intrinsic. What mattered initially was not what our scribble would represent, but what it might become.

Victor Pasmore

February, 1969

That vision of what we could become gives me the confidence to continue, to live and breathe; to be.