Thank you tears

Dear Sunflower,

I want to thank you for sharing your grief and tears with me. What a relief to be able to cry. Thank you. And to be very clear, we share much more happy, laughter, appreciation, and richness together.

Not long after we became friends, you were going through a disappointing breakup. You showed up at my house and sat at my kitchen table and cried your eyes out about how sad you were. I had not the slightest idea what to do or say. I shallowly wondered if you didn’t have a closer friend than I to cry to. I was in my mid thirties, you in your late twenties. I did not understand how much you wanted, or I wanted, for that matter, to have kids of your own. For you the grief was about the dissolution of the relationship, your boyfriend and some friends being disappointing and unloyal. But really you cried a woman’s cry about wanting to have a family of your own, and worried you would not have the chance, or find someone who valued you in that way.  I was not helpful to you, and was embarrassed by my coldness. I was too afraid of my own same feelings to be present for yours. I apologize.

You have a lot of lovely friends. I didn’t quite get that you valued me especially and wanted to be closer. You offered some great ideas about traveling to Mockabee’s place together to see it before he died. I didn’t make it a priority, and I regret not taking the time to spend with you before we got busy with other things.

You have big feelings. I was not comfortable with big feelings until my life got more solid.  You have a FAMILY with big feelings. A beautiful, quirky, unpredictable and loving family that acts up in flawed ways. You all love, accept, and forgive each other because of and despite of those big feelings and flaws. That was a safety I hadn’t experienced about feelings until I got to know your family better over the years. And I am so grateful you have shared your family with me.

I’ve been to three funerals so far which kicked my butt. Two of those were for two of your parents’ funerals. I don’t know if I will ever forget them. Your parent was obviously an incredible person, influential, and much loved. His service was standing room only. There were poets, singers, dancers, speakers, friends, and tears. A room full of tears, that were then banished by a soul singer who sang us into celebration. I got to cry for the family I did not have, for being a witness to a life wonderfully and fully lived. That crying I got to do was the loving kind of grief that urges you on to doing your best in this short time.

The next funeral was smaller, but full of delicious tears. One brother, younger by two years, spoke and cried. He talked about brothers and their relationship. I had the wonderful opportunity to take my two boys to the service with me and teach them that one of them would be doing this for the other in the future, hopefully a long time from now. And then you got up and spoke about your Dad, shamelessly crying through the whole beautiful thing which included geometry, old cars, and his love of a good conversation.

And you have given me a great lesson, that there is no shame in crying big tears and feeling big feelings. That we love who we love and want what we want and it is all fleeting and we grieve it. We enjoy, but we grieve, these connections and attachments. We let them go, but they have changed us. You have taught me to enjoy my tears and to be grateful for the opportunity to have loved and wanted more.

I love you. I sure hope we have more time together.

 

Cut wood timbers with 4 pairs of radii

Getting Through the Four Gates

12
12″x16″ timbers

I am one of the most determined and persistent people you may meet. A blessing and a curse, it takes me on many adventures.

The sculpture Four Gates is inspired by Mark Helprin’s The Winter’s Tale. It is about trials and adventures one has to go through to find their perfect place in a perfect city. I dreamed up a sculpture that I hoped would do it justice. I made models. My friend Dharmesh Patel did architectural drawings for the fabricators. I had large steel circles fabricated.

I ordered huge wood timbers from a corbel mill that I thought could also cut the wood. They could not, too big. The huge wood timbers were shipped to me and needed a forklift to move.  Suddenly four timbers 12″x16″, two at 10′ long and two at 8′ long, were being hauled around the city like giant hot potatoes. And I’m not kidding: first to east Austin where I work. Then to north Austin to a place with a giant saw in Pflugerville. Then back to east Austin to another shop. Then to Delta Millworks, where they sat quite a while as I had many lumber guys shake their heads “no”. My install deadline for the show was in three days, and the structure wasn’t even cut yet, much less put together.

Moreland 1
Doug Moreland 1st cut

My persistence peaked, my heels locked in for the push. The giant bandsaw was right there. Would they please just do the job? Would they let me use the saw? Please? Please? Please? No. No. No.

So in one final act of desperation, I picked up the phone one more time called the chainsaw master: DOUG MORELAND.  “I have a project… I know you are busy, I know my deadline is ridiculous. Other guys who wield chainsaws said no. Please look at them before saying yes or no, they are really big and I don’t want them trucked again for no reason…” etc.

Cut wood timbers with 4 pairs of radii
Cut wood timbers with 4 pairs of radii

He showed up the next day with a trailer, seemed to wonder why these were a problem to anyone else. He hauled them to South Austin where he cut them that afternoon. I think Doug’s tagline ought to be “Magician and Chainsaw Artist”.

With Humberto Trevino Jr’s help, we fitted the rings onto the timbers in my back yard, then hauled them again to West Austin, where many of my friends did the heavy lifting to get them into a gallery. The piece is installed at the Dougherty Art Center for the month of June.

Humbertoworking
Humberto working
carrying wood
Carly Walker, Randy Bounds and Larry Vanston carrying wood
Metal Liberated Apollo sculpture

Shining and Descending Apollo, Process

Apollo Drawings
Apollo Drawings

Apollo, the sun god, son of Leto and Zeus–god of light and the sun, truth and prophecy, healing, plague, music, and poetry; leader of the muses. In my cosmology, all hell and heaven are within me, while I am alive in this body in this time and place on earth. In the Greek cosmology, all the prototypes are externalized and personified.  My friend Dianna often says, though I think she might have picked it up from Walter, that looking at love is like looking at the sun. Certainly, with the coming solistice and hot heat of summer in Austin, the sun god is upon us.

This piece began with a 72″ diameter 1/4″ thick steel dish, that I wanted to be my own personal sacred space, a mini temple of adoration and concentration. So I started with many, many ink drawings composed within a circle and thought about what was right for this piece.

Then I projected and made a stencil for the shape that I chose. I chose the shape based on an iconographic symbol that was continuous–it also need to extract mass from the steel dish and use it as a positive shape and which will create two related pieces. The shape had to work compositionally within a circle at every view point and have no “up” or “down” orientation.

I was delighted with the drawing onto the steel, and more so once I started plasma-cutting the shape out.  It took an astonishing amount of time to cut the shape out of the steel, and then to hammer and wedge the shapes apart. I really liked the burnt edges of the spray painted stencil. In the process I saw the shape separated and liberated from its original material, and become an independent positive shape with its own expression and identity.

Shining Apollo will be a dome that sits on 4 steel columns 6’6″ off the ground. Descending Apollo will hover, just off the ground, suspended from it center point – spinning, free, and ready.

Cutting Apollo
Cutting Apollo

I am so excited to share these works with you at my upcoming show in June at the Dougherty.

Liberated Apollo
Liberated Apollo

Stencil spray painted onto steel of ApolloStencil spray painted onto steel of Apollo

Stencil Apollo
Stencil Apollo

 

Hymn of Apollo, by Percy Bysshe Shelley

I.
The sleepless Hours who watch me as I lie,
Curtained with star-inwoven tapestries,
From the broad moonlight of the sky,
Fanning the busy dreams from my dim eyes,–
Waken me when their Mother, the gray Dawn,
Tells them that dreams and that the moon is gone.

II.
Then I arise, and climbing Heaven’s blue dome,
I walk over the mountains and the waves,
Leaving my robe upon the ocean foam;
My footsteps pave the clouds with fire; the caves
Are filled with my bright presence, and the air
Leaves the green Earth to my embraces bare.

III.
The sunbeams are my shafts, with which I kill
Deceit, that loves the night and fears the day;
All men who do or even imagine ill
Fly me, and from the glory of my ray
Good minds and open actions take new might,
Until diminished by the reign of Night.

IV.
I feed the clouds, the rainbows, and the flowers,
With their ethereal colors; the Moon’s globe,
And the pure stars in their eternal bowers,
Are cinctured with my power as with a robe;
Whatever lamps on Earth or Heaven may shine,
Are portions of one power, which is mine.

V.
I stand at noon upon the peak of Heaven;
Then with unwilling steps I wander down
Into the clouds of the Atlantic even;
For grief that I depart they weep and frown:
What look is more delightful than the smile
With which I soothe them from the western isle?

VI.
I am the eye with which the Universe
Beholds itself, and knows it is divine;
All harmony of instrument or verse,
All prophecy, all medicine, is mine,
All light of art or nature; – to my song
Victory and praise in its own right belong.

Four Gates Model

Four Gates, In Process

Measurement for Four Gates, North Gate at 96
Measurement for Four Gates, North Gate at 96″ diameter, CAD drawing by Dharmesh Patel

 

Four Gates plan view with brackets
Four Gates plan view with brackets

My inspiration for the sculpture Four Gates is from Mark Helprin’s Winter’s Tale.

There is a short chapter at the end of the first third of the book, page 219, titled Four Gates. Here is an excerpt from the chapter:

“To enter a city intact it is necessary to pass through one of the new gates. They are far more difficult to find than their solid predecessors, for they are tests, mechanisms, devices, and implementations of justice. There once was a map, now long gone, one of the ancient charts upon which colorful animals sleep or rage. Those who saw it said that in its illuminations were figures and symbols of the gates. The east gate was that of acceptance of responsibility, the south gate that of the desire to explore, the west gate that of devotion to beauty, and the north gate that of selfless love. ”

I am combining my thoughts about Vitruvius’ man extended to the diameter of his reach, one diameter my size, or 78″, one 84″, one 90″ and one 96″. So I have imagined a sculpture for four people to interact with and create a gateway into a space of connection.

Four Gates Model
Scale model of Four Gates in the shop

Here are a few more working drawings and photographs.

Four Gates Rings
The big rings in my yard
From the perspective of looking at the South Gate, which is 78
From the perspective of looking at the South Gate, which is 78″ diameter
footdetail from paintings

Freedom and Connection

footdetailI used to experience freedom only when alone. At first it was seeking refuge outdoors from my family. Then I found it in books. I found it in my studio. I found it driving fast in a car, riding my motorcycle, racing down a mountain on skis. Outdoors in nature, feeling solitude and safety; sitting in a tree watching; hiking unobserved. Swimming at UT’s giant swimming pool. I love those kinds of freedom, I still pursue those experiences. But I have had enough surprising experiences with others lately that I have begun to pick up a new scent to follow: the transcendent freedom that comes with openly and freely engaging someone in conversation, dance, touch, or play. I want to bring that intimacy into my studio practice and ask people who I trust to engage with me in making drawings with me. Drawings are a low investment of materials and time, so there is more freedom to let go in the process and see what happens without attachment to outcome. The work I will be showing at the “Sacred Space” show in June will hopefully document some of the pieces that I make in the next month that engage others. I have made a few already. I want the drawings to be records of the experiences that I have in trusting.  I want to document the sacred space between you and me.

 

Allowing the Muse

372px-Belvedere_Apollo_Pio-Clementino_Inv1015It is an interesting concept to externalize the Muse as a deity or person. As writers and artists have said over many years, put in the hours and do the work and sometimes the Muse shows up. The Muse bestows brilliance that transcends your limits. It is magic. It is connected, engaged freedom. Beauty surrounds us, we are made of love. I cannot chase it, demand it, or need it. I can only busy myself with my work and make myself vulnerable to the Muse. I cannot be sad when the Muse does not come back—begging and bargaining scares away the muse. I can only be humbled and grateful that the Muse ever came once, and if lucky, more than once.  I will return to the studio and do my work, make the time and space, and allow the Muse to come, to be enjoyed. To make work that others can appreciate, enjoy, and be inspired to show up to do their own work.  I will ask him, without expectation, to come.

I turned to my Greek reference shelf to do a little reading up about the Muse. Of course Homer, and many other Greeks, started their story-telling by beckoning the Muse. “Menin Aieda Thea…” which translates to “Wrath Sing Goddess”.  The Greeks put the word with the most emphasis at the first place in the sentence. You will know when hearing the first word of the first sentence of the Iliad that the story coming will be about about Wrath.

Yes, this is an image of a sculpture of beautiful Apollo. What might my Muse look like? Will I get to immortalize him on in a drawing or shape? I hope he will visit me long enough to capture the essence on paper.

Sing Joy, Muse.

Sing Pleasure and Surprise.

Sing Trust. Sing Intimacy.

Muse: Sing Connection. Guide my hand.

Triumph Thunderbird 900cc

Freedom and Safety

Most the activities I enjoy, and experiences I seek out, play with my comfort level of acting freely in a safe context. Safety means different things to different people. I am more comfortable with risk because I have a depth of life experience that not everyone has. And I know myself well–I am a good friend to me. Certainly there are people with a much broader range than I have. I know what kinds of pain I really do not want, but often discomfort is a great part of pleasure.

Discomfort means I’m trying something new, and am not in control of the outcome. It requires openness and trust. It requires knowing what is at risk and how valuable, vulnerable, and mortal we are. As Hobbes discussed in the Leviathan, we are all equal in that we can all be killed.

Triumph Thunderbird 900cc

I had “to give myself a little talking to” this weekend. I became obsessed with a motorcycle I want to buy. I love the freedom of solitude and riding fast, feeling the wind and the curve of the roads. I love trusting myself to make split second decisions. I don’t love the ratio of drunk drivers in Austin and the traffic on the roads here, unlike the quiet mountain roads of New Mexico I used to ride. I had to remind myself that I have two young boys who need me. Perhaps when Roland is 18, I can buy myself another motorcycle.

Too much prudence is sleeping death. I am joyous and passionate and want to feel everything. Though I know well how to heal, recover, and reconnect, for me there is no joy in drama or sadism. If I am anything, it is resilient.

Marino Marini
Marino Marini

I had a great conversation with a friend last night where we talked about an artist I love, Marino Marini. (If you are ever in Florence, Italy…) His work was so joyous and vibrant. I wish we had spent more time in art school talking about what makes an artwork joyous rather than what makes an artwork important. I suppose it is that ambitious, famous artists were more interested in being important and remembered, than being joyous and happy. I make my best art when I am happy, and creativity is the best expression of life—creativity is life. I practice the process of taking risks in my studios and having a piece of art record that risk.

I am the most free when I am alone. I am not often surprised by myself and need the challenge of intimacy, dance, and conversation. It is similar to the freedom of being in nature, where there are the risks of the wild, but no risks of the heart, except the quiet to hear the heart’s own song. Living in the city, there are many human risks, and not much risk of the grizzly bear.

So how do we have human relationships that are both safe and free? How do we build trust? It seems so easy to compromise getting what we need of freedom to feel safe. I am learning to make split second decisions in the world of humans, like when I ride a motorcycle. “How about we…”, “not right now”, “ok!” “can you say more of what you mean?”, “aha!” and “surprise me” need to come out of my mouth much quicker. The magic eight-ball’s answer of “ask again later” may be my all time favorite. I think that is the magic secret, really. To keep asking myself, to keep asking others, and to keep asking life for more.  I’ll ask again later if I can have a motorcycle.

magic 8 ball ask again later

Revive and Reach

Second Chances

Revive and Reach

Not too often do we get second chances. If we’re really lucky or someone loves us, we might get more than one second chance. I am really excited that the Heaven and Hell pieces just sold to the Houston  Hobby Airport’s public art collection. They’re not hung yet, but I will excitedly send out an announcement when they are.

I don’t often set out to make the same thing twice. That’s why I can’t bake, because I just don’t like following recipes.

However, I had a contract with the City of Austin to hang “Heaven and Hell” in The People’s Gallery show through January of 2013. Fortunately, they allowed me to replace the two pieces that sold with two similar pieces for the duration of the year. So I just made and installed two new pieces. It was a second chance to go through a similar process and make different choices. On the first go-around, I plasma-cut the shapes and ground the edges after bending the sheet aluminum. This time, I had the shapes water-jet cut and then bent. “Revive” reads  more to me as a flower and I find the overlapping sections in the center to be really rich. I’m excited about the color palette of these. “Reach” is made from the negative drops of “Revive”, as crown or band shape at the equator of the space of my reach. “Revive” is the dome above my reach.   “Reach” has far less material than “Hell,” “Heaven,” or “Revive”, but it takes up more visual mass, which surprised me.

You can see a few more details of the “Revive” piece here.

 

 

Sacred Space

Vitiruvian ManNew artist’s statement about current artwork:

Historically, painting told the stories of a culture on the surfaces of sacred spaces such as caves and temples. Today, visual storytelling has mainly moved to photography and film, and imagination and ideas are expressed in all creative mediums. What remains unique to visual art is the hand of the artist and the visceral relationship of the art object to both the maker and viewer of the art.

Art-making is my primary spiritual action. Creating art allows me to express my unique manifestation as a body and as a conscious being.

“Sacred Space” explores the space of the human body through architectural sculpture and gestural mark-making. I create forms that unify these ideas, such as a dome that is the diameter of my reach. Using the indexical movement of my arm, I draw and paint on the surface.  The finished artworks are both sculpture and painting.

So I may better understand how sacred space is created through geometry and form, I have studied the evolution of historical sacred architecture from Etruscan to Greek to Roman to Christian. Early temples used domes to represent the feminine. For example, the dome relates to the mother figure.  Catholic cruciform shapes represent the masculine, with vertical space representing the trinity.

Before construction, I create drawings and scale models to help me consider the sizes and proportions of the artworks as well as how to place the artwork in relationship to viewers. Some artworks explore the personal space of one body, while others describe the spatial relationship between several bodies at once. Family relationships and the dynamics of people in groups are important themes of my work, but some artworks are simply the practice of making marks in space with my unique hand in a variety of materials.Sphere of Influence

A bunker

Studio Process

I think in color, I live in my eyes. What I love most about color is the way our perception of it constantly shifts in relation to the color around it and the quality of the light we see it in.

I make things with my imagination, hands and tools. I learn new fabrication methods whenever a piece calls for it. I utilize every studio process I can, and when I run into my limits or materials limits, I read, research, and call on friends until I solve the problem. Since I started my studio practice more than twenty years ago, I have painted or stained every kind of surface; cast, carved, sewn, drilled, cut, molded, clamped, welded, shaped and glued; digitized, scanned, filmed, projected and animated; outsourced, subbed and mentored; and messed up as many things as I have finished. That is how I learn.

German war bunker in Normandy, France, modular cast concrete

I do my best to pay attention and to respond to what interests me. I have been fortunate to have had fabulous mentors and professors, who exposed me to the elegance of geometry, the way that architecture creates a sense of place, and to the wonders of our natural environment.

West Texas colors