Sunday, September 14, 2014

Seeing My Work Through the Eyes of Others . . .

   Or Who Needs Google Glass When You Have Friends? 

Sometimes the hardest thing to do is to really look at your work objectively and see it with “new eyes”.  I don’t seem to have that ability all that often. But not to worry. I have friends who are willing not only to look at the work but also share their opinions with no compunction or regards for my feelings. That said, I must admit when I can, I do take in the various unsolicited critiques and try to see the work as they do. Here are just a couple of examples which have been sent to me in the past few months about my newest pieces.

Beka, a woman who found my work by Googling “porcelain pinch pots” and is on her own journey playing in the mud, recently wrote,

“I like things that look like they could have been found outside - that's what makes your 'eggs' so appealing and wonderful to me; they'd make the heart stop spotted amongst leaves and mosses in the woods, or washed up in a tangle of seaweed at the beach, but wouldn't be at all out of place there.”

Now that made me smile. But did I ever think about my work buried in a mound of leaves or mosses out there somewhere in the woods? Or being tangled up in a heap of seaweed along some lonely beach? Actually, no. But Beka’s imagining these settings has moved me to think about them as well. And now, looking my newest pieces, this imagining seems to be manifesting itself more and more in their rough exteriors juxtapositioned with the flowing, organic glazed interiors.

Skyscape Revealed

And then there’s my old friend from my Peace Corps Days, Ed, a published poet who lives in upstate New York. Over the years, he’s graciously sent me books of his poetry so this year, I sent him this small piece for his birthday in August. It took him almost a month to write a response (I’m not sure I should call it a “thank you”). 

Leopard's Lair

It starts,

“I’ve been trying to account for the strange “object” you sent me - a seemingly fragile, broken thing that resists categories. . . “

And then, of course, he continues to try and categorize -

“It’s not a bowl or a cup, or anything that lends itself to utilitarian purposes, even though it suggests that it might have been once... if it was, it’s more like a teacup a traveller in the desert might use, something that needs to be placed in the sand, not on a hard table, because it lacks a bottom (is bottomless) & seems more suitable to a nomadic existence, for packing up and carrying away...”

OK, I’ll buy that, but here comes the real complaint:

“Because its edges are rough & serrated, I can’t drink from it in its present condition without running the risk of cutting my lips and tongue. It fills me with thirst & quiet contemplation: dread & desire. It’s very much like a “bitter cup” that way.”

So did he really want a nice utilitarian cup or bowl? He goes on to liken it to a “shell of some prehistoric bird” or “ostrich fossil”, or “an ancient abandoned seashell”. And then there’s a serious attempt to describe the color, inside and out -

“an eggplant on the outside, but inside it hints at some pyrotechnic process with sparks flying, bubbling magma exploding & lava-floes flowing. Something like an antique alchemist’s athanor (I had to look this up - a self-feeding digesting furnace) in the search for secret elixirs, or the formula for the transmutation of lead into gold.”

Then he lets me know he hasn’t just dumped it but actually has put it somewhere where he sees it regularly, even though it seems he doesn’t really see anything even remotely close to what I had titled it - Leopard’s Lair.

“It wobbles on my desktop like a shattered world, a melancholy little planet where past struggles are spent . . . emerging through sacrifice & fire & cracked beginnings into an unimaginable tomorrow, perhaps in the triumph of joy & hope.” 

Well, OK, at last a few optimistic words.

But in the end, finally and thankfully, I think he gets it.

“It demands a place of its own; it refuses to be pigeon-holed. In a word, Bobbie, it is YOU!”

YAY! Yes! Exactly what I’ve been after with all my work - the mirror of my life as a vessel!

Now I can go back, reread the descriptions and see myself/my work through the eyes of a dear friend who may know me even better than I know myself.

Thank you, dear Ed. As you so aptly PS’d:

Like Leonard Cohen says...: “Everything is cracked - that’s how the light gets in...”

Thursday, June 26, 2014

It Feels Like I'm On A Roll . . .

Or How Getting Up Off My Duff and Putting My Work Out There Paid Off. 

It certainly pays to have a studio mate who is “heads up” for you. My studio mate for the past 8 years or so, Tyrell Collins, recently emailed me a link to the California Arts Council website where they conveniently have a list, “Opportunities”. Under this, they list the possible exhibitions, grants, residencies for all sorts of artists - visual artists, writers, dancers, musicians – from galleries, museums, performance halls all over the world. What a gold mine! I couldn’t believe I hadn’t been aware of this before.

The exhibition she wanted me to look into was one for my work in clay, which I have subsequently entered. I won’t know about that until the end of July so I’m not going to jinx it by mentioning more now. While going down the list of other upcoming exhibitions, I found this sponsored by Art 4 All People and the Commonweal Institute for Art and Healing Gallery in Bolinas, California - MUSE: The Art of Transformation and Healing. They were looking for work that somehow speaks to the healing properties of art. Besides entering the work, they asked for a short statement about how art has healed us.

Art as healer? Hasn’t this been the underlying (if not specific) theme throughout my creative life? And yes, specifically in my series of 2 dimensional mixed media pieces, Protector/Betrayer, created just after I was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 1990. Three pieces of this series were finished just in time to be shown along with 16 other mixed media works at the 1991- 92 German exhibition, Aspekte der Gegenwartskunst in den USA. Since that time, I’ve only shown this work in Open Studios. One sold during Open Studios several years ago. Two hang prominently in our home and the last, I keep in the studio to remind me how far I’ve come since that first diagnosis, and that I am truly a survivor. Here is the series in the order in which they were created.

One Out of Nine - hanging at home

2800 Rads - currently in the studio

Jewel Of Hope - hanging at home

Myth of the Cure - sold

I entered the first three to be juried. And this is the one chosen for the exhibition.

Jewel of Hope

I deliver the piece to the Commonweal Gallery tomorrow. The exhibition opens on Saturday, June 28 through Sunday, September 28. The opening reception is on Saturday, July 12. For more information about the goings on – workshops, music, performances, films – please go to this website:

So I really do feel like I’m on a roll here . . .

Or as my dad used to say, as only he would . . .  “A Kaiser roll.”

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

They Came. They Saw. They Purchased . . .

Or How I Learned to Stop Kvetching and Love Open Studios.

Studio Cleaned Up for Display

After two days of opening my studio to people coming and going, friends and the general public generally milling about, taking in the scope of my newest work in clay, offering many positive responses not only about the work but also about the studio itself (“So clean.” “Beautiful floors.” “Your studio has the best light of all we’ve seen in this building.” “Do you work here?”), I had a moment to sit and take in what had transpired. With the Master Copy of the price list in hand, I saw that I had sold 10 of the 32 pieces which were displayed and 2 which weren’t for sale but had caught the eyes of a couple of insistent buyers.

Needless to say, I was thrilled. Each sale meant a part of me was going home to live with someone who found a piece that was irresistible. Here are a few of those special works.

Earth Erupted - stoneware, pinched/torn, glaze, oxides

Empty Nest - porcelain, pinched/torn/coiled, glazes, oxides

Dawnrise Nest - porcelain, pinched/torn/embellished, glaze, oxides

Inside of Dawnrise Nest

Aquatic Aerie - white stoneware, pinched/torn/embellished, glaze, oxides

Water Lilies Nested - stoneware, pinched/torn/embellished, glazes, oxides

Inside Water Lilies Nested

Deep Sea Nesting - white stoneware, pinched/torn/coiled/embellished, glazes, oxides

Lotus Landscape - stoneware, handbuilt/torn, glazes, oxides

With these sales, I am encouraged not only to continue creating my nests and eggs, but also to find new venues to market my work. I have to admit marketing isn’t my favorite thing to do, but with this exceptional success, I really should try and ride the wave. 

Now, if only I could find where I put that surfboard.