Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Short Strokes

At this point, the form is essentially resolved. It's a frustrating moment, because the piece looks more or less like it's going to look, except that it needs another 50 hours of work.

My friend Robin Mandel once told me that he doesn't like painting a room because he hates knowing that he's going to have to touch every inch of every wall, twice. That's something I think about a lot at this stage. Whole days are spent like a bumblebee, flitting between one detail and the next. Fix this seam. Work that fold. Fool with the fingernail. Back to the seam...

I changed left hand because I wasn't crazy about how the finger was pointing, and also because it didn't seem to communicate the tension I'm looking for. So I used my wife's little paw, instead. JB has tiny, thin hands, and that delicacy really creates a nice contrast against the rigidity and bulkiness of the rest of the figure.

The helmet has been the most difficult aspect so far. It's the one element that's oriented back in space, rather than working across the horizontal plane, so getting the depth to work against the rest of the figure has been tricky. Plus, it's an unfamiliar form (most people haven't seen a fencing helmet tipped back), so it's got to read particularly clearly.

I've modified with right hand quite a bit - opting to give her a modified lacrosse glove, which I think works better with rigidity of the folds, and makes a more direct reference to gauntlets and armor.

Part of what's been interesting this time around is building this piece around the idea of what the bottom half will look like, but without actually having anything concrete to work against. I've been using these books for reference, trying to get a sense of how the bottom "dress" will look. I started with the Dover book of classic ornaments, but have since moved over the amazing (and much more expensive) Carved Splendor, which has some amazing examples of Gothic foliage that are going to be my guide for the next stage.

Having a sense of how visually busy the next stage is going to be has led me to simplify the upper half. Also, working in such a Late Gothic vein, I've wanted the folds to have some of the rigid, geometric feel that fabric Gothic Sculpture tends to have. Nothing too direct (too stylized would look weird), but recognizably referential.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Nice Review Of The Abington Show

Just found out that the show at Abington was reviewed by Victoria Donohoe for the Inquirer.
Here's the link to the article in, and the review follows.

Adventurous work from four soloists at Abington Art Center

May 27, 2011|By Victoria Donohoe, For The Inquirer

The increasing authority its curated "Solo Series" exhibitions of regional art have won for the Abington Art Center is reflected in their progressively more adventurous character.

Abington's current show by four soloists is an excellent example. It doesn't genuflect before tradition, yet in several instances takes as much notice of life as of art. And like its predecessors, it has a good long run of 2 1/2 months, a rarity for contemporary work in our region.

Front and center is Jedediah Morfit, who impresses because he possesses a genuine vision. He shrewdly downplays art as a vehicle for artistic self-expression, preferring to develop, in thought-provoking ways, panoramic scenes of fragmentation - of human figures, animals, and objects - portrayed in white sculptured ceramic reliefs, with achingly exact technique. Mundane aspects of everyday life mix with humor, fantasy, and the surreal. Shopping carts at the supermarket are pushed by an old woman, a gorilla, and a pig, amid mayhem.

In a less vociferous sculpture, Morfit more broadly patterns the image in a direct way, without losing the mood to decorative detail.

Significantly, in addressing directly some of the effects of our shopping-mall culture, Morfit manages to render the topical into the timeless, something very few socially aware artists are doing today. Somehow formats like his remind me of Dante's passage from Purgatory into Paradise, even though it's our 21st-century world that's being portrayed.

Another soloist, Thomas Vance, reanimates abstraction with his richly colorful, geometrically abstract paintings. Their inclusion of wood grain, tree forms, and architect's blueprints suggests a balance between nature and the built environment in paintings nuanced and easy on the eyes.

EJ Herczyk pulls out all the stops with two sets of multi-paneled works combining pixel-based and hand-painted imagery - "landscapes of data" that have a commanding presence. Viewing these glistening wall-size works - one 15-piece set dark and the other less so - we gradually realize that their true subject is the rigorous yet informal balance Herczyk creates with his big, broad paintbrush, even as it meets a certain amount of initial resistance from the pixels.

Eva Mantell, perturbed that people continue to be reckless about what they discard, presents a kind of modest tribute to used paper coffee cups. She associates each cup with the individual who held it, then put it to his or her lips. Individuality is stressed, as Mantell imaginatively recycled a trove of such cups to make her point. Take a look.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Change Of Plans / IT'S ON

Ok. Took a hard look at the calendar this weekend and realized that if I'm going to get the large figure done this summer, I need to start NOW. I haven't totally finished the maquette, or even figured out what the legs are going to look like, but I know how the top is going to work, and I think I've figured out how to get the legs to attach to the body in the second stage.

Here's how it starts:

I cleaned and repainted the surface I used for "Self-Portrait", and gridded it out in 6 inch increments using a chalk line. I suppose I could have used an opaque projector but, even though I'm happy to use a grid and a computer, a projector still feels like cheating. A grid is pretty accurate, but it still opens up room for accident and inconsistencies. I don't really want there to be any distortion, but I think it's important to spend the time figuring it out, rather than just tracing the outline. I'm not sure why I think it's important, but I do.

After I get the outline drawn, I have the pleasure of heaving handfuls of clay at the silhouette...

until the whole thing looks like this.

This image gives a better view of the bargain basement clay I'm using. I should have bought fresher, cleaner, more consistently colored clay, but this is what I used for the last project and, again, good mojo trumps good sense.

From there, it's a matter of cutting the edges back to the penciled outline, and starting to work the form.

Things move quickly in the beginning. I'm trying to keep focused on working the whole form, and not getting seduced by detail. Even though I've done this a lot by now, it's still tempting to get a sense of how the whole thing is going to look once it's resolved. I'll think "she looks a little bulky right now. She'll probably look a lot more feminine with her features in place...", and then I'm off to the races, putting all kinds of detail on the face that I'm likely to have to scrub once the various depths start to resolve themselves.

This time, I'm making sure all the parts are in place - all high spots in correct relationship to all low spots - before I start modeling any details. It should be easy, but the reassurance that comes from working the details is terribly tempting, and it's hard to be good.