Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Canticum Acheta : "Cicada's Song"

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Canticum Acheta : "Cicada's Song" - Mixed-media 2011

This is the piece I made to apply for the 2011 "Dia de Los Muertos" or All Souls Day show at El Museo in Buffalo, NY. The theme of this years show is: "Honoring of the dead with altars created using objects such as photographs, food, drink and personal effects that were of importance to the deceased". The show runs from October 31st through November 29th. This work deals with my struggles concerning my maternal grandmother's death from cancer. Her passing heavily affected me. Knowing this I have tried several times to create a work that encompasses those emotions. This is my most recent attempt.

Iconographically the work references the Ancient Greek story of Eunomos and the cicada. The cicada in mythology is an ancient polyvalent symbol its resounding themes are resurrection, immortality, spiritual realization, rebirth and immortality. Cicadas are mentioned as being sacred to the ancient Greek sun god Apollo. Homer mentions cicadas in the Iliad and compares the discourse of "sage chiefs exempt from war" to the song of the cicada. In Taoism the cicada is the symbol of the hsien, or soul, disengaging itself from the body at death. Cicadas also feature in Japanese carvings on small medicine boxes and they are mentioned in ancient Hindu law in India.

In this work I combined objects from my grandmother's life, her battle with cancer and my own artistic vision. The base of the piece is black granite and steel on these are arranged personally significant icons. I sculpted a skull then used syringes that my grandmother used to administer chemotherapy to herself and gold leafed them to create a halo. I also gold leafed a pill container, filled it with pain medication, then placed her dentures in it to act as a reliquary for a preserved cicada I found. The dentures for me reference the skin shed as the cicada grows its wings to fly and the red of the pills symbolizes both her pain and her love of cardinals. On the surface the viewer might see this piece as macabre but for me what I'm left with is...a silly childhood memory of seeing my grandmother's dentures floating in a glass of water by the bathroom sink juxtaposed with the horrible realization when I was a man that she had terminal cancer.

The reason I chose the title, Canticum Acheta : latin for, "Cicada's Song" is because of Socrates' Myth of the Cicadas: The Cicadas chirp and watch to see whether their music lulls humans to laziness or whether the humans can resist their sweet song. Cicadas were originally humans who, in ancient times, allowed the first Muses to enchant them into singing and dancing so long that they stopped eating and sleeping and actually died without noticing it. The Muses rewarded them with the gift of never needing food or sleep, but to sing from birth to death. The task of the Cicadas is to watch humans to report who honors the Muses and who does not. As an artist and grandson it is my duty to honor both Muses and maternal grandmothers.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Muertos: Series #6 - mock-up

This is a quick mock-up for another series I'm toying with. I have been to Boston twice and each time I visited the Revolutionary War era graveyards. I was fascinated with the carvings on the head stones. That time periods views and concepts of death come off as being very irreverent and tounge in cheek. I saw a lot of graves with winged head motifs. There were three main icons used. A cherub's face with wings to either side, an hour glass with wings and a skull with wings. So far I have already used the cherub's head in a piece I'm trying to finish for Dios de los Muertos this year (stay tuned for posts on that). I digress...so this piece would juxtapose rusted steel and glazed ceramic. I plan to continue my shino experimentation on the skull but I am still envisioning exactly how I'll work the steel aspect. I might layer cut pieces stacked and bolted together...so many options...
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Skull #8 : Fin...

I know, I know...what is with the freakin' skulls? I could get into a deep conceptual discussion about it to justify my reasoning...but truth is...I just like skulls and bones, I guess. Anyways, here is the piece finished that I posted in progress pictures of a few months ago. This is a low fire terra-cotta, fired to cone 2 with an iron oxide wash and a high manganese black glaze. I would love some feedback posted about my skull and bones obsession of late.
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This is a whimsical piece I sculpted a few months ago while I was reading the Odessey. My homage to the cyclopes Polyphemos, son of Poseidon, blinded by "no body". I finally got around to glazing some of my past bisqued work.
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Friday, August 5, 2011

Oberon - VI

Here are pictures of today's work on Oberon...looking much more owlish.
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Thursday, August 4, 2011

Oberon - V

Here is the latest stage of the Horned Owl commission. Right now it looks more like a generic raptor and lacks the wing masses but it is getting there. I've gotten a ton of work done lately so there a quite a few more posts scheduled...stay tuned.
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Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Pilgrim's Bowl #1

This is my version of a "Jawan" (traveler's tea bowl) and a monk's begging bowl. I've had a sketch of this for months on my work table. I figured there was no time like the present to get it made.
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Spirit Guide II - Phase two

Here are pics of the second phase of the next Spirit Guide piece. I see the crow as an urban totem and guide. I will give this mask a halo of golden syringes and pierce the orbit bone under the eye and hang tufts of collected crow's feathers bound with found materials. Again the terra-cotta will get a metallic black glaze. Right now I'm just concentrating on making personal pieces that speak to me both aesthetically and spiritually.
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Hoods & Collars - (Joel's Bust IV)

Here are today's pictures of Joel's bust that I'm using in my "Hoods & Collars" piece. In case you didn't see the previous posts on this I am juxtaposing a series of busts consisting of plebian "hoods" and aristocratic "collars" in a crowd like grouping. The "collars" are giving the "hoods" very suspicious cut eyed looks in the grouping. The "collars" are also being affected by the environment by having thier hair and clothing blown by unseen forces. Juxtaposed to this are the "hoods" wearing hoodies and hats looking calm and unaffected by the same forces affecting the "collars". I plan to bisque fire these then only glaze the eyes and the clothes as a quiet homage to Greek polychromed sculpture. I will let this bust get towards leather hard then cut it in half, hollow it out, reassemble it then finish the final modeling. I'd love some feedback on this piece.
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Monday, August 1, 2011

Muertos (Series #5)

These are images of the most recent commission piece for Shannon. I'm doing 8 Dios de los Muertos skull masks that will be glazed with 5 different shinos. Each one will be a different color. White, black, blue, red, and a golden shino based on my recent experimentations. I will also vary the accent colors on each as well. I think in the end this will make a nice grouping.
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