If They Can Do It
clay, underglazes, glazes
approx 14” circumference
I have returned to the clay studio after nearly seven and some months off from a shoulder break. My right arm still doesn’t work well, but I can’t wait any longer. iI’s almost the end of August, I have an exhibition planned for January and clay takes time.
All I’ve been able to do over the past months is draw because while I’m ambidextrous when I sculpt, I do 2D work with my left hand. I’ve done some 190 drawings based on a kind of interpretative portraiture. Unable to work from models as is my usual, I’ve used pictures from all my human and animal family and friend photograph albums as source material.
Surprisingly, I really have enjoyed focusing in this way. The intense examination of photographs I’ve only ever looked at casually or nostalgically (practicing what I suggested in a previous blog entry) has given me some new insights about relationships, influences, attitudes and social conditioning. It was a forced exercise but turned out to be very valuable for my creative process.
The trick has been to return to three-dimensional thinking after so long with two dimensions. It’s a completely different brain that conceives full, weighted forms than the one that works from flat shapes and the illusion of space and of volume. To draw ‘from life’, I have to transport forms that have depth, mass and weight to one physical plane with two dimensions, width and ‘height’, both in relation to the scale of the flat surface on which I’m working.
Sculpture involves weight, mass, balance, volume, form, structure, and because the medium I work with is clay, it also involves chemistry, engineering and architecture. It also requires two equally working arms. Alas, my right arm is now inexplicably a good 1,5 inches shorter than my left – how the heck did that happen? – the shoulder cracks like crazy, it hurts, and the muscles are just beginning to reform. It seems that in the short term, I’m to be much more left handed than I’ve ever been in the past.T he new working reality. All I can do is adapt and hope things will go back to normal.
I approach my preparation to sculpt in the same manner that I approached training in competitive sport. I believe that art making is as much dependent on stamina, strength, focus and control, all art making is but especially sculpture, as synchronized swimming or high-board diving (my sports). And I find it as physically engaging as I did dance. Once the initial inspiration hits, the process of realizing the image in real time/space with a physical medium for presentation or exhibition is as rigorous as training for a competition or performance.
I just hope my joints are still up to the challenge.