Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Ceramic Exploration

While a studio tech and sculpture instructor at Interlochen over last summer I had the chance to try wheel-throwing.  Although something that had never interested me before, I quickly became very interested. Perhaps it was because here was something I already know pretty well: clay-modeling.  I don't know anything about regular good old earthy clay. I've gone to great lengths to make my own oil-based clay to sculpt the figure in the "Fine Art" tradition, a tradition I've felt a part of, like a club or something, ever since entering college. 

I threw some bowls and cups over the summer under the guidance of some of the best ceramic instructors around, but it was really during my off-times and what I made was, you know, beginner...and still is.

I got back to Greenville and wanted to keep going with this and see where it led me. I asked around and found myself at Jaycee Park of the Greenville Parks and Recreation Center.  This park is a hidden gem within town. In fact, I bet most of my readers in Greenville have never heard of it. Outside, they have very popular BMX ramps and a baseball field, but inside they have a ceramics program. Two clean rooms with wheels, glazes, kilns and folks that fire the work that mostly retirees do. I bought some clay and got to work teaching myself through youtube videos to throw. I've posted some of my work below.
4"H X 6"W 

3"H X 3"W cappuccino cup

4" H X 5" W

4" H x 13" W platter

5" H x 4"W 
6" H x 4" W

Many of you may be shaking your heads. "Why is Andy wasting his time on this?" I don't really have a good explanation yet. My hands have a mind of their own and I let them do what they want. They really enjoy drawing the loose abstracted Mughal-Indian-designs that move around some of the pottery. 

I'll be either selling these on my website or giving them away for X-mas. I've also been attending a figurative sculpture class the park provides and have made a couple of little sculptures that I will post when after they are glazed. 

I will be teaching a course in paper-making at Jaycee Park in the Spring and will hopefully start up a metal sculpture course as well. 

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Inverted Skull Mugs

The following is an excerpt from my MFA Thesis called Intangible Emanations : 

"In June 2010, I created a site-specific sculpture at the Open-Air Art Museum at Pedvale in Latvia during my studies abroad with the ECU Sculpture program.  It was constructed by stacking 200 year old roofing tiles. This upside-down skull stands at about nine feet tall. Its wide open third eye is big enough for a grown adult to crouch down and enter at the ground-level of the structure. Central to many religions, this entrance represents the “mind’s eye” or the “eye of enlightenment.”  It is also associated with visions, clairvoyance, and the ability to see chakras and auras in American esoteric spirituality.

When the Latvian tractor drivers that helped me move these tiles from one end of Pedvale to the site, saw the finished sculpture, one pointed to his forehead and asked, “Hindi?”  This is a fellow who does not speak a word of English and by this I presumed to mean that he acknowledges that the idea of a third eye originates from India.

I gave a presentation to my fellow students and members of the local Latvian art community, speaking with the aid of a translator; I explained that I had been making work that explored what an aura could look like in sculptural form.  Many of my sculptures were of figures with emanations around them, but here in Latvia I built an aura that a person could enter inside.  As I gestured with my arm, I invited them to walk into the skull to meditate and contemplate their life.

As a sculpture designed for the contemplation of life, I thought it would be poetic for the shape to represent death.  When we arrived at Pedvale and were challenged with making an on-site installation piece, in a sculpture park known for its activities that combine art happenings and pagan rituals, I wanted to make a structure that people might incorporate with these activities.  When Butoh dancers later performed at Pedvale, Inverted Skull became a part of this modernist Japanese dance style (link).

A skull being built upside down adds to its meaning.  Because the viewer can sit inside and clearly see the sky suggests a connection between the meditating participant with outer space, stargazing, and solitude.  When the Inverted Skull is displayed in an upside-down photograph the clouds in the sky become the foreground in an optical illusion.  Having clouds at the “base” of this on-site installation ties it in with the visual vocabulary of my other sculptures that have pedestals shaped like clouds."   -end of excerpt. 

To see many more images of the process of creation go here. I also want to thank Aaron Earley, who was a massive help in stacking the tiles and problem-solving during the creation of the piece. He can be seen in some of the photos. We listened to his little ipod player and Black Moth Super Rainbow was being played a lot. :)

Thanks also to Ojars Feldberga, curator of Pedvale,  for believing in this project and suggesting that I use the tiles on his land.

During my thesis exhibition, I displayed large scale digital photographs of this installation. Since I do not live in Latvia and cannot enjoy it, I have also printed its image onto these pre-manufactured mugs. I thought it would be both humorous and conceptually valid for the following reasons. There is already a long history with Skull Mugs, or Kapala, in the Tantric Buddhist Tradition, which I had been studying when visiting Latvia. It also references vacation memorabilia, as if to say, "look where I've been" or simply a way to remember one's travels. The image is printed upside-down on the mug so that when you are drinking from it the skull is correctly seen, when you are drying the cup the photograph is correctly see but the skull is upside down. Confused? That's ok, that is the charm of it!  

Skull is right side up and yet isn't.

Pedvale, Lativa

Inverted Skull
Andy Denton

These are available for a mere $8 plus shipping costs.  I always have them available during our monthly open studios at the Dirty LAM. I have set up a Paypal account on my portfolio website. Just click the link and hopefully a transaction will incur.

Go ahead and leave a comment if you'd like.