Monday, April 25, 2011

The Philosophy of Art (or How to Make an Earpod Pendant)

Enameled Earpod Pendant

The ancient Greeks argued endlessly about the nature of art. Aristotle insisted that the ideal painter would recreate an individual berry so true to its natural form that the birds would attempt to pluck it off his canvas. For Plato, the artist’s duty was to discover the essence of “berry-ness”, and to somehow reveal that form in his art.

Now, it is neither my intention nor my desire to get caught up in the middle of THAT argument. They are both adults; they’ll have to settle it between themselves. However, every once in a while a project comes along that causes me to lean to one side or the other - like when I get inspired to create an artwork based on some “berry” that I have come across. Do I want to ‘imitate’, or ‘extrapolate’?

A few weeks ago I visited the studio of a jewelry artist friend who also collects natural artifacts to use in her work. She had collected some unique seeds from an exotic Earpod Tree in Florida. I admired them, and immediately began to imagine the possibilities for an unusual pendant. Rose Marie graciously gave me one to experiment with.

Did I want to replicate it, as per Aristotle? Or should I throw in with Plato and attempt to capture the essence of all earpods? Not a big deal, I thought, until I began hammering the copper sheet into its kidney-esque shape. That’s when I noticed that Nature had neglected to provide a balance point for the chain. I’d have to tweak that. Point for Plato.

And what’s up with these indents and wrinkles? Are they unique to this particular pod, or does nature just go with the flow? Copper is not exactly elastic, you know! At what point in the shaping process would Aristotle lay the hammer down?

 Now, for the texture: would the ideal artistic earpod be glossy and smooth, or would it allow for some pebbling in the enameling process? So, there I was… did I want to imitate, or extrapolate? Oh dear, what would Socrates do?

Happily, the enamel artist can ‘evolve’ her work in much the same way that nature causes earpod trees to evolve; I used trial and error, multiple firings, patience and timing, until all of my artistic notions were satisfied.

I judge the result by its being as unusual and unique in the jewelry world as the Earpod seed is in the world of nature.
The actual earpod is top right.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

It's finished!

This is the finished product after soldering, polishing and oxidizing.  Adjusting the prongs to hold the center orb presented a challenge.  The silver tines are slightly springy, so they failed to grasp until they were equally tight.  I see the earth when I look at this piece.  Perhaps "The World" would be a good title.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Spring Resolutions

Ahh, the joys of Spring! The robins have returned to the yard; the trees are greening; the lilacs are abloom; the soil has begun to warm; and I can feel that irresistible call of my artistic nature… to rush out into the garage and solder! That was my spring resolution for this year.

A year ago I banished my soldering station (and the soot and the noxious fumes) to the garage, which leaves me working mostly on enameling and metal clays during the cold winter months. The soldering projects accumulate on notepads (and inside my head) until spring, when it is warm enough to pop the garage doors open and light the torch.

My first soldering project this year involves the assembly of a ring, the components of which can be seen in the attached picture:
The “gemstone” is a small copper dome that I pounded into shape using a dapping block, punch and hammer. I fired it with several coats of enamel until it resembled a turquoise stone. The base is silver sheet with prongs soldered into place to hold the “stone”. This will be soldered onto the band to finish the piece.

After I get this Spring Resolution taken care of in the garage, maybe I’ll be able to get after those dandelions.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Art in the Age of Facebook and Twitter

Watercolor by Patsy Wollert Oxley
Forty two years ago a dynamic, young art teacher named Suzie Brown invited members of four Southeast Colorado art clubs to unite for the purpose of promoting a juried art show for local artists. I knew four of the charter-member officers personally, and fondly remember their tireless efforts to promote art, artists, and the Southeast Colorado Art Guild. How we miss them!

Over the years SECAG awarded numerous scholarships to budding artists and donated equipment to the local community college for public use.  The organization sponsored workshops and seminars. It became the area's principal venue for local artists to receive critical acclaim for their work. How we will miss it!

Does this read like an obituary yet?

In the age of Facebook and Twitter, the obituaries of our local civic organizations are being written every day.  Clubs, sororities, leagues, and guilds are dying off like WWII soldiers, leaving not even a monument to memorialize their extinction.

As books, magazines, and newspapers disappear into cyberspace they are, at least, replaced by their digital analogs. They are still available for us to experience with our iPads and Kindles. But how do you 'twitter' a sculpture? How do you 'text' a hand-woven masterpiece?

Is the production of artwork so detached from the viewing public that it will continue to be produced without public recognition? Does it require an audience for it to exist at all?

The arts community, like all social groups, requires periodic renewal – a renaissance, from time to time. Southeast Colorado Art Guild has sent invitations to every active artist and artisan in the area requesting their attendance at a meeting where these things can be discussed later this month. We’ll keep you posted…
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