Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Feed Bag

"Feed Bag" Ceramic, Glaze, 5"x5"x12" 2013
I have a new approach towards the way I work. It used to be that I would need a precise meaning for a piece to justify making it. If I couldn't come up with a viable concept I would abandon the project. Often the "meanings" that I came up with were contrived, but that was enough to keep me going.

Now when I begin a new sculpture, I turn off the conceptual part of my thinking and focus strictly on the formal aspects of a piece. That is, if it looks interesting and compelling, I will proceed.

The Red Hare has been a subject that I've been exploring for a few years now. I like to place them in various anthropomorphic positions while exploring personal and universal themes. Much like Aesop and Grimm do in their Fairy tales.

In the piece above, the instant the idea came to appropriate the Stirrup Spout I was quick to reject it as I have used the reference before and decided that it was redundant. Below is an example of a piece I made in grad school several years ago using the stirrup spout from the Moche Culture in Peru, 300ad. It was my nod to ceramic history while folding in contemporary imagery using pallets and bags of food. This is one example of the way I use art history and personal experience in my work to view the world with fresh eyes.
Wrankle Grad School Sculpture 1996
While coming up with reasons to not revisit the stirrup spout, I recalled visiting a retrospective of one of my art heros, Don Reitz, at the Belger Art Center in Kansas City, MO. The docent gave us a wonderful tour and pointed out some themes that have run through Mr. Reitz's work for his entire career. I realized that if he can use themes and ideas throughout his long career (he's in his 80's) then so can I.

I  made the grad school sculpture above more than a decade ago. In that time, we have moved to 3 different cities, had 2 kids, my dad died, I've read a few books and have enjoyed huge successes and debilitating failures.  I have changed as a result of living and this change can be reflected in old themes made new.
Don Reitz Retrospective Exhibition
The meaning of the "Feed Bag" above isn't clear in my mind. I only have vague ideas that only lead to more questions. But I am pleased with the way it looks. It's difficult to change my thinking habits and the way I work, from attributing meaning first to primarily focusing on the formal qualities of the work. If I am driven to return to the studio day after day, stay with a piece, change it, make it better and spend a hundred hours or so, that's reason enough to make it. There has to be some compelling reason that may or may not reveal itself to me if I am willing to put that kind of effort into a thing.

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