Tuesday, September 27, 2016

New Belt Buckle

"Crypt of Wanton Riches"

"Crypt of Wanton Riches" - Detail with open gates.

"Crypt of Wanton Riches" - Rear of piece.

This sculptural belt buck features a cast bronze archway with functional hinged sterling silver gates. The gates open to reveal 27 bead-set natural yellow sapphires and 10 bead-set cognac diamonds scattered among the chaotic bronze forms. This piece was an absolute joy to work on, as I was able to implement my expanding stone-setting capabilities gained through working for years as a traditional bench jeweler in service of my own creative and artistic vision. Also, I was finally able to utilize a bronze belt buckle casting from several years ago that was never properly finished, with the sprues still evident from the casting process and the back not properly ground down and polished. The sterling silver gates were cast from scale architectural model parts several years ago, and the result was an incomplete casting due to the thin nature of the vertical bar elements. This left me in the strange position of absolutely loving the imperfections within the castings, but being creatively paralyzed about how best to use the castings in a piece knowing full well that I likely could not achieve such a delicate balance of imperfection again even if I tried. Once again, time and experience has proven to be the greatest mediator of technical skill and creative vision.

Friday, September 16, 2016

New Sculpture

"Closures #2"

15"H x 12"W x 4"D
Steel, Cast Iron, Bronze, Copper, Aluminum, Brass

This companion piece to "Closures #1" is an interpretation of the complex thought processes and logic structures found within one's unconscious mental landscape as methods of control within both society and the physical space on encounters.

This piece was started many years ago along with it's matching wall-piece "Closures #1", but was never completed. I had cast the main circular iron forms during an iron pour at RIT, probably around 2007 or 2008, and welded up the main steel structures in the spring of 2008, in the last few weeks of my senior year. The idea behind the pair of wall-mounted sculptures was there, but they always seemed lacking an additional element or component, and thus were never completed. Then, while in grad school at ECU several years later, the aluminum hatch or seal structures were found in a junk shop near the North Carolina coast. The idea crystallized in my mind to have the units bolted somehow to the steel panels and have some objects of significance suspended on the brass chains. Fast forward a few years to the present, and the critical eye and attention to detail that I was forced to hone as part of my responsibilities as a full-time bench jeweler allowed me to finally approach and complete the pieces. Finishing a piece correctly and thoroughly, with thought given to the proper means of patinea, preservation, and display has always been a weakness of my creative production, but with time and maturity I have finally put that demon to bed. I am very pleased with how this piece and it's companion turned out, and look forward to displaying them together.

Friday, September 9, 2016

New Jewelry Work

It has been a very long time, probably about 6 years, but I am finally getting back to making art jewelry and sculptural jewelry forms. Below is the first of the two new pieces I have just finished, with a bit of the process and journey behind it's creation.

Volatile Emotional Response Array”
Sterling Silver, Pine, Wax
11.5”H x 6”W x 1”D (Main Pendant) – On 27” Chain

This piece began its long journey to completion in 2008 or 2009, during one of the first mid-semester critiques for my first sculpture studio course in graduate school. Those who were in that critique may recall my reaction to the experience. Suffice it to say, I experienced a range of emotions during the discussion of ideas and artistic concepts that followed, and not all of them were pleasant or conciliatory. One thing led to another, and I found myself whittling a strip of scrap wood I had found on the floor of the sculpture studio classroom with my pocket knife into a variety of knives, shanks, and other sharpened instruments. Towards the end of the critique I found a length steel binding wire laying on a table, a leftover from another student's pursuit of the artistic dream. After a few careful twists of my knife, the carved forms had holes bored through their handles, the wire was fashioned into a loop, the objects were strung and secured with a few twists of the wire ends, and an honestly crafted art object was born. 

This key-ring or bundle of shanks has hung prominently in every studio, office, and work space I have used ever since, and most often was displayed alongside another one of my most favored objects, a heavy card-stock radioactive waste tag, a memento of my time many years ago working as a lab assistant in a bio-medical laboratory. With its bold black lettering and an understated yet still striking red radioactive symbol contrasting strongly with the bright yellow background of the tag, it always seemed the perfect complement to the ring of shanks, and the two were intrinsically linked in my mind for years.

Now, in 2016, I found myself looking back at all the objects I have collected, the parts and units I have disassembled, modified, and altered, and the pieces I had begun to work on but never fully finished. One of the main challenges I have experienced in the past with completing a work of art, be it jewelry or sculpture, is the gravity and power I give to each object in my mind and my fear of being so in love with a form or unit that I cannot resolve the best solution to use it in a piece.This is particularly true for very unique pieces that I found or created by chance or luck. The pressure to choose the Right way to use an element, with the knowledge that I may never be able to find, acquire, or make another one like it ever again, prevents me from using it at all.When one is so wrapped up in the possibility of a piece and the myriad ways to resolve the visual, technical, or aesthetic problem at hand, it can be paralyzing. 

It is a gratifying experience to revisit a piece or object from ones past that had heretofore proven stubborn, difficult, and elusive, only to now find the answer clear and the resolution manifest. I could never make the ring of shanks a finished piece because I could never figure out how to display the radioactive waste tag with the ring without the composition being muddled or taking away from the visual and emotive strength of either object. The moment of clarity occurred when I realized that it was not the physical tag itself that was permanently linked to the ring of shanks, but rather the idea or concept that the tag implied, that of some unseen entity or power, no longer visible to the viewer yet still powerful and potentially damaging long after the initial danger had subsided, a lurking dread in the darkened corners of ones mind. With the judicious application of a blowtorch, some paste wax, and a fabricated sterling silver ring with a stationary heavy-link chain attached to loops, the piece was completed. And so it goes.

"A moment of complete happiness never occurs in the creation of a work of art. The promise of it is felt in the act of creation but disappears towards the completion of the work. For it is then that the painter realizes that it is only a picture he is painting. Until then he had almost dared to hope that the picture might spring to life. Were it not for this, the perfect painting might be painted, on the completion of which the painter could retire. It is this great insufficiency which drives him on. Thus the process of creation becomes necessary to the painter perhaps more than is the picture. The process in fact is quite habit-forming."

- Lucian Freud, "Some Thoughts on Painting", 1954