Eyewitnesses: Installation 4

I finished the first group portrait in August 2014, added a new figure into the three group portraits in January of 2015, and created two new figures for a fourth group in March of that same year.  Avoiding my interest in experimentation with size, surface, and coloration, I made sure the new additions maintained the series characteristics.  The exception for the fourth group was that the poses, gestures, facial expressions, and gazes were less communicative: there was less visual drama. I wanted to learn if the variety I was seeing in viewer interpretation would change markedly with a more subtle treatment of the sculpture.   Some samples of written comments from the interactive ballots and surveys illustrate how viewers responded: GROUP #4.  Commentary remained as varied as the first three group portraits.












WHAT JUST HAPPENED? I think this conversation is about kids. A friend passed away. Discussing where to eat. One is sharing, the other is ignoring.  They’re figuring out how to fix something. Telling about a recent murder in town.  A memory. A betrayal has taken place. Husbands and their hobbies.  She’s trying to convince the thinker to help her. How to improve where they live. They’re re-decorating a room. The one’s new haircut. Kardashinan Dad: How do I look? Does this dress fit? The one with her hands behind her back is ignoring the other.  She doesn’t want to hear it. She’s asking (angrily) the other (prideful) woman, “What the Hell is wrong with you?” Been controlled and manipulated. The woman is singing for her voice coach to see if she has improved. Looks like a girl talking to her coach. The other woman “listening” has lost focus.  She got fired from a great job & feels like a failure.

MOST USED DESCRIPTIVE WORDS: Recognition, gentle, suspicion, difficult, personal, closed, informative, revelatory, interruption, tense, affirming, challenging, edifying; visitor-contributed descriptors: curiosity, accepting, funny, concentration, contemplative

SAMPLE QUOTES (not specific to any figure): I’m not really one to talk…”I’m being as kind about this as I can be.” What are you thinking?”  Is that so?!” And then he said…”  I don’t want to bring this up again, but…”  What would you do?” Why don’t you look at me when I’m talking to you?” I really don’t care.” What do you think?” Every day is a new start—your life isn’t over—it’s transformed.

THE SCULPTURE IS A MONUMENT TO: My sister and me. Chamber of Commerce. Sharing.  Human interaction.  Friends. Contemplation. “Lightbulb over the Head”

VIEWER-SUGGESTED TITLES FOR INSTALLATION: Together We Go From Here, Just Listen, The Talk, I Hear You, Advice, Envision This, Control, Can’t You Get it? Know-it-All, And then, he said… Revelation/AHA

FAVORITE FIGURE:  the speaker; MOST CLOSELY IDENTIFIED WITH: the listener (hands behind back); (Only one vote difference.) I had an AHA moment communicated to me by a friend.


Dedicated to the Ones I Love

In creating levels of interactive engagement with the sculptures, I selected the comment card as the way for viewers to quickly give evidence of their personal connection with the art work.  This “dedication-card” became one of my favorite  parts of the And then, I… tour.  Every place I installed, I thought of my wonderful and patient friends who have seen me through numerous pivotal moments: the entire project is dedicated to them.  But here are samples of people and ideas that viewers wanted to thank or recognize, or express an opinion to someone or some thing.  In the interest of transparency, I haven’t edited any of the comments: they are, as a group, interesting, charming, predictable, surprising, and off-putting–reflecting the quality and variety of engagement achieved by those who encountered And then, I…!












AND THEN I: Monuments to Pivotal Moments

July 2014 – June 2015

Dedication Slip Summary: people significant to viewer personal pivotal moments

Aunt Juanita & Uncle Pink · Mary Ann · Carolyn · Thelma Clapp · Patty · Diane LaFollette · Brianna · Mimi ·George Washington and Abraham Lincoln · Melinda A. · Reina Fuentes Cook · God · Maynard James Keenan lead singer for tool · my Aunt & cousins · Melissa Josephy · Lee Jane Mendel, Joyce Rotondi, Mimi Tarvin, Susan Fox · Alyssa Sweeden · Thom Hall · Ellie Faith Tartaglia · Loretta Lazaro · Connie Leiser · Cathy Rodgers · Raida Pfeifer · Kandy Jones · Mrs. Cooley—youth group (MYF) leader—Listened · Debra Knutson · Vicki Sweere · Sharon Marcum · Kiarra Mack · Alice Patterson · Charice Joshua · Don Marr · Donna Laws · Fleeta M., Cleon W., Don J., Linda · Donna Hardcastle · Mrs. Shaw 5th grade teacher · Sally Williams My ART SISTER · Amanda · My husband, Billy, My children, Gabe, Alyssa, Brayden · Gramy, Mama, Dada, Gavin, Nana · Heather, Tracy, Mom ·  Mara Mitchell · The Arkasquad, Fon du Lac WI · Annie, Gray, Miller, Smith · Leslie Korn · Cheryl · Jacquie · Viola (Vallie) Johnson Prince · Kimbot · Cydney · Brenda Fritz · Phala Riffel, Eula Dunaway, Mable Acklin · Rachell · My Mom (Shelley) · God, Dorcas HOUSE · Linda · Bernice Richardson my mom · Gabriel Poe · Pat McNulty · Mary Margaret · Joshua Trujillo · Charles · Helen · Tracy · Bill—when I said yes to his proposal! · Becky · my mom, dad, and every one · God · Anne, Patsy, Barbara · Spider Man · Taylor · Willie · Lee Guinn · Jessica · My Lord · Ashlyn · Sheila · My third grade teacher, Mrs. Shuttlesworth, taught me the love of art & Literature · Melinda Haire · Pearlie Jackson · Valda · My Grandparents Delma & Weldon Walley · Ferris, Ruth, Ouita, Evelyn all good pivotal moments · Mme Jarry · My sister, Linda · Mary Smith, my mother · My sisters: We are all so different! · Dayna · Pat · Joe Hampton Daniel · Norma · Brenda · Ciaria · Ma-Mad · My Mom My Pop My Nana · Cody Taylor · Austin · Katelynn · Sister · Jeremy · all these bitches got the dick except the short hair bitch this why she’s mad · Homo Sapine · Hughes Elsie Elizabeth · Donna Young · Andrea · Gay · Electra Lasater · Sister Rosita, School Sister of Notre Dame · Ruby Stewart—mom’s friend—good listener, wise woman · Martha · Robert · Susan · I got high and loved it · God · Anita · Michael Mercer · My Grandma · Mason · Lydia Farmer · My Family · Miss Wilson. The lady biting her lip reminds me of my first elementary school teacher who would wait like this till I gave the correct answer. · Larry Keller · Caitlen Taylor · Pam · London · Rachel · Laurie, Jean, Laura, Barbara, Sarah, Pam, Sharon, Brenda · My Grandparents · Brooklyn · Christal Mark · Dayna · Aunt Kathryn, Nelda, Sheri, Jenny · Emily · Not a clue · Andy Huerta, Maria Huerta · Slade · Jolene—She’s my confidant · Vera · Becky · Barbara! · Great Grandma, Billy Moore · Raymond and Janet Kordsmeier, Scott Thornton, Gene Hatfield, Carl Stuart · Charlotte, Bobbie, Judy · Mike, Jo · Expressions on all 3 in #3 are wonderful—such talent to capture all these feelings– · Pat · Beverly Sharpless · Ceirra, Torrie, Lauren Kyler, Kristina · Aunt Mary Alice · Sandy · Linda & Dayton · Emily · Miss Hedrick · Chella · Barbara · Nan-my mom, Velma, Larry, Theodas, Charles · Maureen Hostert · Nancy · Maribeth, Barbara, Dabney · Sister · Elizabeth Williams, teacher · Evelyn · Becky · My daughters Mindy & Erin—My grand-daughters Schuyler & Jordin · Jessica · Barbara Mercer · My Mom, she always made me smile · Gladys Tidwell, Kenneth Tidwell, Timothy Davis · Maxine · Carrie · Wait ‘til you hear! · Brenda, Laurie, Pam, Jean, Julie, Sarah, Barbara · Gerri, Mary, Judy · Marcia · Maribeth · Get high its awesome · my mother · Brenda, Maribeth, Kerry · Eileen · Michael Nelson · Kyler Beard · Interesting and thoughtful · Scott, Donna, Esther, David · Jessica · Lee Nelson · Edwardo Perez · Nancy · Alison, Justinano Susan · told him, he was asking too much—I’m not that kind of girl! · Robert · Harvey · Jay, John C. Chad Jacey · Judy—She’s always telling a story! · Debra Taylor · Thank you for bringing your art to our library.  I will genuinely miss all of the “women.” Martha Roach · My sister Trish · Mom · My Daddy · My family, Richard, Katherine Sherff, Kristy Mastin, Liz Olton, The Locals · Carly Mercer · Barbie Wooldridge · Carlotte, Bobbie, Brenda · Lee Nelson · Jacqueline Davis · My mom!, English teacher Gary Taylor, Denise, Sarah, My pastor, Tommy · TEE Hooper, Randy Peek, Helen Bosewell · Beth · Lisa, Bookie, Piper Aeasih, Ced, Gaivn, Keynna, Jonah, Amaian · Carol—my mentor, my friend– · Nancy W. · Mary Shollmier · Laura Bergman · Suzy Beard · Judy Nichols · My mother, Kristina · Aletha Creech, Janice Short, Sean Donnelly, Mary Anna Berryman

Eyewitnesses: Installation 3

I purposefully created the group sculptures in And then, I… from figures whose poses, facial expressions, gazes, and body language could be interpreted in light of a situation.  Each figure was created in response to an experience in my life; however, together, the group portrait of a moment suggested a variety of events in my memory. I was curious about how others would identify the moment and interpret the tone of the encounter.  Some samples of written comments from the interactive ballots and surveys illustrate what viewers intuitively gathered from: GROUP #3.

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WHAT JUST HAPPENED? Group pauses because the 4th person being talked about just joined the group. Teachers on playground talking about new requirements.  Workplace program. A financial matter. One friend has a continued problem: one is tense and worried, other is resigned that her friend can’t cope. Rule change—new procedure.  They’re trying to solve the mystery. Someone lost a job. Two are listening to the chairman who hasn’t been working!  Her spouse left her…the cheat! Change of jobs. Impending loss. Divorce after 50 years/younger woman syndrome. They are thinking up an idea to make a difference & put into action. They are talking about another friend who the speaker just spotted. Informing friends she has stage 3 cancer. Cheating husband. Speaker is accused of telling a lie about one of the other people.  Speaker has just observed something unusual or strange in the park. The speaker is talking about a sensitive subject and someone is approaching. The speaker is trying to discreetly point out a hot man across the room and the others don’t know what’s going on.  Something she saw distracted her. Not paying attention when it’s important. She told her friends that he hit her again but she “loves him” and doesn’t know what to do!? The speaker is trying to explain her reason for doing what she did (wrong). The others are angry. Speaker can’t look them in the eye. GUILT!  A friend lied about something important and the other two are confronting her. Looking for another way to say something.

MOST USED DESCRIPTIVE WORDS: Difficult, tense, analytical, painful, accusatory, confrontational, uncomfortable, unsettling, personal, protective, sad, revelatory; visitor-contributed descriptors: empathy, disbelief, curiosity, awkwardness, distracted

SAMPLE QUOTES (not specific to any figure): We need to stand up to this injustice.” I’ve heard this before.” We can do it.” She can hardly wait to tell this to somebody else.”  Why is she even talking about this again?” I’m not believing this.” So what do you want me to do about it?”  What will it take for her to make a decision?”

VIEWER-SUGGESTED TITLES FOR INSTALLATION: Double Duty, Distractions in Life, Worried About Life, Don’t Tell Me, She’ll Never Change, I Hear You, One Word Can Change the World, My Life Changed, The Accusation, Friendship Through Pain, We’re Here/We Know, The Lie, Holy Cow, Piece of Shit,  My Dog Died, Worry, Caught in a Conversation, Secret Telling, Come What May

THE SCULPTURE IS A MONUMENT TO: Observation.  Relationships. Shoulders and Listening Ears. Finding Peace.

FAVORITE FIGURE: Arms crossed (really thinking about what’s being said; I often feel I should confront, but I rarely do so.); MOST CLOSELY IDENTIFIED WITH: Hands on Hips (fully absorbed in friend’s issue; protective of friend, OR control freak upset over something she can’t fix) “I identify with the speaker: I tend to be too observant of others. Speaker seen as: tattletale or advisor.

Eyewitnesses: Installation 1

Even though the And then, I… installations have long been completed, I’m still in the studio–so to speak–compiling the comments contributed during the tour. And just as prosecutors and law enforcement officers suggest that eyewitness observations often conflict,  the collected comments range from A – Z, even for the same figure in the same installation.  And that’s a good thing.  People responded according to what was on their mind at the time, and even when the theme was similar, the circumstances were usually different.  Some samples of written comments from the interactive ballots and surveys illustrate the range: GROUP #1.

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WHAT JUST HAPPENED? Straight-haired one has just discovered something about herself. 3 co-workers: one has secretly “reported” on others. Gunfire at school.  Deaf (death) in the family. Daddy just left for another woman. World Trade Center attacked. Told him to hit the road.  The one clutching her blouse has told them she has breast cancer.  A child is seriously ill, more ill than the mother thought. A child at school is hurt, but nobody knows whose. An accident.  Her husband has been killed. They realize they have all let a fourth friend down. One woman’s child’s teacher has just done something she doesn’t approve of. Pregnancy lost. One has an opportunity to go back to school, move, and begin again. Straight-haired one is defending herself after a disagreement.  One confronts her friends about what they said about her. Someone’s child is hurt. Girl on left is trying to explain how she has been hurt. She finally did it: she told him to hit-the-road. Just heard a child has been raped. Heartbreak. Shootings in South Carolina. A friend was hit by a drunk driver. The other dear friend lost her daughter to addiction from an overdose.  The one clutching her blouse just heard her spouse has been having an affair and all three of them know the other woman personally.  The speaker is talking about a child victim of sex trafficking found across the street and the listeners are looking out the window@ all the cops and EMS.

MOST USED DESCRIPTIVE WORDS: Unsettling, worry, difficult, painful, sad, tense, confrontational, revelatory, personal angry; visitor-contributed descriptors: of concern, empathetic, encouraging, intimate, impatient, supportive

SAMPLE QUOTES (not specific to any figure): Thank God I’m not pregnant. I’m so glad they didn’t execute that Phillipino worker. I didn’t know… Did you see her? I thought you understood. Who was there? Who knew? I had nothing to do with that. You know me. Don’t give me that. Well, it’s over…

VIEWER-SUGGESTED TITLES FOR INSTALLATION: Are you shitting me? What Should I Do? And So It Goes…, Silent Gasp, What If?, Three Women, A Word to Remember, White Chicks Life Story, Revelation, I’m So Sorry, The Problem, Bills and No Support, The Passing, She Finally Ended It, The Resurrection: Hope for our Loved Ones, Taking it all in stride, Strength During Loss, Loss for Words, Making Sense of It, “She’s Really Sick!”

THE SCULPTURE IS A MONUMENT TO: Questioning your roots. Friendship. Horror stories. Office politics. Wanting to help. Deliberate thought. Truth. Neighbors. Youth and choices. All my family members I’ve lost in death. My mother, my father, my husband. Empathy. Women finding solace in each other for the awful events in their lives. Reality & authentic relationships.

FAVORITE FIGURE: the one clutching her blouse; MOST CLOSELY IDENTIFIED WITH: Figure with arms crossed. (Described as stoic, deliberate thinker, reserving judgement, etc.)  “I identify with the bun lady: because she looks indifferent… I tend to ponder things over and over… I’m a listener.”



Eyewitnesses: Installation 2

The only conclusion I draw as I go through the responses to And then, I… is that viewers shared what came to mind at that moment.  And whereas few people spend much time composing remarks in a comment book, viewers often respond to prompts, questions, and opinion options. My goal was to design interactive materials that provides layers of response options. Some samples of written comments from the interactive ballots and surveys illustrate questions asked for: GROUP #2.

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WHAT JUST HAPPENED? Shared an “in” joke. Recounting a moment of triumph. Speaker bragging and exaggerating.  Speaker is imitating someone they all know.  Speaker has had something wonderful happen and is sharing it with her friends. The one with clasped hands has just found out parent has dementia: the one with ruffles has been there and is advising (you have to laugh). Storyteller is relishing her victory over someone who has tried to put her down. Something sad has happened that clasped hands knows about, and storyteller is making light of it. Conversation in the hall among teaching colleagues. The storyteller was just dismissed from her job. This is about juicy gossip—someone is having an affair: one isn’t amused, the other laughs nervously. These women are ragging on their men.  The 71-year old has forgotten the ending of her story: one thinks “so sad” the other wonders “how long have I got?” A friends has won an award. Telling an experience to a friend and former teacher. Telling a joke that one person doesn’t understand. One got promoted in her job. Telling about her Tess Evaluation. Storyteller got a part in musical. She repeated a remark that the others think is funny. A surprise ending. She went to sleep during oral sex. The speaker is pulling a prank on the left one, and the one in the back is trying not to bust out laughing. Looks like the Queen of England talking to the people. Her kid skipped school to go fishing. The speaker saw a UFO. She is imitating that one lady that drives them nuts. The one with the clasped hands doesn’t believe the story being told.

MOST USED DESCRIPTIVE WORDS: Familiar, personal, informative, joyful, entertaining, analytical, revelatory, happy, fun, invitational, secretive, uncomfortable, unsettling, protective, sad, confusing; visitor-contributed descriptors:

SAMPLE QUOTES (not specific to any figure): Really, she said it just like this…”  I had the funniest dream—and you were in it…”  I wouldn’t do that…” A little birdie told me…” You won’t believe what happened…” Good God, how many times is she going to tell this story.”  And then, she said…” You’re kidding!” My stage name will be…”  I did it!” …haven’t heard from children on spring break…”

VIEWER-SUGGESTED TITLES FOR INSTALLATION: It Happened This Way…  Nothing Surprises Me, Sister Friends, 3:20 p.m. in the Hall, Tell Me More, Three’s a Crowd, Did You Know…, The Disclosure, Mothers & Friends, Gossip, Yap Yap Yap, My Stage Name Will Be… “You won’t believe what she said to me!” I think we should pray about it.

THE SCULPTURE IS A MONUMENT TO: Different perspectives. The stories we tell.  Any woman lucky enough to have good friends. Women who talk too much. Story sharing. Getting along.  Using humor and story to deal with things.

FAVORITE FIGURE: clasped hands (good listener, thoughtful, giving undivided attention, enjoying story,); MOST CLOSELY IDENTIFIED WITH: storyteller (described alternately as making light of a situation, entertaining friends, being fun, OR being gossipy)

No More Gumby People

After the Helena, AR, tour stop last October, I took sculptor Tip Toland’s week-long workshop at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts in Gatlinburg, TN.  Google her: she’s an amazing artist, great teacher, and fun person to learn from.  Each class member made a bust, following specific measurements and a progression of steps  that would result in a human-scale, solid-built head and shoulders.  Solid-built is just that: a solid clay form that is built around a pipe armature, that is then cut off the pipes, hollowed out, and fired. Having worked with the hollow-built process, I wanted to see if my results would be as different as the processes imply.  They were, and I learned a lot.






















About half-way through the workshop, when addressing the specificity of bone structure, muscle, and fat pads, she said, “No more Gumby people, you guys.”  Google Gumby: he and Pokey the Pony are boneless clay/stop animation characters. I thought of correcting bending forearms, caved-in heads, and mushy contrapposto in the studio: perhaps I would decide to switch from hollow-built to solid construction to tighten up my sculptures’ verisimilitude.  This guided attempt had far surpassed my independent ones, and I treasured the luxury of complete focus on proportions and relationships between expressive facial muscles.  However, when the hollowing out began, that interaction with my clay head stopped and I still felt like I had in the past: I dug the life right out of it.  The word “husk” comes to mind.

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I have my workshop head in my studio.  As I continue to build figures, it reminds me of what I learned and what to be aware of as I continue with the “And then, I…” series.   It looks different from my hollow-built heads.  However, it isn’t more realistic, or anatomically correct: it’s as abstracted and exaggerated as the others.  I’m not sure I can make them otherwise, or want to.  And I like the way the hollow-built figures seem to grow to breathe on their own.  It’s fun to open the airway from the nostrils into the pinch pot head and imagine that their lungs expand.  But thanks to Tip Toland’s excellent examples and information, I can better analyze, tweak, and improve my product and work on basic sufficiency in solid-built techniques another day.


The More the Merrier

I keep making these figures.  I’m way past the 9 proposed in the Artistic Innovations grant for the public art tour.  Granted 3 blew up in the kiln, but even so: I’ve just begun to understand the potential in the process.  The 14th & 15th are in the studio now, on the drying rack awaiting firing to premiere at the Heber Springs venues.  Numbers aside, I’m giddy with having made 4 improved ears.

Friends ask why I’m making more, my Artist Inc. Fellows ask if I’m pleased with what I’m making, and my family asks where the tour ends.  I’m obviously compelled: to refine, innovate, and see where this series goes next.  However, I have to say, I’m in the studio because I like hollow-building figures, even when it produces imperfect results.  Half of what I do is learn to notice what didn’t work, try to fix it, and try to avoid it next time. Ears are still too high…

I’ve been asked if the figures are for sale, where they will go after the tour, what I will do with them–all valid questions that need attention.  But for now, they are being made because I can’t stop: I so identify with their expressions, their situations, their thoughts.  I have conversations with these sculptures as they take form and enjoy seeing the groups in their stop-action moments.























So as our garage is stuffed with pedestals and foam-lined wardrobe boxes of ceramic figures, and our calendar is at the mercy of Arkansas’ spring festival season, I thank the Mid-America Arts Alliance for helping me start this journey, I thank my friends, Fellows, and family–especially for a husband who is also an artist.  And I appreciate what rolls around in my head to clatter until forgotten or given form.  Giving that clatter focus is a labor of love, much like life relationships: “The more, the merrier.”





Tiny Bubbles

My theory: No matter no matter how high the dehumidifier is set, how dry a surface looks, how warm the surface feels, or how well-constructed I think my work is, no 1/2″ thick, 26″H sculpture can dry completely in 4 days. If you’re a ceramic artist, you’re laughing at my presumption.  If you’re not, you’re wondering who would work so hard, to then push their luck so far, as to ruin the results.


My confession: me.  I had planned on having 9 new sculptures for 3 installations at the Helena public art exhibit.  “And then, I…” ran low on time.  “And then, I…” thought I could cheat time.  “And then, I…” had a time of it trying to trouble-shoot that unrealistic course of action.  My great-grandfather lost his assets in the Great Depression trying to “beat the wheat” on the commodities market.  Perhaps it’s genetic to risk everything with the hope of random, serendipitous success in the face of cross-your-fingers risk-taking.  Yes, the last three sculptures blew up in the kiln. “And then, I…” decided to make sure I never put myself, or the tour, in a time crunch again.



My Assessment: While one might think all the figures were in peril from the beginning, I think the interior brace connecting the opposite sides of the lower end of each sculpture was the source of the problem: all three were cleanly and completely detached while the shells of the hollow-built forms were enough intact to suggest that breakage was due to the brace bursting inside and “bombing” the encircling body. Particularly in the middle figure.  Even a tiny bubble of air/space, still damp, can create enough steam to expand and blow out a chunk or two.  And at Cone 04 (just under 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit), a chunk becomes a hunk of glowing destruction for anything within shooting distance: I had put all three sculptures in the kiln together to save firing time.  There’s that word again…  They looked so tidy, so ready (See below.).



My Realization: Even the most devastated figure kept her head, as did I, promptly puzzling together the bits and pieces with Andrea Keys Connell’s mantra in my head: don’t despair, repair!  A piece of shirt here, a digit there, at least two of the figures were making good progress until I realized I had one day to patch before they had to be finished and for transport.  My graduate professor liked to say: work hard, but first: work smart.  Poor grammar aside, it’s the best advice that I have often ignored.  But I couldn’t this time.  I repainted and packed two earlier figurative sculptures that rode well to Helena and made it possible for me to fulfill my obligations for the tour.  I’m glad I love making these: one can never have too many, or enough time…if studio work isn’t the first expression of every day.








Shout out to Andrea and Claudia

I enjoy working in clay because it can be whatever it needs to be for what the artist wants to say. I’ve known what I wanted to say since 1997, when I made my first figurative sculptures in my MFA graduate program. However, the road map to give form to that voice has been fraught with detours and delays. I thank Andrea Keys Connell and Claudia Olds Goldie for showing me how to navigate the hollow-built construction process to get me on my way. And even though Claudia is in Massachusetts and Andrea is in Virginia, they are in the studio with me everyday.

Studio notebook and reference bulletin board.

Bulletin board of photos and studio notebook: Andrea Keys Connell making ears.

At Haystack Mountain School of Crafts (Maine), I watched Andrea build a 7′ tall sculpture in 10 days–start to finish. Claudia Olds Goldie created a 24″ tall sculpture in 5 days at Santa Fe Clay (New Mexico). Similar techniques with completely different results. In the course of those workshops, and documenting their demos, I realized the significance of photo references and have been hooked ever since. I keep those workshop photos in my studio notebook, along with photos of friends and myself, in poses relative to my sculptures’ pivotal moments. I’m addicted to studio selfies, and my husband no longer bats an eye when I ask him to photograph 360-degree stances or assorted hands, ears and eyes. (For more images: www.facebook.com/andtheni)

My patchwork of reference photos ground my process. My sculptures aren’t meant to be individual portraits (recreations of specific people).  They are representative of actual and observed physical characteristics that are abstracted and formalized to communicate a pivotal moment.  They are expressions and poses related to the “And then, I…” theme.  Thank you, Andrea and Claudia, for the “go-ahead.”  Thanks for the pivotal moments.

Studio notebook reference for a sculpture pose.

Studio notebook: pose reference photos.

Nine New Sculptures

Constructing, firing, and finishing 9 sculptures over the summer seemed like a realistic goal in June (See: Between Us, “Be Careful What You Wish For.”).  And thankfully, it is again realistic as the end of August approaches. It’s a good time to laugh about the catastrophe that, in July, booted me into “get ‘er done” mode.

The first three sculptures were in process, with torsos, arms, and heads intact.  The next half of the process is to add hands, faces, and clothes.  Our out-of-town children and grandchildren were visiting, and I knew I wouldn’t have as much time in the studio for a couple of days.  So I sprayed the figures with water and wrapped them in plastic to keep them moist.  The next time I walked into the studio, I thought they looked so much shorter than I remembered. And they didn’t have heads…


Figurative Sculpture Before Triage

Notice the arms stacked on the left? The head in the foreground?  I kicked into triage mode, thinking the Andrea Keys Connell mantra: “Don’t despair. Repair.”   I have felt like that sculpture looked, on occasion, and knew that my only choice was to assess the situation and decide how best to go forward.  The sculpture would either be better, or it would need to be destroyed and the clay reclaimed to build another day.  I love it that clay can be almost anything, and can become nothing in the blink of an eye (or overnight, in this case).  It reminds me that the process and the product directly result from my level of awareness, balance, and attention.  Kind of like life.


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