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Zen Garden #16, most recent of the Zen Garden series 29 x 29 x 29 inches mixed media on vintage Solair chair, in progress.
Initially the plan was to engrave pebble designs in the chair’s plaster surface, but since the circumference patterns turn out so interesting, I decided to continue the pebbles all over, front and back/underneath. They will be sanded down to almost flat, so the finished chair will still be comfortable to sit in.
The first four first four Chairs were re-purposed second-hand original Solaire Chairs, but I have found a decent source for new ones, so finally some ideas I’ve had for years can be realized, and special orders can now be filled. With thin applications of plaster then sanding and waiting for successive layers to dry, four new Chairs (29 x 29 x 29 inches) are now in progress, concentrating on the details of two while the others cure. One chair, the priority, will be of Shiva as The Lord of Dance, and one chair is an addition to the Zen Garden series. Until painting stages, the two can be worked at the same time while 3D details are added, dried, sanded and carved.
Eastern philosophy is full of symbolism for concepts much deeper than words could ever express. The teachings seem so complex but beautifully simple at the same time. Divine concepts are depicted in human forms with worldly items to help us identify somewhat, and increase our understanding toward making healthy decisions in our lives – for mind, body, and soul.
Sculptures, pictures, and literature are charged with multiple meanings and contradictions conveying the extremes in Life, like the existence of intense joy and pain here, and the importance of balance in day to day living, and practicing a middle road of contentment. The interpretations here only outline the more prominent symbolism of this famous icon. As research continues, this article will elaborate on the most important symbols of this sculpture.
The purpose of the dance is to release us from our ignorance and entanglement in the world of opposites, all set within the circular, rhythmic motion of the universe. We are to acknowledge, yet remain detached by their effects. It is said that Truth requires detachment and at the same time, knowledge and acceptance.
There are different names for the Hindu god, Shiva in his various forms. Though an ascetic, Shiva’s role is as householder, implying that we need not leave society to be devoted to following principles of Dharma; conduct; right way of living. In the aspect depicted here, Lord Shiva creates, sustains, and destroys life. As The Nataraja, he dances within the world of illusion, represented by an outer ring of fire. There is an inner ring of water, and some statues show multiple rings of fire and water. As he victoriously dances upon the demon of ignorance, Shiva’s matted dreadlocks whirl about him, capturing a number of heavenly bodies, like the physical representation of the sacred river Ganges, which fell from heaven to earth, first landing in Shiva’s hair so as not to destroy it. The moon is symbolic of many things, such as seasonal changes, life’s rejuvenation and love, all kept active with this dance.
The gestures of the dance represent Shiva’s five activities: creation (symbolized by the drum), protection (by the “fear-not” pose of the hand), destruction (by the fire), embodiment (by the foot planted on the ground), and release (by the foot held above ground). Snakes coiling about his body symbolize the life force within all of us – the Shakti or kundalini – and display his power over the most deadly of creatures. Also, as snakes shed their skin, so do our souls reincarnate, according to Hindu beliefs.
In this visual translation, the symbol of Om, first sound uttered in the Universe, weaves throughout, as if to involve a complete sensory understanding. All hand gestures have specific meanings, like the open front right hand facing us in “abhayamudra” gesture, denoting reassurance and safety for all who follow a righteous path. The drum in his right hand beats ceaselessly and infinitely, “Om”, while the universe is created, destroyed and recreated. The back left hand holds flames of fire, with both destructive and cleansing properties. The front left arm is held across the chest like an elephant’s trunk, with the hand pointing to the left leg and foot, lifted as a sign of liberation as the sacred elephant leads the way through jungles of ignorance.
The design is partially engraved with pencil in damp plaster, with the addition and removal of small areas of plaster, then carving as well. The design is refined very slowly with successive layers of plaster and paint which also creates a mottled sort of patina, perfect for this subject.
The icon on the finished chair will be gold-bronze colors, as the Shiva as Nataraj sculptures are traditionally made of bronze. Plans are for the background to be antiqued cobalt blue or teal.
“Necessity is the mother of invention.”
Oak Leaf bedside tables, 24H x 12D with a 20 inch glass top, crinkled brown craft paper over heavy cardboard tubes. The tubes are available in a variety of dimensions, sold in hardware stores as use for cement-pouring re: fence building.
I’ve had this idea to make bedside tables for a few years now, and selling the house has motivated me to finally make them. I have not been able to find any in the stores that I like. Faux suede effects were the intention here, but whether or not that was successful, I’m pleased with the results. A brown circular woven mat was purchased for $2, finishing the look.
These bedside tables coordinate the oak leaves on the oak headboard that was carved and given to us by my Dad.
Cycad Fossil Chair, Salish NW Pacific culture wooden whorl replica Chair, and Ancient Mayan bowl replica refurbished vintage chair, 29 x 29 x 29 inches mixed media. Read the feature article.
On exhibit and available for purchase February 11th – 27th at Visual Image Fine Art Puiblishing and Gallery Juried Show, 14320 Midway Road, Suite 300, Dallas, Texas. Come and meet all the Artists at the Opening Reception this coming Saturday, Feb. 13th, 3 – 9 p.m.
Good Artist Pals also come in threes
Some friendships will last forever, and how fortunate that three of mine also happen to be artists! Listed in no particular order of favoritism, each are miles apart geographically speaking and personality-wise, but they all have one thing in common: they’ll tell it like it is if you ever need a good critique, and on the flip side of the coin: a smile, a boost of energy; encouragement. I’ve posted my favorite works created by each, and highly recommend browsing each of their websites..
a) Chris Bolmeier: Happy Pigs, Oil on canvas I met Chris on the internet three years ago through Robert Genn’s Painter’s Keys newsletters. Formerly an actress and professional singer, she’s not through yet with entertaining you through humour, song and paint. She often posts mini-videos of herself singing, and her artwork is pure, straight from the gut, and some of the funniest, most original material ever. I chose this piece to share as an absolute favorite, portraying fanatically goofy pigs because it makes me laugh…not just smile, but laugh Christerically every time I look at it. In my opinion her best work is of childhood memories, and some of the baffling stuff that originates from who knows where in the infinite canvas of her mind!
b) Karen Xarchos: Restaurant mural in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada Karen and I were neighbors many years ago. We designed and painted murals together in the Ottawa area for a couple of years. Thank goodness for the internet, we’re able to keep in touch when either of us needs a good eye and some honest advice. Karen’s style and mine are vastly different; our pace, the style, the manner and we continue to learn so much from each other. She reminds me to slow down and smell the paint; her blending techniques are amazing.
Karen accepts commissions for canvas pieces like wall borders painted at home, then cleverly installs them with wallpaper paste so home owners can remove the work and take it with them when they relocate. My favorite work of Karen’s are the murals depicting work of the Masters, which are enjoyed by customers dining in many of the Greek and Italian restaurants in the Ottawa area.
c) Virginia Wieringa: Prayer, mixed media collage Virginia and I met about four years ago on an Artists’ interactive website, wetcanvas.com, and I think she still participates there under the avatar name ”Veedubya”. I’m positive she’d love to meet you there too. Virginia has well-developed drawing and painting abilities and currently experiments intuitively with mixed media collage. Her work, no matter what the media, reflects her open-mindedness and strong sense of spirituality. Formerly an Art teacher, she’s fun to write to because she puts up with my inner-most silly self and doesn’t hold back her own. My favorite work of Virginia’s are the subtly symbolic collages, and some of the more vivid, energetic paintings that are about two phases pre-Realism.
The Tree of Life, 29 x 29 x 29 inches mixed media; refurbished vintage plastic lawn chair, woven canvas strips and white glue, thin layers of drywall compound: cured, sanded, carved, acrylics paint, varnish. Durable, completely functional.
There was an interesting buildup of colors after a lot of changing colors and repainting the design many times, so the impressions of this chair are created like the other chairs in this series; ancient artifact replicas. The back design is still in progress. View an earlier post of this chair, April 18th, 2009, and the other chairs are listed on the Art, Prices page.
Sumac Bushes 47H x 22W x 16D inches refurbished directors chair, acrylics on canvas
Four cropped pieces of the 1999 painting that inspired this chair hang above it, framed red; the chair and small paintings are a set.
Click here to view the previous post January 6th.
Fossils Chair, Homage to The Earth , started in January and finished today, except for refining the bark fossil patterns. The original posts of the process are included here also. 29 x 29 x 29 inches refurbished vintage chair, canvas strips, plaster, carved, acrylics, varnish, waxed. Above: detail, front Below: details,back
Left:The back of this chair has authentic 225 – 345 million year old fossilized clam shells embedded around the circumference. Next, the Encyclopedia Britannica listing. The fossils were found in a mixture of playground pebbles in Dallas, TX.
Portrayed on the front of the chair is the fossil of a Cycad, the first of palm-like trees that grew about 50 million years ago in a Wyoming riverbed. The first trees on Earth were actually nothing more than woody stems standing in and absorbing nutrients from water. Patterns of fossilized Paleozoic Lepidodendron bark- leaf scars are painted on the underside of the chair. Lepidodendron were a primitive species of the very first trees on earth, reaching heights of 130 feet (40 m) tall around 400 million years ago. Can we even relate to those numbers? That’s what I love about fossils – holding one and trying to comprehend Earth’s timeline is mind-blowing!
January 14th and January 24th updates, below: front details, work in progress on back/underside of the chair. After this stage, all details will continue to be refined with more carving and layers of acrylics. Haven’t done many details on the trilobites yet. The colors in the palm leaf still are too vibrant for a fossil, but are a perfect underlying color because it shows through when layers of blues and black are wiped away with a cloth.
January 13th:Lower detail of Fossil Chair, carved plaster, Acrylic paint inlay, sanded. In progress. Trilobites will have painted detail.
January 12th: While sanding the wood for the Sumac Bushes Chair during coffee breaks, I have started the Fossil Chair, paying homage to the fact that without trees, all life on Earth would not be so prolific, and might not exist at all. Fish and Trilobytes are carved into the plaster on the front surface of the chair as well. in this series.
April 18th, above: still in an extremely rough state, and still deciding about which colors to use and how. There must be much more plaster on the Salish chair, because this one is not carving as well. Only the Shou symbol will stand out carved..all else will be implied. Blue, purple and green are the new black! Actually that’s the old Impressionist trick of course, but I also rarely use black if those 3 will do – they are much more lively and interesting than flat black. The Yin-Yang/Aboriginal legend snakes have been eliminated because working them in color-wise was going to be a problem. The Celtic design was getting lost in too much else around it. I am anxious to find another chair because I really want to do one with Australian-inspired motifs and colors.
Post-dated note: Unfortunately there is not enough room to show this for the premier of the Trees show in Raleigh. I’m mostly relieved that there is extra time in my schedule now for preparations, but this chair now needs to be set aside in light of the other priorities.
April 14th: 29 x 29 x 29 inches vintage chair, canvas strips, layers of sanded plaster.
The design incorporates a few esoteric concepts common to many world cultures: Overall is the idea of the Tree of Life and the theory of As above, So below, represented by branches and roots. Symbolic of longevity along with the pine tree, and central to the design is the Japanese character Shou. The branches and roots of the pine tree are interwoven in the classic Celtic style, inspired by designs in the Book of Kells, gospel manuscripts that were illustrated by Irish monks around the year 800 A.D., common era. Two snakes drawn in the Yin-Yang placement represent Australian Aboriginal legends; the Rainbow Snake is their most important sacred symbol, believed to be the creator of all things. Christian biblical literature it is the snake who gives the apple from the Tree of Knowledge to Eve. There are more, but the rest you may like to discover yourself!
There is still plenty of intricate work to do with the roots – this’ll be fun! Drawing freehand is much better than casting the original drawing on with light and tracing it because each time it’s drawn, first with graphite, then marker, then many layers of paint, I become more familiar with the lines and the final outline will be steady and clean.
April 7, 2009: While studying some of the previous paintings that are still in progress, I sketched out my version of The Tree of Life, a preliminary drawing for the fourth refurbished vintage chair, and have also been layering and sanding the plaster in preparation for it. Colors planned are black, off-white and greens. The other 3 chairs in this series are shown on the price list page.
Back and seat of 47H x 22W x 16D inches refurbished tall wood director’s chair, work in progress. Acrylics on canvas, will be varathaned.. functional Art. The wood will be painted a dark faux cherry wood finish; reddish burnt sienna.
Each functional, comfortable 29 x 29 x 29 inch replica of ancient Art or artifact re-utilizes vintage plastic lawn chairs that were considered Art during the 1960’s. The original structures, damaged or unusable were refurbished by a process of weaving canvas strips along with white glue paper-mache style over the entire plastic top and bottom, and multiple layers of drywall compound sanded in between coats. Designs are drawn with graphite, painted with Acrylics and a few coats of varnish for durability, then waxed to finish and enrich the colors. Two more Solaire chairs and other styles of chairs are in various stages of completion yet to be embellished with historic Art themes from other cultures. Other styles of chairs are also in progress.
The skeletal structure of these chairs, called Solaire chairs, were manufactured during the 1960s and 1980s. Art in their own day, these particular ones were unusable; in poor condition they were bound for the landfill sight. Originals designed by Fabiano and Panzini, a French Canadian team, the Solaire chairs are now collectors items, some selling for $500 a piece.
The first chair given a facelift produced a large replica of a Mayan bowl. The Mayan culture (Mexico, Guatemala, Belize and parts of Honduras, 900 B.C. – 900 A.D. Common Era) developed a very complex written language using pictographs. Many of these were facial expressions and hand gestures. The bowl displays the birth of the Maize God, and along the top edge the name of the bowl’s owner is written, as well as possibly what it was used for.
Salish Carved Wood Whorl
Whorls are weights that stabilize spindles used for spinning yarn. The yarn in this case would have been wound just above the whorl. Spinning yarn and weaving fabric are some of humankind’s oldest technology. Left: example of a spindle with whorl, Eve Spinning Illuminated Manuscript c. 1170 A.D.
Historically everywhere wood has been used for tools, utensils and everyday items, they were often carved. This spindle whorl was used by a Salish Northwest Pacific coast community living south and east of Vancouver Island. Here a central human figure holds two otters. A Kwakiutl (also living in Vancouver Island territory) prayer to a Cedar tree prayer was very much a part of the inspiration for this chair. It reads: “Look at me friend! I come to ask you for your dress, since there is nothing you cannot be used for. I come to beg you for this, Long-life maker”.
December 18th: Finishing details, further definition with Acrylics and two coats of varathane, waxed. Decided against the decoupage of the Kwakiutl (also living in Vancouver Island territory) prayer to a Cedar tree because it does not look as good as hoped. December 16th: Carved the plaster in areas then inlaying purple for contrast rather than black. Purple glazes also make yellows much richer. Right: back of chair, rubbed off areas give a carved effect. The undercoat of yellows shines through succeeding layers, and carved wood textures are created with varathane leaving raised brushstrokes..and trying whatever else I can think of! More modeling with plaster and light sanding, then redrawing with graphite, and the design is continually adjusted.« Previous Entries