The Writer's Life: Film & Book Reviews, Observations, and Stories
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State of Emerging

One of my walnut sculptures rolled off the table, fell on the floor, and broke into two pieces. The sound of a sculpture breaking is always sickening, like a bone being snapped in your leg. Examining the edges of the break, I quickly realized I could glue it together, but was actually pleased it had split apart. I was always ambivalent about it. Although the original sculpture was evocative of plant forms from the sea, or, perhaps, a sea animal, it still retained too much of the original character of the log. You know, like one of those sculptures some guy from northern Minnesota does with a chain saw from a standing tree. It’s always going to be a tall tree stump no matter how thoroughly he transforms it into a bear raised on its hind legs. Besides, the sculpture didn’t pass the Arne Flaten test. Remember? You should be able to roll it downhill without having it break. Though I tend to think of it as the Japanese test: Nails that stick up will be driven down. I suppose because I’m the original conformist.

Allow me a moment of digression, please. Did you know that the Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas was written by Gertrude Stein? Of course, you did. And that she uses it as a vehicle to describe herself (Stein) from Alice’s point of view. You know, a sublime genius surrounded by very flat, uninteresting lesser geniuses (Picasso, Hemingway, and the like), and by even more one-dimensional types whose only purpose in life is to serve her.

Anyway. Allora.

One of the pieces (from the broken sculpture) underwent surgery, and through the ministrations of a coping saw, rasps, and sandpaper became the flying child perched on its parent’s supine body. Much better than the sea form, I think.

The second piece is still a work in progress, and, though I’ve cut a 2 inch diameter hole clean through it, nothing recognizable is emerging. I’m very familiar with this state. It’s the place between becoming and going too far. You carve, carve, and carve, trusting your instincts, and pray that something good will emerge. Often it does. Though sometimes you make one cut too many, and immediately know that you’ve pushed it beyond redemption. And, so, with regret, it goes into the pile for the next fire in the wood burner.

January 15, 2010   Comments Off on State of Emerging

Flying Wooden Duck

Flying Duck

This piece was a retrieved from a desert island off the coast of Borneo. After bringing it home, I promptly forgot it until my wife slipped a rock beneath it and set it on the piano. Of course, now I can see what it is—a flying wooden duck.

August 29, 2009   Comments Off on Flying Wooden Duck

Mother and Child

This is a piece I’ve had around for a while—one of those I can’t quite bring myself to sand and oil to a final finish. It’s of a mother and child. Notice how the mother is perfectly poised and balanced, cradling her child (I want to say “knave bairn”) with maternal ease. It reminds me of the figures I did when I first started carving. God only knows what’s happened to them. Probably used as firewood during blackouts.

August 24, 2009   Comments Off on Mother and Child

Two Interlocked Forms

These two interlocked pieces sit on the mantel, rough and unfinished, but the forms are distinct and my intentions are clear. Perhaps one day I’ll sand them—or, perhaps, not—since I have no idea what God intends for me. I take my life from day to day, from moment to moment. The two pieces remind me of love relationships—resting upon one another but separate, interlocked but free.

August 20, 2009   1 Comment

Softened and Transformed

All things masculine becomes softened and transformed in a marriage if the woman is strong (and persistent) enough. That’s certainly the case with this piece which began its life as a simple sculpture that soon became encased in a white box with a paper flower on top. The stuck-on part of the sculpture is loosely attached to the upright piece with a single rod. The larger piece has been treated with linseed oil (and is darker); the other has not. The truth is they really did belong in a white box but I never knew it until I saw them there.

July 27, 2009   Comments Off on Softened and Transformed

A Jumble of Forms

This jumble of forms is another sculpture I created from something else. It was originally two pieces my wife did for Arnold Flaten. She never finished them and said I could modify them if I stayed true to her original intention. I did, and the forms are really hers, not mine. It is now three pieces, though it’s impossible to tell where one ends and others others begin. Many of my sculptures are like this, forms that fit or interlock into one another anyway you choose.

July 24, 2009   Comments Off on A Jumble of Forms

Old Sea Form

Wood borers create small, round passages through fallen logs until they weaken the fiber. Then it rots. It can be quite beautiful. I found such a piece of walnut and seeing something in it I liked, I proceeded to carve out most of the rot (which had the consistency and color of dried clay), leaving a form resembling an old sea creature. I left some of the borers’ holes intact (check out the other image of the sculpture under “Photos”). You an actually see through the wood in places as if it were lace. The poor creature is old and worn, stuck somewhere at the bottom of the ocean, not far from the coast of Galway in Ireland.

July 23, 2009   Comments Off on Old Sea Form