| |PLACEHOLDER TULIPS
Every year tulips planted by the last residents on this place open their petal-jaws and unfold bright red and yellow over an old stone laundry sink below the house. I’ve taken a picture every year since I came here. The tulips offer new expressions of themselves each year, that follow recognizable patterns. We could be fooled into thinking they are the same tulips. The background has been changing as the place evolves, as the work moves through.See tulips over time
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Much of my creative work this year has been involved with restoring the landscape around the studio and house. This winter we cleared tons of ivy, opening up Trickle Creek and its draw below the house. The creek drains ten or fifteen acres to the east and north. The watercourse rises by the blueberries at the top of the Refuge and runs down into Puget Sound, nine or ten months of the year. Decades of neglect and abuse had caused the old creek to present more like a drainage ditch and garbage dump when I first arrived. It flowed out of sight, silent through weeds.
Local ivy magician Daniel Marcotte directed a team that cleared the draw and brought in hundreds of reclaimed plants to restore the natural forest understory. While that was going on, Bill Lenker brought in many tons of granite boulders to define and ground the watercourse.
Now flowing water sparkles, and sings, strengthened every time it rains. An occluded acre of the place has been opened up. At first it all felt too exposed; there was a sense of vulnerability. Now as the Indian Plum gets into full leaf, and the ferns begin to unfurl, it feels like revelation. Perception carries farther into the depths of the forest; dimension has been somehow doubled. The whole place feels larger—the invisible brought to light.
| || |ONGOING DANCE
Ring Dance No. 2/ CORE has been on Percival Landing in downtown Olympia, holding the ground at the corner of State and Water streets since last June, as part of the city’s year-long Percival Plinth outdoor sculpture exhibition.
You already knew that, right? What you didn’t know is that a couple of weeks ago, Olympia's Parking Business Improvement Area decided to buy the piece for their Project for Public Spaces “Placemaking” initiative. Thank you, Olympia PBIA, for the recognition and support! Place it well. Sometime this year the piece will be moved to a new location downtown, not yet determined. I’ll let you know when I know. The rings will keep dancing in public. Read more about CORE
While Ring Dance No.1 and No.2 make their way in world, No.3 and No.4, a relational set of two, entitled “DUET,” are still available. You can see them up by the entrance to the Refuge, by the blueberries. Read more about DUET
| |NEXT DANCE
Last week I finished a smaller Ring Dance, composed of 30 six-inch steel rings sliced from an oxygen tank. The piece measures 42” tall, and stands in a space roughly 16” in diameter. I had this one galvanized and
powder-coated, in fire-engine red. It stands out in a complex outdoor or landscape placement, and is small enough to be indoors as well. The working title was “Tiny Dancer” which has a fairly obvious baby-boomer cultural reference. Now that it’s finished, the piece begs to be called the more timely “OXYGEN.” Which do you prefer? The piece is available for sale. Read more about OXYGEN
Olympia's Fall Arts Walk is tomorrow—the evening of Friday October 5—and continues through the afternoon of October 6. Sorry for the late notice.
I’ll have two pieces completed this summer on display along with pieces by other metal workers from the SPSCC welding program. We are showing again at the Euphorium, in the Security Building, at the corner of Fourth Ave. and Washington Street in downtown Olympia. TINE BALL
, a piece composed of twenty recycled (and reconfigured) tines from a dump rake, will be there, along with a galvanized steel table I wrote about in a previous posting, called WINDSWEPT STEEL TABLE
. The table base is made from some twisty scraps left over when I bent the rings for Ring Dance #3 & 4.
Thank you to those of you who took the time to vote in Olympia’s Percival Plinth Sculpture Project. The votes are in, and Olympia sculptor Ross Matteson’s bronze and steel piece “Windstar” gathered the people’s choice award with nearly 30% of the votes cast. Congratulations to Ross! You can see more of his well-wrought wildlife bronzes by clicking here.
I have not heard how many votes “Ring Dance #2” received, but I continue to hear great response for the piece. You can enjoy it until next June at Percival Landing, and while driving around the corner of State and Water streets in downtown Olympia. The piece is for sale if you wish to continue enjoying it in your home or business landscape. I have three further Ring Dance pieces available, including the musical dyad subtitled “Duet.” You can see them at my studio, or click here.
We are having a gorgeous extended September here at the southern tip of the Salish Sea. It’s a bit dry, and the light breezes send a crisp sustaining whisper through the curling leaves still on the trees. Every step on the beach trail crunches with the leaves that have already fallen.
I was moved to make a table for the deck, and with a sculpture about to travel up to the galvanizers, there was added pressure to finish something I could include with the run.
I had a pile of twisty angle iron pieces six to ten inches long that were the end pieces cut off when I made the rings for the latest Ring Dance (DUET). I welded about half of them together into curving forms roughly two feet long.
Riffing on past experience working with curly willow and beaver sticks, I fabricated the twisted linear forms into a chaotic base that flows and dances, and finally seem to cross paws and bow.
I bent another length of angle into a ring for the edge of the top, and cut a circle out of a leftover piece of eighth inch sheet to wrap it around. The outcome is a bit overbuilt, perhaps (at fifty-five pounds) but makes a very stable deck table, big enough for writing, or a couple of glasses of wine and a plate of hors d'oeuvres.
My daughter said it reminded her of those coastal trees that have grown under the pressure of steady winds, so I call it Windswept Table. You can see another view of the table [here]
Ring Dance #3 and #4 just came back from the galvanizers. There is something delightful about the way the fresh zinc coating shines and throws light around—particularly on this set, which has a sine-wave curve around the circumference of each ring. They will oxidize over time to a more classic industrial gray, but this effect could be maintained with a powder-coat finish on top of the galvanizing.
I produced Ring Dance #3 & 4 as an interacting set, entitled DUET. They stand alone near one another in such a way that from some angles they flow one into the other. From other angles one stands tall to tower and lean over the other, which nuzzles from a more relaxed horizontal position.
DUET was conceived as a reference to music, and the musical scale. When I was deciding what sizes to make the rings I chose to make seven ring sizes that mimic the frequencies of the A major scale. I started with a 24 inch diameter circle representing 220 hertz. With that as a starting point I could calculate that a 27 inch circle would represent B, at 246.942 hertz, C (261.626 hertz) would be represented with a 28.5 inch ring—and so on. All together DUET is composed of seven “A”s, six “B”s, five “C”s, four “D”s, three “E”s, two “F”s, and one “G”. I haven’t tried arranging that into a musical sequence. Give it a try!
When I began bending the angle iron, the machinery colluded to enhance the musical reference in an unexpected way. I had decided to make an inside bend and as the steel fed into the slip roller, it began to oscillate side to side, forming that sine-wave curve you can see in the photos. It’s not what I imagined would happen—which showed me one more time that the process often has a better imagination than I do.
The two elements of DUET harmonize beautifully. They are holding the ground on the Refuge steps while they await a more permanent stage for their performance. The pieces are available for purchase and installation.
To see another view of the set [click here] or call for an appointment to come by.
//// Ring Dance #2/ CORE [click here]
has been attracting a lot of attention down at Percival Landing in Olympia. You can’t miss it, at the point where State St. going west dog-legs south to join Fourth Ave. The city is conducting a public vote to determine which of this year’s fourteen sculptures to purchase for their permanent collection. If you have been meaning to get down there, you have two more weeks to submit your preference. Voting ends August 31.
You will find ballots in flyer-boxes at eight locations along the Landing. To vote, select your preferred sculpture, fill in your name and where you live, write a few words about WHY you like the sculpture, and turn it in at front desk of the Olympia Center, adjacent to the park at 222 Columbia St. NW. Of course that means you can only complete your vote when the center is open. Open hours are M-F: 8AM to 7:30PM, Saturday 9AM to 4PM. They are closed on Sunday.
Ring Dance #2/ CORE was selected by the City of Olympia for its 2012 Percival Landing Sculpture display. We installed it this week on the plinth at the corner of State and Water streets. That’s the point where one-way State St. doglegs south to join Fourth Ave. Driving west on State you will be looking right at the sculpture, rising up behind the safety barricades that keep you from driving into Budd Inlet. You can’t miss it walking along the landing. The loan is for up to one year. Find a sunny day to get down there—the shadow of the piece adds to the show.
The City will host an opening for the new sculptures on Friday July 20 at the Harbor House on Percival Landing from 5 to 7PM. Come on down and meet the artists.
Last summer, following a month-long popular vote by visitors to the park, the city purchased Dan Klennert’s “King Salmon,” and has moved it to a new location at West Bay Park. You can see more of Dan’s work [by clicking here]
or by driving out to his remarkable sculpture garden just west of Ashford on State Route 706, the road to Mt. Rainier National Park. The other dozen sculptures from 2011 have been removed, and returned to the artists. This year the voting begins the day after the opening.
Ring Dance #1/ INCEPTION is currently displayed among the blueberries at my home and studio, The Refuge, and is available for purchase.
Ring Dance #3/ DUET is underway. Looks like it will be a dyad—two independent structures designed to be placed in relationship to one another. The piece is currently in that adolescent stage that resists photographs. I have no doubt that it will rise to graceful maturity over the next month or so.
I was awake at 1AM thinking about what moves me in sculpture. The current RING DANCE series holds me fascinated, and I was wondering what it is about that. The best answer I can come up with is “form and interplay of forms”, or “form and movement.”
When I equate interplay of forms with movement I realize I’m making a distinction that defines movement in a particularly subtle way—a way that excludes mechanical motion. Maybe I should come up with a new word, but I can’t think of one. So let’s talk about movement and experience—about perception.
Have you been to a sculpture park that includes a piece or two that catches the wind to create motion, or is motorized to rotate, or operate—repeating some cycle of motion? We do notice it immediately. That’s because the brain is wired to notice and assess motion very quickly. It’s a survival instinct, at the deepest levels of perception. Something moving might be a rock aimed at my head; I need to know about that as soon as possible.
Motion might also indicate running water, or a food source. As hunters living in the earth environment we have developed senses and sense reactions that assist in survival here. The tendency to quickly notice when a new motion comes into our field of view comes in handy crossing the street, and it’s very useful to advertisers. Ever wonder why those youths on the street corner are frantically waving signs for cheap mattress stores? Just as when there’s a TV on at the bar, or you are near the flickering flames of a fire—you can’t NOT notice it. Motion—particularly new motion—draws our attention.
Intriguingly, the same hard-wired feature causes us to dismiss movement that repeats. Once it’s no longer novel the brain begins to rule it out, or see past it—so that we won’t miss the newer motion that could arrive at any second. This explains what happens with those enjoyable pinwheels and other whirly-gigs at the farmer’s market. Very attractive at first, so we buy them. But with familiarity we stop noticing. It’s a good trick, you might say a cheap trick. That kind of motion doesn’t interest me in sculpture. I’m looking for forms that move us in more resilient ways.
The movement that I look for in sculpture is more closely related to the experience of walking through a landscape. The observer moves, and as the observer moves the perspective flows, lining up different features of the landscape in a constantly shifting dance of perceived relationships. In the forest, various trees line up then move apart; as the angles and curves play in the eye you experience a flow of perception. Same with walking through a redrock canyon, or in a cityscape of various building-forms, separated by streetscapes. It’s the perceptual movement that interests me, the observer’s interaction with form.
So I look for elements or collections of elements that offer opportunities for interplay with the passing eye. Sometimes a perspective stops me cold, and I want to consider the pleasing arrangement that has come together—I might even come back again and again to watch it line up in just that way. Then I move a little, and another surprise coalesces, from a different perspective. That’s the movement I’m talking about. I’m not always sure what will make it happen, but I love it when I find that it has.
RING DANCE #1—INCEPTION came back from the galvanizers this week. It still shouts a little loud with the fresh hot-dip zinc coating, but will quiet with exposure to sunshine and rain. I have been enjoying the sense of play and motion that the piece embodies.
I didn’t know in advance what the piece would look like. I made the rings, of various sizes, but then deliberately avoided any planning of how they would be arranged to form the final sculpture. I find that a piece like this has more life when I let it accrue
on its own. I just started sticking the rings together, one by one.
I think of this process as being divinitory. By that I mean I let the piece form itself, while I engage in a ritual sort of play with the elements involved. I apply a loose, fluid set of guidelines as to how I will proceed. The piece is thereby “played” into existence. I discover the final form of the piece by playing with the elements rather than by developing a set design and then forcing materials into the form of the preconceived vision. I wonder what will happen; then I find out.
For guidelines, in this case, I paid attention to attaching each ring firmly to at least two others, considered how to make the piece fully three dimensional—with no front, side, or back—and tried to avoid placing any ring on the same plane with, or parallel to, any other. I didn’t even settle on what would be up or down until I came to the last few rings.
The advantage of this open-ended play is that the resulting piece arrives from a place beyond my own imagination, from a crossroads of play and purpose, a mix of the limits of material and process, one decision dependent on the results of the last. I arrive in a new territory, not quite sure how I got there. Then I look around. RING DANCE #1
is available for purchase, and will be on display at Olympia’s spring Artswalk, April 27 and 28. I’ll be showing with the other “Fire Art” welders from South Puget Sound Community College. We will be on the southeast corner of Fourth and Washington, downtown Olympia.
Welcome to the new website. I'll be writing here about the practice of making things, and what lures me down these branching paths, from inspiration through outcome. I have some archived blogs from the old site that I'll re-post as they have relevance.
For now, enjoy the images—glimpses of decades of work and play.