Collaboration

It all starts with a reason to collaborate.  Mine started with an actual need to further the impact of one of my sculptural pieces with a unique patina that exceeded my abilities.  Color has always been a challenge for me.  I discovered long ago that I was partially color blind, and that I saw colors a little less then the general population. That is what initially drove me to do sculpture, instead of painting.

Now, to find the right person to work with. I have been following many San Diego painters and art makers. I have always been enamored with the work of Denise Cerro, and the many materials she uses in her artwork.  She is a very hard working artist, and does many really fascinating video’s on her YouTube channel.  For this reason, I reached out to her to see if she would be interested in a collaboration. I was elated to have her agree.

The next part of the process was to design and build an interesting sculpture for her to apply her skills.  I sometimes do not design on paper, what I am going to build.  That was the case in this instance.  I was going to build something that was free standing, and that had many curves, and was dynamic in its overall presentation.  I like to have void area’s with things running though them.  I selected New Zealand Pine for this project, the Pine is a softer wood and is much easier to shape then the much harder species I usually work with.  I also knew the wood would be painted, and that any grain, or coloring of the wood, would not be an issue.  And so I began.

After the initial cutting of the material, I glued two pieces together to give it more width.  I then cut some holes for pieces to run through, and then a square hole to house one of my signature wooden balls.

The entire piece was painted with a white primer, and then I turned it over to Denise for her application.  For this collaboration, I told Denise she had full creative license to do with the piece as she wished.  As she started to work on the piece, she found a nautical feeling that led to an actual Octopus theme.

And in the end, the piece was remarkable.  The collaboration gave birth to Octopus’s Garden.

Museum Exhibit

“Machine Man” will be a part of a special exhibit at the Oceanside Museum of Art entitled Contemporary Interpretations, in June 2023.

With my design process taking much thought and planning, I begin my pieces with an abstract composition, which at times is driven by the materials. However, with this work of art it called for reverse engineering. As I analyzed Gellert’s “Worker and Machine”, the composition directed my response from the start.

Curators Comments:
I can only imagine how you are feeling about this piece, because I am just overwhelmed with your creative vision, your courage to see that vision through, and your ability to so gracefully combine wood with materials.  I am familiar with much of your art, and I feel that this is a breakthrough piece for you.  Very excited to see where this will take you.  I also love your trompe l’oeil and how you treated the whittled wood piece and wrench to look like metal.  And how you opted to pull his hand down past the edge, also nestling that wrench in between the black disc and pulley to create a more dynamic effect.  So beautifully arranged and balanced. -by Trinh Mai, Curator

The array of materials used–wood, metal, and various found objects–were informed by the colors of the WPA painting. As I ventured into an in-depth analysis of the original artists’ work, I was drawn into the mind of the artist, allowing me to experience a kinship with the artist of another era. For “Machine Man”, I carved the hand while observing how Gellert had chosen to depict the hand gripping onto the wrench. In this response piece, his hand extends below the edge to create a more dynamic motion.

In today’s world of highly sophisticated manufactured materials and objects, some created through artificial intelligence, we recognize hand crafting as an invaluable skill. Gellert’s “Worker and the Machine” addresses these values. The strong back of the worker is pronounced by the deep wood grain, and harkens back to a different time in our nation’s history. And yet, here we are today, still facing the crumbling of our infrastructure.

With “Machine Man”, carving the hand of the man caused me to look how the artist had chose the unique position of the hand in correlation to the pipe wrench he was holding. I elected to carve the wrench for structural reasons.  The hand is also extended below a line that follows the bottom of the figure.

By taking the actual design of a symbolic piece has opened up a vista of new design to me.  I look forward to using some of the new processes I have learned by doing this project.  It is nothing new, I seem to continue to learn new creative processes in each new piece I create.

“Worker and Machine”  1928
Oil on Panel – 30 x 31
From the collection of Sandra & Bram Dijkstra
Painted by Hugo Gellert 1892-1985

Critique

As a member of the Oceanside Museum of Art, Artists Alliance, I attended the Quarterly Critique and brought Dancer for a critique by my fellow artist members.  I always learn something at these critiques, if nothing else, I get a sense from the comments on how well the piece is accepted. I had a feeling from the session, that the piece was looked on favorably by the group.

Other Views

Here are some other views of Dancer, in the process. The outer bark has been picked off, leaving remnants of the underpart still left on the wood.

Getting Close

And here is a view of Dancer, just before starting the final sanding. Starting the sanding with an  80 grit power grinder, moving steadily lighter grit sand paper, using a power sander, then moving on with hand sanding ending with 400 grit.

 

From Scratch

Starting from scratch.  I always feel like that when trying to form a new piece of art.  Sometimes the wood calls out to me because of the form it already has.  Sometimes it is not so easy, such as when I am dealing with a milled piece of lumber. Trying to come up with something that won’t feel flat, just as flat as the board it when it comes from the mill.

I use to do a lot of bending of wood, accessing a hot tub that I used to accomplish that.  I used plain Douglas Fir, and sometimes it worked, other times not.  I still have strips of hardwood that I bent, hoping it would call out to me to do something with it.

I got a piece of Black Walnut from a distant family member in Salem, Mass.  I played with that until I finally saw something that appeared like a human figure.  I will post those pictures of the piece in progress.