A Master of Fine Arts Exhibition: STONES FROM THE DEEP
STONES FROM THE DEEP
There is inherent beauty in all of nature. In my view, this is especially so for the ocean and things of the sea. Considering marine shapes and movements, I find there is a continuous repetition of sinuous form in sea creatures and wave patterns. To seek the abstraction of sea life is to follow swirling curves and spiraling lines to find its essential forms and fundamental nature.
Exploring the processes of abstraction, such as those used by Constanin Brancusi and Georgia O'Keeffe, is of great personal interest to me as a sculptor, and was the basis for this master's project. I attempted to combine Brancusi's intellectual process of reduction with O'Keeffe's emphasis on the subconscious.
The project had two goals. The first was to find for my sculpture, not objects, but rather appealing shapes and design motifs from the ocean. With each of my sculptures, I attempted to capture nature's beauty through abstracted forms using free-flowing compound curves, without directly representing any specific type of sea life.
The second goal was for this body of work to serve as a vehicle to display human feelings. The ocean environment stimulated me to explore a range of emotions. I was influenced by personal memories and feelings relating to the sea, such as pride, wonder, loneliness, exclusion, fear, and pain.
I worked to create abstract forms and express selected feelings in a suite of six sculptures, which I titled Stones from the Deep . The pieces range from fourteen to twenty-five inches in size. One is constructed of wood and five from different kinds of stone.
The sea has intrigued me since childhood. When I was very young, living in Texas , my father gave me a starfish found at the beach at low tide from a place called Malibu , and announced our move to California . Somehow, with a child's imagination, I had the false impression that, during low tide, you could walk miles out toward the bottom of the ocean. You can imagine my disappointment when reality clashed with my fantasy. There are, perhaps, still remnants of this fantasy that I subconsciously carry with me in adulthood. As a longtime resident living near the ocean, and as a fisherman working on a Canadian commercial fishing boat at one time in my life, I feel the sea has become an integral part of my life, both in work and play. Despite this passage of time, the sea still holds intrigue, awe and wonder for me.
I have always found an inherent beauty in oceanic shapes and movements. During contemplative walks on the beach, I am fascinated with sea life in general: the swirling curves of kelp beds in the tides, swimming things, fins, tails, the continuous curves of sea foam, and the spiraling lines of sea shells.
In my early study of art history, I recognized a swirling curve form that was remarkably similar to my observations of the sea and sea life. I especially identified this curvilinear shape in selected works of Naum Gabo, Antoine Pevsner, Barbara Hepworth, and Jose De Rivera. Regardless of the differences in these artists' philosophical germs of creation, artistic approaches, styles or the materials they used, there was a common element to these works--a flowing, curvilinear, sensuous form , which to me perfectly embodied a marine life motif.
Selected works by Naum Gabo, for example, Spheric Theme: Translucent Variation (1951) or Linear Construction in Space No. 2 (1972) , exhibited many of the formal qualities I wanted to achieve in my stone and woodcarvings. Because Gabo's source of inspiration was based on mathematical constructions and exploration of materials, only a small selection of his works fit the aesthetic direction I wanted to follow. Selected works by the other three artists--Antoine Pevsner's Tangential Lines: High Relief (1938) , Barbara Hepworth's Oval Sculpture No. 2 (1943) and Pelagos (1946), and Jose De Rivera's Construction No. 35 (1956)--each with their own philosophical objectives, nevertheless demonstrated this same sensuous, curvilinear style. I strongly felt that these curving shapes could effectively express the essence of the sea and things of the sea. The various approaches taken by these artists, however, offered me no clear guidance as to the creative process used to achieve this curvilinear form.
Of all the sculptors I have studied, Constantin Brancusi inspired me the most. His goal of abstraction, reducing nature down to its fundamental shapes, and his joy of working the material were catalysts for my own artistic focus. Brancusi's economic, streamlined reductions of form disclosed the very essence of the subject. If simplification down to its elemental form is the main goal, then works like Torso of a Young Man (1922) are masterfully successful.
Brancusi is generally regarded as an eminent abstract artist. On a semantic level, however, he disagreed with the labeling of his work as abstract. According to Brancusi, the idea of essence was a reality unto itself:
Aside from semantics and poetic debate, our reality dictates that his work is abstract.
Brancusi's Bird in Space (1930), depicting the essence of flight, is the one single sculpture that most influenced my graduate sculpture series. The immaculately polished surface, combined with the elongated smooth curve of this form reduced to its most essential shape, strongly excited me. The artist described high polish as "a necessity which relatively absolute forms demand of certain materials." The challenge for me was to identify the essence of the ocean and its sea life, just as Brancusi had found the essence of flight. It is when he combined simplification of form and flowing S-curves that his work most influenced my own. There is no way of knowing how much of this flowing line was for aesthetics alone, or just dictated by the object itself in Brancusi's pursuit of its purest simplification.
To me, Constantin Brancusi achieved sublime artistic success with his fish sculptures, such as Fish (1922). I cannot imagine any way to reduce fish to a purer essential shape. He summed up his goal of capturing the essential form in this way,
When you see a fish you don't think of its scales, do you? You think of its speed, its floating flashing body seen through the water. Well, I've tried to express just that. If I make fins and eyes and scales, I would arrest its movement, give a pattern or shape of reality. I just wanted to flash its spirit.
In order to describe the "fishness" of the fish, he stripped away its surface qualities in order to capture its spirit. It was not possible for Brancusi to achieve such vitality by simply replicating existing forms. He used abstraction to "flash its spirit."
Other works by Brancusi, such as The Seal II (1943) and The Miracle (The Seal I) (1936), ignited my imagination. These two carved marble sculptures perfectly catch the essential shapes of seals, and at the same time, invite the eye to flow back and forth over their smooth, curved bodies. The way their necks stretch upward, pulling at the blubbery bodies, depicts effectively the shape of the animals. On the other hand, these two sculptures are so reduced in detail and form that they appear to fluctuate between sculptures of seals and images of strange, smooth curving rocks. Brancusi, referring to one of his earlier pieces, described it as, " . . . a sensuous object that constantly eludes definition." I was lured and challenged by this seductive, visual interplay of perception.
Still, I questioned whether something had been lost in Brancusi's method of reduction of form, when taken to extremes. In my view, this process could become too severe. At some point in this reduction, however, qualities that I embraced had been sacrificed for this ultimate sense of pure form. I realized my inspiration did not come solely from the search for a fundamental shape. It was only when I combined a fundamental shape with a flowing sensual curve that I felt a spiritual bond with my chosen subject matter, the sea. Brancusi's disciplined goal to reduce objects to their purest form, therefore, was not my primary objective. Instead, I sacrificed some of the reduction to pure form in exchange for the aesthetic I found in producing undulating, flowing curves.
Although Brancusi's sculpture influenced my work more than any other sculptor, Georgia O'Keeffe's paintings affected my art more than any other artist. The majority of my time as an artist has been in the pursuit of creating sculpture that flows like an O'Keeffe painting. There are many examples of her works that depict a sensuous swirling movement. Three of my favorite paintings are: Music-Pink and Blue (1919), Nature Forms, Gaspé (1932), and Jack-in-the-Pulpit No. V (1930).
O'Keeffe attained the abstraction of natural subjects through her composition and her amplification of proportion. Her work maintains a discourse with her physical surroundings. Whether portraying cityscapes or flora, O'Keeffe depicted her surroundings as natural extensions of her life. When studying the more personal Georgia O'Keeffe behind the legend, the words "simple" or "simplicity" occur quite frequently. I interpret this simplicity not as a lack of complexity or as an empty shallowness, but rather simplicity as a higher level of purity.
Many would like to know the meaning behind O'Keeffe's art. What makes this difficult is that she did not like to reduce her work into words. She stated,
Words and I--are not good friends at all except with some people. The painter using the word often seems to me like a child trying to walk. I think I'd rather let the painting work for itself than help it with the word.
Furthermore, O'Keeffe proclaimed there are no hidden meanings behind her art. She alludes to her working from the subconscious mind in her statement,
I think that the meaning behind Georgia O'Keeffe's work transcends interpretation through words. Although she may have carefully composed her ideas before beginning a painting, perhaps she also derived inspiration from levels beyond her intellectual, conscious mind, such as her subconscious. My explanation for her success at abstraction is that O'Keeffe believed so deeply in the beauty and spirit of her subjects that she mentally became the subject. When she painted a flower or landscape, therefore, she put her soul on the canvas. I wanted to emulate O'Keeffe's "memory or dream" method of creating in my sculptures.
Comparing the creative processes of Brancusi and O'Keeffe, the question arises: Is it possible to take Brancusi's more intellectual approach to finding the essence of the subject and combine it with O'Keeffe's openness to the subconscious? Even though O'Keeffe's artistic process was highly intuitive, her compositions were thoroughly planned before starting. The reverse of this was Brancusi's process, where his work was highly intellectualized and planned, yet had some element of the subconscious. Brancusi himself said,
Even though the work of Brancusi and O'Keeffe seem diametrically opposed, I saw essence--an essential understanding of the fundamental nature of the subject--as a common denominator. One of my two goals, therefore, was to explore and combine these two great artists' creative approaches.
A second goal was for each sculpture to express the deeply personal emotion or feeling that motivated it. My attempt in this project was not only to reduce vignettes of ocean beauty down to their essence, but also to portray distinctly the personal feelings that I associated with them. In each circumstance, there was always an initial spark of inspiration for the sculpture. More than just an awakening to nature's beauty, something from my experiences with the ocean connected with each marine form, and triggered the release of deep emotional memories. The range of feelings that I associated with the sea included pride, wonder, loneliness, exclusion, fear, and pain.
To accomplish my two goals, I started by searching for the elements that comprise the fundamental nature of oceanic life. For each particular piece, I also selected those design motifs that represented the feelings I associated with that aspect of the sea. I then planned a way to combine these elements. Finally, I put aside this conscious plan and let my subconscious finish the creative process. I left it up to my subconscious to let the lines flow, let the curves connect; let the piece become more than a conglomerate of thoughts.
For the majority of the project works, I started with producing oil based clay maquettes before proceeding to the final sculpture. Working with clay, I made general, suggestive three-dimensional shapes. I then stored the rough maquette out of view to use only for reference to resolve any unforeseen design problems. I deliberately resisted looking at it to avoid mechanically copying the maquette. Working only from memory, I felt freer to respond to the stone and to let my subconscious work with the material. In this way, as I carved the wood or stone, I allowed the specific proportions and properties of the substance to influence the sculpture's final outcome.
I typically started the stone carvings with power and hand impact tools combined with rotary power saws. I switched to abrasives as I worked my stones to unusual thinness (one sixteenth of an inch for some pieces). In every case, I never was able to use power tools exclusively. There was always some degree of hand shaping and polishing involved. Often I improvised new techniques as needed.
The bases play an important role in all of my sculptures. I put thought and care into their selection, design and fabrication. I also chose materials that enhanced the significance and aesthetics of each piece. To mount the sculptures onto their bases, I combined techniques, such as welding, machine milling, metal forging or woodcarving, depending on the material used and the interplay between sculpture and base.
The first sculpture from Stones from the Deep was Sea Dreams (slides 1 and 2). My goal with Sea Dreams was to create a zoomorphic, abstracted form that conveys the spirit of the sea. The feeling I wanted to represent in this sculpture was pride. Furthermore, I wanted to experiment with the process of creative abstraction by producing the sculpture in an altered, uninhibited state. The concept of Sea Dreams began by observing sea lions at the beach. I have often marveled at the way bull sea lions posture themselves while watching over their herd sunning on the rocky shore. Despite the apparent weight of their exterior blubber, they hold their heads high and thrust out their chests. Regardless of the reason for this posture, it makes me think of inherent confidence, self-respect and human dignity. For a brief moment in time, I saw with perfect clarity the natural beauty in what is sometimes considered a negative human trait, pride.
With the design elements of the sea lions in mind, I turned my attention to attempting to develop my subconscious creativity. I began by molding a twenty-five pound block of clay while blindfolded, moving my hands across the clay and forming abstract forms of sea life, while dreaming of the majesty of sea lions. By fashioning the clay without the use of sight, I moved away from any conscious tendency towards realistic representation. Instead, I hoped to come closer to abstraction using only the feel of the imagined shape. Removing the blindfold, I then made minimal refinements to the clay by cleaning up the shape, adjusting curves, and connecting lines for a smooth continuous effect.
To convert the clay into a more permanent material, I sliced the finished model into separate one half inch horizontal layers and laid these layers on top of a large sheet of Baltic birch plywood of the same thickness as the slices of clay. Unlike common plywood, Baltic birch consists of hardwood inner layers of uniform thickness that add to the richness of the material. I also alternated the direction of the plywood grain so the pattern of the grain would be consistent in the final piece. I then cut each shape out of the plywood with a band saw and laminated them to make a wood duplicate of the initial clay form. The half-inch steps created by the stacked layers were easily carved away to create the smooth, flowing lines and sinuous shape of the original clay model. I polished the surface of the assembled plywood to a high sheen so it looks wet, as though it had just emerged from the sea.
For the base for Sea Dreams , I chose a slab of Texas travertine marble that complemented the lines and color of the sculpture. This white slab also contains fossilized shells with a color palette similar to the wood. These shells add visual interest and contrasting texture to the sculpture, as well as an awareness of ancient seas. I removed the straight lines of the machine cut stone slab to create a rough finish, so that Sea Dreams appears to be resting on a flat rock, such as one might find near the ocean's edge. Both the stone's inclusions and its shape work with the polished wood to create a sense that this sculpture belongs to the sea.
I did not continue the technique of pre-cutting wood and lamination for my other works. With the success of the first piece, I was ready to try employing the subconscious without the aid of a blindfold. This allowed me to switch to stone, a medium more demanding than clay. In the following five sculptures, I focused on how the various qualities of this material could suggest the spirit of sea life in addition to different associated feelings.
My second sculpture, Sea Flame (slides 3 and 4), represented the feeling of wonder. My early childhood fantasy about seeing the bottom of the ocean at low tide evolved with curiosity and imagination. As a child, I spent countless hours leaning over boat railings, straining to see the sea life below, and wondering what lived in deeper, darker water. The design for this imaginary sea creature from the deep took its overall form from the quarried flat shape of a Utah translucent alabaster stone. I made a clay maquette the same shape as the raw stone. Using the same subtractive process to carve "S" shaped curves in the clay maquette that I would later use in the stone carving, I refined the details of the design. I was careful not to depict any particular sea form.
With only the memory of this maquette in mind, I worked the alabaster as thinly as possible to reveal the natural translucency of the stone. Due to the extreme fragility and thinness of the material, I had to do the majority of this carving by hand. I created a marine life motif by scalloping the right side of the sculpture with concave fluted sections that gradually increased, then diminished, in size. It happened that the larger scallops corresponded to those areas of the stone that are whiter and therefore more translucent. To further accentuate the curving lines of Sea Flame , I opened an elongated, thin oval near the top of the sculpture to add a dimension of inner space and to balance the dark inclusions in the stone. The final sculpture measured twenty-five inches high, eighteen inches wide, and only one-eighth inch to one inch thick. Its sheer thinness allows it to radiate light when backlit, suggesting a warm glow from within, as if it were a living, gently swaying, fragile sea creature.
Sea Flame's verticality warranted a base that emphasized its rising form. I mounted the sculpture on a hidden stainless steel rod to hold the piece erect on a piece of polished black Belgium marble. This base subtly twists upward, accenting the vertical turn in the sculpture. I believe that with all the elements together--the glowing light, curves, twists, thinness, and variations in color-- Sea Flame successfully captured my feeling of wonder and mystery of what lies deep beneath the ocean's surface.
The third sculpture, Holding (slides 5 and 6), portrays the beauty and movement of the sea and makes a statement about loneliness. When waves splash against each other, sea foam is momentarily created before disappearing back into the ocean as the waves collapse. This collision of water creates thick, knob-like protrusions of white foam that appear to reach for the shore or sky. For this piece, I wanted to capture the energy of this moment of impact. Furthermore, I wanted to make a statement about the dynamics involved in human relationships, how people decide to be together or choose to be alone.
I carved Holding in the same manner as Sea Flame . I exploited the rich variety of coloring and natural veining of alabaster to connote sea foam. To portray the energy of colliding waves, I designed the stone to appear as two shapes that integrate into each other, but at the same time are in opposition. I accentuated the sense of marine life by creating a ribbed, shell-like motif on the surface of the stone. In addition to the visual impression of splashing sea foam, this piece has knob-like protrusions that suggest the intertwining fingers of clasping hands. On closer inspection, these nodule finger shapes also appear like small human heads. I worked them to depict the varying contrasts between people intertwined and holding each other, as opposed to those who have intentionally pulled away, choosing to be alone.
The base for Holding supports the sculpture, yet is unattached. It was my purpose to set this sculpture on its base and not secure it so that the sculpture could be easily rotated, or even inverted for viewing from all angles. I chose a base of two-inch thick, dark Paduak wood, which I polished to a mirror-like finish to reflect the bottom of the sculpture. The darkness of the wood contrasts with the almost white color of the alabaster stone.
For the fourth piece, Inside (slides 7 and 8), I explored the feeling of exclusion through the study of shells. The external layering of shells hides what is inside, just like the ocean's reflective surface obscures its depths. Similarly, people can hide their real selves beneath layers of persona. It was in this barring from view or access that I perceived a way to approach sculpturally the contrast between being outside or inside.
The inside/outside dichotomy of shells led me to sculpt Inside as a serpentine, eel-like shape. I carved this sculpture from a multi-layered stone comprised of travertine, onyx, miscellaneous aggregate rock, and pockets of dirt. The different properties of each material created continual gradations of color and textural contrasts throughout the work. The tail of this strange marine creature whips around to be inserted inside the head, thus creating a circle. To emphasize this organic, flexible quality, I sculpted compression folds on the inner edge of the circle to convey a sense of pressure. While as sinuous as an eel, the piece contained other sculptural elements that were reminiscent of the curves and edges found in seashells. The compression folds, for example, are scalloped in shape, and the opposite edge has a curved lip reminiscent of an abalone shell. In finishing the surface, I continued this concept of an inside/outside duality by mimicking the textures of seashells. The exterior of the sculpture is dull and rough, while its interior is smooth and glistening.
For the base, I constructed a ramp shape to accentuate the overall wheel-like contour of Inside . The sculpture appears as if it had just rolled up onto its base. I imagined this base to be a maritime relic, such as an anchor, upon which this animal-like sculpture had found its home. Made of welded steel, the platform's dark rusted patina was similar to the dark brown colors in the stone sculpture. The technique for rusting the base involved alternating solutions of salt water and boric acid. I then oiled the base to maintain and preserve this patina. Inside represents the feeling of exclusion, like a shell forcing the viewer to stay on the outside, while at the same time hinting of interior mysteries.
Having dealt with perceptions of natural oceanic formations in the works mentioned thus far, I turned to man's more tangible relationship with the sea in Sailor's Nightmare (slides 9 and 10). I once observed an outcropping of stones on the beach. These stones were uniform in size, and each was rounded in a manner reminiscent of human skulls. This collection of small boulders, probably grouped by an unusual combination of surf and currents from a recent storm, reminded me of the countless lives lost at sea, and the human pain and suffering caused by the ocean's awesome power. The sailor's nightmare of drowning is very real for me. In my thirty or more years of surfing the California coast, I have come very close to drowning three times, and have survived several storms in small and large sailboats.
To emulate the spirit of such tortured souls who have lost their lives at sea, I designed a contorted image of a human face, which is stretched and suspended within a claw-like hand. This claw shape also has elements that hint at the ribbing of a large shell or crab claw. The overall appearance of this piece is menacing; an assemblage of curves and volumes that suggest strength and power pulling a tormented face, gasping for breath, down under water.
I purposely sought a softer, more uniform stone for Sailor's Nightmare than those used for previous works . I departed from my technique of carving the stone very thin, because the stone required more mass to support the many piercings that created the claw-like shapes for this piece. Because of the fragility of the unsupported, large openings, I avoided using impact tools. Instead, I relied on grinders to burrow into the stone, safely creating large, multiple piercings.
I used the multiple surfaces of Sailor's Nightmare to balance contrasts in color and texture. First, there is the extreme contrast of a highly polished exterior with a roughly finished interior. The minute, scalloped, corrugated texture on the interior accentuates the outer smooth, curvilinear lines. Further, these inside areas contrast with the exterior, not only in texture, but also in color. The rough finish resulted in a white coloration, while the polished surface revealed pink-veined stone.
To complement the sculpture's textural richness, I created a base made of avocado wood. This support was organic in shape, irregular in surface, and had a rough texture similar to the carved stone's interior. I designed the shape of the base to look like a reflection of the sculpture, appearing like a natural outgrowth of the work itself. With the sculpture and the base echoing each other's shapes, I differentiated the two visually by staining the wood base a dark walnut color.
For my sixth and final piece, Hooked (slides 11 and 12), I chose to symbolize the feeling of physical pain. In the process of sculpting Sailor's Nightmare , it became apparent to me that while the sea can have deadly effects on humanity, humans have also plundered and ravaged its creatures. When I worked in the commercial fishing industry, I partook in the deliberate killing of marine life through the gruesome practice of skewering fish with a gaff, on which they quivered in pain until their imminent death. In order to represent such pain in Hooked, I again chose an eel-like figure, now appearing to squirm in anguish while skewered by a hook. In contrast with previous pieces that focused on shell-like exterior forms, I stripped away this outer protective layer to reveal vulnerable, malleable flesh.
To produce a sense of undulating tissue, I used soapstone, a soft stone that is easier to carve. I planned for the finished piece to be, in some places, only one sixteenth of an inch thick, to produce translucence with this apparently opaque material. This is the only sculpture for which I did not make a preliminary maquette. As the shape was to be so thin and delicate, I realized it would be impractical to model it in clay. Instead, I proceeded directly to carving the stone, with the use of a few crayon marks on the rough stone as my only guide. I allowed the qualities of the stone to determine much of the design direction. This substance has an aqua green hue with white veining that to me could be similar to the color of a marine animal, such as an eel, that lives among aquatic plant life.
I inserted a curving, vertical, stainless steel rod, jutting up and through the center of the sculpture, like a hook mortally wounding a sea creature. I wanted the stone to appear skewered on this shiny steel point. Because it is soft and fragile, I drilled a hole for the spear early in the carving stages, when the stone was thick and not yet weakened by excessive carving. While it was still fairly solid, I roughed the outer shape with standard power tools and drilled the hole lengthwise up from the bottom and down from the top of the soapstone, so the holes met in the middle at slightly different angles. The stainless steel rod actually consists of two pieces, because the increasing radial curve prevented my using one solid piece of metal. It was critical that the two rods were precise in terms of dimension, their angle of taper, and curvature, to achieve the required insertion into the fragile stone. These factors were important not only for the visual continuity of the two rods appearing as an illusion of one continuous piece, but also because the fit of the lower rod had to support and evenly disperse the weight of the fragile material. From measurements of the finished stone, I drafted plans on the computer using the software, AutoCAD®. Following these drawings, I tapered the rods on a machine lathe to tolerances of five thousandths of an inch. I then heated and molded the stainless steel rods to match the curve of a wooden template I had fabricated from my AutoCAD® drawings.
To achieve a wet, eel-like illusion in Hooked , it was critical for the surface to have the highest sheen possible. To polish this thin, delicate stone to the desired gloss, I had to improvise some finishing techniques. For example, I used an in-line sander that I customized to produce the many undulating scallops. These small scallops demanded single, finger-like sanding strokes, which were taking me weeks and weeks of hand sanding. By making this in-line sander modification, I was able to simulate my sandpaper-wrapped finger but at several hundred strokes per minute. The effect that Brancusi was able to achieve in his highly polished bronzes, however, could not be accomplished with stone, regardless of the degree of polish.
Although Hooked is made mostly of stone, the stainless steel rod's mirror sheen polish plays an important role. Observing Brancusi's work, I noted how high reflectivity imparts a magical, shimmering quality. I had read his statement that polish was a necessity of absolute forms. Not until I worked on this final piece did the connection between abstraction and surface reflectivity become absolutely apparent to me. In Hooked, even though the rod is relatively small in comparison to the stone, its high polish achieved the same effect that I observed in Brancusi's polished work.
I then mounted Hooked on what at first appears to be a plain white pedestal. This simple structure actually becomes part of the sculpture. The polished, stainless steel rod bursts up through the pedestal, splintering the wood, enters the lower part of the stone, and finally emerges again out through the upper end of the stone as a shiny, curving, tapered point. Hooked, the final sculpture of the suite of six pieces, expresses an intense, poignant feeling. With the powerful thrust of the curved spike up through the writhing sea creature, the sensation of pain is dramatically articulated.
Stones from the Deep is a collection of sculptures inspired by the sea. My goals were to create ocean-inspired forms that suggest the very essence of marine life, and also portray the feelings and memories that I associated with the ocean. While many of these forms convey general aspects of the sea or sea life, such as shells, water, or sea foam, I did not reproduce any specific example. By investigating what brings life to natural forms, I attempted to create a set of abstract sculptures that showed both the inherent beauty of the ocean and its living creatures, as well as a series of universal human feelings.
Under the indirect historical mentorship of Constantin Brancusi and Georgia O'Keeffe, I have sought to capture the essence of the sea and sea life within a sculptural incarnation using a combination of techniques both planned and using subconscious input. I found that something wonderful happens when the subconscious enters into the creative equation. When the sculpture is created in this manner, it seems less like a fabrication and more like a creation of a life force, a living thing. My combination of conscious planning and working from the subconscious was perhaps not as purely subconscious as O'Keeffe's, but neither did it seem as controlled or intellectualized as Brancusi's.
I feel successful in my original quest to explore the intrigue and marvel of the sea, and investigate the psyche of selected feelings of mankind. My fleeting peek into the ocean's millenniums of existence does not, of course, affect its slow evolution, past or future. I am insignificant. In my initial state of arrogance, I set out to use the ocean as a metaphor to investigate and portray the emotional workings of mankind. In that respect, the ocean has done its duty, and like a silent, wise parent, has shown me the way.
My insight as an artist is much clearer and better defined than when I started on this project. Now, when I find myself walking at the sea's water edge in the solitude of a gray winter morning, or squinting at the dancing diamonds in a summer sun's reflections upon the water, I feel a sense of resolve and appreciation. This resolve did not come from an ending of a conflict, for I never felt a struggle with the sea. Rather, the feeling is more of calmness, a sense of coming home. I stand at the water's edge with the dry world of mankind behind me, and I feel at peace. I have seen how one more little piece of the puzzle fits in this marvelous thing called life.
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