Next.

IF I am Not going to Disney world…what next?

When I was bored as a child, I would ask my Mom for something to do.  Her response was always:

If you don’t know what to do next, just do something.

Next: Learn something.

rosehip-01

Beach Roses—that is what most people call rosa rugosa. Rugosa means wrinkled. They are very high in vitamin C.

Rosa rugosa was first introduced into North America in 1845. The first report of it being naturalized far from the location in which it was planted occurred on Nantucket in 1899. Ten years later it was said to be “straying rapidly” and today it is naturalized on the entire coast of New England. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rosa_rugosa

So I learned to make rose hip jelly. It’s a long tedious process.

1. Park at the side of the road along back shore of Peaks Island, Maine

2. Pick rose hips until your back is tired or the sun set takes your breath away. sunset

3. Sort through and discard gushy wormy ones. De- stem.rosehip-1

 

 

 

4. Cut in half

5. Place in large potrosehip-2

6. Cover with water

7. Simmerrosehip-3

8.Intermittently mash down with potato masher

 

9. Strain in cheese cloth straining

10. Freeze juice

And in the middle of winter when you are stuck in the house during a snowstorm, make the jelly.

 

Small world: While living in Portland prior to the Welcoming The Stranger exhibit, I re-connected with the community in which I had grown up – the Munjoy Hill neighborhood, Etz Chaim synagogue, forgotten relatives, summer camp friends, class mates – (even my senior prom date.)

Each #weavethetent event, First Friday openings or  a community workshop became a kind of ‘Pop Up’ Reunion.

One of those chance encounters was with a member of my high school swim team – Sherry Dickstein. We had served together on the newspaper, Year Book, social club, prom committee. She became a doctor and resides in Greensboro, NC. And by the way, her husband, Dr. Kurt Lauenstein, wrote a book to commemorate the 100th year of their synagogue. She sent me a copy. Maybe I would like to visit Greensboro.

 

kurt-book

Next: Read something.

Established in 1908 by prominent members of the then small Jewish community, Temple Emmanuel has always been known as a Temple of Involvement. The names Sternberger and Cone not only appear in the boxes of papers in the temple archives, but are visible on public buildings throughout Greensboro.

img-location-moses_cone_801x200

 

 

From its inception the congregation of Temple Emanuel was active in all aspects of the community: immigrant aid, women’s rights, schools, housing for workers, YMCA’s and the textile industry. https://www.tegreensboro.org/who-we-are/our-history

Small world:

Temple Emanuel is now home to more than 500 families, day school, and supports numerous community programs. Upon the completion of its new synagogue, the members of Temple Emanuel decided to retain the historic Greene Street synagogue.

te1924

 http://www.greensboro.com/jewish-temple-to-keep-greene-street-building-temple-emanuel-soon/article_178bd6f5-0158-553f-8987-54f48674659d.html

 

te-new

 

 

This year, the kitchen is being renovated. And a hallway art gallery installed.

 

Next: Advocate something.sign

The streets in the Maryland town where I live are named for famous Quakers – Farquhar, Benedum,  Shepherd. (And William Henry Rinehart – sculptor but that’s another story.)pipe-creek

Since 2001, (pending invasions of Afghanistan/Iraq), on Sundays, I have sat in silence with members of the Pipe Creek Society of Friends (Quaker) community. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pipe_Creek_Friends_Meetinghouse

Greensboro, North Carolina was settled by Native Americans, Scots-Irish, African Americans and Germans. Some of the earliest settlers were Quaker immigrants from Maryland.guilford

At the turn of the century, Quakers harbored the southern-most point of the Underground Railroad in the woods surrounding the present-day Guilford College.

Guilford is known for its unique curriculum. The 2100 students there can choose majors like Peace and Conflict Studies and Community and Justice Studies.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guilford_College

In response to her need to “do something” about the current refugee crisis, Diva Abdo, Associate Professor of English at Guilford founded the ‘Every campus a refuge’ program. http://www.everycampusarefuge.org

Inspired by the Pope’s call on every parish to host one refugee family, guided by its Quaker tradition, and animated by the Arab-Islamic word for campus (حرم) which means “sanctuary.”  Every Campus a Refuge calls on every college and university around the world to host one refugee family on their campus grounds and to assist them in resettlement.

Thus far, Guilford College has hosted a Ugandan and two Syrian families on its campus grounds.
hege-library

Small world:

Jane Fernandes, current President of Guilford College, was the Provost in 2000 at Gallaudet University. I graduated from Gallaudet and taught at the Kendall Demonstration Elementary School. Gallaudet College is the only liberal arts college for the deaf. Yes, I know sign language. https://www.ourstate.com/guilford-college-president-jane-fernandes-finds-her-voice/

 

Next: Weave Something

While writing a review of Welcoming the Stranger for the International Sculpture Center Sculpture Magazine, B. Amore, my mentor and founder of the Carving Studio, https://carvingstudio.org asked:

What are you going to do with the exhibit next?

http://www.sculpture.org/documents/scmag16/may_16/may16_reviews.shtml

While visiting the Guilford College campus, I met with Theresa Hammond, Founding Director and Curator of the Guilford College Art Gallery. We talked – a lot. About – Quakers, Art, Welcoming the Stranger….and we made a plan to do somethingtheresa

It seemed to be a perfect confluence of events: synagogue kitchen, Guilford ‘every campus a refuge’ project and the Fabric of Freedom theme of the upcoming Folklife festival. So I returned to my studio and  started sending emails, making phone calls and contacting potential partners to find a way to bring Welcoming the Stranger to Greensboro.

 

Small world:

North Carolina Folklife Festival – Fabric of Freedom September 10, 11 2016

In 2014, the City of Greensboro passed a resolution declaring itself a welcoming city – “one that affirms the beauty and richness of our diversity, and one in which all are welcomed, accepted and appreciated.http://www.unitingnc.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/Welcoming-Greensboro-Report.pdf

This year’s theme is Fabric of Freedom. The festival is a series of arts programs that celebrate the diversity and cultural history of Greensboro, host city for the National Folk Festival (2015-2017). Exhibits, music, dance, community events, and more will be presented in venues across the city throughout September. https://nationalfolkfestival.com/fabric-of-freedom/

On September 10 and 11, I will be at the North Carolina Folklife Festival to create ‘journey loom’ weavings. Participants at the #weavethetent events will work together to add panels to Abraham’s tent.

The community weavings will be included in the Welcoming the Stranger exhibit at Guilford College Art Gallery, opening September 14 and continuing to October 30, 2016.

Temple Emanuel will also partner with Guilford to exhibit Sarah’s Generosity in conjunction with the renovation of the Greene Street kitchen.

Next: Sing Somethingmoose

 On the 19 hour drive from Maine to North Carolina in a very packed rental van, while my Installation Team that consists of my kayak coach/tent rigger/performance artist and overall good guy who is willing to carry lots of heavy stuff but drives with ear buds listening to a book – my brain was taken over by ‘ear worms.” earbudsActually one particular ear worm. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earworm

In the wake of the Cuban Missile Crisis 1962 and prior to the 1964 New York World’s Fair, Walt Disney commissioned song writers Robert and Richard Sherman to create one song that could be translated into different languages as part of its exhibit for the US exhibit hall.

I may not be going to Disney world but I am going to Greensboro AND as this exhibit takes shape, with the help of so many organizations and volunteers, I realize once again,

It’s a small world after all….

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/It%27s_a_Small_World

 

It’s a world of laughter

A world of tears

It’s a world of hope

A world of fears

There’s so much that we share

that it’s time we’re aware

it’s a small world after all…

Follow the progress of the installation of Abraham’s Tent at Guilford College and events at the North Carolina Folklife Festival and Fabric of Freedom:

Instagram: #weavethetent

susan-tent

Susan Andre preparing display table.

Facebook:         Welcoming the Stranger Art

 

gregg-tent

Gregg Bolton working on booth installation.

ras-ripping

Guilford RA’s ripping fabric with which to weave on the Journey Looms.

line-at-tent

Line to weave the tent.

 

 

 

 

 

 

overall-ncff

#weave the tent at the North Carolina Folk Festival

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

-ING Part 1

– ing suffix: -ing

1. 
denoting a verbal action, an instance of this, or its result. “welcoming

Mov – ING

An object at rest will remain at rest unless acted on by an unbalanced force. An object in motion continues in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.

I seem to be in a perpetual state of motion as I prepare to move to Maine temporarily. Over the next several months, I will be living the life of a nomad. (It does not seem accidental that a Bedouin tent features prominently in my artwork.)

WeaveTheTent_Logo

Leaving my Maryland studio, job and friends to create         Welcoming the Stranger feels both overwhelming and exhilarating (and sometimes terrifying…)

It took more than a year to plan the 2-month long exhibit – to conduct the research, locate an exhibition space, find employment, procure housing, create relationships in the community, identify resources – all this before making the art.

Three months from today, I begin the installation of the exhibit. It will take 10 days.

How could the time have gone by so fast?

Think-ING

I never studied physics. I struggled with math and was convinced I would not be able to comprehend physics. For those who did take the course, here is an animated refresher: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ttZCKAMpcAo

I thought I would never have a use for the information. (I thought the same about algebra but revised my opinion as a result of tiling a bathroom floor.)

Stone carvers – especially – need to understand the basic principles of physics. If you neglect to pay attention to those ‘rules,’ you risk injury and sometimes, death.

Mark Di Suvero http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424053111904006104576500170627655498

In Einstein’s Dreams, the author Alan Lightman …”fictionalizes Albert Einstein as a young scientist who is troubled by dreams as he works on his theory of relativity in 1905. The book consists of 30 chapters, each exploring one dream about time that Einstein had during this period. “

Because it is a series of dreams, I can enter or leave each chapter at will. And in the moment, I understand the principles. But their application in the real world eludes me.

The author of Art and Physics, Leonard Shlain, believes art is precognitive: “artists conjure up revolutionary images and metaphors comprising preverbal expressions of the novel concepts later formulated by physicists….”

(He) proposes that the visionary artist is the first member of a culture to see the world in a new way. Then, nearly simultaneously, a revolutionary physicist discovers a new way to think about the world. Escorting the reader through the classical, medieval, Renaissance and modern eras, Shlain shows how the artists’ images when superimposed on the physicists’ concepts create a compelling fit. http://www.artandphysics.com  images

When I read about the application of theoretical physics to various breakthrough moments in art history,  I understand at an intuitive level some other event may evolve from my artwork – one I could not have predicted. It is really the only hope an artist has – to create change.

Yet, none of this explains why time seems to contract rapidly when you are preparing for 5 months on the road.

Pack – ING:

I feel like someone embarking on a round the world trip – attempting to plan for multiple seasons, multiple settings, multiple scenarios …

  1. Packing clothing for 5 months in Maine – March to October*
  2. Packing to live in a suburban ranch home and then a loft in a boat house
  3. Packing supplies to make art
  4. Packing materials to teach
  5. Packing technology for everything else I will have to do
  6. Packing for contingencies. (I have to remind myself that I will still be in America and there is always Goodwill nearby.)

*I did consult the Farmer’s Almanac. It was not comforting. http://www.almanac.com/weather/longrange/ME

When I was a child, my friends carried their patent leather Easter shoes to wear in church and walked to church in their boots.

Mainers always say: If you don’t like the weather in Maine, wait a minute and it will change.

Mark Twain is credited with saying: There are 2 seasons in Maine – winter and the 4th of July.

My upcountry friends say: Spring isn’t here til the snow comes off the mountain. https://vimeo.com/125583476

My island friends warn: Don’t plant anything until Memorial Day.

IMG_1901

Teach-ING

Colby College is a liberal arts college of about 1800 students located at the northern edge of the City of Waterville. It is the home of the Colby Art Museum http://www.colby.edu/museum. IMG_1902The Lunder and Alfond families are representative of the Waterville philanthropic Jewish community. The former founders and long time owners of Dexter Shoes donated to both secular and religious causes. The “glass box” museum houses the Lunder Art Collection – more than 500 works.

IMG_2238_2

Teachers can arrange for artworks to be available for classroom instruction. I had requested a display of Artist Books. http://wgbhnews.org/post/100-million-art-collection-donated-colby-college-museum-art

As a result of a random telephone call to David Freidenreich, Colby’s Maine Jewish History Project, http://web.colby.edu/dfreiden/ I was given a tour of the sculpture classroom, 6 weeks as an artist in residence, a set of keys, a studio space and instructions for the staff room coffee maker (Only hazelnut goes in the green rimmed carafe).

Collaborating on anything is difficult for most of us. (Try coordinating window washing with a stranger for proof of my premise.) Over the past year, Bradley Borthwick, Assistant Professor of Art and I have had an ongoing dialogue about expectations for an artist in residence in the Sculpture Department. http://bradleyborthwick.com

When I learned that the 2015 theme for the Colby Arts and Humanities Department was Migrations, I proposed the following:

Create teams composed of a Jewish Studies student and a Sculpture 3 student. They would collaborate on the design and production of Artist Books to be shown at the Maine Jewish Museum as part of the Welcoming the Stranger exhibit.

The Jewish Studies students would conduct research on a variety of topics related to the history of Jewish migration to Maine. The Art students would learn book arts techniques and create Artist Books based on their partner’s research.

There were 6 males and 1 female in the Artist Book class.

There were 6 females and 1 male in the Jewish Studies class.

“Speed Dating” seemed the most efficacious approach to pairing up. (Interestingly, speed dating was a modern day Jewish approach to replace the matchmaker of old. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/29/magazine/who-made-speed-dating.html?_r=0

Every 2 minutes, the students shared the answers to these questions with a different potential partner:

Who is your favorite artist?IMG_1907

What is your work style (early bird vs procrastinator?)

What are your skills as a team member ?

What are your deficits as a team member ?

**Coincidentally, everyone was paired with their first choice.

Six weeks later, their books and papers are close to completion and we were preparing for the Migrations Conference. IMG_2262_2http://web.colby.edu/mainemigrations/

Learn – ING

As part of my Artist Residency, I attended the Jewish Studies seminar facilitated by David Friedenreich. I learned a great deal about the history and lives of the earliest Jews in Maine. His students researched the following topics:

  • The first Jewish community in Maine (Bangor, 1849-1856)
  • 19th-century German-Jewish peddlers and merchants
  • Why Maine attracted Eastern European Jews in the early 20th century, and how it shaped their Jewishness
  • Anti Semitic discrimination against Jewish immigrants in the early 20th century
  • The children of Holocaust survivors raised in Maine

More importantly, I learned that my own struggle – to define myself as either a Mainer first or as a Jew first – has been a struggle for other Maine Jews. I wonder still whether it was the cultural, ancestral or religious aspects of my upbringing that define me as Jewish.

This struggle of “definition” continues for the most recent immigrants to Maine. They are currently referred to as: “New Mainers.” They also struggle to maintain their heritage, their religion and their ancestry while integrating into a new culture.

At the Colby Migrations Conference, one woman told this story:

She immigrated from Somalia almost 10 years ago. Her children were born here. Yet, she wanted to be sure they had a sense of their heritage and culture. So they attended the annual Somali Day parade.

Everyone had small Somali flags to wave.

While they were waiting along the parade route, her youngest child looked up at her and asked:

Where is my flag?

She answered: Here it is. And gave her a miniature flag.

A few moments later, Her daughter asks again:

But, where is MY flag?

She explained the meaning of the design of the Somali flag thinking her daughter did not understand.

Again, her daughter states more insistently:

I want MY flag.

And pointed to the U.S. flag being carried in the parade.

And at that moment, she realized …

that the American flag was her daughter’s flag;

that America was her daughter’s country; and

Maine was now the place called home – for both of them.

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Next Steps on the Stone Path

To Be An Artist is to Trust

When it is time to share the work, I must trust in the viewer. I must believe that he or she will approach my work with respect and curiosity. I must realize that viewers bring their life experiences to the work. They arrive with knowledge and emotions. They take whatever time they require to discern meaning. They take from the piece what they are able to and what they need. I have no influence or power. And then, I rest. www.joisraelson.com

libersidejk LiberfrontJKDSC08425-S

 

Liber is not my first public artwork for a library. I was 9 years old when the Marada Adams School was built across the street from my house. The elementary school was a 2-story brick structure. A public library was housed on the first floor. You had to be 6 years old to obtain a card. Even though I had been reading for a year, I was only 5 and a rule is a rule. I then petitioned for special dispensation and won. I selected books by trailing my fingers along the spines until a title caught my interest. For most of my childhood, I spent my free time taking out and returning books.

My 3rd grade class was asked to create images for a concrete frieze that would be installed on the face of the new school. It would be approximately 42 feet long and 8 feet high. Everyone created a paper cut-out that depicted an outdoor activity. My ‘girl jumping rope’ image was chosen for replication in the mural.  (You ask:  How do I recall which of the images was mine? I am still upset that I removed her braids when cutting out the image.) See page 5. http://issuu.com/munjoyhill/docs/aug2011munjoyhillobserver

After 53 years as an icon and gathering place in the neighborhood, the school/library was raised to make way for affordable housing and a small park. As a result of a “save the mural” campaign, the frieze was de-installed and a committee of architects, developers, current and former neighborhood residents and one sculptor  (me) met to determine its fate. The only decision we could agree upon was to retain and store the mural. No other plans were finalized. My jump rope girl awaits a new home – hopefully in the old ‘hood.

Oh the Places You’ll Go

June is graduation time. The current 9-month calendar was established when 85% of Americans were involved in agriculture and when schools were not air-conditioned. But the 180-day rule still applies in most states – agrarian or not. The creation of Liber took 9 months  – from the selection of the stone in Indiana to its installation at the library.

The school bus stops in front of my studio and the screeching of brakes serves as my alarm clock. The often ill-clad and frequently half-asleep students clamber aboard each morning.

My countdown week for the installation coincided with final exams and graduation. While they prepared for tests, I prepared for the installation and dedication of Liber. I am not sure who was more anxious.

Graduation

I always send 2 books to the graduates in my life:   Oh, the Places You’ll Go    and    What Now?

What Now

Dr. Seuss
In 1993, upon leaving my ‘real’ job in training, group facilitation and curriculum development to   become a sculptor, I received Dr. Seuss’s book as a parting gift along with a chisel and hammer. In his inimitable way, Dr. Seuss outlines the ups and downs of life – making choices, losing one’s way, flying high, falling down, following paths, changing direction…waiting for the way to open. He ends his tome with these stanzas:
                   
You’ll get mixed up, of course,

As you already know.

You’ll get mixed up with

many strange birds as you go.

So be sure when you step.

Step with care and great tact

And remember that

Life’s a Great Balancing Act…

 

And will you succeed?

Yes, you will indeed.

(98 and ¾ percent guaranteed.)

Kid you’ll move mountains!

 

So…be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray

Or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O’Shea,

You’re off to Great Places!

Today is your day!

Your mountain is waiting.

So…get on your way.

What Now? 
Liber was barely installed and the dedication complete, when the questions started:

How do you feel now that it’s done?

What would you do differently?

How much does it weigh now? (Answer: 9000 lbs.)

What are you going to work on next?

What now?

Based on her commencement address at Sarah Lawrence College, Patchett tells her own story of attending college, graduating, and struggling with the inevitable question, What now?

“From student to line cook to teacher to waitress and eventually to award-winning author, Patchett’s own life has taken many twists and turns that make her exploration genuine and resonant. As Patchett writes, “‘What now?’ represents our excitement and our future, the very vitality of life.”

I write thank you notes. I post my last blog entry. I clear out the temporary studio. I clean my long neglected house.  I detail the truck. I pay bills. I go to the hair stylist and acupuncturist (in that order.)  I sell off electric tools in hopes of recouping some of the out-of-pocket monies. I donate my 25 year-old pneumatic and hand tools to the Vermont Carving Studio.

Before I start a project, I get my house in order. And when I complete a project, I do the same. As a clutter buster, I reassure my clients:

“If you discard what is no longer useful to make room for what is really important, the ‘empty’ space will fill with exactly what you need. Just trust.”

In What Now? Padgett highlights the possibilities the unknown offers and reminds us that there is as much joy in the journey as there is in reaching the destination.

Everything is gestation and birthing. To let each impression and each embryo of feeling come to completion entirely in itself, in the dark, in the unsayable unconscious, beyond the reach of one’s understanding, and with deep humility and patience to wait for the hour when a new clarity is born; this alone is what it means to live as an artist in understanding as in creation.

Rainer Maria Rilke

To see a slide show of the entire installation process photographed by Dan Stack, click here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/97203147@N05/

Additional photos provided by Joseph Knights

During the making of Liber, many people walked along the stone path with me. Each one contributed to the success of the journey.

If you don’t see your name on the list and feel it should be, I apologize for the oversight. Please know I appreciated your support.

  • Lynn Wheeler, Scott Rinehart and staff at Carroll County Public Library and members of the Sculpture Committee
  • Sandy Oxx and Susan Williamson, Carroll County Arts Council
  • Tom Rio, Bruce Lockard and all the crew at the Carroll County Roads Operations and Public Works
  • Public works cleaning crew who didn’t give me a hard time when I trailed dust (like Pig Pen in the comics) throughout the building
  • Independent Limestone
  • Stonebelt Transport
  • Digging and Rigging
  • Mathias Monuments
  • Welding Contractors LLC, Kyle Palumbo
  • Starbucks staff at Safeway (Jen, Gabby and Diane)
  • Dan Stack, Photographer and Joseph McKnight, Photography
  • Friends who provided physical, emotional, spiritual sustenance (Maggie, Eileen, Barb)
  • My Book Club (Elizabeth, Judy, Linda)
  • Members of the Pipe Creek Meeting
  • Homer Yost and Becky Laughlin for artistic feedback
  • Those who took care of my body – Dawn, Alison, staff at the YMCA
  • Mary L. Dewey Family

Looking

I seem to have missed the month of January. Something happens after the holiday hoopla subsides. Maybe it’s the darkness. I feel suspended. I spend more time thinking. I wait for the sun to warm the stone. I wait for the light to return.

In the Greek myth, Persephone, while picking flowers one day, is abducted by Hades and taken to the underworld. Her mother, Demeter, depressed by the loss of her daughter, places the earth in continuous winter jeopardizing all who inhabit the earth.

In hopes of lifting Demeter’s depression, Hecate, a guide to the underground, offers to accompany Demeter to visit Persephone. While underground, they strike a deal with Hades to allow Persephone to return to the light. Unfortunately, Persephone had eaten six pomegranate seeds while below ground. For that action she must remain below ground for six months of the year – thus creating winter and spring.

Persephonedetail
Looking Inward

When you sculpt, you are alone with the stone. You are also alone with your thoughts. You can spend time going over the grocery list or complaining about the cold or planning the dinner menu. I don’t make New Year’s resolutions; they are too easy to break. I look inside – at my dreams, my hopes, my goals, my accomplishments and my failures.

There are many myths that tell the story of the hero that relinquishes his or her life on earth and all they love and possess to descend into the lower realms. There, they confront the darkness of Life. After confronting this personal darkness, the hero reemerges.

For several years, I created meditation labyrinths. A labyrinth is an archetypal symbol found in ancient cultures with mysterious origins and purposes. Although it resembles a maze, it is uni-cursal, having just one path into the center and the same path back out. There are many forms of labyrinths – Chartres, 9-circuit, 7-circuit. http://www.amazon.com/Labyrinths-Ancient-Myths-Modern- Uses/dp/0906362695

Crossroads Labyrinth

When you walk the labyrinth, it is suggested you meditate on a question to be answered or a problem to be solved. At some point  along the journey, you will receive an answer. Sometimes, it is an answer to the question asked. Sometimes, it is an answer to the question we should have asked. Sometimes, there is just silence.

Walking a labyrinth is thought of as a possible path to the self. Jean Shinoda Bolen, in her book, Crossing to Avalon, writes about the role of labyrinths in our lives.

Going into the forest requires us to let go of our old ways and identities: we shed defenses, ingrained habits, and attitudes, which opens us up to new possibilities and depth. We find what really matters to us and can reach the core or center of meaning in ourselves, which is the center of the labyrinth, and then we have the task of integrating this into what we do with our lives.

Looking Outward

Removing each layer of stone is like peeling an onion. The image is there. You just need to reveal it.  Determining where to cut requires looking. Really looking. You must hold the final image in your mind’s eye as you walk around the stone. You look for the next place to remove stone. You make marks and erase them.

I make marks on the stone with different colored crayons:

arrow

  • Yellow indicates a possible route, a movement.
  • Black signifies a direction or decision.
  • Red means STOP before you remove stone in this area. Look again.

When I am tired, I make more tentative marks.

Sometimes I am brave. I remove large pieces of stone with the hammer and chisel or make deeper cuts with the saw. Sometimes I am timid. I am more hesitant. I take away less stone. I spend more time looking.

Looking Ahead

When you are an artist, you have to be willing to change your plan. In 1961, Robert Frost wrote a poem specifically for the Kennedy inauguration. On January 20, the bright sun bounced off the snow on the ground and created a glare. Frost, then 86, could not read from the typewritten text of Dedication. Instead, he recited from memory The Gift Outright, a poem he published in 1941. He never expected the shimmering sun to be a barrier to his intention.

Manuel 2

When in Italy, I had the great privilege of visiting Manuel Neri’s workshop. Neri is an “American sculptor, painter, and printmaker and a notable member of the “second generation” of the Bay Area Figurative Movement.”

He creates stone pieces in his Carrara studio.

He maintains that at some point in the sculpting process, you need to let go of your original design. Although you work from a maquette, the stone itself, the light and shadows, the work space, the skill of the sculptor can alter the design.

You must be brave enough to relinquish your initial idea. You need to believe that choosing another path will lead to an even more extraordinary outcome. You look for the new guideposts and ignore the other ones upon which you first built .

One of the first poems I memorized in school was the Road Not Taken. As a 10 year old, it had little meaning. But to an artist, it is prescient.

We choose the road less traveled and that makes all the difference.

The Road Not Taken by Robert Frostpile2

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim

Because it was grassy and wanted wear,

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I marked the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way

I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

 

Detoured Along the Path

The shortest distance between two points is NEVER a straight line if it’s a public art project. Especially if a hurricane named Sandy decides to visit the day you are to begin working.

The stone arrived from Indiana in the middle of a rodeo – the snowplow rodeo. If you ever wondered how snowplow drivers avoid mailboxes, sidewalk curbs, and the occasional snow covered vehicle, it’s because they practice – a lot. Drivers maneuver their plows around and between cones while someone clocks their time with a stop watch. No one wears a cowboy hat. (There is a however, a real rodeo 4 miles from my firehouse in Johnsville, Maryland. They ride real bulls and wear cowboy hats. http://www.jbarwranch.com/)

In the world of stone transport, trucking companies deliver but do not off-load. When the truck finally made it’s way to the Carroll County Highway Maintenance Facility gate, the front end loader and crew were waiting.

The operator of the loader maneuvered the “forks” under the stone and lifted it off the bed of the truck.  Using hand signals, the crew guided his movements. As he placed the stone into the workspace, I once again appreciated the skills and knowledge of those whose work is often invisible in our daily lives.

Setting up a Studio

A stone sculptor’s studio is a lot like an auto repair shop: filled with large objects that need moving, littered with tools of all shapes and sizes and accompanied by the sound of a pneumatic tool.  In repair shops, there are lifts. In stone studios, there are gantrys.

A gantry is like an engine hoist – only bigger. You use it to move stone as you sculpt. When I first moved into the firehouse, I needed a custom made gantry. At the hardware store in town, I asked about a welder. “Go to Bill Lee.”  He occupied a ramshackle shop on the corner of Rt. 75 and Clemsonville Road just outside of Union Bridge. The yard was ‘littered’ with metal of various shapes and sizes, some abandoned vehicles and smoke from the wood stove. His dog “Bear” announced all visitors. Every year, Bill planted potatoes in the field behind his shop. Bill was born to weld. I often sat next to his wood stove and watched him work. He once told me that he left school early because the moment he learned to weld, he knew he wanted to spend the rest of his life doing it.

On his way to the Post Office one day, he showed up at my studio, took a few measurements, and a week later, installed the gantry. It fit perfectly. Bill has since passed away. He took with him a lifetime of knowledge.   He was an artisan.

The bill of laden said my stone weighed 18000 lbs or as I explain to friends: it is equal weight to the following: 9 elephants or 9 Smart cars. It was too big to work on in the Firehouse.

So, I took my tools, compressors, hose reel, grinders, scaffolding, gloves, masks, ear and eye protection, a few big crow bars, extension cords, miscellaneous tools, a hand cart, a dolley, a chalkboard and a comfy chair to the “Studio Annex.” I would also need my gantry.

At the hardware store in town, I once again asked for a welder. “Go to Kyle.” His shop is near the intersection of 77 and 194 in Keymar. Although there was no sign, it was easy to locate. The yard was filled with metal of various shapes and sizes and a field of seemingly abandoned vehicles. There was smoke coming out of a wood stove chimney.

Before I could finish explaining what I needed, Kyle stopped me. When he was 14 years old, he had been Bill Lee’s apprentice. In fact, his wood stove had belonged to Bill. He explained the intricate process he and Bill devised to install the gantry.  He would reverse it to de-install and move it. Kyle Palumbo is the owner of Welding Contractors LLC.  Like his mentor, he was born to weld. He is another artisan in my life. 

 Artigiani

Stone carvers cannot work alone. When I went to Italy to learn stone carving, I also learned that many artists work with artigiani. In the world of stone, they are considered, not only skilled sculptors, but a national treasure. They can copy works of art and enlarge designs made by artists.  They use large drills and saws to remove excess stone. There is a long history of hiring artisans to help execute a piece. The book ‘The Art of Not Making: The New Artist/ Artisan Relationship ‘ explores the relationship between artist and artisan. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/30/the-art-of-not-making-michael-petry_n_1241742.html

The design of Liber is a triangular form. Therefore, the rectangular block of stone must be split.  It is hard to imagine removing 8000 lbs of stone before beginning the actual sculpture. It is do- able but the amount of time required would prevent me from meeting my deadline.

Many stone carvers pass through the doors of The Vermont Carving Studio and Sculpture Center in Vermont. http://www.carvingstudio.org/ We come to learn, to teach, to network, to support the continuation of the craft. B Amore, founder and past director, has been my mentor for 25 years. I often turn to her for advice and support. She provides it willingly and generously.  B has been carving since she was a child. She creates public works and is familiar with the challenges of working large pieces of stone. She advised seeking an artigiani.http://www.bamore.com/

Rick Rothrock is also an alum of the Carving Studio. We have never met but have spent a month emailing about the vagaries of working limestone. He collaborates with sculptors. I have asked him to work with me. He has agreed. http://www.rickrothrock.com/

My artigiani arrives today. And that hour we lost last spring will be returning this weekend…and I have a good use for it.

Beginning: At Last

When the unconscious speaks, I listen with trepidation. For when it talks, I will have to respond. Sometimes the message comes in the form of a dream. It might be the remains of a disturbing image that lurks beneath my eyelids when I awake. Sometimes it is a missive disguised as a poem or song fragment. Other times, there is only an inkling, an itch, a sense of an unfinished moment that runs rampant throughout the day. I know it is time to go inside myself. And then, I proceed. www.joisraelson.com

Making art is often lonely. I sit in my studio (or more often when I am driving) and jot down ideas, make a quick sketch. Mostly I think. Ideas sometimes come from something I read or a lingering image from a dream. I think about the space; about possible designs; about materials; about the feeling of the work. All this takes place in my mind – alone. From the outside observer, making art can appear to be selfish.

I’ve been watching Art 21- a PBS program featuring artists of the 21st century www.pbs.org/art21/. As I listen to William Kentridge or Louise Bourgeois describe their work or discuss their process, I grow more comfortable with my own approach to art making. I often look to history for the origin of my ideas and link seeming disparate “memory artifacts” into a whole. I draw (no pun intended) great solace knowing that I have kindred spirits, even though we  work in separate worlds.

BUT

Creating public art requires a different process, a different set of skills and a different way of working. Creating a public art work can not be idiosyncratic. When creating a public work, I attempt to integrate the history of the place and sense of the space with a conceptual foundation based on research. When working in stone, frequently the stone will also ‘participate’ in the creation of the work.

At a Visioning Meeting with the Carroll County Pubic Library Sculpture Garden Committee, the ideas generated were as diverse as the community from which they arose.

The members shared images of favorite sculptures and brainstormed artistic styles that ranged from figurative to abstract; historic to futuristic; organic to formal; monumental to life size.  There seemed to be no common ground.

There are more than 175,000 residents of Carroll County. 17,000 of those inhabitants live in the city of Westminster. Countless folks enter or walk by the library everyday. The performance area and a completed sculpture garden will encourage patrons to spend more of their time outside, as well as inside, the library.

At this point in the process, it seems an impossible task to integrate all the ideas from a 7-person committee – let alone a city of 17,000 – or a county of 175,000 to create an integrated sculpture. But that is the task before me.

Fortunately, when members of the committee described the ‘space’ in which the piece would ‘reside’ – they generated these common elements:

  • a sense of openness
  • a gathering place
  • a focal point, an anchor
  • a peaceful feeling
  • a sense of whimsy and surprise.

The inkling of the idea I had while in my tree pose combines with the sense of space. Now I must trust the process.

To be an artist is to trust in a deep and profound way in the process of creation. I must be willing to discard the work that does not feel complete. I must be willing to disregard first attempts. I must be willing to be gentle and not berate myself. I must be able to persevere in the path of disappointment or to revel in the exaltation of achievement. I must believe the process is the meaning, not the product. And then, I work.  www.joisraelson.com