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Breakthroughs

This year was the fourth time I’ve attended the sculpture class at Touchstone Center for Craft in Farmington, PA. Touchstone suffered some severe damage during this past winter – heavy snow brought down the roof of the dining hall and the hall had to be demolished. At one time, 7.5 feet of snow had accumulated in the meadow in front of the dining hall and the director of the school was using snowshoes to get to work! Two of the students who were inspirations to me last year were unable to attend this year, so the class was a bit short on students. But we all had a lot of fun and I made a great deal of progress, artistically. The pieces that I left in the little-used building last year were waiting for me and I got off to a running start as a consequence. I won’t go into detail (too long) how the first sculpture that I made came into existence, other than to say that the process involved looking at some of the elements that I worked on last year and “seeing” a sculpture in them. There was a lot of creative play (isn’t all play about creativity?) involved before the sculpture started to take shape. I brought the piece on the left from Floyd last year – it turned out to be a piece of chestnut! The piece on the right is black cherry from Touchstone and the piece on the top is an unknown wood that I found in the creekbed that runs behind the painting studio, where we worked this year. The base is black cherry and was something that I worked on long and hard last year, only to severely modify it this year by cutting off the top and destroying the smooth finish that I created last year, replacing that work with rough chisel marks, which I like better. The piece is pinned together with 1/4″ steel pins kindly supplied by the blacksmith shop and is fastened to the base with 1/2″ steel pins, again, from the blacksmith shop. I wouldn’t have been able to create the sculpture without those pins! Thanks, Richard! Here is the piece in the painting studio, before it was oiled, at Touchstone:

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The following series of pictures are of the finished piece. The first was taken at Touchstone and the last 5 were taken on my property in Floyd County.

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If you look closely, you will see a “break” in the left piece, just below where it joins the piece with bark on it. Originally, the chestnut piece extended further to the left, but I wanted the negative space to start closing, so I cut the piece off about 12″ from the end and turned it 180 degrees. Then, I went searching for a piece to close the space in and found the ideal candidate in the creekbed. I don’t know what kind of wood it is, but it is hard and dense.

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This is the “back” of the piece, if there is such a thing in sculpture! You can better see the individual pieces that are pinned together to create the sculpture.

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My property is heavily wooded and this shot was taken early in the morning, before the sun got up very high.

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I very much enjoyed the play of light on the surfaces of the sculpture as the day progressed. I was fascinated with the shapes that the sun created on the surfaces of the sculpture!

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The possibilities of creating patterns with the chisel marks opens up new and complex ideas for the future. I let the cherry dictate how it wanted to be chiseled in this situation, but what would happen if I didn’t “listen”?

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This last shot looks a little foreboding – the mass of green surrounding the sculpture seems to overwhelm it, but photographs are deceptive. Sculpture needs to be appreciated in person – photographs really don’t do it justice. I’d love to leave the sculpture outside, but the contrast of the finished surfaces with the raw power of the natural setting is one of the appealing features of the “installation”. If I left it outside, the surfaces would weather and start to blend with the natural environment, lessening the contrast that I so enjoy.

I brought some unfinished elements with me to Floyd and hope to do some work on them there before taking them with me for another session at Touchstone next year!

1 Comment on “Breakthroughs”

  1. #1 Beth
    on Jul 12th, 2010 at 7:23 am

    I like both of your pieces, Jeff, but I think I like this one best. It reminds me of a Celtic harp, and I can actually hear music in my head when I look at it. I like the look of the chisel marks—it adds a nice touch to all the lovely textures in your work. I also like the way it looks outside. I can see the contrast you’re talking about, but I also think it looks very natural out there.

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