Home Again, Home Again Jiggity-Jig


Ceramic Incinerator Boxed and Buckled Into A Seatbelt


The HOME Exhibit at the Pajaro Valley Arts Gallery has closed. After almost seven weeks away,  my “Homefire 1957” incinerator piece is coming home.

When it’s in transit, I have learned to handle my work myself whenever possible. (Here’s one sad, sad example of why.) I figure if I break it, I am pre-forgiven. Others, they feel terrible all by themselves and I can’t assuage it! Consequently, I am glad for any nearby opportunities to show my stuff because I can deliver and pick up in person. If I have a driver, I hold pieces on my lap, but when I drive, I need to either fully pad and pack pieces in a lidded container or buckle them in thusly.

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Apparently Space Stinks


ceramic incinerator side with sgraffito of incinerator, smoke and latin phrases


After one gets over the news that it smells bad, it looks like the odor of Outer Space is hard to pin down. It’s reportedly a bit like burnt metal, welding fumes and seared steak. Acrid but slightly sweet; sulphurous and undeniable. The astronauts’ suits and gear, upon returning from space walks, stunk like they’d been camping at a celestial tire fire. It was such an unlikely surprise.

But at one time so was the discovery that smoke from earthly tire fires, oil refineries, automobiles and backyard incinerators probably was to blame for the continually bad air.

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Magic Backyard Incinerator Maquette

One of the most vital requirements in art-making, in my humble opinion, is bell-ringing authenticity. To that end, one of my favorite quotations is here on my blog’s sidebar from J. F. Stephens, “Originality does not consist is saying what no one has ever said before, but in saying exactly what you yourself think.”

For me, in both 2D and 3D art, (and in writing about them) it has been a long haul to connect my personal impulses and my technical capabilities so that I get a result which comes dang near to what moved me to attempt it.

As if you did not know, we humans often tend to have ‘way more complicated ideas than we can bring forth. When I sewed all my own clothes in high school, my biggest mistake was in making conceptual errors which lead to technical difficulties: not matching the fabric to the pattern or vice versa. I would pick a coarse kettlecloth and ask it to drape in soft mini-folds….or I would attempt to tailor double-sewn pockets with button-down flaps out of whisper-thin silk. In the right hands, those choices could work, but not for me at my skill level. I could think it up, but not do it.

Pictured here is one ceramic sculpture that comes together better than my home-sewing. It’s about 18″ tall and its working title is Magic Backyard Incinerator Maquette, because someday I intend to make a life-sized one.

It’s one of the works I created in my Super Schmierer Skyline College 2009 Summer Session. I think I have mentioned that I put 2500 miles on my car in six weeks in order to study with someone I absolutely knew could help me connect Authentic Impulse with Technical Execution: Tiffany Schmierer.

What I enjoy about this piece, besides its wonderfully figurative presence, is the journey making it took me on. When I was quite young we lived in LA’s San Fernando Valley. In the backyard was this imposing Cycladic figure with fire in its belly and smoke coming out its noggin: our incinerator. Every house had one, because, amazingly, there was no garbage collection in all of Los Angeles County. That is, until folks noticed the rotten air quality and backyard incinerators were banned by Proposition A in 1957. Gone was my fire-breathing buddy. (Where? To the dump? Hrmmm.)

We moved to Northern California soon after and I never thought about it for years and years and years, until I began visiting the objects of my childhood in my art. I needed photos to make this maquette accurate. I got them here and here and here.

I also got news write-ups which explained what I had not known and even my mom could not recall: exactly what happened to make the incinerators disappear. And! I found this exquisite poem, “In the Days of Backyard Incineration,” by John Nimmo. It so moved me that I transferred the last part of it onto the back of the maquette, as you can see here, which really turns this piece into a sculpture by lifting it even beyond my intentions (but, for once, not my capabilities) to a supremely thoughtful place.

When I make the big one, I will be able to inscribe the entire poem which, (poetically) observes that waste is waste, however satisfactorily we think we are getting rid of it. No small point, considering the size of our planet and its population.

All that from authentic curiosity and technical exactitude. More magic. Hooray!

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