Wednesday, November 03, 2010

The Greats

I just remembered the time when I was in junior high and we studied about some of the Russian czars. I was really taken by Peter the Great and Catherine the Great. Somehow I got it in my head that they were married - not all THAT stupid, as Peter was married to a woman named Catherine - and that their last name was The Great. Or something like that. Anyway, I was so fascinated by these two that I made a doll of each of them. I don't remember exactly how I did it. I think I used some kind of wire for armatures, and wrapped them with some fabric. I don't know how I made the heads, but I remember using white cotton snitched from aspirin bottles to make the hair. For their royal purple clothes, I had this wide satin ribbon in a deep purple color. Not the easiest thing to sew, but somehow I managed. I got hold of some pearls and gold thread and other fancy stuff and really dressed them up. I took them to school and showed them to my teacher, and she put them in the display case for a couple of weeks. I sure wish I had a picture of Peter and Catherine The Great.

If you haven't read Robert K. Massie's "Peter the Great," you owe it to yourself. He was an astonishing character who dragged Russia kicking and screaming from the middle ages to the beginning of the modern era. It's one of my favorite biographies. I even got all interested in detailed descriptions of his many battles. It might be time for me to pick that up again. It might also be time to re-read Massie's "The Romanovs: The Final Chapter." Must be winter coming on, I want to read about the Russians.

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Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Mira's Class

Above image: Clown with Trumpet, from Alexander Calder's Circus

I've been having fun tonight getting ready for a talk with Mira Burack's soft sculpture class at CCS. Mira asked me to show them some of my work, some works in progress, some tools and materials. She asked me to talk a little about my process and methods, about collection and consumption (that's one of the things her students are working on right now.) Best of all, she suggested I bring in some pictures of some of the things that inspire and influence me. Oh, boy. This is where it gets really fun. In my head, I keep a running love letter to all the artists, known and unknown, who have made all the stuff that has fired my imagination and made me want to make things for as long as I can remember. This is a list that is never the same, and is always growing, but there are some artists who are always there.

Annette Messager

Christian Boltanski

Eduardo Paolozzi
I especially love the show he did at The Museum of Mankind in London, called Lost Magic Kingdoms. He worked with their collections and responded to all sorts of amazing objects with a series of collage/prints. I was immensely flattered when a beloved friend talked about Paolozzi in relation to my work.

H C Westerman

Jimmie Durham

Alexander Calder
I'm especially in love with Calder for the little circus he made out of all sorts of scraps and objects. Don't miss an opportunity to watch the movie of him playing with the circus, performing for artist friends.

Paul Klee
I was lucky enough to see some of Klee's puppets at the Neuemuseum in Berlin a couple of years ago. They really turned my head inside out.

Nek Chand


Gregory Van Maanen

Haida mask makers and carvers

Inuit mask makers

This game goes on and on. I never come to the end of artists who get me excited about picking up some material and having at it. Others always on my running list, who I didn't include for this particular talk (since it's supposed to be directed to a soft sculpture class) include Ray Johnson, Louise Bourgeoise, Martin Puryear, Henry Darger, Joseph Cornell, Betye Saar, Raymond Saunders, Jean Michel Basquiat, Kiki Smith and so many more. It never ends. I could be up all night thinking about artists and particular objects who make me want to work.

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