The next featured show at the Hillsborough Gallery of Arts is Melting. Melting is the first of two HGA member artist group shows to start 2023. This show’s title is up to the interpretation of the individual artist, but was originally suggested with a nod to the topic of climate change. My piece for the show features an Emperor Penguin and his chick, and is titled, “Too Many Questions.”
Penguin Dad and Baby Wait for Mom
For this sculpture I recalled watching the Oscar winning documentary, The March of The Penguins. One thing that many will remember from the film, is that the male penguins tend to the eggs and hatchlings. Meanwhile, the felmale penguins walk to the coast to fill up on fish immediately after laying their eggs. The mother’s round trip takes about 2 months. During that time, the males huddle for warmth while they incubate the eggs, and then tend the penguin hatchlings. The fathers do provide some early sustanance for the young chicks, but survival ultimately depends on the timely return of the mother.
At the time of the making of the film (2005) the coast was about 70 miles from the Antarctic ice sheet where the Emperor Penguin breed. As the ice sheets recede, the distance to the shore, and sustanence to survive grows. This, in turn, makes the round trip for fish and back grow longer and longer.
In my sculpture, I have anthropomorphasised my young penguin to be at about the level of a human 2 to 3 year old. As any parent will recall, this is a time when, “why” is a favorite question. I envision my young penguin chick to be asking his dad why it is taking mom so long to return.
Show Runs January 10th through February 12th
Check out all of the work inspired by the theme, Melting, at the Hillsborough Gallery this month. The show will be in the Featured Exhibit gallery January 10th through February 12th, with a reception during the Last Friday art Walk on January 27th from 6 to 9pm.
My fetaured artist show at the Hillsborough Gallery of Arts is now down. The remaining work has been distributed around the gallery, and I’ve had a chance to sit at my studio table again. Getting new ideas going after mounting a show is sometimes a tricky activity. I always need to rev up my sketching. Not everything that I put to paper ends up executed in 3D, but this seems to be the process that works for me. I also take in a lot inspiration visual and otherwise. This can include anything from scrolling on Pinterest to catching a phrase while reading.
Following the Spark
The idea of Persistence came to me from a couple of directions. I first just had the thought of creating a snail, no deeper meaning connected. I like the interesting form of the animal, and the endless variety of the size and shapes of their shells. When an idea occurs this way, I will often do a search of the topic. I look for meanings or symbolosm connected to the image.
Among the results that came up when I searched snail symbolism was a short story by Virginia Wolfe titled Kew Gardens. In this story an unnamed narrator is observing the garden along the side of a flower bed. Several pairs of people walk by each engaged in conversation. In between these snippits of dialogue, the narrator turns to describing the flower bed itself. Several of these descriptive musings note the progress of a snail. One critique I read of the story describes the snail as a manefestation of Wolfe’s depression. I have to say that I disagree with that interpretation. The snail seems to be steadfast in its determination to keep going on its path, and completely unaware of the concerns or even existence of the people passing by. I saw this little snail as persistent.
He is needle felted wool over a wire and quilt batting form that contains a small sand bag inder his shell. The sand bag provides ballast to keep his head up. Hand sewn glass beads serve as his green eyes and tips of his tenticles.
Pandas are often fodder for anthropomorphic art. The real animals are just so full of personality. The giant panda usually gets the attention, but the red panda can be equally as engaging. I came across a photo of two red pandas trying their best to intimidate the other. The result is nothing short of adorable! Much in the oxymoronic fashion of “ugly-pretty” I found their intimidation scary-cute.
My Panda is needle felted wool, over a wire and quilt batting armature. He has hand sewn glass bead eyes, and knotted yarn claws. This work features quite a bit of felting with a reverse needle to provide him with his fluffy look.
Last New Work Struts
Strut is just what he appears to be. An anthropomorphic rooster wearing spats and an ascot, and using a glass-topped and silver-tipped walking stick. Roosters seem so embued with confidence and flamboyance that depicting one as a bit of a dandy borders on cliche. He does seem to pull it off with flare, however.
Strut features colorful needle felted wool over a carefully balanced wire and quilt batting armature. His tail feathers I constructed by stitching a central anchor line in a strip of denim, and then fraying and trimming the sides. His spats are needle felted wool with copper brad embellishments. I used glass beads for his eyes and cane topper. The walking stick itself is a trimmed down chopstick painted black, with a jewelry ferrule tip, and silver wire and glass bead top.
That’s all the new sculpture work I have for you for now. Stay tuned.
Time has a way of speeding up when you are real busy. I see that I haven’t posted in a few weeks, and BOOM! my featured artist show, Interconnected Visions, opens tomorrow evening at the Hillsborough Gallery of Arts. It appears I have some catching up to do.
First some additional introductions.
This is Showoff.
Showoff is a Malabar Giant Squirrel, Ratufa indica. Yes, they are a real animal, native to the forrests of India. Also, yes, some of them have purple-magenta-ish coloring. Mine is perhaps a bit more vibrant? It is hard to know for sure. I did find numerous photos just as colorful, but there is no way of knowing if the individuals who took those images might have enhanced them. I created Showoff simply because purple squirrels exist, and I think that is pretty fantastic. You may find it surprising, but it appears that their bright coloring actuallty helps them blend in among the treetops, as the patterning breaks up their outline. These squirrels are also quite large, roughly twice the size of the Eastern Grey squirrel.
My Showoff is not trying to remail unseen, in fact he is waving at the viewer to attract attention. He features the same needlefelted wool over wire and batting form as my other sculptural pieces.
What else can be said about an ice skating flamingo? Be Unique is a response to a request. A lighhearted urge to be oneself no matter what the “normal” role may be. She appears to be quite proud of her skills, and has a naturally colorful skating costume. Be Unique is also needle felted wool over wire and batting. Her internal armature anchors into her sparkly base.
Something different for this show.
I created several wet felted vessels for this show. Wool fibers have scales along thier surface. These scales grab on to one another as fibers are pushed past each other in the felting process. In needle felting, I stab the loose fibers with special needles that catch and move the wool.
Wet felting uses soapy water and agitation to felt the fibers together. These vessels were created by layering loose wool roving over a balloon. I then spray soapy water on the wool, and cover the wool with tulle netting. Bubble wrap is then rubbed over the tulle in small circular motions. The process of layering, rewetting, and rubbing is performed for several layers. I remove the balloon between some layers to guage thickness and tightness of the felt, and to check the structural integrity of the vessel. I also “boil” the wool by wetting it down and placing in the microwave for short bursts. This additionally tightens the felt.
I created two bags for this show as well. One is quite causal, and the other a bit flashy.
My Grey Felted Bag was wet felted over a foam form. Layers of wool are placed on the form with edges that wrap around to the other side. The wool is wet, covered with tulle, and agitated with bubble wrap in the same manner as the vessels. I cut the top of the bag open, and then cut handle openings. I finished off the handles by stitching with yarn. The bag is lined with purple cotton that is hand-stitched in place. I added velcro to the liner under the handles as a closure.
My Butterfly Clutch is a combination of wet and needle felting techniques, and a little recycling. I first created the envelope clutch bag in similar manner to the Grey Felted Bag. It also has a lining of the same purple fabric sewen inside. The striking monarch butterfly wing was needle felted for an earlier piece that I wasn’t quite satisfied with. I scrapped that sculpture, but kept the needle felted wings. One wing already made its way on to a denim shoulder bag. I attached this wing by needle felting it directly on to the closure flap of the bag.
It has been much too long since I’ve shared some new work from my studio work table. I have been busy creating new sculptures, but other computer work priorities have kept me from telling you about them here. As a result they have actually backed up a bit, so I have three new pieces to share today. They are all being saved for my featured artist show at the Hillsborough Gallery of Arts in May.
A Frog to Start the Trio
Pond-er is the first of these three new art doll sculptures. Yes, he is reminiscent of Rodin’s “Thinker”, in a lighthearted amphibious way. He is an ultimate example of my frequent aim of minimal anthropomorphism. Trying to create figures that express human characteristic as minimally as possibly, and not by simply dressing them up in clothes. Pond-er is a natural for this approach, as the famous sculpture he is based on is also a nude figure.
Pond-er is needle felted wool over a wire and quilt batting armature frame. His eyes are glass beads that are sewn in place. Admittedly, he does just make me smile, and that is why I created him.
Two of Three
Secondly, I’d like to introduce you to Morph. Morph is a rainbow zebra pega-fly? Tricky nomenclature aside, Morph is just a flight of fancy on my part. In my head I saw a zebra with butterfly wings where the black stripes became the borderlines of the wings, and the white gradates into the colors of the rainbow. I think that my expression of these ideas in Morph is pretty spot on. I will admit that Morph isn’t necessarily imbued with any particular human characteristics, she’s just a feast for the eyes. Though, she may express some thoughts of change and inclusion through her coloring and metamorphic nature. Morph’s construction is similar Pond-er.
A Bear in Solitude
The last of these three new pieces is Considered Solitude. It started by looking at the word solitude, and finding that a bear is an animal that is supposed to be representative of that concept. From there, I thought what might a bear do in its moments of solitude? Mine is carefully considering a daisy. This seated figure does have a simple scarf wrapped around his neck (perhaps it’s an ascot?) He just seemed to need something extra. Considered Solitude has the same felted wool over wire and quilt batting construction.
All three of these new works will be available at the end of May at the Hillsborough Gallery of Arts. I will share more details as the date approaches.
Next week a new show installs at the Hillsborough Gallery of Arts. Entitled, Stirrings, the show will feature new work by HGA member artists. For my contribution to the show I thought about the first few anthropomorphic pieces I created. Though I had sculpted animal inspired art dolls before, this was a whole new direction. High Fashion, was one of the first of these creatures, and she has remained one of my personal favorites. Dare to Clash recalls her predecessor. This giraffe is displaying her own unique style.
Perhaps she is over doing it just a bit with the animal prints, but her purple flats are on point. She also seems quite happy with her visor and large hoop earrings. They show off her long slender neck.
“Dare” stands a little over 13 inches high. She has bright glass bead eyes capped off with long black lashes. Her custom footwear is hand sewn from faux leather.
This piece really a represents a labor of love. I fully recall how labor intensive adding all of the giraffe spots to High Fashion was. Now I added leopard spots, and tiger and zebra stripes to mix! Needless to say, she took quite some time.
Dare to ￼Clash will be at the Hillsborough Gallery of Arts starting Tuesday, February 22nd. Come and check her out along with all new the “Stirrings”.
The state-wide juried show Resolutions 2022 has come down at The Hillsborough Gallery of Arts, so now it’s time for us HGA artists to have a bit of our own fun. “What’s Up Doc?” is my offering for our new show Anything Goes. We installed the show a couple of days late due to a bit of snowy weather, but it is now hanging in the HGA Featured Exhibit room for you to check out.
It is not often that I do a new version of a favorite piece very quickly. I like to let some time pass so that each stands completely on their own within my portfolio. However, like all things pandemic related, normal gets thrown out. I really liked my rhino Plague Doctor from this fall, and he found a home rather quickly. So, this time around I chose a smaller, but no less brave anthropomorphic plague combatant.
What’s Up Doc – Details
What’s Up Doc is needle felted wool over a wire and quilt batting armature I created. His fur is a custom color mixture of wool that I felted together to give him the appearance of a wild rabbit. The ridescent glass bead eyes are sewn in place. I created the walking staff from a stick, glass beads, glass gem, copper wire, and needle felted wings. Doc’s hat and mask are hand stitched from faux leather and recycled suede from an old pair of boots. His medical shoulder bag is needle felted wool with hand sewn bead closure and strap clasp. The sculpture stands 11 inches high and balances on his large hind feet with his staff for a bit of added stability.
The Anything goes show will be on display at The Hillsborough Gallery of Arts through February 20th. Check it out, and maybe take home something special for a Valentine’s surprise!
This is the latest anthropomorphic offering from my work table. I’ve been fortunate. The holiday creations that I introduced you to over the past few weeks: Powder Bear, Emperor Coco, and the Caroling Mice all have gone on to their forever homes. Seeing as I had some empty pedestal tops in the gallery, I thought another holiday offering was in order. A new mother-child polar bear art doll sculpture is that piece. This work recalls my sculpture, Winter Ride, from last year. That mother and child polar bear pair were enjoying a sleigh ride.
Happily Hauling has the smaller bear perched atop the Christmas tree they are bringing home. The mother bear is needle felted wool over a wire and quilt batting frame. She has hand sewn glass bead eyes, and a custom harness of bright red chording and steampunk embellishments. The smaller bear is needle felted wool over felted quilt batting. The minature tree is constructed of felted wool over a narrow dowel (chopstick) core.
Rerun From Last Year
Time did not allow me to create a bit of stop motion animation of this sculpture. You may recall, that I produced a couple of these videos last year. You can click here to enjoy Winter Ride in motion again.
Happily Hauling is already available at the Hillsborough Gallery of Arts. Stop in to see all the art and holiday offerings by the HGA member artists.
I hope your holiday season is cozy, merry, and bright. Now, I must be off to work on more little holiday trees!
Monday morning the Hillsborough Gallery of Arts was buzzing with activity. The artist/owners were busy installing the holiday 2021 version of the Art of Giving show. We completely reinstall the gallery for the holidays. Twinkling lights on white branches appear in our front window with a wide variety of ornaments. Blown glass orbs, ceramic bells, and hand painted miniature paintings are a few examples you will encounter.
I’ve already shared a couple of my new holiday themed pieces. They, along with others are now available in the gallery.
Emperor Cocoa is my newest original sculpture for our holiday 2021 Art of Giving show. This anthropomorphic penguin is holding a mug of steaming hot chocolate. He stands about twelve inches tall. Constructed of needle felted wool roving over a wire and quilt batting frame. The art doll figure stands on his own with help from his tail for balance. He is intended for the holidays, but he can bring cheer all year long.
Other Holiday Offerings
Along with the original art doll sculptures, I also produced some holiday exclusive items. This year I’ve again made Lantern Houses. I created them last year in response to the Hillsborough Solstice Lantern Festival. Each year Hillsborough has a Lantern Walk along the Eno River. Last year’s was altered due to the pandemic. Instead businesses and downtown residences displayed lanterns. I created these little needle felted structures to house an LED light. At night the light shows through the windows and doors, and makes the translucent walls glow. Additionally, I created miniature Christmas trees on natural wood bases this year. These stand between 8 and 12 inches tall. They are accented with hand sewn glass and crystal beads.
I do still have my original design puffin and polar bear ornaments available as well. Stop in at HGA to check them out, and do a little holiday shopping.
Perhaps she is sleeping with one eye open? I’m not exactly sure. I started out wanting her to be sleeping, but couldn’t resist the temptation to have her peek at the viewer with one of her bespectacled eyes. Depending on the angle, the cat appears to be either sleeping with one eye open, or winking knowingly.
Like a predecessor named Literary Cat, Journal Cat is a calico. For some reason they strike me as the cat that hangs out in bookshops, libraries, or one’s favorite reading nook. She looks like she would be equally comfortable curled up in your lap as you read as well.
Journal Cat isn’t actively reading or writing, but rather reclining on a fabric covered journal. The journal is no longer operational. The pages and cover have been glued together providing a comfortable base for our feline to rest on. The journal, hand formed “pince nez” specs, and fishline whiskers create a more multimedia piece. The primary media is still needle felted wool. You can view a short video from my last post to see how needle felting works, and how I incorporate it into my sculptures.
As is the case with most of my anthropomorphic figures, Journal Cat expresses her human-like characteristics in minimal fashion. Her bright scarf, glasses, and literary perch tell you what she is about. The viewer is left wondering exactly what this cat’s journal entries would look like. I would suspect a lot of naps among the prose and poetry.
Another Show Reminder
Journal Cat will be at the Hillsborough Gallery of Arts‘ September featured artist show, Unmuted, along with all my other new works. The show installs in the gallery on 9/20 and will having its Last Friday reception and will go live online on 9/24.
Did you spend any time in a Zoom or other e-meeting during the last year? If you did, you understand the phrase “unmute yourself.” Unmuted is the title of my upcoming featured artist show in September. The show title is a reference to the recent COVID lockdown. I spent time this week thinking about all the meanings of muted and unmuted while writing my statement for the show. You can mute a voice, mute a color, or mute a message. I try to look all the different interpretations in my pieces for this show. Some are bright and colorful, and some appear to be speaking or singing. Hopefully, one or two have something more to say.
Speaking Seriously and Playfully
My latest piece has something to say about this past year. We lived this last year through what might be referred to as a plague in history books. Looking at historical references we encounter the image of the plague doctor. Accounts place these figures anywhere between physicians and record keepers. Whatever their role, they have a distinct appearance, one that conveys the seriousness of their job. Most often we see a figure wearing a long beaked mask. I decided to go with something a bit different than the expected bird beak. My Plague Doctor is a rhinoceros in a spiked mask.
This anthropomorphic figure is needle felted wool over a wire and quilt batting armature. I hand stitched his mask and hat from faux leather. His stick staff supports a glass bead lantern and finial of his trade. Additionally, his staff provides a third balance point that allows this art doll sculpture to stand on his own. I also created tiny sandbags within his feet that supply additional stability. Plague Doc has an oxpecker assistant riding on his shoulder.
My intent is the plague doctor juxtaposed with the absurdity of a rhinoceros conveys the seriousness of the past year in a playful manner.
Into the Process
Colleagues and collectors have asked questions about how my sculptures are constructed, especially the needle felting process. I took some work-in-progress images and video clips, and cobbled them together in this short video.
The felting is done with flat surfaced needles that have notches along their edges. As the needle(s) pass through, the wool gets pushed and pulled by those notches. The wool fibers have overlapping scales along their length. The scales catch as wool fibers are drawn across one another. This is what felts the fibers together.
See you in September
Plague Doctor joins the friends I’ve already introduced (and a few you’ve yet to meet) at the Hillsborough Gallery of Arts in September. The show also features the art of Ellie Reinhold and Marcy Lansman, and installs in the gallery on September 20th, and goes live on the HGA store site on the 24th. The official show opening is during the Last Friday Art Walk also on the 24th. Mark you calendars, and keep an eye out for additional pieces before then.