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The Muse's Storage Box

The Muse's Storage Box
Copyright Diane Lou.

Alchemical Dreams and Disparate Realities

Rust and bones, broken toys and old text, game boards, gears and nests. Even as a child such odd, unwanted items evoked a pit-of-the-stomach response that bordered on exhilaration.
While I make no attempt to conjure up specific feelings in the viewer, the ambiguous juxtapositioning of familiar materials creates art that evokes half-forgotten, dream-like visions that beg to be interpreted by the viewer. There is a sense of deja vu (the already seen) tempered by a sense of jamais vu ( the never seen, or the illusion that the familiar does not seem familiar), and this contradiction asks the viewer to dig deeply, to look inside her own repository of wisdom, intuition and experience to find her own meaning in the familiar objects she sees.
The once-private discards of people's material lives that I collect for my art seem to carry universal memories with them, memories that can engage and mystify the viewer. Their beauty lies within the rust, the erosion, the wear, and the mere fact that they were once possessions.
I play with abandon and with no forethought. Each piece of detritus seems to suggest to me a relationship with some other piece, and I begin to put them together and wait for the mental "buzz" that lets me know I am proceeding as I should. Even at this point, I continue to remain in the play state and will not allow myself to direct the outcome of the piece, a process that requires complete trust. The outcome often mystifies me as much as it might any viewer.
Remember when, as a child, whatever was in reach became the instrument of your creative exploration? That is my life. A rusty, flattened piece of metal on the street, a gnawed bone by the roadside, a unique twisted branch from a tree, a fallen nest, a broken egg, a snake's skin, a dead butterfly...all will be added to my collection and eventually have their beauty honored in one of my pieces. The resulting art creates a new story with its own imagined history, one that invites the viewers to lay some claim on it by allowing themselves to be enveloped by the sight, the history, and the ambiguity of the realities before them.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Cupid #5

Cupid #5 is the title of this piece, a tiny 5x7" creation.  It was one of those that truly put itself together in moments from a series of scraps, rejected pieces and leftovers from my work table.

The background is the lid of a wooden box which I had much earlier spray-painted black.  The angelic face showing through the center was a inkjet copy (yes, I keep a copier in my studio at all times) which I then roughed up with sandpaper.  This face is actually the uppermost part of the cherubic body that appears more clearly in the right side of the work. Interestingly the image portrays a young female, but the model is actually a boy.  The simple finish to the piece was the addition of a sanded metal chess board from one of those magnetic travel games, a #5 cut out from an old Ritz cracker tin, and a torn and distressed old photo on the left hand side.

Cupid #5 is a perfect example of how a piece can be an effective composition with a sense of mystery with only a few components, sometimes as few as 3 or 5 .  In teaching, I often find that when students gather the pieces they are attracted to, they want to include them all in one piece.  Knowing when to stop is a key skill, one that I feel is intuitive.  The artist needs to listen to the Muse that says "enough", while the artist is thinking "oh, just a few more things".  Eventually this listening becomes second nature, and the artist instantly knows it is done and puts it away. Similarly, the artist knows when it isn't done, and waits for the perfect ending, usually just one little piece that will appear eventually.

In my studio, this "knowing" takes the form of a piece either being placed far out of the way, perhaps high up on the studio walls, when I know it is done....or it stays on my "working" wall while it waits for the finishing touch.

(Photo: Cupid #5, Copyright 2008 by Diane Lou.  5 x 7" .   Photo by Nils Lou)

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