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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.

Friday, June 5, 2009

The Studio

The studio resides at the end of the footpath pictured in the previous post. On our land, this is really the only semi-level, un-tree-covered space...and it is relatively close to the house, just down the hill. It was as if it had been sitting there all these years just waiting. The clear area you see to the right of the building is where our garden now sits...again on the relatively level, fully-sun-exposed site...a site just sitting there all these years waiting.

The building is sheathed in green metal siding, siding that led to a serendipitous creative discovery. After the building was built (with much of the building going on through a very, very wet winter), we found muddy handprints all over the exterior. Since the builders were deep in mud much of the time they were building, it was not surprising. What was surprising was that the mud would not wash off! I used the power washer with detergent...then used a long-handled scrub brush prior to power washing again...then did it all again...and still a residue of the mud remained on the impervious metal siding.

We decided we had some very special clay here, and first fired a brick of it in the anagama kiln. It stood up to the 2400 degree temps without melting into a puddle, and came out with a metallic black finish. Then Nils decided to use the clay in some painting/drawings he was doing. He'd make various dilutions of the clay (slip), pour it across the canvas, then pour water or more diluted slip across that. When it was all dry, he would start drawing onto the surface with charcoal and conte crayon, and wait to see what would evolve. It has proved to be an amazingly evocative medium, with some wonderful clay paintings as the end result.

We now also use this mud/clay/slip as a decoration on pots. Depending on the density of the slip, the color that results can be anywhere from almost orange-ish stain to a deep, metallic black. The effect is wonderful and all the more special because it came right from our own backyard, and was discovered only because we were curious enough to experiment with it to find its potential use. Life's full of lovely little surprises if we remember to watch for them.


purple bird art said...

I am totally jealous - what a beautiful studio and in such a beautiful setting. Hope all is well with you. Jan

Diane Lou said...

Thanks so much, Jan. I tried to reply to your email, but I got an "undeliverable" message so don't know if it went through or not.

Everything's good is wonderful. I'm taking good care of my health, and hoping and planning to stay well.

I hope things are peaceful and good with you, and that you are having lots of time for art!