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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.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

A trip to the bins...

Last week Nils had an appointment in Portland so I opted to go along.  Since we were on the east side of town, I thought a trip to the eastside Goodwill bins would be a fun diversion.  Besides, my favorite shopping spot, the westside bins, had recently been a disappointment.

For those of you who don't know what "the bins" are, they are the end of the line.  Here are the donated things that are not good enough for a Goodwill store, the things that don't sell in their alloted time in the Goodwill store, and sometimes just an overflow of donations.  Things are tossed into "bins" (large 4x8' bins on rollers) with some weak attempt at organization.  Books will be in their own bins, shoes & clothing will be too.  Electronics are mostly separated, and the rest just gets tossed in.  So you may find a wig, a plate, a purse, a catcher's mask, a doll, a stapler, an old record and a rusty hammer, all in the same bin, along with dozens and dozens of other things.  The hunt is the fun part because you never know what you may find.

 But I digress...When we walked into the office/studio of the practitioner he was visiting, I was immediately in heaven.  Bones, skulls, feathers, wings,!  (Those were for her art, not her practice.)  While Nils had his treatment, I was told to wander and lust after things...which I did.  I was rewarded with a raccoon skull....perfect!

For my found object work, much of what I love to use is too ratty or old to even be found in a regular Goodwill store.  Most garage and estate sales will have tossed into the dumpster the things I like most, so at times, it becomes problematic to find the low-caliber, well-worn, even possibly broken things that evoke emotions in me.  But the eastside bins did not disappoint!  There was an old catcher's mask (wonderful!...and I'm thinking it might go with the raccoon skull), metal parts and pieces some of which were already rusty, a mah jong game with lots of pieces, turned wood pieces and knobs, metal knobs, some wooden boxes that will provide the habitat for future pieces and a wealth of other goodies.  Where else can you spend 2 hours shopping (actually, rummaging), enjoy the hunt, and walk away with 2 carts full of creative possibilities for around $50? A fun day indeed!

(Photo: 111, copyright by Diane Lou 2008.  14"x14". Photo by Nils Lou.)

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Brittany's wedding

This evening we'll be attending the wedding of a lovely young couple, Brittany and Ben. We joke that Nils has known Brittany from womb to wedding because Britt's parents, Cindy and Don, have been Nils's friends since before Britt was born. Consequently, Britt started coming to the anagama firings as an infant (if you don't count being here while in the womb) and has continued to come all these years. As a young girl, she was already directing firings, telling experienced potters when to put in wood. It was obviously built into her DNA coming from potter parents.

When she was a pre-teen, she wrote an article that was published in Ceramics Monthly magazine about the anagama firings and what it was like growing up around that. She rated the most important things in her life as God, family and Nils. Nils has been like an honorary grandfather to her.

Britt lights up whatever space on earth she enters with her radiant smile, sparkling eyes, ready laugh and sense of humor. She is loving and good, and Ben couldn't be a more fortunate man. I've only known Brittany a couple years (since meeting Nils) but I love her, no doubt about it. Oops, I can tell I'm going to need to bring tissues this evening.

(Anagama firing photo courtesy of Cindy H.)

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Show Review

As I prepare to take down my show at NW Wine on Thursday, I'd like to share a review of it that I just came across. Hope you enjoy it. Go to: to read the full review. Here's a little preview from the reviewer: "My internal monologue went a bit like this: "these are great! I love them! ... why do I bother making assemblages? ...well, it's a relief in a way, because here's someone who can do it for me. ... I wonder if she's a student... I bet she's like 19. Rr."
Well, she's not 19, she's older than me, and her work is an inspiration to make art instead of think about it!"

(Photo: Done, copyright by Diane Lou 2009. 24"x 14"Photo by Nils Lou.)

Monday, July 13, 2009

Evolution #2

At the Goodwill "bins" (the end of the line before the landfill), I once found an old wooden duck decoy. I'm not sure if it was really old or if it was simply a decorative piece that had been made to look that way. It sat around in the studio for quite some time, and I had trouble getting past its "duckness". So I used the chop saw to decapitate it. There's something about destroying an object that suddenly reveals endless creative possibilities.

The thought of a new head led me to a porcelain one I had....and well, perhaps she needed feet too, just not real about furniture casters. Hmmmm.....she seems like some weird hybridized creature, so maybe she needs an ID # on her side and a nest to hold the eggs of her even weirder offspring. And so it goes... Usually there is a moment that opens the door to endless possibilities, and the getting rid of the head (which ended up on another piece) was that moment.

Keith LoBue (see his blog in my favorites list) always speaks about getting past the "preciousness" of your "stuff". You like it so much you cannot imagine destroying it or changing it...or sometimes, even using it! Sometimes I'll take a hammer to something just to get past what it is and to reveal the interesting shapes and pieces that comprise it. I've even started using some original photos because I think it is better that they are "out there" in the art, rather than being stored in a forgotten box or photo album.

Pull out your stash of stuff and start using it!
(Photo, Evolution#2, copyright 2008 by Diane Lou. Photo by Nils Lou.)

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Dumpster diving

July continues to be a month of construction dust and noise, and so I find myself leaning more and more towards getting back in the studio, which, in turn, leads to the urge to find new goodies. Yesterday a garage sale yielded lots of lovely cigar boxes, some wood, some paper-covered wood, which will be fun to use myself or in my classes in September and October. But my favorite find there was a big bag of old croquet balls....yum!

Besides teaching 3 workshops at Art and Soul this fall (2 sessions of Transfers and Transparencies and one of Dumpster Diving Assemblage, I'll be teaching at my favorite-ever retreat center, Menucha, in the Columbia River gorge. That workshop will be with a group of high school art students which was organized by their wonderful teacher, Amy, who often brings her students out for our anagama kiln firings. I can't wait. Fall at Menucha is such a treat in its own right, but being able to teach there and be with young people...well, perfect.

Since being with Nils, I've spent more and more time around college and high school aged students (because of his college teaching and because of high schoolers coming out for the firings), and I must say, the ones I've come in contact with are so much fun! They are lively, friendly, hard-working, creative, eager to learn, helpful and courteous. Great kids all...

Banana bread is in the oven on this overcast, high 60's day, the hummers are feeding, and soon I'll start cleaning the garage (because of a too-long-to-tell and too-hard-to-explain reason related to the upgrades on the house). It will be lovely when all this work is done and everything put back where it is supposed to be.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Summer flying....

A heat wave has hit us...90's in the valley, slightly cooler here at our higher, tree-covered elevation. But we are off to the golf course (are we insane?). I have a lesson at 2 on the wide-open driving range, then we'll play. Makes me hot to think of it, but I do like to play....

I must apologize for being so lax in posting these last few weeks. It seems the sweetness of summer, having Nils off from teaching, lovely weather, and just feeling good have allowed me to pull back a bit and just relax into relative laziness. Watering the garden and landscaping, stepping around the guys doing work on the house, harvesting produce, starting to putter in the studio again.

I had been longing for new "stuff" for my art, even though I have a lot by most anyone's standards. Last Saturday I trekked from garage sale to garage sale, looking quickly over tables of glassware, kids' toys, things bought from TV ads still in their boxes, in search of treasure. And treasure I did find. A box of rusted steel traps, a box of chandelier crystals, lots of chains from jewelry, a wooden box with a glass door, a box full of wooden furniture legs and more. None seem especially spectacular on their own, but combined with things I already have, they hold promise.

As so often happens after a dry spell of artistic inactivity, I start feeling something akin to anxiety and know that soon I'll be creating again. There's a stirring in my gut that I've learned to recognize. Then, most likely, I'll create lots of pieces in a short period of time....then be done again. I'm ready for it.