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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.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

La Plage

On Friday, Nils and I took a mini-break to the coast, to Cannon Beach.  If you don't live around here, I'll just tell you that Cannon Beach is an appealing, adorable and artistic little beach town which has the added benefit of being right beside Haystack Rock, one of the largest monoliths in the world.  The rock sits just offshore, close enough to overwhelm you with its size and energy, and also close enough to walk to at low tide.

But I digress....On each trip I have made to Cannon Beach, I have had to stop and admire a building right on the main street that is whimsical, creative and looks sort of like a piece of my found object art grown to full size.  It looks as if it was built from all sorts of unusual pieces that were integrated into the building as they were found.  The exterior is weathered wood, ornate woodwork, shaped shingles, stained glass, odd window get the picture.  In a way, it looks like it grew there, and in a way it did.

The building is a studio/gallery but it has never been open when I have been there.  Saturday we lucked out and found the artist was having an opening that day.

It would have been a disappointment to walk in and find the inside nothing like the outside....or to find uninspired art inside...but it was anything but disappointing.  The tiny gallery/studio (about 10' wide and 20' long) was rustic wood inside too, and in the overhead rafter area, there were huge carved wooden supports.  A tiny loft was above the back part of the gallery, and there an Australian shepherd  watched the people below through the railing, and behind him was a tiny woodstove and a comfortable overstuffed chair.

The art on the walls was whimsical and fantastical, created by a man in his 70's with a gentle but self-assured manner. One painting was entitled, "The Floating Pirates", just to give you an idea of the type of thing he created.  The artist's son entered with two exquisitely detailed bronze creations of the father's.... fabulously playful jousting knights in armor on amazing horses...and the artist burst into a genuine smile.  He had not yet seen the creations fully cast and finished.

Then, as we were leaving, we spied the artist's "studio"...a 6x6' space in the corner with windows behind him.  Shelves holding brushes, colored pencils, and paints surrounded his chair at about elbow-length.  His work table was about 3' wide and only 18" deep, and it apparently swiveled out to let him into his tiny work space.  It was a picture of efficiency and of someone knowing exactly what he needed to do his art.

 We both walked out with smiles on our faces.  I realized that it is too seldom that we encounter such a cohesive and charming "package" in this world of too much, too new, too big, too commercial.  My hat is off to you, William Steidel.

(La Plage, copyright Diane Lou. )

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