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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.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Where Birds Dream...

In about 10 days I'll be delivering this piece to The Arts Center in Corvallis, OR for a show with the theme of Where Birds Dream. The above picture is not the most recent, but shows the early stages of the pieces. The one below shows the rockers on the bottom, the stars in the trees and more.  I had found this old birdhouse at the bins, as well as the striped cat.  The house had so much character and age and history that I couldn't resist using it for this project.  The peeling paint, the rusty screws, the old faded stencils...perfect!

I drilled a couple holes in the roof to accommodate the 2 branches obtained out the studio door, complete with moss and lichens.  Cut out stars from a metal tin I also found at the bins.  Stars were tacked on the house and hung from the trees with gold wire.  The final touch was adding the cradle rockers to the bottom.  They were also from the bins (need I say that anymore?), newish wood, but I spray painted them black, then sanded them to make them match the aged patina of the birdhouse.

Show opening Nov 19, running through Dec 24.  Opening and beginning of silent auction Nov 19.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Back in the studio at last...

With Art and Soul behind us, other workshops done, and a few days to clean up and put away, I look forward to an afternoon in the studio. Thanks to all my adventuresome students!

Fall here has been amazing, with mild weather still continuing, the color spectacular, and many of the trees still in full leaf!  The coming week continues with showers and highs in the 50's and lows in the mid 40's, which gives the fall garden longer to grow and the tomatoes more time to ripen.  Despite garden failures this year in some other areas, it has been a great year for tomatoes.

After time away from the studio, which the ever-so-short-seeming month of October has required, I find myself filled with a certain anxiety that tells me I need to get back to creating.

At times like this, my process involves going back and digging through my collection of "stuff" and pulling out the things that appeal to me.  These will probably be the starting point for new pieces.  I also look through boxes and boards that will serve as backgrounds and pull out the ones that call out to me.

The first step is always to determine the orientation of the background (vertical or horizontal) without having any idea what kind of piece I am going to do, and to put screw eyes and a hanging wire on the back.  Having also freed up some wall space by this time, I hang the empty boxes on my working wall and begin placing the pieces I selected into each one just following my gut about what goes where.  Of course some things will not be used.

Normally I work on 3-7 pieces at one time, bouncing between them on any given day.  As soon as I can't figure out the next step on a piece, I move to another allowing my subconscious to work on the previous piece.  During this whole process, I have no idea where any of them are going.  The "stuff" seems to create its own connections, and it is my job to simply listen.

Sometimes I'll just look down or on my desk, and a piece will literally jump out at me as the perfect piece for an assemblage I am working on.  Often two ideas sitting side by side will suggest a combination that should be used.

Starting with a theme means sudden death.  The piece will be contrived and dull, at least in my eyes, and will possess none of the mystery and surprise that I love to feel when I look at this type of work.

(Room #5 by Diane Lou,  8"x4"x1")

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Studio workshop today...

Today, for the first time, I'll be conducting a workshop in our studio here at home.  Twelve Linfield College students will be coming out for an all-day workshop on Found Object Assemblage.  After loading, unloading, reloading and unloading about half a dozen times in the past 3 weeks for workshops away from home, I think I am really going to find I love teaching on the home turf where every tool, adhesive and piece of "stuff" is at my disposal.

Today will mark the end of workshop teaching probably through the holidays at least, and I eagerly anticipate getting back in the studio to do my own work instead of just preparing for the workshops which I thoroughly enjoyed teaching. I'm sure the galleries are also looking forward to something fresh...and speaking of that, I hope to find a couple more galleries so my workspace walls can be freed up for new work.

A new granddaughter is due in a week, so there is anticipation on that front too.  Geneva Alexandra.  It's been 10 years since the last grandchild and 16 years since the first one, so there will definitely be time to treasure her every moment just like with the first two.

Nils is off teaching a workshop at Chemeketa Community College today, so tonight we'll both put our feet up and heave a sigh of relief.

I sliced and dried the first big batch of tomatoes that are suddenly all deciding to ripen at the same time.  We had a couple nights at 32 degrees, but with covering, everything survived.  And now we are headed into a weekend of winter storms, which for us here means gusty winds and heavy rains (a couple inches or more predicted), but with moderate temps.  So no more frost on the horizon but the shortened daylight hours will still take their toll on the plants and me.  I say this sitting beside my light box as I do each fall/winter a.m.

(111, copyright by Diane Lou.   20x18x3)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Chicken feet and a cuckoo clock...

After a grand and exhausting time teaching at Art and Soul, I'm home again...or I was.  Now I'm back in Portland with the grandkids.

My classes were all packed, and the only way I pulled it off was with the help of my volunteer assistants who were amazing!  I love wonderful, resourceful women, and these gals were.  They saw what needed done and didn't ask, but just did.  Thanks to each of you if you are reading this.

Roomie Jennifer got me a awesome present...a white chicken (or perhaps turkey) foot.  She knows me so well!

Then on Saturday, vendor night, one of my students who, earlier in the day had asked directions to the Goodwill bins, came up with a gift for me.  She was so hopeful that I would like it, and of course, I did!  It was a broken old German cuckoo clock with all the beautiful gears, the pendulum, the bellows that make the cuckoo sound...oh my.  It is awesome!

Now two more workshops next week, then hopefully a little down time. Thanks to all my wonderful students at Art and Soul for a great time!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Packing up for the rest of the week...

Tomorrow I'll be leaving for three days at Art and Soul. Friday night is my Dumpster Diving Assemblage class, Saturday night is vendor night, and Sunday is a repeat of my Transfers and Transparencies workshop.

The van is packed full of stuff, my husband is prepared for a weekend alone, and I'm trying to stop my mind enough to relax and hopefully get some sleep tonight.  There is always the nagging thought that I will forget something really important!

If you are attending, I look forward to our time together!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Off to Art and Soul...

Tonight I'm teaching my Transfers and Transparencies class at Art and Soul at Embassy Suites in Portland.  So now, I've just finished packing up and mentally preparing for an adrenalin-rush of an evening.  The class is very fast paced, and of course, there is the set up and tear down, and then the  2-hour drive home tonight at 10 since I don't teach again until Friday.  All three of my classes are full, but if you are one of the ones already signed up, I'll see you soon!