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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, November 24, 2010


As this holiday season begins, I find myself filled with gratitude for all the good things in my life. For a loving and much-loved husband. For three beautiful adult daughters and three exceptional grandchildren. For living where I live, for having time to pursue the creative dream of lifetime, for being surrounded by beauty everywhere in my life.   For long-time and loyal friends who enrich life at every stage, for newer friends who entered my life when Nils and I married, and family members who have known me forever.  For good health, happiness, strength and maturity.  For being alive and learning and growing daily.   And I'm thankful to all of you who read these posts, who have taken my workshops or purchased my books.  You keep me motivated!

May your Thanksgiving be filled with warmth and love and friendship.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

New starts...and a finish

On November 8th, I posted about the initial stage of this piece and wanted to update you on that with the picture below.  At this stage, again, I have no idea where it is going beyond where it is.  So far, we have a cigar box, lego pieces (the black and gold), a clock part and a checkerboard.

Another start below fashioned on an old sleeve-pressing board, on which I fastened a set of antlers (both bins finds). No, those aren't eyes, just the two screws holding the antlers on...and no, this isn't a holiday piece :)!
And now for a finish.  If you look across the top of the piece, that gridwork section is those little lanterns I disassembled.  Really like them!  Inside, the scraggly, rusty bit is a burnt out drain pan from a charcoal grill (bins again).  Couldn't resist its patina and wabi-sabi appeal.  Still waiting for the title for this one to pop into my head.  Any suggestions?
Hard to believe we are flying towards Thanksgiving and Xmas and the end of the year already. Possible snow this week down to 1000'.  We are 700' so we might get a skiff.  

Monday, November 15, 2010

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Granddaughter Geneva Alexandra here at last...

Gad, I don't even have a picture to show you, but she's here at last.  It was a rather problem-fraught delivery....her heart rate kept dropping dramatically during labor, she was certainly overdue, so eventually the answer became to do an emergency c-section.  She had the cord wrapped around her neck, poor dear.

Since she was still distressed after delivery, off she went to Legacy Emanuel NICU, where she still is (fortunately it is only about 20 minutes from where they live and has one of the top NICU's in the country).  But, she's doing better, just very tired out (aren't we all?) by the whole experience.  The great news is that she is here, lovely, 6#8oz, 20 inches long with a little curly red hair like her lovely mom.

Huge congratulations to Kolya and Larry and Geneva!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Beginnings and baby?

This week I've been showing some of my "starting anew" process, which involves preparing materials (painting, rusting, disassembling, breaking) for inclusion in a work of art.  Most of the time, I try to alter each thing I use in some way prior to  putting it in a piece, and this process creates a whole new inventory of materials to choose from.

After that, I start setting things together (without any idea of where the assemblage is going).  Right now I have 9 pieces in that state.

Here are a couple pictures of how this might start.  This photo shows a wooden cigar box painted black and from the bins, a couple Lego pieces which I thought were just smashing.
Here are how the two might be "tried on" to see if I think this is a direction I want to go.
I love the enclosure these two pieces create for the box.  It already has a sense of mystery about it.  At this point there are not attached because it will be much easier to work inside if they aren't, but they will be nearby to set on the piece as I work to check how they will look.  Their attachment will probably be one of the last things I do.

Granddaughter Geneva is apparently reticent to come out.  Attempts to induce failed, so mom and dad (Kolya and Larry) are back home waiting...waiting...waiting.  Send some "Come on, Geneva!" energy their way.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

More changes... and recent purchases

Another beautiful fall day here.  Some sun, some rain and a vibrantly colored rainbow as we drove to brunch this a.m.

Here's a continuation of the posts about transforming things before I use them.  Recent bin finds (Nils found them for me) included these very neat little "lanterns" which were fitted onto a string of holiday lights.  
As you can see, they are rather easily cut apart to form an interesting series of small panels.  I'll be showing photos of a piece I have started and which is nearly done which utilizes these little grid panels lined with paper.

Part of Art and Soul, the Portland event that I taught at in October, is a vendor night.  And since I was a vendor myself, I had little time to shop but did manage to hit one very cool booth where I bought the following items.  I can hardly wait to use them.
I love the whole idea of opening doors, keyholes, locks and keys, and when they are old, even better!  I thought these were just terrific.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Fall color....

Burning Bush
Beauty Berry
Maples in the Douglas Fir forest

Beauty Berry
Sweet Gum

More transformations...

As I continue to prepare my "stuff" for pieces, I thought I'd show you a few more photos of what I've been doing during the past few days.  I love the Sophisticated Finishes rusting finish (from that enables me to transform ordinary plastic (or paper or fabric or lace or wood or metal) into something that looks like it has been around for decades.

In the first photo, you'll see the original items (clear plastic man, red giant checker, and plastic castle tower from a child's toy) and  then one with one coat of the metal finishing on it.  I used the clear primer from the same company first, which creates a surface that the dark painted on metal adheres well to.

More plastic items with the metal surfacer coating on them.
Here are some pieces in the process of "rusting"  The rusting solution is applied after the metal surfacer (usually 2 coats) is completely dry.  Sometimes if I don't get quite as much rust as I would like, I reapply the rusting solution again.  It can take several hours for this part of the process to complete itself.
Since the dark metal surfacer actually contains metal filings, what you are getting is really rust, not just a look-alike. 
Gorgeous fall photos to follow.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Transforming things...

After a period away from the studio as October has been, I go back through my stash, pull things out, take some apart, paint some, rust some or in general alter most everything before I use it.  That's the stage I am at now, so I thought I'd post some pictures of some of the changes.
These drape pull-backs from the bins showed potential.  I loved the spiral design which will make great finials to top a piece.  See the "after"picture after I cut them with a hacksaw.  They could be interesting "rusted" too, or painted.  I'll show pictures of other transformations in the days ahead.

Waiting on my new granddaughter, Geneva Alexandra, to make her entry into the world.  My daughter and her partner are at the hospital.  Waiting, waiting, waiting....

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Birds and No Excuses...

The birdhouse shown in the previous post has been upgraded a bit.  A tiny cuckoo from an old broken clock as been added to the circular opening right beside the cat...and a feathered tail now sprouts out the back.

Here's a relatively new piece...No Excuses 2.  A smallish piece at about 12x10, created inside an box that looked like a book, enhanced by a child's dragon gate and old wooden castors. A metal bishop from a chess set sits in the center.  See the details following.  Currently at River Gallery.

(No Excuses 2 copyright 2010 by Diane Lou).