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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, January 30, 2011

What are the bins?...and Tuesday is the drawing.

Just a reminder that Tuesday is the 1st, so that is the day for the drawing for the FREE ART!  If you have posted a comment since I announced the giveaway, your name is automatically entered each time you have posted.  Good luck everyone!  Here again is the piece you will receive if your name is drawn.

In one of the many comments posted recently, the question was asked, "What are the bins?"

Goodwill has certain stores called Goodwill Outlets (if you are looking in the phone book or online), but which are called "the bins" by those who frequent the places.  They are few and far between, often only in the bigger cities.  They are the end of the line, so to speak....the place for donations that are not good enough to go to a Goodwill store, the place for things that spent their time in a store but did not sell, and sometimes the place for excess donations that they do not have time to process, or small items that would not be practical to sell in a regular Goodwill (like Lego pieces, wooden blocks, etc).

They are called "the bins" because everything is rolled onto the floor of the big warehouse-type building in bins about 4' wide and 8 or 10' long and about a foot deep.  They are about waist high to make digging convenient.  Shoes, books, electronics and clothing are mostly kept in separate bins, but everything else is thrown in together and you must dig to see what is there.  I am often what would be called a "bottom feeder" because I love to find the little treasures left after the mad scramble by others to get the bigger things off the top.

The bins in Hillsboro (Portland metro area), where I go, probably has around 80-100 bins on the floor at any one time, and during the day, the employees periodically wheel them away and bring back new ones, which brings a new rush of enthusiasm for the many buyers.  Owners of second-hand stores, and those who frequently sell on the internet, are avid and almost daily shoppers.

The best part is the pricing the pound.  Except for a few items which are separately priced, like large rugs,  books ($1 for paperback and $2 for hardback), furniture, exercise equipment, and bicycles, most items are sold by the pound.  If you buy over 25 pounds, the price is 89 cents a pound.  Under 25, I think it is $1.29 (I don't really remember because I almost never buy that little). Glass items are 29 cents a pound.  So a whole shopping cart full will often cost about $25-30.

When Nils and I go, I remind him what a cheap date I am.  One of my favorite ways to spend 2 or 3 hours is to go the bins foraging because I never, never know what might be there!  It is like a whole new treasure hunt each time (and each time new bins are rolled out).  Cheap fun indeed!  Of course, if you don't make art (or do something with everything you find), this fun habit may win you a spot on the TV show "Hoarders"!

Besides the hunting, I love the creative exercise of this.  When I look at each item, I have to look at it not from the standpoint of what it was for, but ask myself, does it have an interesting shape, texture or patina?  Can it be disassembled into interesting parts?  If it was painted or rusted, would it look entirely different?  I don't think about how I will be able to use anything, but just if it appeals to me on a gut level.  And it all costs so little, what if I made a wrong judgement from time to time.  Besides, often things I don't end up using will be just the thing a student at one of my workshops will love.

And that is the story of the bins.....

Friday, January 28, 2011

Bins treasures....

Tuesday through Thursday of this week, I was in Portland with my grandkids.  And, since they are both in school, I had all day each day to go foraging around the city for things for my art.  I made a daily trip to the Goodwill bins (or Outlet), where the broken, unwanted and who-knows-what end up, in search of goodies for my art and home too.  Besides all the art goodies pictured, I found a beautiful soft leather jacket, a new leather purse, pillow shams that matched our bedding, gift wrap paper and ribbon, Brio train tracks and much more.  But what follows are some of the "goodies" (or what some people would call "trash") that I found.
Fingers, finials, and more.

Always love architectural or geometric shapes.

A horse, a frog, a crown for the frog, and cones

A 4' tall house that I cannot wait to transform.  The door opens.
Love, love, love this!  She was in a plastic bag, ignored even by the diggingest bins shoppers.  Her crepe paper dress is ages old, rumpled and beautifully discolored.  I think she is a treasure.
 Trophies, a tamborine, a decapitated angel (whom I would have broken apart anyway, some interesting little metal thing on the right (a little dish warmer?), a wine carrier that opens into two intriguing 1/2 columns.
 An old ledger, 2 metal curtain tie backs. a tiny red cowgirl boot, arches (love arches!), and some sort of prayer wheel.
 A doll, a wooden box, unusually large musical notation, drawer pulls, and golden Xmas ornaments (sad that they are made of plastic not glass, but good they are made of plastic not glass because now I can rust them and paint them and not worry about them breaking.)
                                        A horse, a lampshade, a cigar box, a small cutting board and Tinkertoys.
Architectural plastic pieces from a dollhouse which can be painted or rusted, tiny bird's nests, a gold cup, a wooden cove, a spoon and fork with primitive Philipine figures on them (I've already cut off the spoon and fork parts, making them more statue-like), and a plastic looking glass that will not look anything like this when I am done with it.

Hope you enjoyed seeing the results of my treasure hunt!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


It's one of a string of beautiful, sunny days here....a break we often get in January, lulling us into the belief that winter and rain and dreary days are over.  But after a week or two of sun and spring-like temps, we usually sink back into the other once again.  In the meantime, even the tulips have decided it is safe to surface, and I even saw a flowering tree in bloom the other day.  The great thing about Oregon is there is not a month where something is not in bloom, and spring never seems that far from fall.  I would not be surprised to see my first crocus in bloom by the end of this sunny spell.

Yesterday was to be an all-day playday in the studio for me, then we had a power outage, making it too dark to work!  So I moved outside to the garden, cleaned up more beds, took a nibble of the new 3" tall chives, dug out my old sick raspberries in prep for turning the bed into all strawberries, with a new location for raspberries.

I'll be spending a couple days in Portland with my grandkids this week, so that will afford me hours of time while they are in school to go to the bins, to SCRAP, and to the reBuilding Center looking for some new inspiration.  Can't wait!

Nils and I saw The King's Speech last night.  Terrific movie!

The piece above, B-4, centers around part of a collage of a king I made years ago for a 4x4 book, and part of a broken horn, courtesy of friend Jennifer.  Test tubes, a chess board and the rusty piece across the top, which is actually a plastic child's crown which has been flattened out and had my favorite rusting solution applied to it, are the other main elements.

Don't forget to sign up for the free art by posting a comment!  Just a few more days to go.
(B-4 Copyright Diane Lou 2011)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Photo of free art...

Well, finally.  How the days do fly by!

I just took a photo of the piece that is up for grabs in the Free Art project.  It's entitled Tick, Tock and is about 14"x14", created on a old chess board.  There are chessmen, old photos, photobooth photos, vintage clock hands, and the rusted case from a plastic clock.

So, remember to post a comment to enter (or enter again) your name in the drawing to win.  You have until the last day of the month to post!  A name will be drawn February 1, and the piece will be shipped right out to you!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Now snow...

Saturday Nils, Jake and I awoke to snow...and what could be better when you are a 10-year-old boy like Jake?  He spent the entire day building snow forts and snow men, and stockpiled snowballs, all while being soaking wet and freezing cold.  When I told him I was too cold to play outside any longer, he asked, "Can't you just pretend to be 10 for a while?"

Unfortunately, my more mature body doesn't tolerate the cold well, and few minutes of wet and cold chill me through and through, but I did engage in several snowball fights during the day, winning a few and losing many.

All three of my submitted works were accepted into the Wild Woman show...Reveries which was pictured a few days ago, Domino which is at the top of the blog page, and Repository.  We'll deliver them on Friday and the show opening is the 29th. Nils also had 3 pieces accepted.

I hope you are staying warm wherever you are...

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Free art!

Read on for the Free Art part....
I had one more icy photo to share, this one from by the pond where the water spews out from the spring up the hillside.  The branches by the heron sculpture were covered with a thick layer of ice where the water continually splattered on them and froze.

Now to the real point of this post.  My studio walls are covered with art, I'm packing some away for a while, sending some off to galleries, and adding more to the house, but still, I am left with way too much, so I am doing a giveaway to start off the new year!

I love, love, love the process of doing art, but very often don't have a huge attachment to it after the fact. And, as time goes by and my work progresses and changes, I often become even less attached to it.

So, every time you post a comment to a post on this blog during the month of January, your name will be entered into the drawing for a piece of free art.  So, read as often as you can, and post a comment, and I'll enter your name in the drawing to be done at the end of the month.  I'll post a picture of the art in a day or two.

I'll be looking forward to hearing from you!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Winter frost...

Although most of the time we stay above freezing here, we had about 5 days of below freezing temps which created magical-looking frost, especially by East Creek.  Today we are back up to our norm...40's and rain.

Today is my dear husband's birthday!  It will be a quiet day with studio time, but last night we saw Black Swan, a dark but wonderful movie. Happy birthday, love!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Aging gracefully...

Friend Kristine's wonderful essay about aging gracefully on set me thinking about it.
Sure, I'd love to have smooth, unwrinkled skin again...and a body I didn't mind putting in a swimsuit (but I minded it as much when I was younger as I do now, so what's the big deal about that?)
 I was recently reminded that cosmetic surgery does not make us look 30, but instead it makes us look like we are “trying” to look 30.
That aside, I have recently taken a great deal of interest in watching the women my age (nearly 65) and noting what it is about them that still makes them attractive at this age and older.
The common traits I find are a smiling or happy countenance; eyes that reflect their interest in new things, their wisdom about things that seldom change, their passion about living life fully, and their compassion for others after having seen the good, bad and ugly of life; good posture, and a great haircut (no matter what the color….white or outrageous red). There you have it!
I’m so happy I am no longer making bad decisions with men, no longer care what others think, and that I have the freedom to finally be the person I have aspired to be my whole life.
I have watched life enter the world and attended to it as it left. I have been threatened by health issues serious enough to make me face my own mortality. And I feel blessed that all of these things have happened to/for me. I wouldn’t trade this for my 3 mid-thirties daughters’ lives for anything.

About life (and this could apply to the artist's journey as well) Joseph Campbell once wrote, "What I think is that a good life is one hero journey after another.  Over and over again, you are called to the realm of adventure, you are called to new horizons.  Each  time, there is the same problem: do I dare?  And then if you do dare, the dangers are there, and the help also, and the fulfillment or the fiasco.  There's always the possibility of a fiasco.  But there's also the possibility of bliss."

I hope you are following yours....