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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, August 28, 2011


In the garage sale photo from the last post, in the middle you will see a round hanging lamp, which is painted a purplish-red.  After unloading and putting everything away yesterday, I started to disassemble it.

I used a cable cutter to cut the wires that formed the whole thing into a circle.  Then found the connecting point on the decorative part and got it apart.  When I wanted to cut it down into a smaller piece I found the steel very hard...but did finally get through it cutting with a hacksaw while the piece was firmly clamped in a vise.

The paint was obviously not the original coating and was easily sanded off to reveal the metal in the bottom photo.  Although, as I started sanding and there were still bit and pieces of paint left on, that was a lovely finish too.

I love this shape and will use it across the top of at least one piece I am currently working on, and I'm sure will quickly use it up.  Quite a deal for $1.

NOTE:  I hope all of you on the East coast are safe and secure while Irene creates havoc.  Thinking of all of you.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Garage sales...

Since I opted not to have chemo, I still have decided I really needed a cut.  Harrold, my hairdresser, is in Salem, and on the way home from there, I saw this big garage sale sign on the highway that pointed back towards some farms and country properties.  Needless to say, I pulled over, turned around and went back.

The first sale was OK...found a few books and a few things I could use in art.  As I was paying for those items, they mentioned that their neighbor was also having a sale, but that it was "mostly antiques".  I almost didn't bother to go, envisioning a garage full of furniture (which we don't need) and high-priced items.

Ah, but no....this was a "pickers" dream come true.  Fran (yes, we were quickly on a first-name basis) was closing down the family farm since the death of her father and husband.  Her dad had bought the place 60 years ago, and you know what that means....lots of old rusty stuff and wood.  And Fran herself was a bit of a packrat who loved collecting weird things, interesting decorative wood pieces, frames and more.

In fact, Fran is a tuffet maker!!  Now how weird is that?  Did you know that the word tuffet is not used anywhere in literature except in the nursery rhyme (and references to it)?  And I had just read that the day before I met Fran.  So she collects wonderful old legs, fabrics, and buttons to make her tuffets.

The minute Fran saw me digging through a box of weird wood things, she said, "OH, is that what you're looking for?  Then come with me..."  And off we went to the assemblage artist's dreamland of wooden stuff.  I started picking up things, and she was saying, "Oh, 50 cents for that....a quarter for that." and I thought "oh, yes....."

And here's what I got....and she charged me a total of $40!  Not bad...and you can't even see all the little things that are in there.  I'm already busy taking things apart and figuring out what I am going to do with them.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Lamentations in its final form...

Here is Lamentations in its final form...finally.  It wasn't one of those pieces that flew together, so in this type of piece, I really have to trust my intuition step by step.  Before I had any idea what was going inside, I had to trust that it was going to be OK to fasten in the checkerboard pieces in the bottom squares and across the top....and that whatever I did, the old tapestry background was going to be OK too, and so on.  Of course, if it weren't, I'd have to rip them out!

Here's a detail shot where you can see the rusted horseshoe nails holding the taxidermy hoof in place, the resin hand (screwed in from the back) holding some sort of vintage cross, an old chain draped across, and the wire cage hanging from a concealed hook.

Busy doing all my alternative treatments and meds.  Seems to take up much of the day.  Got the juicer fixed tonight so now I can make fresh vegie juices to drink every day.  Thanks for all the good wishes, everyone.  Su gave me a wonderful visualization of knights on horseback (killer cells) attacking the tumors who are boars, all with a background of old tapestries.....well, it was quite wonderful and noisy!  Thanks, Su.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Offering to the Oracle...

Here's a new work just finished.  You did see a "stacked together" version of it in its earlier iteration a few days ago, but things change...
As I think I mentioned before, I used two weathered boards for the background, which I fastened together with a couple small boards across the back.  The curly metal bits are from a candle holder which I removed the protruding candle holder part from.  The shelf with the elephant head underneath came just like that from the bins.  Above the shelf, I added an odd-shaped mirror frame that was (and remained) golden colored, and flanked it with two very heavy duty German scrap wings which are glued to the wood (and which I may fasten more securely with some kind of small brass nails to make sure they don't fall off).
Inside the frame, I put some tapestry-like fabric for a background, and then added a door plate with a vintage French doll's eye in the center.  Two spindles are mounted on the sides.

 Here's a detail shot of my "offerings".  A hornet's nest, the jawbone of an animal, 3 melted gold candles, and 3 small red fruits (wooden).
And here's the top.  I struggled a bit figuring out what should go up here, but ended up with the speedometer dial (loved the subtle colors which were mimicked in the tapestry) from a stash of ancient pickup parts.  The slot in it where the odometer reading would have been shows 2 eyes from a classic madonna (I've forgotten which artist) peering out, and her golden color picks up the wings and frame.  The circle did seem to just "float" there though, until I added an strip from a checkerboard to ground it a bit (and you'll notice in the top photo that I added one at the bottom too).

Hope you like it!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Despite my promises to the contrary....

Despite my promises to the contrary, I have been quite bad about posting this month.

Earlier this month, I received the rather shocking and sort of paralyzing news that the cancer I had 2 1/2 years ago has returned in not a good way.  I continue to hold out positive hope for a happier prognosis than I was given, and am seeking alternative treatments and a second opinion to see if there are options other than a highly toxic chemo (the one I would get would be one of the worst).

The thing is, I still feel great, have good energy and am able to do all the things I love....spend time with my grandkids, make art, garden, go for long walks, spend time with my dear husband, and all the rest.  I'm just not willing to give that up for 6 months of extreme chemo which would kill my immune system and make me tired, weak and sick.   Oh, and did I mention that the chemo was not going to be curative?  So it would just prolong my illness.

So, since the news, I have spent as much time as possible with my grandkids, wringing the fullest out of every day we spend together.   It's quite a thing to deal with, as I'm sure many of you know either from your own experience or that of a loved one, and there are good days and bad.  Quite a roller coaster ride.

Now that that is out of the way, on to the important   Here are a couple photos of some started projects.  This one is really just in the "trying it on" phase with everything just stacked in place as I figure out what else is going to happen with this piece.  Since this photo, I have added a rich, tapestry-like fabric to the background of the golden frame.  Pieces included the wire swirls from a former candle holder which I cut off, a conical shelf holder with an elephant head on it, an old door plate, some plastic columns and roof line, all on some old weathered gray boards.

Here's another one in an even earlier stage of development.  The arches came from one of those decorative birdhouse pieces you often see at Goodwill which I disassembled.  It did have vertical wires in each of the archways.  The old dovetail box was a gift from friend Marlene (very old....the box, not Marlene), and the base piece which will be attached after the box is filled was a shelf piece from Goodwill.
I have a couple days this week to work on these projects and hopefully I have some progress to post about.

Summer has been beautiful since it arrived.  Truly lovely days.   I hope you are enjoying yours too!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Something new....

It's another perfect summer day here, in the mid-70's.  Thank goodness!  I don't know how some of you are tolerating the record-breaking heat.

 Grandson Jake has returned to his mom for the next few days before his next stay here in the country, so I managed to go take a few photos of some of my work in progress and some nearing completion which I'll share with you in the coming days.

This one started with a box which came back into use when I disassembled a piece made about 3 years ago that I was no longer happy with.  It was a black box back then too, but that's about where the similarity ends.

I inserted some of my favorite checkerboard pieces in the narrow top space, and in the 3 boxes down at the bottom.  Two of the bottom ones are "popped forward" by gluing a block behind them.

The detail is a little hard to see, but there is a taxidermy hoof on the left  (by the hand) which is held up by old rusty horseshoe nails driven into the box.  The hand may or may not be in its permanent location.  The background is made from an old faded tapestry-type cloth which was cut to size and glued in.

In the bottom boxes (also still subject to change) are, from left: an African animal figure with a wax seal on twine hung around his neck;  in the middle, a billiards ball in some sort of light-bulb-holder; and on right, a bone, a rusty white dried rose, and two small bottles with vintage labels.

I think the title is "Lamentations", but I am not sure yet.  This definitely is not finished, but it is getting close.

I must admit this summer has not been my most productive in the studio, but there has been lots of grandson time, some golf (I am a horrible player, but I still like it), lots of gardening, projects around the property, and just plain old lazy reading days.

This month's giveaway will be a small piece of art, so stay tuned and post a comment to get into the drawing!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Excuse my absence...

Well, I have been sooo pathetic about posting during July and early August, but I continue to be mired in the Dr's appointments and related stuff.  That, coupled with the fact that summer fully arrived with beautiful 75-80 degree days and sunshine, providing weather I don't want to miss out on.  Grandson Jake has also been here a lot, and with all of the above,  the weeks just flown by.

Since all my online groups have been quiet, I think most people are either out enjoying summer, working in the garden, vacationing, trying to get the kids through the last few weeks of summer, or melting with the extreme heat. Oh, I am so sorry for those who are going through that!

But, I do still want to do an August giveaway. Post a comment during August, and you'll be eligible for the drawing.  And, for my part, will try to show you some photos of new work and some commentary to actually respond to!   I do have a new piece or two started, so I'll do some photos and get back to you.
In the meantime, stay cool, my friends!

Pictured below:  an oldie titled "Done".  Copyright by Diane Lou.