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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.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Right brain, left brain...

Sorry (again) for my absence, but much of the past week or so has been spent getting ready for the Local 14 show in Portland...and, since yesterday I have been here, setting up, working and selling.  Tomorrow I have the day off, will view the show with friend Jennifer, and just enjoy the day as I am not signed up to work.  Sunday the show is over and it will be pack up time at 5 p.m., then the drive back home.

I met up with lots of old friends and made face-to-face contact with some people known only on Facebook, like Dayna.

A friend posted this wonderful photo on Facebook which I loved.  Yes, I'm sure I am breaking some copyright laws by posting it, but let's just say I am passing on some very imaginative advertising.
Left Brain, Right Brain

Lovely, isn't it?

Saturday, September 17, 2011

A vintage gas pump...

While in Portland this week, I stayed with friend Jennifer.  Part of our agenda was to visit friends and fellow artists, Tabor and Greg, and shop a bit from Tabor's inspired collection of stuff.  So off we went....

After we finished drooling over everything (and all too often lusting after the same items), we made some choices, and here is one of mine, a vintage gas pump. Here's how it went as we  (Jake and I, and then Nils at the end) disassembled it.  When I bought it, I thought there must be lots of stuff inside as it was quite heavy.  And, of course, all those intriguing dials showing held a lot of promise.  Here's the sequence of disassembly:
Above you see it as it started out with a hand crank on the side and several sets of dials.
 Here we have the front off...and I find the front very intriguing in itself.
 The next level back gives us a peek at what's inside.
 Luscious little dials with brass gears on the sides.
 And more....
 After some struggle, more wonderful dials.
 And lots of bits and pieces at the end.

Tabor and Greg,  the time at your home was absolutely entrancing!  Lovely food, good conversation, captivating surroundings, and good shopping.  What could be better?

Monday, September 12, 2011

New stuff...

I've recently been the happy recipient of some good "stuff", as most of us call it.  Blog reader Su told me she had something for me, and I envisioned some small item she wanted to send me, but no! came a big box full of goodies.  Each nook and cranny around the ever-so-interesting drawer (out of an old sewing machine cabinet) was filled with something inspiring and fun.  Take a look:
There's the wonderful metal knight in armor, a pile of black finials, metal turtles, glass faces, keys, rusty metal curliques, and glass hearts (which Su tells me were made from powdered glass melted in a waffle iron!)

Then, a couple bins trips yielded not a lot, but some, interesting items. picture is sideways, but you get the idea.  I especially like the woman figure on the right, the very unusual cow, and the aqua gear item.

Finished up another piece today and here it is in its final form (I hope).   The background is part of that initial collage jumpstart I did a week or so ago.  Also in the piece are some old letters and music, a old red and black typewriter ribbon (see lower right), aqua rusted metal from an old vehicle, a key and tag, a part from a piano (on right interior) and a rusty lock on the bottom.
It's called Amatory Poems,  and here's a detail. 
Don't forget to post a comment during the rest of the month to be eligible for the next drawing for some wonderful free item.  It's nice to know someone is out there!

New Winner!

Well, finally, an announcement for the August winner of a small piece of my art....Jackie Gardener!  Jackie, if you'll email me at dianelou at  with your mailing address, I'll get the little piece in the mail to you.

Another new small piece (tall but small).  This one is tentatively called In the Samurai's Garden.
The tall (approx 20"), narrow (3 1/2") box is painted with a satin black paint.  Inside, first I put down a handwriting covered paper,which was then mostly covered by a rough white paper with bamboo strips on it (but the handwriting slightly shows through), and then a bit of black and gold at the top.  A rib bone donated by a friend (an animal bone, that is. I have good friends but not ones good enough to donate a rib) was inserted through the box after a bit of chipping, hacking and drilling, to get the opening to fit the bone.  Then some tiny hand-dipped candles that I purchased recently at a garage sale were hung over the bone.  Brass decorative elements were added top and bottom.

There may be one more thing added...a tiny bit of a reddish item on the right side where the black meets the white.

Back to the studio.  Will post some photos of all the new goodies found at garage sales and donated by friends.

Breathe in these last wonderful days of summer and enjoy!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

And another....

If you look back a couple posts, you'll see the square box with part of the collage I started with in the background.  This one turned out to be a perfect example of how things evolve and totally change if one just lets the process lead you.
After trying too hard to make the other image work, I just covered it up. (Tip:  When things don't work out, take it apart and start over....or rip out a major component and then see where it goes).  Once I did that, found a rather racy old letter written during WWII (the little blue rectangular handwritten section on the left) and the St Christopher Be My Guide winged pin...well, it all fell together.

The angelic transparency in the top triangle (a wooden child's toy) fits right in with the carefully posed young women (who also appear in Magical Kingdom).  And the vintage French postcard addressed to "Ma cherie Gabrielle" seemed to fit, and the rusty horseshoe nails piercing the bottom add a little ambiguity to it.

And actually the wooden rectangular piece framing the left was pulled from another piece I was working on, but where it didn't work at all (another plus of working on multiple pieces at once.  You can pull from one to the other).

Moving on to the garden, I saw the most amazing spider there yesterday, curled up the leaf of the scarlet runner beans.  Here she is:
I've had garden orb spiders in that area of the garden before, and when their eggs hatch, a whole web will be shimmering with tiny golden spiders making their way up, up and away (I understand they make a strand of web and float away on the wind).  But I've never seen one with this large white body with a black spot.  The new style?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

New and small....

As I've been talking about, my free days have been spent in the studio working on a bunch of "smalls" for the upcoming Local 14 show.  So, here are some photo updates for you:
This one, unnamed for now, is in a tall skinny box (about 20" in all), with another small box on top that contains some round red ceramic-type piece that I don't even remember picking up. Off the bottom hangs a fishing lure with red beads on the wire.  

And a detail:
In the background, you can see part of the collage I made at the beginning of this process, and a wonderful zipper Nils found for me at a garage sale one day (out of a pair of boots, I think).

Here's another, tentatively titled Miles to Go.  It starts with a shallow box for a background, then some old barn boards on top of that, that a small drawer for the main container (see the small white knob on top?).  Shoe forms flank the sides, some sort of red military epaulet (I think) graces the top, and from the bottom hangs an old leather bag with vintage letters inside.  
 Here's a detail of what is inside the box.  A lichen covered twig with a piece of old cloth measuring tape wrapped around it, and tied with a piece of red string.  Behind in the box is a map. Total height about 18" (guessing).
Last night I attended a meeting in Portland for the Local 14 show.  It should be fantastic having seen a powerpoint presentation of all the wonderful work.  As a guest artist, I have to work 9 hours during the weekend, so I'll be hanging around Portland quite a bit that weekend of the end of Sept/beginning of Oct but it should be fun.

I hope you are all having some creative time.  We are having a heat wave (for us)...near 90.  Found a dead flicker by one of the front windows, a crash I am sure, so I'll keep you updated on what I did with it.  For right now, suffice it to say that the wings and feet are in silica gel, and the body is being taken care of by the yellow jackets (and I hope to retrieve the skull and beak at least.  Pictures to follow if it doesn't gross you out too much :)

Oh, and poor Felix had to have surgery and a tooth pulled, so here he is in his misery. I always feel so sorry for animals with these cones on.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Assemblage jumpstart....

With the Local 14 show coming up, I decided I wanted to create a bunch of small pieces which hopefully will sell well, and at the same time I thought I'd show you my process.  I start by just pulling out lots of small wooden boxes, and assorted small "stuff" that is really too small to show up in a large piece.  Here's a part of the table I set up just for this project.
Next I decided to create a big collage (about 24x30 on matboard) for backgrounds.  It is also a way for me to "backtrack" and get back to my roots of collage....and it is a jumpstart for these small pieces. 
The next step is to identify some interesting areas that could be cropped out of this collage.  I measure a few boxes and then start cutting out an appropriately sized piece.
 I prepare the box for the image by spreading glue all over the inside, then put the image inside and weight it until the glue dries.  The box will now be waiting for the addition of some 3-D objects.
Here I pick out a small piece of the collage for another small box.
This photo shows 3 boxes with backgrounds glued in and awaiting the dimensional objects that will complete them.
Here's a small one that's complete.  Finished size is about 4x4 inches.
And here's what's left of the big collage.  Plenty for more backgrounds.
Will announce that August winner tomorrow.  Stay tuned!