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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.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


Here's one of 2 new pieces, the other of which I'll put up tomorrow or  at least soon.

This square background (the box for a game that had numbers that flip up on all four sides, those obviously removed) seemed a little challenging to me at first and while I thought my chosen pieces were going somewhere, they never did.  So I scrapped them all and started from scratch working on the 4 little compartments around the outside....some tubes that I had glued images to and a chess board that had been sawed into small strips between them (bless that tabletop bandsaw Nils got me).  I also found the image of the penumbra (celestial shadow thing) which just seemed made to go into the center.  The little girl in the house shape had been a part of my original work, and I pulled her back into the scene, and liked her now that I had everything else in place.

The piece around the little girl...the house shape with the arched door and windows... was from a dollhouse.  The plastic part was "rusted" with my rusting solution and the cardboard backing was painted black, then covered with tissue paper with writing on it.

Although it is probably a little difficult to see in the photos, the cage-like part was added at the very end (originally part of some sort of lantern, the other half of which is in Damaged Goods), and I loved how it added dimension to the piece.  And interestingly, the cage does cast a shadow on her....
(Penumbra copyright by Diane Lou)

Monday, March 28, 2011

Drawing near.....and anagama pots

The Oregonian posted a follow up article about the firing with pics of some of  the finished pots and here is the link:

Don't forget the drawing will be on Friday for the print pictured a few days ago.  Be sure to post a comment to enter!

A couple new pieces are finished in the studio and I will get photos today.  Below are a couple photos of some of the stash I work with.

It's still rainy and dreary here, while we all long for sun and some warmth.  

Friday, March 25, 2011

I got in!...20 years later...

A couple weeks ago, I submitted my work to the jury at the Local 14 show, and yesterday I was notified I was accepted!!  I'm thrilled.  This is a very large, women-only show that has been going on for 44 years now in Portland.

But what is really fun for me is that 20 years ago, when I had just moved back to Oregon from Montana, I read about the Local 14 show in the Portland newspaper, The Oregonian, and said to myself, "Someday I am going to be in that show."  Over the years, each year when I saw it advertised, I'd say, "Someday..."

So, this year, since I am not teaching at Art and Soul which has always conflicted time-wise with Local 14, I decided to apply.  Notification was supposed to be April 1st, so yesterday when a saw an email from Local 14 in my inbox, I assumed it would say, "Thanks for applying, but...."     I was definitely dancing a happy dance when I read the message.  The show is the end of Sept/beginning of Oct.

The photo is a new piece: Compressed Experience.  Friend Deb gave me, among other things, the tall wooden box (actually a file card tray), and the lovely wooden woman/comb.  To the tall box, I added a base I made from a wooden picture frame which I cut with a chop saw, and a fence post topper I repurposed from an old, old piece I had disassembled.  The interior is lined with a handmade paper with bamboo sticks through it.

My "lady" has an added belt around her waist with a dice and a tiny little bejeweled metal container that I have had for at least 20 years.  At that point, I got stuck on the piece, but knew it wasn't done.  When I put a screw in from the back to fasten the woman into place,  she cracked slightly....a crack which ran from her shoulder to her breast, creating the perfect opening for some of my favorite red string to hang down the front.

(Compressed Experience copyright by Diane Lou)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

First Offerings...finally done!

If you look back at least weeks, if not months ago (, you'll find the start of this piece.  It  began with a wooden checkerboard for a background, topped by a wooden box painted black.  The two pieces that are screwed to the top and bottom of the box are, I believe, from some type of Lego set that I found in the bins. The finial is an inverted pendulum piece (plastic) from a very cheap clock.
 The background piece inside the box was one of my "glueless" collage pieces that I created for my book, Transfers and Transparencies.  On top of that, I fastened down with construction adhesive the silver warmer, with my favorite angel image inside.  The wing was broken off a ceramic angel, and also glued down with construction adhesive.
Like sometimes happens, this start of a piece which included the checkerboard, black box and Lego pieces, sat in the accumulation of "stuff" that gradually piles up in front of my working wall.  Yesterday I took my brush and dustpan and decided to tackle that messy area.  Not only did I find this piece and finally see the way to finish it (literally within minutes), I got rid of some things I don't think I will ever use.

I often find cleaning or sorting or just looking through things brings out things I had forgotten I had, or things that were set aside when I just couldn't figure out where they were going.  It's a great way to jump start some new art!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Free March art!

Here I am, nearly at the end of the month, finally posting a picture of this month's giveaway.  It is an archival print of one of the collages I made using the techniques in my book and workshop, Transfers and Transparencies.   It is titled "A qui pensez-vous?"  (Who are you thinking about?)  This print comes in an 8x10 mat. 

Remember, each time you post a comment, your name will be entered into the monthly drawing.  Just a few more days to go!  

Finished up 2 new pieces and have several others in the works, so will be posting new pictures this week.

Still raining and dreary here....hoping for sun...

Monday, March 21, 2011

Quote for today...for all artists

Bob Hicks, the writer for The Oregonian who did a couple great write-ups about the anagama firing, wrote the following at the end of one of his articles.  I think it is wonderful!

"So maybe it’s just a pot. Maybe the Greek guys were right. Yet it strikes me, looking into the maw of this volatile and strangely comforting furnace, that our foolhardy canoe slipping downriver into the current of an unruly past is bringing back something that the future needs. A sense of the vitality of the frankly physical. The nitty-gritty joy of sheer cussedness. The primal and transformative power of clay and blood and bone and raw human
 doing-ness that can’t be conveniently abstracted away by the intellectual arbiters of an overcrowded lockstep world. The fugitive pleasures of fun. The potters, the weavers, the carvers, the hand people, are our wild children and our pioneers and our roots. Let them feed the fires. Let them float the canoes. Likely as not, we’ll be needing what they know. ~Bob Hicks, freelance writer for The Oregonian.

Feed the fires, float the canoes......

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Spring and the super moon...

The rest of the crocus have all sprung up after the very few early yellow ones. Their brilliant colors make me smile thinking of spring and summer and gardening and flowers.  The netting that you see is because two deer have decided my garden would make good eating, and they love tulips....and there are several hundred waiting to bloom!  I also used deer repellent, since I never feel safe relying on just one thing to keep them away as they are so persistent.

Yesterday we unloaded the anagama and the "caboose" kiln.  It was a very mixed firing with failure to reach temperature through much of the big kiln, but there were also some amazingly beautiful things, some the result of underfiring.  As someone said to me, "Sometimes enough is just enough."

And don't we need to remember that in so many parts of our lives?  Feeling contentment and peace with what is our life, with what we have (and once we move beyond our basic needs being met, there really is little that we "need"), with each day, hour and minute.  Not always wanting more, feeling lack, feeling the "if only I had....." feeling that leaves so many people over-shopping, over-eating, over-drinking, over-doing, over-everything.

Twice a week I attend yoga, and one of the goals of my practice is to shrink my world to my yoga mat, and attend to the feeling that there isn't so much going on the world that needs my attention at that moment.  That quiet space and time is quite freeing.

With that, I wish you, on the first day of the season, a joyous spring.  Don't forget to peek at the still glorious super moon tonight.  It is at its closet point in its elliptical orbit in decades, so the moon will seem even bigger and brighter than usual.    Enjoy!
( Kiln photo of Don Hoskisson)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Elk....and a freebie!

On the way out today, Nils called to tell me there was herd of elk in the field by the Delphian School, about 5 miles from here.  At that point I was still in my robe, sipping on my tea, but I threw on my clothes, grabbed the camera and was able to get a couple photos...nothing close because they were quite wary.  But what a sight they are!  Marvelous (as long as they aren't tromping through your garden or yard...or eating the winter's stash of hay you were using for your cattle or horses).... beautiful, massive  (about horse-sized) creatures.
Nils hasn't seen elk around here for many years.  This herd could find its way to our property as they have a large range that they occupy.

Don't forget to post comments during the month in order to be entered into the drawing for a piece of my art! Drawing is on April 1st.  Each comment puts your name in the hat once again.

Off to the studio...

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Anagama firing...again

Another anagama firing has been my excuse for being away from here.  This week, from Wednesday night through Saturday night, we were firing 24/7.  All the people who have pots in the kiln were here to help in the arduous process of firing.    The wood-fired kiln uses 6 cords of wood to fire, and requires crews of people working 4 hour shifts stoking all the ports.  The final temp reaches 2400*F.
This is the 26th year that the kiln, which was built by my husband Nils Lou, has been fired.  Here are Nils and Felix, both seemingly in an advisory role.
The Oregonian, the Portland newspaper, published an article and photos about the firing, which you can view at:

and another great article on the artscatter blog:

The opening of the kiln will be Saturday morning.  Between now and then I am hoping for some real studio time.  

The first hummingbird showed up today....right on the usual date!  How do they do that?....and how do they find a tiny feeder in the middle of hundreds of acres of forest lands?  This little rufous was battling strong winds and beating rains to use the feeder.  Amazing....

Friday, March 4, 2011

Laps to go...

Here's a new little, kind of weird piece.  Every now and then, I dig out a bunch of small wooden boxes and just start putting things in them and putting little mini assemblages together.
This one is about 7"x7" (am not near it to measure it at the moment) and utilizes some "rusted" plastic architectural elements, a game dial and "99" (both plastic and rusted), and two resin fish, which I cut in half on the band saw.  I glued half of each one on the inside and half on the outside so it looks like they are swimming through the box.  A map piece covers the inside back of the box.

These "smalls" are a fun creative exercise when nothing big is going on, or when I just have a short period of time to work/play.  They are also a good way to utilize  small items I have collected which would be lost in a larger piece.  Try it!

(Laps to Go copyright by Diane Lou)

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Shows and snows....

The first signs of spring...intrepid crocuses (croci???) still there after a 15 degree night and a pile of snow!  I love these little harbingers of spring.

Amid the snows, it is time for show applications to go out for jurying, and time to create more new work.  Lately I've found myself doing a lot of networking via Facebook, Yahoo! groups, my website and all of that.... and while I used to shun anything that vaguely looked like self-promotion, I've realized that these things are how we now do it, and unless I want to have my children dig through a studio full of art up to the ceiling when I die, I need to do it.  Marketing is just another part of the process, and it takes time.

Off to do applications....or at least start on them....or go to the studio and play and later do applications.

Oh, you'll notice a new button off in the left sidebar. I just took an online class from Michael deMeng, and now that the class is over, many students want to stay in touch.  Since I still had my Instant Inspiration Yahoo! group which had been inactive, I volunteered to use it for the group members who wanted to continue with a forum for exchange of ideas, art and support, as well for other artists who want to join.  All mixed media/collage/paper/assemblage artists are welcome!  Just click to join....

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

And the winner is....

Judy Shreve!  Judy, please email me your address at dianelou at earthlink dot net  .  You win the goodie bag of "stuff" .  I see from your blog that you are a potter (I used to do that, and my husband Nils Lou is a potter) but that you are starting to branch I hope these things will be fun for you!

Names for the next drawing start with those posting from today on through the rest of the month.    See you tomorrow!