We have entered the last month of our residency. Trying to complete the work in progress is now the priority. We just participated in Mana’s open studio by putting together a group show of all ISC Mana residents and two residents from “Grounds for sculpture”. The event was an occasion to see the Brooklyn Rail’s installation “Occupy Mana” as well as a number of exhibitions such as the food installation by artist Song Dong. The open studios drew an enormous crowd, including many people visiting Mana for the first time. Shortly after, we had a studio visit with artist Sean Mellyn. The visit led us to an insightful conversation about our works and being an artist in the current art scene. I was impressed by Sean’s observations and want to keep his comments in mind as I keep moving forward with my work.
During my commute to Mana, I found the time to read the book “The forge and the crucible, The origins and structures of Alchemy” by Mircea Eliade. The book gives an overview of the primitive beliefs that correlated with the early developments of metal working, the powers endowed to the blacksmith, positive or negative, and the spiritual practices that the smith or alchemist went through. I have been studying the basic skills of forging for the past five years and am interested in knowing more about the origins of metal working. I am curious to see how the understanding of such primitive beliefs and techniques could influence or inspire my sculptural process. It seems that a belief common to many primitive societies was that the metal ores were perceived as some sort of fetuses in the womb of the earth. The smith or alchemist was seen as assisting Nature complete its process of maturation. The purification of metal was usually paralleled with a spiritual purification of the “fire master”. Eventually, the smith or alchemist would seek to bring matter to a pre-cosmogonic [chaos] stage in order to create or heal. I can see a parallel between this process and the artist seeking to create new forms and new symbols. The metal that I use to be a part of my sculptures, whether pipes, sheets or recycled steel, reverts to an amorphous shape through the fire, a sort of melting, in order to become part of a new composition with a new purpose. In a sense, my compositions, whether two or three dimensional, come from the human figure and go through a process of regression to an amorphous stage to become abstractions evoking the body. I appreciate how the metal process used to shape parts of my sculptures mirrors the concept behind my own creative process. One further example of that is how the forged metal bands used as a repressing force against the white mass of the sculpture I had in our group show are rusting. The rust is dripping onto the white paper material mirroring the bleeding of flesh being squeezed by an oppressive force.
I am looking forward to our artist talk and presentation on December 14th at Mana Contemporary. The talk will take place early in the new year. This residency has been enriching and I would like to thank Johannah Hutchison, Jeannette Darr and my studio mate Jessica for making it a great experience.
By Carole Halle