September 2008 Archives

shells, bones and bricks

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bones-on-leaf-plate.jpgNot only have I been collecting images, but everywhere I go I collect shells, bricks and what ever speaks of the place. A few years ago I remember finding a seal skull on the rocky shore of Heron Island, Maine. It was bleached, white and beautiful in its mystery and simplicity. When I came up the path from the shore I met a friend who had just found an antique bottle near his porch. He showed me its peculiarities and obvious age with great glee. So I reached in my backpack to show him my treasure and his face fell. A skull? He was appalled and stared blankly at me. I asked him to think of of Georgia O'Keefe for artistic connotations. I have found duck skeletons and seagull heads and I am always struck by the structural nuances, the poetic possibilities and the artistic celebration of elemental forms in bones.

The rounded bricks on the plate are found on the shore in Maine as well. They (obviously) start out as rectangular, sharp-edged bricks; they're used as weights in lobster traps. As they are lost, separated from the traps, they get tumbled in the waves; ground on the shore they become softened and rounded. As a potter I love to see the nature of the fired clay in response to the action of the ocean.

When I collect a series of similar objects, I find myself thinking of the artist Candy Jernigan. She was a collector of evidence and ephemera. She made collages, journals and paintings out of urban refuse including cheese doodles, cans of beans, plant leaves, crack vials and a dead rat.  Chuck Close said, "She took the old saying 'art history is to art what ornithology is to birds' and stood it on its head." I get the feeling that walking down a street with her would have changed my vision so that I could see beauty in the most mundane cigar butt. The collections of her objects became icons--evidence that she had been to a place, seen the details and retained a proof of the moment. A viewer could make a new picture from the remnants of her collections.