Christmas Story…A New Old Friend

This past December I drove home to Connecticut to join my family for Christmas. When I arrived, a bustle of activities and preparations were well underway. It was not going to be the relaxing, stress-free holiday I had been looking forward to. Luckily, I devised a plan to escape for an hour. My absence would not be too obvious; my mission was to deliver a gift. This brief errand would allow me to drive through the beachside neighborhood I grew up in.

Rounding an old familiar bend in the road, I fully anticipated seeing the Minuteman Monument at the turn off to the beach road. Instead, quite another view confronted my eyes. What came into focus was an otherworldly, plastic enshrouded object…..”What the heck”? I muttered indignantly. What had happened to the enduring visual and mental touchstone of my early childhood memories, now tightly bound with plastic and rope? Was my longstanding invincible hero, the Minuteman, finally succumbing to some band of 21st century captors that had managed to subdue him?

plastic1

I slowed down and pulled my car over onto the shoulder. I rubbed my eyes and stared, inspecting this other-worldly vision. I consciously sorted through my reactions; grave concern, mixed with insatiable curiosity. What had befallen this treasured monument? Numerous questions arose as I grappled with disappointment over not being allowed to see my old friend the Minuteman. This sculpture, I realized, had possessed a benign but long enduring significance for me. Walking around the bound statue, I found a flyer that explained the mystery; a restoration project was underway. What was beneath the shroud, why did the sculpture require a plastic cover?

In slow motion I pulled my car back onto the road, juggling my questions and concerns about this strange turn of events for the Minuteman Monument. I also noted that most of the tiny seaside cottages typical of the beach area in my youth were now mansions…..where was I?

The following day, I decided to secretly return and take another look. With uncertainty, I rounded the corner and could see from a distance that the awful plastic shroud had been removed from the monument. Feeling relief and a new sense of anticipation, I would reacquaint myself with this wonderful sculpture that had been a constant sentinel throughout my younger years. Finally home and I would see my old friend again.

The shroud was indeed gone. I rubbed my eyes again, and stared….my old friend the Minuteman had been transformed; it was now a “new” old friend; its rich verdigris patina that time and age had developed, was meticulously cleaned from its surface. In fact, it had been completely erased! Instead was a dark, clean, streak and drip free bronze surface. It appeared new, “naked”, and as if it had just been cast.Nonclean2 This was, I assumed, the original surface of the artwork when sculptor H. Daniel Webster had presented it, before over 100 years of seasons, storms, and atmospheric conditions (spanning dozens of childhoods), had ripened the Minuteman’s character into a multi-layered story told in rich layers of patina.  I pondered how long it would take before nature would again take hold and release a new pictorial record of time….10, 30, 100 years, lifetimes? Gone were the residues and imperfections that had previously enriched his bronze body.

This Minuteman monument had now joined the many beloved architectural and sculptural old friends of mine which had been improved, changed, altered or removed. I was certain, good reasons were behind all of these transformations but, for me, no reasons seemed good enough to lose cherished old friends, and in this case, reconfigure their appearance.

As if to crown the Minuteman with a touch of humor and irony, a bright red Santa’s hat had been carefully placed on his noble head. I wondered how I could approach and remove this garish hat, but I realized it would only reappear again. As a visitor, only in town for a while to tour my old haunts, what right did I have to enact my own plan of change on the monument?

 

clean3
I headed back home to rejoin my family. As I drove, I began to search for more old friends, observing the icons of past years still standing faithfully, in case they would be altered or removed before I could return again. I noted the missing ones too. Old trees, old houses, old sculptures and monuments, the landscape, people, the marks of time, age and change, capturing and altering so many of them. I knew, in my heart, that I would have to be prepared to make room for more “new old friends”.

Caroly Van Duyn

 

 

Posted in Artrekker's Notes

Is It Really Real?

Notice finger and tool marks on the back of this terracotta sculpture, "A Knight of Santiago" by Francesco Segala, C.1570/1580

Notice finger and tool marks on the back of this terracotta sculpture,
“A Knight of Santiago” by Francesco Segala, C.1570/1580

Have you ever noticed that handmade artifacts look and feel different than mass-produced objects? Can you identify exactly what it is that looks or feels different? Is it the tiny imperfections or fingerprints on it, or is it the signature or “chop mark” on the back or side that identifies the artisans studio? Often, it’s just intuition that tells you about its origin.

Artists and craftsmen who are passionate about what they create imbue their work with great skill and a discerning eye. They know that they will imprint their personal mark upon their product and the investment of their time and energy will travel far and wide, and may even be passed from generation to generation.

An interesting challenge for all art lovers, whether experienced or just beginning to collect handmade artworks and objects, is to look around during your daily routine, and try to identify which objects are made by hand. Are the coffee mugs at the cafe “real”?… the art on the walls of offices and public areas….are they really “real”?

I feel a special kind of energy from handmade objects and graphics, even graffiti on walls. It may not always be beautiful, but it does contain vibrations that I sense are intuitive and different. My favorite handmade pieces harmonize with my sensibilities. Both my functional and non-functional artworks are a kind of family that keeps me company, creating warmth in my environment, and sometimes become the object of a conversation!

As an artisan selling artworks, I take great pride in joining other families around the world. It is truly, very real.

Caroly Van Duyn                                                                                                                                          

Posted in Artrekker's Notes

The Timeless Dimensions of Relief Sculpture

Initial study

Initial study

Sculpting in clay

Finished, cast and stained

Finished, cast and stained

 

 

 

 

I originally created my artworks using the mediums of drawing, painting and clay.  Each of these mediums gave me tools to express my ideas and my impressions of life, whether in an abstract sculpture or in a realistic painting, I would apply materials to a flat surface or construct and assemble parts to create an object with three dimensions. My work as an artisan has always been fascinating and magical, inspiring me with every new creation. When I started to combine my flat and my dimensional work, I became increasingly enchanted with the relief sculptures I was creating. With relief sculpture I now had to consider the unity of both two and three dimensions to create  “tangible pictures”.  I found that I could create artworks that engaged viewers on a multitude of levels. My scope of storytelling expanded, offering a rich expressive new experience where “dimensional scenes” came to life. Relief sculpture is an artistic tradition that artisans have been expressing themselves with for the last 20,000 years!

 

Low relief

Low relief

Medium relief

Medium relief

High relief

High relief

 

 

 

 

 

My sculptures have several different levels of “relief”, or “depth” to their sculptural surfaces. I have sculpted “bas” relief”; low relief for the “Water Bird” series….. Medium, or “medio” relief in the “Motion and Mobility” series, and high relief; for the “Reptiles and Amphibians”. One famous historic example of high relief can be seen at the Athenian Acropolis in Greece, in the sculptural frieze adorning the Parthenon. This artwork continues to be awe inspiring and provocative and several thousand years later it is still telling it’s stories and captivating audiences as well as inspiring scholarly research! In the 20th century, examples of “bas-relief” include sculptural facades created during the Art Deco period. These are some of our most treasured and inspiring architectural artworks adorning the urban landscape; timeless in design and beauty.

Well executed relief sculpture can evoke emotions, drama, beauty, and/or remembrance. Projecting and receding into space, the varied tactile qualities of the surfaces are modeled, textured, and sometimes painted or stained. Even broken or damaged relief sculptured artworks that reveal the ravages of time, still offer hints of stories they were sculpted to tell. Often in public spaces, the warmth and character of relief sculptures bring inspiration and richness to our lives as we go about our daily activities.

As a professional artist working in this ancient tradition of relief sculpture, I have a very personal approach to each new artwork. I embark apon a mystical journey that begins with an idea and then develops into a passion for the subject. I study my idea very carefully with great concentration and observation. This means that I strive to “see” the qualities of what I want to sculpt, its form, structure, attitude, character. I have now taken the first steps on my creative path. I decide what I wish to communicate and develop a story. I must make decisions about what is most important to share and what can be edited.

In order to be able to sculpt forms with accuracy and skill, I learn about my subject by making in-depth drawings and designs. Paper, pencil or paint help me to explore, stopping at points to articulate, modify and emphasize shapes. It is important for me to fully understand and learn about my subject so I can bring character and distinction to my work.  I begin with a clay “sketch”, (a drawing made directly on the clay) that eventually will evolve into a fully sculpted artwork.These drawings sometimes disappear beneath the clay as I work. This is followed by a long period of sculpting.  When my sculpture nears completion, and I have a sense of “knowing” that I have  illustrated my original vision, my journey is complete. I can then release the sculpture into the world.

As a sculptor and a seasoned artisan, my livelihood involves the initiation and completion of authentic and meaningful artworks. The successful process of creation and the final artwork demands well-honed skills and focused energy as it has for artists of every century beginning with the first human beings. This creative process has enabled us to reach our goals and to honor our purpose and importance to society driven by the profound hope that our creations will continue to enrich, inspire and inform future generations.

 

Caroly Van Duyn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Technique

Artrekker’s Notes

tools of the trade 9-12-2014 2-17-00 PM 2047x1888 

 

       

Tools for the Trade

 

 

 

Humble, homely and aging….my low rise hiker shoes are a constant companion during my art working day. So humble, they are often not acknowledged, belonging to the less glorious but none-the-less, invaluable tool category that helps to bring art into creation.

Starting my day in the pre-dawn hours, I shake tiny pebbles out of my shoes that may have accumulated in their souls the day before. I then slip them onto my feet, pull their laces tightly, finishing with a quick double knot for each. Rain, shine, mud or ice, We’re ready to go to whatever project calls us. At night we trudge back in from the studio, I pry my faithful companions off my weary feet. I abandon them to the shoe collection area. It is time to give my shoes as well as my weary feet, time to refresh themselves before we repeat our ritual and face another day long adventure together.

Although they are not fashionable like some shoes, mine have evolving cracks and lines; folds and fragments of paint, plaster, concrete and clay, earth and unidentified stains which tell a rich story of many artistic encounters. I treasure this patina of experience, a visual record of an Artrekker’s journey. Artworks in their own right.

I consider my work shoes to be some of my most valuable tools. They ground me, forming the bearable physical connection of my gravity bound body to the planet we stand on. They buffer all manner of obstacles from every possible direction, even cold temperatures. They give me ample warning before they become completely waterlogged, but even then, they cling to me without complaint, only making a cheerful squishing sounds; such compliant and heroic underdogs.

The extent of my appreciation is unfathomable, especially as my shoes age. I realize they are good friends who will eventually fall apart. As a fellow Artrekker noted, all this, and how do I treat them? I walk all over them….Well, not without giving them their moment of fame!

 

Caroly Van Duyn

Posted in Artrekker's Notes