Tuesday, July 16, 2013

"A Play About Snakes"

 click to enlarge!

This piece took nine months to make…like being pregnant. But with snakes.

Why nine months?  Well, its true that its very detailed and it was a difficult and complex image to create, but also my work flow was really different.  During that time, I taught full time for one semester, part time another and made the piece “Our Ladies” and the garden section of “The Birth of Eve”.  I also worked a little bit on sculpture.  So it wasn’t like I devoted myself full time to this image.

Please follow these links to information as to how I made the drawing and demos (here's another post and another here and one on making the glass parts.  But, for your edification, here are the two layers that comprise the snake area completed:  (Click to enlarge)

Also: I am so pleased to share with you the fact that, because I made the drawing as an endless repeat pattern, I did pursue making it as a fabric (link) and ultimately had the very talented and lovely Karly Tufjenkian make me a blouse and skirt with the material!  OMG—I wish I could design MORE fabrics and do an entire wardrobe… but I digress.

So here’s a little essay-lette about this piece for those of you inclined to like that type of thing. What’s it all about?
Often the "story” of my pieces exists in my mind as a narrative of their creation as opposed to “about” something external.  This is no exception.  I began the work on snakes last August and the parameters I set for myself was to do something intensely complex technically because I knew that I would soon be teaching full time and that I cannot think about my own work and teach at the same time.  However!  I am most excellent at accomplishing TASKS.  So I figured I would come up with some crazy thing that would take a lot of mindless work to make.  I have always wanted to do snakes so snakes it was.  My first thought was to use the snakes as a back ground for an unresolved  figure I have in glass I am calling "Cassandra"

As I began making the snakes, more was revealed.  Get it?  That’s a reference to both my process of generating “Meaning” and the image itself.  Here I had this magnificent image of a pit of snakes, roiling and entwined but how to resolve it? I truly disliked the way "Cassandra" was interacting.  It just didn't work for me at all. 

  I felt I should include the human element, and being me, it took all my willpower to not put an entire figure in there.   But I just knew that that would be all wrong.  Here’s my first idea.
Its like the foot at the beginning of "Monty Python"!
Unsatisfied, I tabled the piece for a while.  When I got back to it, I was thinking about the following trompe l’oueil painting and decided that would be how I would deal with my snakes.  This brought to mind the famous painting by Charles Wilson Peale, "The Artist in his Museum" (1822)

(Oil on canvas. (The Joseph Harrison Jr. Collection.) Courtesy of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts Museum: www.pafa.org)

Adriaen van der Spelt (Dutch, 1630-1673)
Frans van Mieris (Dutch, 1635-1681)

Trompe-l'Oeil Still Life with a Flower Garland and a Curtain, 1658
Oil on panel
18 1/4 x 25 1/8 in. (46.5 x 63.9 cm)

This was the source for the hands.  I saw this years ago in New Orleans.

And thus, I was finally pleased enough to move forward with my piece.  But then came a set of fresh dilemmas!  Do the hands just like the Watrous grave or less symmetrical?  One hand or two?  Can I please, please, pretty please with sugar include a whole figure?  (NO!) 

Final choice (please note, this mean I had to turn the whole thing upside down!)
I guess, I eventually came to realize I was suggesting that all the world’s a stage, and when you sweep back the stage curtain on this life to reveal the true nature, it is a den of vipers…but such beautiful ones!  And why judge so harshly?  Snakes are good creatures!
The careful observer will detect that it’s a repeat pattern and thus the “realism” is foiled a bit.  Is it merely a backdrop on the stage and not the main event?  At any rate, the border is there, surrounding the image to remind you “This is Not a Pipe” but an image and while I laboriously did the interior by analogue the border is the exact same pattern but reproduced mechanically.  So HA!

Dress by Karly Tufjenkian

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