If I'm lucky, there comes a time during every show production session that I become completely absorbed in the work to the exclusion of all else: other art projects, laundry, meals, Netflix, errands, sunshine, blogging. Until about two weeks ago, I was beginning to wonder if I was going to find that sweet spot in creating work for Figmenta, my solo show in October. I told myself that I was still recovering from an especially difficult teaching year, that it was just taking time to rebuild my energy and focus. I told myself that an ongoing battle with severe tendonitis and increasing tremor were slowing me down but that I was still making progress, albeit at a snail's pace.
And then, finally, I fell down the rabbit hole. However, the hole didn't appear where I expected it to and I am doing some serious pondering about what it all means.
I had been casually preparing a bunch of small canvases after completing two large pieces but after the first couple of layers, my interest stalled. I'd look at my stack of blank canvas and feel like I had to drag myself across the room by my elbows to them. So, in the spirit of moving onward, I turned my attention to my sculpture/assemblage project based on an idea I jotted down in 2012. It's an idea that's been patiently brewing in my brain pan for the last four years but simultaneously going nowhere. Since Figmenta is all about honoring my artistic whims, I had finally decided to bring this idea out of the show workbook and into reality.
I worked on the individual parts assembly line-style so it took a few weeks for everything to arrive at the same point. The heads were sculpted, dry, painted, and varnished. The edges of the wood blocks were covered in tissue paper and then the fronts & backs were covered with paper as well. Holes were drilled and screw eyes attached, four at a time. I could begin assembly.
And that's when the rabbit hole opened beneath me. Most of the last two weeks, I've spent upwards of ten hours each day playing mad scientist. Metal and wood bits cover nearly every inch of my studio table with the exception of Marley in his box and the tool jars that take up most of the righthand corner of the table. Somewhere in that pile of embellishments there are pliers, glue, wire cutters, a small hand drill, scissors, and a cutting blade that I hope I remembered to cap. There are itty bitty screws, brads, eyelets, random coils of wire, game pieces, and gears galore. As my actual workspace shrinks, my joy expands. Whenever I create something particularly amusing, I actually cackle aloud: "Heh, heh, heh." Time begins to slip slide away.
At first, I was just assembling the two parts I had completed: heads and bodies. But as I worked, characters and their stories began to emerge. I have moved into the deeper levels of the rabbit hole and as I continue to fall, I am starting to evaluate where I might land. Initially, I thought these "Cyborg Relations" would just be scattered in amongst my paintings, oddities for distraction and amusement. Now though, I am wondering if perhaps these might become the main attraction. Other than my very first show in May 2002 and a small show of the robot army in February 2014, I've always shown paintings. Both shows of my 3-D work were in tiny venues. Do I dare try to base a large solo show on my assemblage work? Hmmm...the wheels are turning frantically in my head.
My new friends await their arms and legs. I have two heads to redo since I discovered I am not in love with them. Other ideas are starting to surface. I am making copious notes and sketches. Unless I am seized with new enthusiasm for painting, it is very possible that Figmenta is going to turn in an unexpected direction. I'm not closing any doors yet; it's too early to make any drastic, final decisions. For now I'm just going to enjoy the descent into all-consuming fun.