Category Archives: Art is a tart

Shiny vs. Art: Is the Rabbit Really That Distractable?

Watches faces and hands waiting to become something new

Sadly, I’m as bad as the dog in “Up”. I can be on the trail of something deep and meaningful and suddenly  I hear, “Squirrel!” or see something shiny. Ooh,Shiny… and I’m off on another tack.

Lost Childhood of Anubis: front

I have epiphanies, sometimes as many as three a week, like an artist’s seizure for lack of a better description. My epiphanies have me swearing to complete the whole series of Lost Childhoods immediately, or make twenty poured resin pieces with original drawings, or master papier mache, or, or, or…there is so much I want to try and make and do.

In the studio with friends, working on My Pool

Sometimes I think I could just lay down and roll in the craft of art, like a joyful paint-covered dog. Now, if the days only had 36 hours each I’d be on to something.

I don’t seem to be able to work on just one thing. Is that wrong? It’s not about focus because I can disappear down that rabbit hole and emerge in a daze asking what day it is two days later. It’s about shiny…ooh, shiny….and suddenly like a two year chasing a butterfly I’m off in another direction. I make myself crazy.

Literally shiny, hanging next to my computer. I really do love shiny things.

Do I want to do just one thing? I could just paint. I could just sculpt. I could just design jewelry. I could just work with mosaic and glass, but I can’t. I see things and I think, I could do that, I could do that and make it better and different and more. And I do, but then the next thing shows up and I have to try that too. I exhaust me.

Ghost town glass ready for grinding

It’s almost garden season which is another facet of art making for me. My outdoor space is overflowing with plants and art. Its an art garden. The good news is that it is really restful when summer comes and I can slow my brain down a little, until…ooh, shiny….what if I???? And I’m off again.

I can relax for a little until...ooh, shiny...

Summer in the garden, my favorite time. My rabbit window and wonderful round things.

So my question for me is how am I doing walking the line between craft and art? Am I okay with not being a gigantic success hanging in a New York gallery? Writing this down has been a good exercise for me. I think I found my center again and it feels okay. I have made choices in life and I can’t regret those. My boys are amazing and when I could have chosen the big city and starving in a loft, I didn’t.

Salt shaker garden hanger. These are such fun to make.

I still think I need to figure out how to weed out some things but what?  What should I give up? I have no idea because I know the next time I go to Barnes and Noble and see something beautiful in a magazine I’m going to say to myself, “Wow, I can do that, and if I did this to it or that to it, it would be even cooler. Ooh, shiny…”

 

Does the View Inside My Head Make You Dizzy?

“Process gets you through times of no ideas far better than ideas get you through times of no process,”so sayeth my favorite college prof., Paul Sparks.  The quote is alleged to be from the Far Out Furry Freak Brothers. I really hope it is, because I have loved it for twenty plus years. Hearing it was an epic lightbulb moment when I was an art student lo these many years ago–and as an artist, that quote may be the truest thing I know.

One of three worktables full of pieces, in the throes of creating it can get pretty wrecked in here.

Process. It may be more important than the initial idea behind a piece because when the race horse of ideas goes through the fence and runs for the barn, the mule of process is still putting one foot in front of the other and plowing all day long. Yes, I do have a sketchbook or six full of jottings, notes, remember to dos, and ideas, but they all depend on process. I can say unequivocally for me  as a multi media artist,there is  a deep and grounded pleasure in using a tool I have mastered and having it do what I want. That’s process. Process informs everything from cutting glass, grinding glass, mixing paint, gessoing a board, bending metal, using a colored pencil, twisting a wire or laying down a bead or seam of solder. Its all about the process.

Process. Knowing the materials and how to make them make magic for me is the important piece of all.

I actually work very, very fast. I worry about that sometimes. Does it make me less of an artist because I don’t have to toil over six square inches of canvas for a month? Before I ever get to that canvas, or piece of wood or glass or whatever my hummingbird brain is enjoying today, I think. I think a lot. I think for days and weeks and months sometimes about a piece I want to make. I think about a lot of pieces a lot of the time, rather like Alice in Wonderland who worked on believing the impossible. To paraphrase her, “Sometimes I think about six impossible things before breakfast.” Yes. I write down what I think too. Sketch books, pieces of paper, sticky notes.

I try really hard to contain it all in one of about six sketchbooks I drag around with me. My poor books have grocery lists and what the kids want for their birthdays and the name of a plant I fell in love with yesterday, all jumbled up with websites I want to look at and things I want to hunt for and ideas for a new piece.

Creepy baby heads are tried out with different bits and pieces to bring them to life.

Which brings me to the process behind the series I call “Lost Childhoods.” These pieces may be my all time favorites and they take a lot of rumination before I ever start assembling them. The Lost Childhoods, so far there are four completed, are all about the imagined childhoods of cultural iconography in my life. Mother Nature, Father Time, Death, and King Neptune are finished. My starting point was to imagine what their early lives were like and then build cabinets which contained imagined memories and artifacts that defined who they were, although since they are not real, I guess I could say, who they weren’t. They are built with found and recycled objects. They all have in common: parts that open and close, words, photos, ideas, artifacts, hands, and heads. I am using doll heads and I have to tell you it feels pretty macabre dismantling baby dolls and stuffing their parts in a drawer. My youngest son is so creeped out he can hardly look at them which I find wonderful, it means I am connecting on some visceral level.

Mother's Nature's Lost Childhood. Doll head transmutation into something wondrous.

The latest piece on the worktable is Betty Crocker’s Lost Childhood. Betty has been on the list for over a year. I have hunted and hunted and hunted some more for the right body. Her head was selected last summer after I got it as a present from my friend Jaimie. Old and fantastic, it looks like Betty Crocker to me. I thought seriously about hollowing out a cookbook for her body.

Betty begins. Vintage doll head and antique hands and a vintage toy stove. Let the process begin!

I  was actually contemplating the cookbook idea until…insert angelic chorus….I was in Space Oddity, a weirdly cool basement level store in Ballard, Washington, last week with my hipster child/son Tor. Insert beam of light…there it was! An ancient Magic Chef Toy Stove. I managed to convince the owner to mark it down some from the sixty-five bucks he had on it and I triumphantly carried it off into the sunset. Okay, so Torin carried it off into the sunset for me, but Betty Crocker’s body was found.

Eureka! The Toy Oven

The same day in another of Tor’s favorite stores, Lucca, I found two sets of Santos hands. Beautiful carved wood hands. Eureka times two! Betty Crocker’s hands. Today, I finally had a chance to begin the project I have been accumulating bits of and ideas for, for over a year. This stove actually still had its electrical cord on it. Thank God, the plug is gone.

Tin snips and time. No bandaids needed. Fear can be a great motivator when you are worried about blood loss from cuts.

I remember this toy. At least one of my friends had one of these. This toy did not bake cakes with a light bulb. Nope, this puppy is wired for some serious heat. I was so curious as to what it was we were baking our tiny cakes and heating our tea with back in the fifties that I was determined to pry the back off and take a look. I turned it over and over and over, kind of like a dog with a Kong toy full of biscuits. There had to be some way to get into the thing. The inside of one oven was undone anyway, so to fix it I had to find out how it was put together in the first place.

And the oven doors even open, the pencil is included for scale.

I resorted to tin snips and carefully cut the thing up the back and then rolled the tin offf the rivets. The hubs came out to view the result and we both almost fell over. Holy Crap! I wonder how many house fires these little toys started? Not one but TWO porcelain heating elements are inside the back. I carefully rehooked the tabs on the ovens so I could use them as containers for Betty’s life.  I think I will put plexiglass on the back and use the oven innards as part of the piece too. Who knows what may lurk in the back of Betty? I cannot wait to find out as the process informs my ideas. That and the box of pieces I have been saving for Betty’s story. I plan to write about the process as I go sharing my process and the product, stay tuned.

Holy Cow! They gave these to kids!!!?? Check out those heating elements on all metal stove with tiny little plastic knobs and the top heated up too!

“All Mine”, The Back Story is All Yours

I love the work I am making now. Recycled, Upcycled, Green. It’s what I have always done living with my poverty pocketbook, but now its chi chi and has a name and better yet, a market. I seem to have caught up with the world again, or did it catch up with me?  The paintings I am doing now have a set of rules to them. Okay, I made them up, but they are part of the parameters that keep me on track.

I can use new paint. Oil, acrylic, poster paint, spray paint, whatever. It is important to use the right paint. I want anyone who owns my work to be able to enjoy it for years to come so materials and archival quality are important to me.  I use materials that are either recycled or in some cases, can be recycled. If I need a small chunk of wood to finish something and I’ve torn up the garage, the studio and the wood pile with no luck,  I will actually give myself permission to buy the chunk I need. I try really hard to con my friends out of their scrap plywood and masonite and even paneling. I have quite a stash now. My wonderful neighbor Kelli is always making stuff and I’m always taking away her scraps. It’s win win that way.

Nellie with her favorite purple crayon toy. What a girl, the original Bad Attitude Dog

Another rule is to try to use old frames. It is cheaper to buy terrible paintings and save the frame that to buy a new frame. I am now adept at putting funky old frames back together. It’s amazing what a coat of flat black paint will do. I have quite a stash of frames too. I look for cheap wooden trays at thrift stores too, the big ones no one wants are great canvases.  I now own a router, a jig saw, two dremels, and I’m angling for a little bandsaw. I have jars of bolts and nails and tins and Stuff.  I have access to a drill press and a hubs who can weld and build almost anything if I can draw a picture of it. I’m lucky that way. A lot of my work should have both our names on it.

another shot of All Mine, 24 X 42 inches. $480.00 at Matter Gallery after the Center show

I have been loving working on the bad dog and bad cat paintings this past year. To me they are not bad per se, they just exemplify all the crazy, often hilarious things our pets do that make us nuts. Eat newspapers, chew shoes, steal toys, swipe chickens off counter tops, hog laps and pillows, and chew through rocking chair legs. Okay that wasn’t funny at the time. But still, I have to admire the persistence of a 12 pound dachshund who could gnaw through a chair leg, and it is funny now.

Nell hauled all her toys to her bed. This is especially poignant because that is Terry's helmet in the background. About a month after the crash where he suffered brain damage, imagine what would have happened without the helmet?

People who know me know I have been painting Yellow Dog for years, he’s the sort of gentle Every Dog who stands in for humans in my paintings. He’s kind of a mellow guy and sort of a dog Gandhi, not a rocker leg chewing bone in his body.

How did I start painting dogs? A painter named Mark Fuller who was part of the early 80s art scene in Olympia painted these amazing snarly dogs and I painted a lot of red chairs back then. He liked my chairs and I liked his dog so we swapped images. That was the genesis of Yellow Dog. Yellow Dog led to Black Dog, the yang and yin of dogness. Black Dog had an attitude and he didn’t give a crap what anyone thought. He ran away to the circus and rode the horses. He chased cars and cats and ate newspapters. He wouldn’t let the kids in the pool and he hogged all the toys. The only thing that slows him down is Mean Cats. Yes, my world is populated with cats too.

That's a real newspaper from the twenties and Nell's frisbee and yellow dog have become art!

This new pieces has its own story. It’s 3D because I wanted it to be an homage to my own beloved Bad Attiude Dog Nell Bell. Nell died about 3 weeks ago at the age of 11 and a half. She was a feisty rat terrier and my buddy.  I miss her a lot. “All Mine” has a pretend dog bed in it with real things. One of Nell’s immense stash of tennis balls, her crummy yellow dog toy and a stick from our willow tree. The willow is said to be a feminine tree, Salix, the tree of joy and dreaming and its perfect to signify dog joy and happiness.

There is a rolled up newspaper which is real and carefully fastened with a rubber band to preserve it. It is from the 1920s and is part of a circular about art and history, an inside joke to be sure.

The dog of Albert Camus as photographed by his friend Jacuques Lartigue

On the wall behind Black Dog there is a picture. The photograph was taken by Jacques Lartigue of Albert Camus’ dog. They were at the beach in France and the dog looks just like Nell! I loved making this piece and solving all the issues that come with the craziness of working in 3D. I love the whimsy of the painted wooden scene, the cut out dog with a real collaged bandanna and the real contents of the dog bed.

This picture makes me happy too. No wonder I paint so many animals. Mom and Nell have gone on to the Rainbow bridge but I hope they haunt my studio forever and keep me company.

This makes me happy, making art makes me happy. I’m basically pretty happy…

 

Alice in Wonderland Does Politics

I have an ancient fallen apart copy of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. It no longer qualifies as a book because the binding has gone to bits, its more like a collection of pages now. The paper is this amazing old ivory color and it is getting fragile. I wanted to save them, so I pulled out all the illustrations and scanned them one by one,  rereading the marvelous story again as I worked with the book.

Lewis Carroll had a seriously droll sense of humor and one piece especially struck me as perfect today. In Chapter III everyone is wet from swimming about in Alice’s pool of tears and their attempts to dry off make up the chapter. The mouse gives it a shot by reciting dry history, which doesn’t work very well so the Dodo comes up with the brilliant idea of a Caucus-race. Given that here and now we are headed into our own ridiculous Caucus Race season I give you Alice in Wonderland’s Caucus-race.

     “In that case,” said the Dodo solemnly, rising to its feet, “I move that the meeting adjourn, for the immediate adoption of more energetic remedies-“

“Speak English!” said the Eaglet. “I don’t know the meaning of half those long words, and what’s more, I don’t believe you do either!” And the Eaglet bent down its head to hide a smile, while some of the other birds tittered audibly.

     “What I was going to say,” said the Dodo in an offended tone, “was that the best thing to get us dry would be a Caucus-race.”  “What is a Caucus-race?” said Alice; not that she wanted much to know, but the Dodo had paused as if it thought that somebody ought to speak, and no one else seemed inclined to say anything.

    “Why,” said the Dodo, “the best way to explain it is to do it.” (And as you might like to try the thing yourself, some winter day, I will tell you how the Dodo managed it.) First it marked out a race-course, in a sort of circle, (“the exact shape doesn’t matter”, it said,”) and the all the party were placed along the course here and there. There was no “One, two, three, and away,” but they began running when they liked, and left off when they liked, so it was not easy to know when the race was over. However, when they had  been running half an hour or so, and were quite dry again, the Dodo suddenly called out, “The race is over!” and they all crowded round it, panting and asking, “But who has won?”

     This question the Dodo could not answer without a great deal of thought, and it sat for a long time with one finger pressed upon its forehead, (the position in which you usually see Shakespeare, in the pictures of him,) while the rest waited in silence. At the last the Dodo said, “Everybody has won, and all must have prizes”

So, here is my question, how did Lewis Carroll foresee the American primary system? I mean really….

 

lake

Its that Cemetery Time of Year…

I have a love hate relationship with the autumn portion of the year. I hate that all my gardens are descending into the winter; the plants I have delighted in over the summer will soon be droopy frozen mush and dried out sticks. All the artist’s yard ornaments come in and get stowed for the winter, pipes get wrapped and the winter coats appear. The winter birds are coming back and its time to stock up on soot and seed for my feathered friends.

I love it too. The leaves are turning bright colors and the air has a snap to it. Indoor pursuits are suddenly delightful and so are lap rugs. This is the cemetery time of year.

My favorite cemetery is right here at home

Little Lambs can be found on children's headstones from long ago

Confession: I love cemeteries and cemetery angels. I don’t think they are creepy or melancholy. Sad sometimes, like when I am wandering among the graves and run into a swath of old fashioned lamb-on-top headstones and know those were all children who died long ago. If I read the dates I can extrapolate sometimes that there must have been a virulent illness that swept through the small city taking the oldest and the weakest both.

Cemetery Angel of Olympia

Still, the cemetery not too far from my house is a beautiful and peaceful place. I love to just wander around reading headstones and watching the squirrels and crows going about their squirrel and crow business.

The fall seems so mellow and quiet under the trees

The day of our friend John’s memorial service a few weeks ago, I had a small camera with me me. It was a beautiful sunny day for wandering and wondering. I wonder what it was like to live with some of these names?

And is this the real Colonel Mustard? Resting quietly with Flora Mary Mustard right here in Olympia.

Colonel Mustard and Mrs Mustard?

Make up your own caption for Waddle....

My Uncle Cecil and Aunt Beatrice  are buried here. My father’s uncle and aunt. Dad used to talk about his crazy logger relatives in the northwest. It was amazing to find out we landed up in the same town over 50 years later. Cecil was long gone before I came here, dying in the 60s, but I love that I have family roots.

And then there are the angels,

All over France and the USA, I take pictures of cemetery angels. For some reason I just love them,their eternal gentleness speaks to me. Its almost Hallowe’en. All hallows eve, I may just get my camera and make another visit, its that cemetery time of year you know.

 

crystal head

Rabbit Falls Down the Vintage Rabbit Hole

I'm currently loving clear things; crystal and glass. The light shines through them and they just glow. Most of these pieces will be leaving me and go up for sale as soon as I get over my clear phase.

Everyone who knows me knows I love a good tschotske, knick knack, trinket, dust catcher, fill in your own favorite word. I am like my hero Edward Gorey in my delight in collecting Stuff. He loved round things, ratty stuffed animals, rocks, pieces of glass, old bottles and STUFF. So do I. My husband is bemused and patient ( thank you Jeezus) with all of it.

Round things. A very tall glass jar of round things. Dust free with a lid no less. I do love round things. I just acquired some ancient shot put balls. I think I'll leave them outside...

In my living room I have a seven foot tall cabinet with glass doors that holds various collections dust free and contained. I am organized, I will give me that. I don’t think super organized folks who live  in a house with under a thousand square feet become hoarders.

Instead, they become People Who Must Sell Things. I can’t help it, I absolutely adore vintage trinkets. I have been trying to define my own esthetic. The things that attract me have to be somewhat odd, unique, cool, and have a quirky cute factor.  I’m not terribly fond of frou frou, but I make exceptions, like the Woodland Ceramics dog I just found. The dog has a porcelain polka dot bow on his cute neck, I mean really?

I love old metal stuff more than fluffy stuff, so ancient locks yes, ancient china shepherdresses no.

Check out that cute dog with the porcelain bow, he seems to be saying, "The sixties called and they want their cups back." Coffee cups headed for sale to someone who loves kitschy 60's stuff. Right now, they are just stored in my garden window with ten thousand other things and my orchid collection.

Metal stuff yes, simpering figurines not so much. The little thing with zig zags is a Walter Bosse hedge hog ashtray set I found for a buck in a box at a garage sale. Its worth $30. Score! The lock is from New Mexico, the door knocker from France and the big key I found in Philly. I do love souvenirs.

I have had a cat collection of cat statues and cat trinkets forever, since forever is age 12 for me, ditto tiny boxes and foxes.

My catz, the pink one one the far left bottom shelf is the first one. My grammy got it for me in Tiajuana a very long time ago.

The white kitty is a replication of a cat given to Monet by Japanese friends. I found it in Giverny at his home. The front kitty is Bakelite, I found him for 2 bucks at an old junk store in Pioche, Nevada. Guess what I like to do on vacations?

I adore these Mexican animals, I don't think I'll ever stop collecting them!

..and somehow I managed to acquire two boats. I need to be on guard or the universe will manifest more I can't resist when I'm least expecting it.

I have a shelf stuffed with brightly painted Mexican wooden animal figures, and one with sheep that started out with the wooden sheep I got in Germany at the age of 8. Yes, I still have it and a fondness for things small and sheepish. I also have to admit to guilty pleasure in books, clear crystals, blue glass, and now vintage clothes.

The two sheep that look rectangular are my German sheep, the first and best still. the funny looking one at the rear second from right, was made by a famous French artist. We stayed at his house in France. What an amazing memory!

In my defense, the vintage clothes and a lot of the recent acquistions are definitely just moving through my hands and into the world.  My son is terrified I’m becoming a hoarder because I repurpose broken jewelry and bits into new art. Relax, Tor, I am not going down that path, I promise.

..and since I started hitting ghost towns for glass, I have developed a passion for old glass stoppers. They fill so many bills: round, clear, funky, old and cool.

Let me also mention that my Iphone is my tool of choice and the devil’s advocate. With that phone in hand I can whip up a Google search and determine that moose pitcher that someone wants $2 for is actually worth over $20. Score.

Strangely wonderful Moose creamer. Can you imagine taking tea or pouring gravy out of this guy?

Well, sort of score. These “valuable” finds are piling up like something out of the Sorcerer’s Apprentice. Solution: My best garage sailor and estate sale crusing bud has an antique mall stall in which she does biz and does it well. We are joining forces and attempting to expand her space into a double wide. How trailer trash can you get? Its just a case of waiting for a bigger ‘hole’ to open up and moving in to it as fast as we can get our paws on it.

Of course as Running Rabbit, my allegiance to all things fun bunny is necesary. Luckily, most of the buns reside in the garden hidden by the leaves. I have a LOT of rabbits...

Meanwhile, back at the ranch. My back porch is now full of furniture that has either been refinished and repaired or is waiting its turn. I am doing a reno on my eldest son’s house and  beautiful repurposed perfect stuff for his kid’s rooms is parked there awaiting installation. My window sills and shelves are filling up with product for moving into the space we hope to have by sometime in October. (Please Lord, send us a space…)

Two birds, one stone, rabbits and round things sit beside the stove in the living room.

This weekend we are going out to find us a storage unit because we can’t stand it anymore. Her garage is full and my whole house is full. Its actually funny but its crazy making too. You have to have the product but where the hell do you put it until you can debut it?

And then there are the clothes…that’s a whole other entry or six. I have discovered there is a serious market of rabid collectors for vintage clothes. Who knew? Two of the three things I put on my Etsy site sold in 24 hours. Okay, they got reserved. That is a term that means what else you got? I might want more before I pay you.

This is the incredible 1940's suit that got me in dutch with a collector of Lilli Ann suits. I started out my day apologizing, lesson learned.

I am losing what is left of my mind balancing all this stuff. Its like juggling houses, I’m fine unless I drop one.  The upside is that I am learning an astonishing amount. Evergreen State College, my alma mater, teaches serious research skills as part of going to school there. Its never been more valuable than now.

Next time down the rabbit hole I’ll have to explain why I have a full clothes rack in my bedroom, a new garment steamer,   a beautiful model (Debbie), and an entire book full of notes already.  I now know the only cleaner worthy of trusting with vintage stuff is an hour away from here in Aberdeen, Washington, but I learned a ton from him too.

Next time around, how to make a vintage clothing collector really mad.

 

Lost Childhoods Series: King Neptune’s Lost Childhood

The latest in the Lost Childhood series is finally finished. This is the first piece in this series that didn’t practically make itself, but I am really pleased with the final result of weeks of hunting bits and pieces and figuring it all out.

This series  of “doll boxes” examines anthropomorphic icons we all recognize, Uncle Sam, Father Time, Mother Nature, the Man in the Moon, Betty Crocker, Death, Lady Luck, etc.

I wanted to take a look at something no one thinks of regarding these icons: their childhoods. What if? The pieces are all meant to be touched, turned, looked at, opened and shut. They are mystery boxes that define what I imagine them to be, I love these pieces because they reflect that we are each our own mystery boxes and paradoxes.

The back of the piece with collaged and painted kelp seahorses and a mermaid, primarily found objects

Side view, that's a little cigarette case that now holds a Jimi Hendrix quote, "Even castles made of sand fall into the sea eventually."

Cabinet side with a photo of Neptune's sister and brother (in mythology he did have a few of these)

Detail of the drawer fronts

The first drawer has an image of Neptune as a baby in the classic naked baby pose. A rattle made of a glass starfish and the words his crib was the fragile sea complete the drawer.

This drawer has hotel key with the words, key to the sea on it, and a key that says unlock the sea's secrets and some spending money in the shape of a sand dollar.

Every kid loves stories, the one in the scroll is "How the sea became salt." The drawer is finished with a shell, sand and a salt shaker.

 

side view of Neptune's head and his crown, shell epaulets and jeweled ears.

On one side he holds a fish on the other fish bones, the circle of life. Shells hold family photos.

He wears a crown of fish and crystals and handmade strung necklaces in sea colors with a sunset medallion in the front and a blue starburst on his forehead. The top of his crown is a giant fish.

A final shot of the whole front.

Rabbit is bored…

After finishing a major piece there is always an hour or day or so of letdown, a now what moment? I mean, its not like I don’t have twenty-leven other things lined up and waiting. Necklace pieces all sorted and waiting, a bracelet in pieces begging to be put together, construction of a sort of excellent display rack for the garden ornaments, two more paintings, Neptune is in pieces on the work table, and then there’s the whole other THING, the garden. Its whining at me with a rather green voice to get my ass out there and get busy.

I really should get out the chain saw and hack the kiwi vines aka northwestern kudzu, into shape before they eat the neighbors cats and all the squirrels, I really should go weed another bed or at least scrape up what I’ve already weeded. My adorable hubs is so good at trailing around and picking up my clippings and weedings. I have finally convinced him to stay the hell out of the flower beds if he wants to avoid being stabbed with pruning shears. He does however, cheerfully tidy up my leavings, bless his heart.

But here is what I am going to do. I am going to get out of my jammies and into human clothes and go to Good Will and hunt and gather for more parts. Betty Crocker still needs a body and so does Uncle Sam. Its not shopping, I hate shopping, its HUNTING. I love hunting and I love doing a victory dance and drooling over my Stuff as I organize it.

The Stopper Stash. My current obsession is glass stoppers. Somewhere there are a lot of broken bottles and I love the mystery of their tops. The Mexican animals I have been gathering for 15 years all over the country and the world.

My wonderful daughter-in-law Erica asked me if I knew everything I had and where it was. Yes. I make enormous messes when I work but I know where everything is. Okay, most of the time, 90% of the time, and if you ever see my studio you will realize that is one of God’s little miracles. The new pieces are certainly helping me reduce my Crap Stash. This is good because now I can find more Crap to replace it.

I just found a wonderful book called Artmaking, Collections and Obsessions. Its all about artists like ME, who create mixed-media work and are passionate about collecting. We do draw the line clearly between hoarding and collecting. I have family members who are hoarders and that creeps me out! I do a great job at throwing crap in the garbage, not everything has potential, people. Sometimes its just garbage and you need to lose it.

I think my next task of choice will be to photograph the irresistible trinket collection and get them up on Running Rabbit inexpensively. I’ve put in a couple of pix of my personal trinket stashes. Sometimes I find objects of true adorableness that are not meant for me and my goal is to send them back into the world to be appreciated at a killer price. I really do love repurposing and reloving and rediscovering things. If it came from China or Japan 40 years ago, cool. If it came from China through WalMart 40 days ago, I don’t want it in my life. Don’t get me started on what I think about WalMart, that’s a whole other essay…

The Cat Stash. I cannot resist a good cat statue. I do however, have an excellent cabinet to keep my tschotskes in one place. I am happy to report Torin has asked for and received the animal mask collection and big bro Joel wants the cats. I'm still adding to the stash, but these are his...eventually.

And after I go hunting and gathering and buy a new cord for my beloved Iphone so I can listen to music in both cars without dragging the connecting cord around, I will come home and mow the lawn. I promise lawn, I am coming and we will both be happier after you get a haircut.

And: I’m Listening to Elizabeth and the Catapault and Ellie Gould. Excellent choices if you are looking for new music that is upbeat and wondrous.

Rabbit and the next Lost Childhood:Anubis

Doll heads are somewhat creepy when re-employed as sculptural artifacts but I love what they do. The face is gold leafed and varnished and the headpiece was sculpted with Apoxy sculpt and painted, the eyes are turquoise chips.

I am so happy to have finished the Lost Childhood of Anubis, subtitled Death, the Grim Reaper, etc. I am loving the result. This one was interesting and difficult to approach because the topic of death makes me squeamish. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not afraid of death, I just have too much living to do to want to get to know it up close and personal. It’s sort of a verboten subject in our culture because its a door that opens one way and the unknowable is always a bit scary in my mind.

That being said, as a cultural icon, the Grim Reaper is a big one and his childhood? Where to start…every human culture has a death deity that can be a conductor to the other side or the ruler of the other side. My new favorite word is “Psychopomp”, that’s the actual word for the deity that conducts a sould to the next world. I had to incorporate it into the piece.

If you get bored with all the pictures before the end I understand completely, I wanted to document the cabinet thoroughly so its here in detail, maybe too much detail, but I hope it provokes a thought or two and a reaction or three along the way.

The black humor is evident in the copper words, “At Death’s Door”. The cabinet feet are children’s blocks that say Lost in front and Love in back. I drilled a vintage die for the knob, playing on the idea of gambling with death found in so many stories. The front is finished off with repurposed scarabs and a faux lapis grave goddess impressed from a Thai grave offering.

I love these arms, faience blue holding skulls up in homage, delightfully creepy no?

I used a lot of faience blue and lapis colors because of their ancient Egyptian significance–Anubis being my touchstone. The arms I swiped from an Ariel doll with great hands, I gave the “hands of time” two howlite dia de los muertos skulls with vintage lucite flowers planted in them. The clock face has random words we use to indicate the transition, the journey, from life to death.  I love the little key to the door without a lock, it’s beautiful, an old Master key from my key stash that is heavily engraved and for some unknown reason, it has the words Le Duc engraved in it. The aged tags on the keys say “Quit Exisitence”.

A great shot of the flowered skulls and the cool neckpiece with Psychopomp hammered into it. The three necklaces will actually come off, they are actually necklaces made for the piece.

The cabinet is painted in shades of black, brown and blue and is aged with layers of paper, gel and layers of paint. The inside is in primarily blues to signify night.

Anubis Cabinet Interior

The cabinet interior has a framed childhood photo of the Grim Reaper, the container of the Department of Death, A chain with three tags that say, “Go Little Soul” is connected to a round glass lens. Four silver milagros, Mexican prayers made manifest, hang from the top of the cabinet.

Fly Away, glass lens with a picture of a little girl with butterfly wings that say "Fly Away", connected by a chain to words that say, "Go Little Soul".

Grim Reaper, Age 4. I love this altered image. I painted a little scythe and mounted it behind a slice of mica in an amazing old light plate cover. I think the most difficult thing about this entire piece was walking the line between sad bathos and black humor. I hate the idea of children and death, and thinking about death having a childhood was an exercise in expanding my consciousness. I found the images I used deeply touching.

I couldn’t believe how many cultures were on the list of death gods I uncovered! I put them on a list and put them in the “Deparment of Death”. An old tin was repurposed by covering it with mica shifted poly clay and applied stamps. Inside it has part of a skeleton, a howlite tiny skull in turquoise, an icon of a saint and a Thai grave god.

Interior of “The Department of Death”

On the inside door of the cabinet is a black and white photo of a woman carrying a big gun and looking happy about it. Perfect, Death’s Mother Takes a Vacation. She is mounted behind a slice of mica and wrapped in copper. Above her is an”old bat” and “her little angel”. Obvious? Why not?

Death's Mom on Vacation

The top of the cabinet has “The Last Trump”–very Victorian, and a glass jar of the sands of time with the words inside, “Your time is up”. The cabinet back tells more of the story of the Grim Reaper’s Childhood and mementoes.

Back View of the Lost Childhood of Anubis

 

Death loved the Merry go Round

I like the allegory of humans going around in a circle all their lives and the idea that Death loved to ride the Merry go round as a child.

Bottom of the back of piece

 I used old Scrabble tiles for the words “he comes”, another metaphor for the games we play with death. The Egyptian icon has a clock spring mounted on it with a clock hand held in place by an 8 ball. Numbers lead to a skull and crossbones that say “smell the roses”.

The picture is actually an old ghostly house I shot in Ophir, Utah and altered. It says “Death’s Childhood Home” and has a Thai grave offering in the doorway.

Left side of Anubis

The left side of the piece has a sheet of music from “Hard Day’s Night”, the metal words “Night, End, Time, and Pray”. Underneath them is a piece from a vintage dia de losmuertos postcard wrapped in copper. At the bottom is a grave god from Thailand. Good shot of the last trump too.

Anubis full right side view.

The right side has aged metal words that go from “heaven to hell”. There is a repurposed cupid/angel at the top and a devil with the word’s “Death’s Uncle at the bottom. An essay in 7 words. Clear shot of the “Time’s up” on the shoulder in this picture.

 I used two of my favorite quotes in this piece, “Death is only the living you do not do”, is from the Laliberte and Pintauro book, “The Peace Box” which I have owned for 40 years and love dearly. The other quote is from Seneca and says, “The day we fear as our last is but the birthday of eternity.” How beautiful is that?

This piece gave me a lot to think about and I hope it does that for you. I am already at work on Neptune’s Lost Childhood and putting together the pieces for both Betty Crocker and Demon Rum/Jim Beam/Jack Daniels–again, a multiplicity of iconography in one.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this one, it was intense and weird and wonderful.

Rabbit Creates Lost Childhoods, a Sculpture Series

The Lost Childhood Series

My worktable with Father Time's Lost Childhood in the background. I can have several things happening at once with different drying times and assembly steps.

My current series of sculptural assemblage pieces, Lost Childhoods, is about exploring a concept I find fascinating. We have created icons that we accept as part of our culture and socially we agree (generally) on what they mean. For instance:

Jim Beam

Uncle Sam

The Grim Reaper

Betty Crocker

Mother Nature

Father Time

King Neptune

Although some icons do have described childhoods and a sturdy base in reality, e.g. Father Christmas/Saint Nicholas, who was a real person whose iconography outstripped reality, I choose not to focus on these types. This list is just a few examples, I keep adding to my list as I run into another piece of the puzzle.  The commonality of all of these is they are adults, and although we have personified them, we give them only their adult attributes. We don’t stop to think about what Betty Crocker was like as a kid.

Mother Nature's face, the head is painted with a paint that resembles earth, her earrings are birds and her hair is nest of Robin's eggs.

This facet of the concept tickles my absurdist side; I like to think that something darkly humorous is an underpinning of these pieces.  Using repurposed doll heads walks the line between absurd and creepy, a place that we don’t like to think about. As someone who loathes clowns and mimes, I think I may have traveled into a facet of that territory and I am interested in exploring it more. I think these pieces are multi-faceted and along with being curiously humorous they are somewhat sad.

Full View of Mother Nature's Lost Childhood. I love this piece so much

We spend a lot of time in our Western world re-examining our childhoods to see how they inform the adults we become, and trying to repair our own scars from that time of our lives.  These pieces skewer the child in the icon and hold it still like a butterfly on a mounting board for us to look at closely, they are meant to be opened and marveled over. They all have drawers and doors and hidden compartments. Each surface is addressed and everything on the piece has a hidden meaning for viewers to discover and decipher.

The Natural World drawer. Each drawer has a bottle with an amazing quote in it and objects that explain the drawer's meaning.The A-Z drawer actually has two little bottles of seeds that could be planted, Alyssum is A and Zinnia is Z, plus a copper pea pod with howlite peas.

Ultimately, their childhoods are a mystery much like our own.  Doors we can’t open, doors we can, things we understand and things we don’t.  I wonder why we came up with the idea of these not-human humans to express a concept.  This part doesn’t matter to me, the artist; I’m involved in the re-imagining and creation of Lost Childhoods. My goal is show them as a group when I’m finished and I am enjoying their appearance in my life one by one.

The little purse created from an old tin with a lid has a poem on metal tags inside, it hangs on one shoulder.

PS: Venus isn’t on the list because she showed up full grown. Neptune is because he has come to personify the sea in general although he’s a Greco-Roman god in particular.

The other side of the studio worktable with parts of Mother Nature in the assembly stage. Anubis/Grim Reaper is underway now and so is King Neptune.