Tag Archives: sculpture

The Little Pufferfish Who Could

…build her a castle

Art in the Sand

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Click on image for extraordinary video: Art of the Pufferfish

I am totally charmed. Who knew pufferfish are masters of art and architecture?
The scientific powers that be attribute the whole thing to a mating ritual and the sole purpose of the pufferfish’s activity is to impress a female.
Not me, though.

Mission Accomplished

I am impressed. Thoroughly and completely.

I feel a certain kinship to this pufferfish, who pulls his vision from the sand. I work in clay—rarely if not never do I sketch things out first on paper. It’s not that I cannot draw, it’s that paper is but two dimensional, and clay is three. For me, it’s just easier to ‘draw,’ so to speak, with the clay in the first place.

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Archimedes Flight, 2006, Ceramic sculpture by Mary C Simmons

The pufferfish didn’t draw it all out first either, for obvious reasons. No paper, no writing utensils, no thumbs…just an internal vision that drove his entire body in the performance of art. That’s how I do it too, engrossed in my task and operating from an internal vision that informs my hands to construct the compendium of details that comprise the whole.

Art and Sentience

We humans draw a firm boundary between ourselves and the rest of creation, based on a standard (set by us) of intelligence and sentience, which undergoes periodic redefinition to exclude all of creation except us. Originally defined as the ability to feel and perceive, the definition was expanded to include an ability to suffer. Once we started noticing that all animals have that ability, self-awareness became the defining quality of sentience.

I can’t imagine how the pufferfish created his art without an awareness of himself in his oceanic landscape of water and sand. Why is it that the creation of art is an instinctual mating ritual in the animals, but a sign of sentience and intelligence in us?

satin-bower-bird-nestUntil the pufferfish first maps out his sculpture on paper or via computer graphics, or when the bowerbirds use differential equations to construct their nests, they’ll never even approach us intelligence-wise. Cool that we get to not only set the standard, but keep changing it as well so as to exclude all that is non-human. But why?

I am over-awed and comforted by my kinship with the little pufferfish creating a work of art the same way I do—from an internal vision, using his physical body. I doubt very much, however, that I could create this or any piece of art with my nose. From that perspective, the pufferfish is quite a bit more talented than I am.

 

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Animal Architecture

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My Mother, My Art

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Self Portrait, ~1950, Rita M. Simmons

Thanks to my very creative mother, Rita M. Simmons (1921-2004), my childhood was steeped in a variety of creative enterprises and the permission to make messes. She faced it, back in the 1950’s: creativity is untidy. She even organized a neighborhood puppet-making project in our garage that engaged the children of the whole neighborhood.

She painted. I opt for the third dimension. Far and away from my childhood steeped in the odors of oil paint and turpentine, my mother’s paintings inspired me from the hidden places of memory and imagination. I put my hands in clay and evoke the landscape, the dancer, the flowers that grace the Earth. As she, my mother, did before me, on the flat canvasses of her vision.

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Abstract Landscape, Acrylic, ~1970, Rita M. Simmons; Ceramic Sculpture Cylinders, 2005, Mary C. Simmons

The paintings and ceramic sculptures herein were part of a recent art show at the Church of Art, in Hotchkiss, Colorado.

In 1999, I received a Master of Science degree in geology, which also has exerted a profound influence on my art, both in design inspiration and technique (seeMaking Paint from the Desert Landscape & Bones of Earth, Bones of Clay…)

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Ceramic Sculpture Cylinders, 2005, Mary C. Simmons

I taught geology for 4 years in Indiana, and spent the summers in dry New Mexico, where the Cylinder Series happened, 22 of them, comprised of high-fired stoneware and porcelain.

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Skeletal Cylinders, 2005, Mary C. Simmons

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Textured Platter, 2014, Mary C. Simmons

My latest passion in ceramic art: bright, beautiful colors and intricate textures in low-fired earthenware clay.

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Textured Bowls, 2014, Mary C. Simmons

At last, I am painting. Like my mother, who by her example, made my life an open space for art.

Thanks, Mom.

 

 

 

 

Bones of Earth, Bones of Clay

I’m fascinated by bones…all bones, especially the white bleached remains of the wild creatures picked clean of all flesh, marking the place where they lay down on the Earth and died.

I am not alone….

full-scale-t-rex-built-near-the-seine-river-paris-designboom-01Bones of Metal

French artist Phillipe Pasqua designed and fabricated this full-scale, 21 foot tall Tyrannasauras rex sculpture. Comprising 350 bones of chrome and aluminum, the Lizard King towers over the Seine River in France. (Click here for more…)

Bones of Rock

Speaking of T-Rex, a rare nearly complete fossilized skeleton heads for the Smithsonian as the centerpiece for the new dinosaur hall. <more here…>r-T-REX-SMITHSONIAN-large570

In other bones, Paleontologists recently excavated the fossilized tail of a 72-million year old hadrosaur in the northern desert of Mexico. Discovered by locals, the scientists unburied fifty remarkably well-preserved vertebrae. From these bones, scientists determined the dinosaur suffered from arthritis and tumors (Click here for more…)

DinoBones of Clay

From molten origins of Igneous rocks, whose feldspars undergo weathering and disintegration at Earth surface, forming a variety of clay minerals that, thankfully, blanket much of Earth’s surface.

I too am descendent from Firstborn Earth. I know this clay. It is me.

During one muse-filled summer break from teaching geology, a series of ceramic sculptures, whose central theme of twisted spinal columns sprang to life beneath my hands, telling tales of my own origins, my vertebrate ancestry. My own bones.

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Cylinder Series, #1-22, after the bisque
Summer 2004
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Detail, Cylinder Series, #19
Mary C Simmons

Our evolutionary paths cross, clay and I, in a moment of geologic time-the instant in which I so briefly live. I witness a distant past and participate in this miraculous path of life upon which my hands and this clay chanced to meet.

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Cylinders Series, #23
Mary C Simmons

Science Meets Art: Intelligent Design

Blessed by the exquisite anatomy of our hands and the infinite crossing points between the so-called right and left brain, we blend the vision of the imagination with technical know-how. We are the God Kings and Queens of Tool-Makers, and with these hands we make everything…

Art Meets Science: Glass

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Blown Glass Baskets, Dale Chihuly

Discovered thousands of years ago, the science and technology of glass continues to enthrall and astound us. Quartz in the form of silica-sand is the primary constituent in window and art glass. Various oxides of calcium and boron, as well as colorants are added to the silica sand to give the glass the desired properties.

The first glass blowing techniques were developed in Syria over 2,000 years ago. Not much has changed in the methods or equipment since then, though the understanding of glass and melt behavior has certainly increased.

Click here for a short history of Glassblowing (http://www.seattleglassblowing.com/glass_history.html)

Peacock Window, Lewis Comfort Tiffany

Science Meets Art: Porcelain Pottery with Copper Red Glaze

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21st Century Copper Red Vase, Heather Mills, Christo Giles, New Zealand

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Red is a difficult color to produce in a glaze (which is nothing more than a glass) but the Chinese discovered the technology ~5ooo years ago. Oxygen atoms are stripped from the copper oxides in the glaze during the reducing atmosphere of wood-fired kilns. Not only that, the copper particles suspended in the melted glaze must be approximately the same size as the wavelength of red light, or the color will not be red. Too small particles gives no color at all, and too large particles give a fleshy color that is only occasionally attractive. Click here or on the image above for more information about copper red glazes.

Art Meets Science: Red Paint

Cochineal Beetle

Back in the day of the Alchemists, before the Periodic Table of the Elements had been invented, artists made their own paints, by grinding minerals from the landscape (or bugs) into powder, adding a binding agent, and voila! oil paint! Red and purples were beastly difficult to make. Red dye could only be produced by the crushed carcasses of the insect Cochineal, found mainly in Mexico and South America. The famed Red Coats that Paul Revere warned the countryside about had been dyed with Cochineal.

These days, artists use commercially-prepared paints. Red? No problem! Cadmium, from the Periodic Table is used to make both red and yellow oil and acrylic-based paints–another technological innovation in painting https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acrylic_paint.

Art Meets Science: Yves Klein International Blue

Back in the late 1950’s, the French artist Yves Klein, with the aid of Edouard Adam, a Parisian paint dealer, developed a pigment known as IKB (International Klein Blue). Using an alternative to the traditional linseed oil base, which tends to cloud the color, Klein produced a paint the color of the mineral lapis lazuli.

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Lapis Lazuli
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IKB – International Klein Blue
Klein’s purpose was not only to make a better blue; he wished to evoke the “authenticity of the pure idea.” Prior to IKB, his monochromatic paintings had been of a variety of colors and people reacted to a gallery showing of them as if they were each a part of a mosaic. Not what he had in mind…read more here (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yves_Klein)

Science Meets Art: The Art of Science Competition, Princeton University

In 2011, 20 university departments submitted 168 pieces of art to a competition sponsored by Princeton University, around the theme “Intelligent Design.

Click on image below to view 11 of the 56 works chosen. Nothing more needs to be said, other than: “Where are the other 44?

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Model of Earth’s Magnetic Field Reversal

Gravity and Grace; a Million Pieces of Home

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Earth’s Skin, El Anatsui, 2007. Aluminum and copper wire, 10′-8″ x 32′-7″

Complete and Utter Ecofantasy….

Twenty-five years ago, I read the entire volume of the making of Judy Chicago’s Dinner Party, a tribute to the spirit of womanhood in the incarnations of 39 women, from the un-named Primordial Goddess, through the millennia of human history, culminating at Georgia O’Keeffe. I rejoiced to hear that the art piece had found a permanent home at the Brooklyn Museum, and resolved that one day, I would visit the museum and see this great art work up close and personal.

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Click on image for enlarged view

Before I ever got to the Dinner Party, the current exhibition by an African artist, El Anatsui, took my attention, my astonishment, my reverence. Gravity and Grace, a monumental work of art composed of metal shards from the urban landscape.

Ugly litter; breathtaking art.

ElAnatsui
Click on image for enlarged view

See the exhibition October 25, 2013 — February 9, 2014 at the Des Moines Art Center

Click HERE for more photos of the art of El Anatsui….