I am now most of the way through my first year of graduate school at the University of Florida. This is my new studio space. It has been great to have a communal space with my fellow grads and share ideas with them.
I always put up a ton of images when I move studios. Most of them are constant inspirations that always move with me. I find that having them in my peripheral vision while I work keeps them in the back of my mind and influences my ideas.
Here are some of the experiments I have been working on in the studio.
I started out my first semester with a pile of tests, studies, and maquettes. Most of these become surface tests for larger pieces.
Working out some new ideas on the small scale. None of these wood pieces were fired, but I used them to get a 3d visual of what was in my sketches.
I was researching the howdah (seats on elephant back) and I was interested in the way it creates a place for humans on the back of an elephant. Inspired by this, I looked at other human structures such as the river houses in Thailand and Cambodia where the elephants support much of the economy through labor and tourism.
I spent a lot of time in my first semester studying different gestures for elephants and applying them to prehistoric elephants like this Steppe Mammoth. This ancestor of the wooly mammoth was much larger, and lived about 600,000-300,000 years ago in Europe and Asia.
Many elephants today crouch on their elbows to reach low water levels with their trunk.
This cliff was solid built on an armature on the wall so that I could fit the mammoth to it. I fired them as separate pieces so that I could transport the piece more easily. Liking this idea, I wanted to add even more gravity defying materials in order to make this piece really precarious.
The base of the structure became the ceramic “howdah” on the blanket on the mammoth’s back. I decided to use small pieces of wood to construct the structure on his back, knowing that it would be too fragile to be made of clay. I used the same wood used by architecture students to build their scale models. It was strong, and easy to cut. I used a dremel saw blade to rough up each small piece and make it look older. Thin sheets of wood and cardboard made up the roofs and flooring.
I stripped the cardboard of its top layer, and used gray paint on the cardboard to make it look like corrugated metal. Mayco Magic Metallics are paints specifically designed to mimic the natural patina of metal, including rust. I painted these on over the gray to create a realistic rusted look.
Gluing these small pieces together allowed me to create a large structure that held together quite well. I broke parts of the structure and re-glued them to make them appear as if they were in the process of breaking and snapping.
The finished piece, The Edge of Chaos is named for an extinction theory that describes the way that one small extinction or climate change can be the tipping point toward a mass extinction. Though the mammoth sits on the edge, it is the burden of human civilization on his back that begins to crumble into the abyss. The skeletal architecture of human spaces is weak in comparison to the heavy, powerful pachyderm. This piece speaks to humanity’s precarious place in nature, and our proximity to the edge of chaos.