Tag Archives: found object necklace

The mystery in art

For the past two days mist, fog, and occasionally, rain, has dampened my parched world. Last night, as my significant, Wug, and I were driving back from the Indianapolis Museum of Art to our downtown abode, we observed the city skyline shrouded in mist. Nearly invisible now, we both knew what they skyline normally looked like. Tall skinny buildings with blinking lights, glued shoulder-to-shoulder with their shorter, broad-chested brothers, sparkling lights beckoning us home after sunset. But last night, a veil of heavy mist left only faint, glowing smudges to lead us back where we belonged. Same city, different view.

Jazzman II, watercolor by Roderik Mayne

This morning, I received an email from artist Robert Genn, who sends out a lovely email twice a week to inspire painters. His words of insight and encouragement mean something to me. Today’s message resonated with me, and perhaps it will with you, too. Here it is:

Dear Nancy,
Recently, watercolorist Roderik Mayne of Toronto, Ontario wrote, “What do you mean when you talk about putting mystery in your work?”

Thanks, Roderik. I’m walking along a strange forest path. Others are with me–some fall back and some join later. We hear animals in the forest but cannot see them. We come upon surprises of incredible beauty that we can’t explain. Some are quite in focus and others are not. Always something is just ahead that we can’t quite get to. As we move forward, whatever it is moves forward also but we never can fully touch it.
If you’re still with me and you don’t think I’m losing it, and if you catch my drift, describing aspects of life is part of the artist’s job. Let me explain:
The path is also the road, stream, river, etc. Few of us have a straight one that leads directly to a big something. More in tune with the human experience is the curving, bumping-up-and-down path that disappears around a corner, over a hill or into a valley. This path winds and beguiles and serves a deep human need. It takes you some distance into the enigma.
The incompletely disclosed subject can be anything: a barn, a lake, a sunset, a splodge of paint, a boy, a girl. The subject need not be fully described, delineated or even fully understood. A hidden barn, a shrouded lake, an obscured sunset, an over-painted splodge, an escaping boy, a shy girl seen only in profile or from behind–all of these tease and caress you further into the enigma.

As you move forward along the path, toward the mysterious something up ahead, the elusive subject might be for a time in focus and the surrounding area not so. This is the nature of concentration–one thing at a time. It may seem unfortunate to some, and worth remedying, but in truth we cannot fully see the whole enigma. This condition, the “specific focus phenomenon,” shows the nature of both human sight and human aspiration. The rest is blurred, fleeting, disappearing. “Suddenly,” said Elizabeth Barrett Browning, “as rare things will, it vanished.”

Best regards,
PS: “What I’m trying to translate to you is more mysterious; it is entwined in the very roots of being, in the implacable source of sensations.” (Paul Cezanne) “The job of the artist is always to deepen the mystery.” (Francis Bacon) “A painting requires a little mystery, some vagueness, some fantasy. When you always make your meaning perfectly plain you end up boring people.” (Edgar Degas) “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science.” (Albert Einstein)
Esoterica: You may call them devices, and in some ways they are. But they are the very bones of your paintings, sculptures, even your quilts. Similar to the plot in a story, the theme in a poem, the continuity in a movie, you need them and they need you. FYI, we’ve put a selection of Roderik Mayne’s paintings at the top of the current clickback.

Handmade Found Object Necklace, "Play Misty for Me," by Nancy Lee
Handmade Found Object Necklace, “Play Misty for Me,” by Nancy Lee

Thanks, Robert, for being a source of inspiration. And for cluing me on why art isn’t always straightforward. Why artists choose NOT make everything obvious at the outset. Why an apple doesn’t have to always look like an apple. It allows us the taste of something different, deeper, more meaningful. And it keeps us coming back to look one more time. Same object, different view.

Pressure Creation, or, How I Overcame my Fear of Working with Shibuichi

Poppy Season, Shibuichi project progress

My “Poppy Season” necklace is made from Schibuichi, Sterling Silver, Copper, a German clock gear, and a little blue tourmaline.

Shibuichi Sword Guard

Shibuichi is a metal alloy of sterling silver and copper, originating in Japan, the source for so many colorful metal alloys and patinas which were used in the fine art of sword-making for centuries. The word actually means “one-fourth” in Japanese and refers to the original formula of one part silver to three parts copper, although metalsmiths of today have taken great liberties with the composition. You no doubt get the idea that this and other Japanese alloys have a rich and beautiful history.
In January of this year I got to attend a Winter Workshop with Juan Carlos Caballero-Perez in Daytona Beach, Florida. Months before the workshop, I was already preparing for it. Then I attended, and it was, of course, wonderful, and many things were learned. One of them was to make my own Shibuichi alloy using a lamination process.
Homeward bound with a couple of very precious pieces of metal, I was full of hope. Winter has become spring, spring now summer, and my precious Shibuichi still sat, gathering dust. Still full of hope but now tinged with the dishonor of fear and scarred with an abandoned idea. I had made a deep cut into one of the pieces of metal, only to get afraid and set the work aside. Argh!

Eventually, opportunity knocked – I had a request for more of my narrative pieces from one of the galleries that carries my work. Yes, it was time. A design had been sketched and the metal was already practically cut, so I went ahead and completed the cut. As soon as that was done, it was like a weight had been lifted. Something else needed to happen, and I decided to trash the original design and let the metal guide me, and flow out the way it wanted. Yeah, it always takes longer that way. But it tells it’s own story and becomes something that creates itself. These journeys are scary. There is no “me”. All objectivity is lost. You follow where this thing leads, and try not to screw it up.

Poppy Season Necklace, Shibuichi and Blue Tourmaline, by NLee

Have you ever completed a “challenge course?” It’s where you and a bunch of friends or co-workers gather and perform feats that you would never do on your own, or never believe that you could do on your own. You might scale a high wall with shouts of encouragement. Or don a helmet and harness and climb a 30-foot telephone pole, then try to stand on the top. And realize that the only way you can stand up is to lean so far over on the palms of your hands that you lose balance, and then you have to scoot your feet under your hands the minute that balance point comes. You have to let go in order to win.

Let go, and let your flower bloom. It’s now Poppy Season.