Friday, September 11, 2009

September 11 Art Therapy

Cari Amici (Dear Friends),

Most everyone remembers how s/he heard about suicide terrorist pilots flying hijacked planes into the Twin Towers in New York. Instead of working outside alone at home, I was driving into Austin, Texas, for a conference with Michael Barnes of the Austin American-Statesman. He wanted to teach artists how to get his attention for art publicity in the newspaper.

In my car I had been listening to KGSR on the radio and thinking of other things, when my mind caught a strange phrase. I listened as the report of the first plane hitting a tower was announced and my first thought was, “That’s not funny,” as I almost simultaneously realized, “I am not listening to one of those funny stations. This is real.” The day did not get better.

On the morning of September 12, not knowing what else to do, I began some art therapy with wax. Like one of those people who cannot seem to tear themselves away from some horrible image, I kept the TV on all day and sculpted through my tears.

My father was shot down in Vietnam during that war (he was later rescued) and as a military brat, I dreaded that vision of uniforms at the door bearing the sad news of a lost love. At first I imagined having to be one of those people and telling thousands of families the horrible news, knowing that I would not have to say a thing, my mere uniformed presence would convey all. Then I realized that for an event like this, no one needed to knock on a door. People would be seeking out information about those close to the situation.

I cried an awful, physically painful cry as I imagined the kind of situation in which a person could decide that jumping out of a skyscraper was a better alternative to staying in it.

Naturally, my sculpted figure was raw. And, as luck would have it, I was scheduled for an art show in a church two weeks after September 11, 2001. I decided to create a plaster copy of my little wax and exhibit the piece. It turned out to be good therapy for a lot of people. We could not get the events out of our minds anyway and at the time, it was difficult to pretend nothing had happened and move on, as they say.

My plaster sculpture was later picked up from my studio by a Canadian woman who lost her sister in the towers. She borrowed it for a traveling exhibit of art and music titled the “Release of Souls.” I am not sure where that sculpture is now. But I later cast the sculpture into bronze, which is what you see here. The white patina represented the ashes that covered everyone that day.

I sent images of my wax “9-1-1” to several friends via e-mail, including my new friend Vasily Fedorouk in Seattle. Vasily responded almost immediately with an image of the granite sculpture that you see here. Reading and writing English was often a laborious project for my Ukrainian-born friend and his e-mails were mostly images. I was stunned to think that he was indeed the same as I was - using art for therapy, but my, . . . was he fast! Granite? Whoa.

Later, when we spoke in person, he told me that he did not create this stone carving as a result of September 11th. It was completed before. He has actually had two titles for this work: “History of Gene Code” and later “Infinity.” For him it was a composition about generations. However, after the towers fell, a friend visited him and told him that this sculpture fit and he sent it to me to share our mutual feelings.

Today I also want to share with you my newest marble carving. Oddly enough, the inspiration for her came directly from the events on September 11, 2001. And yes, I have been working on this sculpture off and on since at least 2002. She is titled “The Offering” and is about the strength and beauty of making oneself vulnerable.
See more images on my Web site:

Can we change the world (for the better) with openness and strength - and creativity?

Learn More about The Release of Souls.

My Tribute to Vasily (1950-2009):

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

AVAA 32nd Anniversary Art Exhibit

Cari Amici (Dear Friends),

I am feeling overwhelmed as I try to finish photographing my new marble sculpture and also write the Web pages and tribute to my friend Vasily.

In case I do not get my newsletter out in time, I just wanted to invite those I could to tomorrow evening’s (Wednesday, 9 September) art reception. I have one painting and one sculpture chosen in this exhibit that features over 65 artists, including guest artist Ray Donley.

I hope you will get a chance to see this exhibit. I will be at the reception on 9 September, as well as giving an art talk on September 20th.

"The 32nd Anniversary Exhibit & Reunion" (group exhibit)
Austin Visual Arts Association (AVAA)
Julia C. Butridge Gallery in the Dougherty Arts Center
1110 Barton Springs Road
Austin, Texas 78704 USA
Web site:

4 - 28 September 2009
Reception: 9 Sept. Wednesday (AFTER Labor Day), 6 - 8 p.m.
Artist Talk: 20 September, starts at noon

Monday, September 7, 2009

A Direct Stone Carver

Cari Amici (Dear Friends),

Many sculptors today and throughout history have created marble sculptures by first creating their compositions in another material, such as clay, in which the artist may add or remove material to get the composition exactly as intended. While the initial idea may be created in a small size, an enlargement would later be made, also in clay, or perhaps then cast into plaster. Then, using a system of measuring specific points, a copy in marble at the same size would be cut.

In the art newsletter I wrote after my visit to The Musée Rodin in Paris, you may see the black dots on a mixed media sculpture by Auguste Rodin. These dots mark the high spots on a sculpture so that one may create a copy of the art in another material, usually marble. Lower points between those marked can be carved and shaped after most of the stone has been removed.

However, I have not learned this technique. I am a direct carver. That means that I draw directly on a piece of stone and then cut away what is not part of my drawing. My friend Vasily Fedorouk told me many times that the original definition of “to sculpt” is “to remove material.” In his mind, and perhaps traditionally, wood and stone carving were the only methods of creating 3-dimensional art that could truly be called “sculpture.”

Stone carving, for me, is certainly the most challenging and intellectually stimulating of all the arts, and while I enjoy creating in many mediums, stone is my drug of choice.
In the following images, you may see some of the work I did on “George” in August of 2008.

You may see some of the notes I make on the stone and some of my chisel marks. The second image is an example of how I like to look at my work from many different views, including ones least likely to be seen once the finished sculpture is on exhibit. Those views, such as the bird’s eye view from the top down, tend to give me more information (and a fresh eye) and aid in my choices.

Shortly after these images were taken, I left for Florence, Italy. I did not return to Texas and George until about nine months later. Thankfully, stone is more patient than I am.