Thursday, October 28, 2010

Moment of Anxiety

There is a moment of anxiety when I place a finished piece on the wall and see it for the first time as it should be shown. I've never known a piece to live up to my expectations as I stand back (perhaps because delusions of grandeur are the only thing that can keep me motivated to finish it) but I at least hope that I'm not disappointed. No matter how I look at a sculpture or painting while I'm working on it, how many times I hang it, arrange the individual pieces or place them together, the final hanging is always different and a surprise.
Five Wedges
(Update 2/4/11: I changed the name of this piece to
Green Chimneys)
shellac on curly maple and cherry
49" x 20" x 4"

With this one I am less disappointed than most, which I have to accept as total success.
I think it is very musical. The colors have a rhythm as you look from the right or left sides, which I wasn't expecting as much as I had planned for the wedge shapes and placement to be rhythmic. Initially, I thought viewing from the right was better, with the yellow on each piece, but now, looking from the left and seeing the red/yellow pattern, I can't choose.
I've been listening to a lot of jazz as I work and would like to think that this sculpture is influenced by Thelonious Monk. I find it amazing how the notes he plays are simultaneously completely wrong and completely perfect. I think my only disappointment in this piece is in not seeing a similar quality, something needed to be more wrong and unexpected but I'm not sure what.
close-up (right)

From the fine art world though, it is influenced by Anne Truitt. After seeing her work on-line, I wanted to play around with making 3-D pieces that were colored differently on each side. I also like how she makes paintings of minimalist 3-D forms. I debated for months whether to make this a wall piece or something for a pedestal but could never think of a good way to display them on a pedestal so I went for the wall.

close-up (left)
I also struggled for months on cutting the wedges. They might look simple but my only hope of cutting the faces with clean lines and without tear-out (because of the intense figure) was to improve my skills with handplanes. Thankfully, Garrett Hack gave a workshop on using hand tools nearby over the summer and the Vermont Arts Council gave me a grant to help pay for it. Dealing with tear-out is the most difficult problem of working with figured lumber so I'm sure my new skills will help me save a lot of time on future work.

Update (Nov. 11, 2010): I have added an image of this piece on a real wall to give a more realistic view of it.


  1. I know that moment of anxiety very well...sometimes it's more like a roller coaster!

  2. OH WOW!!!! What a fabulous piece, Rob!

    One way to make pieces like this work on a pedestal would be to use a metal rod instead of the connecting wood on the back. It might even be possible to make it so that the wedges (or whatever other pieces you might use in the future) would be able to move on the rod, so it could be variously configured.

  3. Thanks Janet. One of the biggest problems I had with the idea of a pedestal piece was what it should rest on. I couldn't think of a good way to present them.

  4. Rob,

    I was struck by this piece and the possibilities it opens up, especially thinking about letting the work be free-standing. It couldn't really work with this composition, but some slight alterations could work, I think.

    I wanted to provide some unsolicited feedback too. When I started out with wood, I too used the black background to make the work pop. After a while, though, I got to the point that the artificiality of the image bothered me too much. That happens here for me. I'm intrigued by the piece, but you haven't given me a realistic setting to experience the work in a more true life setting (I don't have any black walls!). I'd like to see a shot of this piece on a white background and take in the variety of shadows it inevitably casts. Furthermore, I think I would like some more space around the piece in your images, particularly on the sides. As is, I feel a tension created by the compressed space in the image. Since that's not a realistic experience for the work, I'd like to see some more breathing space.

    I hope I'm not being annoying with this feedback. Just trying to help. I do think this is one of the most interesting pieces I've seen you post. Nice work!

  5. Thanks J.T. I appreciate the feedback as well. I will think about doing it both ways. One of the big benefits of the black background is being able to clean up the image easier in Photoshop and then being able to use it for different purposes. I can easily change a black background to white with Photoshop but if I started with white I wouldn't be able to change it to black without a lot of work because of the shadows. It also makes it easier to make it look professional, by cleaning up any distraction background. But I can see how a "real-life" shot would be helpful. Thanks again.