Friday, August 24, 2012

Inspiration: Duchamp's Readymades to Contemporary Sculpture

"Art is never finished, only abandoned," wrote Leonardo Da Vinci.

Well, that is where creativity truly begins for me: with the abandoned. Perhaps I shouldn't find it surprising that digging in the dirt or scouring old markets and salvage yards provides the most consistent source of inspiration. My earliest interest was in archaeology. At age 20 I used my British rail pass on an almost daily basis, and as the trains drew near the station there was inevitably scrapped metal and broken parts littering the path to the platform. I found myself in a continuous daydream between stations as I stacked, rearranged and constructed them into sculptures in my mind. While conducting my own recent playground clean-up at my son's elementary school, I came upon a steel watch clasp lying in the mulch. As he lighted over the array of equipment, images went aflutter! I combined the steel component with turquoise into a minimalist necklace. I've resurrected an old oxidized brass miniature scale, a French brass mailbox plate, vintage chandelier crystals, electrical findings, old medals, antique keys, list goes on... The more unusual or archaic the find, the more keen my enthusiasm is to use it in a new way. It's no wonder that the impetus for DeLuka Jewelry Design tends to spawn from aged, ordinary, found objects.

Found Object Necklace by DeLuka. Photography c/o Virginia Hobbs.

I find this to be the most electrifying aspect of any creative process: that glimpse of an idea like a shape in a cloud that materializes into something tangible. My high school creative writing assignment to write a paper explaining a step-by-step process ended up exploring how one could discern animals within clouds in the sky as if it were the Serengeti. Not very scientific, I suppose. Members of the Cloud Appreciation Society might be the only ones to appreciate my analysis, if one could call it that. But it wasn't clouds alone that piqued my interest: it was their mutations. The subjective act of capturing those mutations of form is a purely individual experience involving one's own perception of their surrounding environment.

In the center of a ruined Roman Amphitheater in Caerleon, Wales dating back to 80 B.C. I peered up into the sky above. The clearly distinct form of a dragon stood out amidst the clouds as if it had been drawn in chalk on a blue board. At that moment I turned to my friend and asked what he saw, "A dragon," he replied. The dragon happens to be the symbol of Wales; it adorns their flag. We both shared a glimpse of the same potential within an ever changing physical environment. A cloud is always moving and changing. But that cloud as I saw it in that moment still exists in my mind today.
One can feel the solidarity of a functional object. Its reality is not in question. Its purpose is defined. By changing an object's position and use, and recreating it into a wearable piece of adornment, the human relationship to that object is altered. French artist, Marcel Duchamp, first challenged our minds in this way in 1913 with his Readymades. The first of these was an upturned bicycle wheel fastened to a stool titled Bicycle Wheel.

Marcel Duchamp with Bicycle Wheel

The ironworks of sculptor Andrew T. Crawford, who attended the Rhode Island School of Design, might be based on a similar impetus. I had the pleasure of residing in Athens, Georgia for a couple of years. While working at a gallery downtown I visited the UGA campus often. It was there that I was first captivated by his marvelous and innovative art. He creates life size sculptures of familiar functional objects with an altered position, shape, and purpose. The items within a tool chest typically appear clunky, blunt, crude and incongruent with art. Though art is usually a result of an array of tools in action behind the scenes. Under Crawford's guidance a shotgun becomes a curvilinear modernist style bronze sculpture in, "Bang!"

Image c/o

Forged bronze bolts arch like a scorpion's tail in, "All Thread." I feel confronted by a screw split in two, arching with the tension of ballerina. Crawford's rooted, heavy work imbues iron and steel with movement whilst holding it all in balance with refined restraint. A hammer becomes a rocket ship in, "Launch," or a raging beast in, "Bull" leaving me stunned and yet wanton.

Image c/o

It is this mingling of functionality, of redefining our concept of shape and its possibilities. His ability to create a stoic object that the mind views as immovable by human force and propel it into action, almost serendipituosly, with composure and finesse beckons me to make way for what might take place. Though his sculptures are not "found object" art per say, they represent functional objects in a new way. By giving them a large scale presence the viewer re-examines its contours. By forging curves, he creates suspended movement. Only living things move, right? Yet his sculptures appear to dance and charge with grace and power. No one says it better than Crawford himself: “You don’t need a Ph.D. in art history to look at my work."

Contemporary American Artist/ Neo-Dadaist: Jasper Johns

When I first began to examine modern art my personal friend and art collector, Manfred Zöhr, quoted Jasper Johns -

"Take an object. Do something to it. Do something else to it. Do something else to it."

Those simple words churned in my mind for years. They still inspire me to push my perceptions beyond common rationale, to look, to explore, and to play. This psychological dalliance with industrial or discarded objects feeds my imagination with excitement! The wealth of skill and consciousness contributed to this genre continues to burgeon and transform. Every movement must be redefined by new artists. Pray, what might come next?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Discovering Austin!

I suppose my journey began, before I had even an inkling of Austin, in the face of a talented woman that I met at our local art market on the bank of the St. Johns River in Jacksonville, Florida. The inspiring and radical: Claire Sommers Buck, was nurtured and fostered straight from the hills of this region I now call home. Little did I know that she had already become my new neighbor and that we'd spend some lovely mornings sipping coffee, strolling through the farmer's market, picking each others brains for creative solutions to our designs, and laughing like friends. I enjoyed her weavings of the word "dang" into our conversations and her signature greeting, "Hey Guurl.." And before I departed Florida we had the pleasure of being featured in a joint show at the trendy Anchor Boutique in downtown St. Augustine, FL.

My first impression of Austin was through her warm and blithe demeanor. I soon learned how this infectious culture would charm and delight my senses. The fact that my mother had been raving about Austin since she had relocated here 2 years previous never registered. Why don't we listen to our mothers? As a mother myself I should know better, but we all must chart our own paths free from their influence, or so we think.

Well, my creative side is insanely enamoured with SoCo (South Congress) and East Side (Downtown, East of I-35) as well as Rainey Street. Though I have yet to venture into the Warehouse District. On some weekend afternoons, I leave the heels at home and stroll down South Congress! There are locally crafted artisan wares to be uncovered, spread out in every available lot in undulating rows.

I made my first SoCo purchase from a tall, lean, old fella in jeans, a cowboy hat and boots. He made rings from twisted guitar strings and bullet casings. Then I met a dynamic woman named Ruth (a transplant from Portland) who crafts couture style fashion out of bicycle innertubes. Her patterns in rubber remind me of those in traditional Irish lace. I get so enthralled by artists who venture out of the norm, who experiment with alternative materials and develop their own signature techniques. I am certainly saving up to acquire one of Ruth's edgey cut-out boleros. There is something so thrilling and rewarding about handing over my cash to the maker of an item when so many of the items we acquire and will live with for years couldn't be further from their craftsman whom might only receive a fraction of that cash. Speaking of such, 10,000 Villages is a fair trade store staffed by volunteers and filled with home decor, toys, cards and textiles that are handmade in villages all across the world. If you get nibbly whilst perusing this area, sample some of the food trailors' creative fare!

Then there are the favorite being MAYA, where I couldn't resist the tribal print kimono dress above! But if vintage, antique, or steampunk trinkets are your thang, you will adore Uncommon Objects. Once inside my senses become enchanted and my imagination is transported into films like  La Cité des Enfants Perdus by French Director Jean-Pierre Jeunet or surrealist ones from the 1930's by Luis Buñuel.

For Latin American & Mexican folk art, collectibles and gift ideas, Tesoros Trading Company is not to be missed. They stock everything from "Dia de los Muertos" items to recycled flip flop bangles to Moroccan lanterns which can be purchased for a song.

But wait... there is so much more than SoCo! Any free evening could not be better spent then visiting the sultry East Side Show Room on East 6th Street. Their variety of live music acts, hip peppermint & emerald decor, speakeasy atmosphere, local art, classic cocktails and deluctable, locally sourced menu items are dazzling. Sometimes you even get a little space to dance, and their quaint courtyard in back is aglow with amber strands of lights. Not to mention the courteous staff each have their own chic-ness. My favorite being the articulate artist: Xavier Schipani whose style emmanates a Basquiat-meets-Warpaint vibe. Her erotic black and white illustrations currently adorn the walls. So cruise down there and request a Fur Elise cocktail to sip while you take in her art... And never miss a performance of Glover Tengo on piano there if you can help it! This clip is dark, but worth a listen as Tengo's piano spills forth his magic... The East Side Dandies are pretty fun, too. Give a listen at 1:20.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Art Lounge

This lovely little art haven, The Art Lounge, owned by the charming and creative Jennie Snell, is located at 531 A1A Beach Boulevard in St. Augustine Beach, Florida next door to the trendy music venue, Cafe Eleven. Here are a few snapshots from the opening reception featuring DeLuka Jewelry. Objects of desire delight the eye in this dreamy little gallery on the coast.

DeLuka Jewelry Design Sea Glass & Pearl Pendants
DeLuka Jewelry Design

Even these fellas had a swell time!

Fond memories must pass to make room for new ones.

The day we bid farewell to our lovely St. Augustine Beach and Lighthouse...



She is gamesome and good,
But of mutable mood,--
No dreary repeater now and again,
She will be all things to all men.
She who is old, but nowise feeble,
Pours her power into the people,
Merry and manifold without bar,
Makes and moulds them what they are,
And what they call their city way
Is not their way, but hers,
And what they say they made to-day,
They learned of the oaks and firs.
She spawneth men as mallows fresh,
Hero and maiden, flesh of her flesh;
She drugs her water and her wheat
With the flavours she finds meet,
And gives them what to drink and eat;
And having thus their bread and growth,
They do her bidding, nothing loath.
What's most theirs is not their own,
But borrowed in atoms from iron and stone,
And in their vaunted works of Art
The master-stroke is still her part.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Friday, August 3, 2012