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2012 Alumni Art Exhibit


2012 Alumni Art Exhibit - Belmont UniversityThe Belmont University Alumni Art Exhibit runs for one more week.  Visitors can stop by the Leu Center for the Visual Arts to see the work of seven Belmont alumni who have work in the show.  This was my fourth year to curate the show and my second year to have ceramic pieces exhibited. There is an article in Belmont News that covers the show well and I understand that another article is coming soon in The Contributor.

The pieces shown in this image are the finished product that I wrote about at the end of last year as I was preparing for this exhibit. It does feel good to hear the positive feedback from friends, faculty, and fellow artists.   In the next few weeks, I hope to have an announcement about representation for my sculptural bottles. I’m keeping my fingers crossed!

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Ocarina Making Satisfaction


Sculptural OcarinaIt has been a while since I took a day to construct a sculptural ocarina. For those who have not been following along, my sculptural ocarinas are fully functional, single octave ceramic musical instruments plus there is a significantly different, sculptural look to each of them. My earlier face-sculptured ocarinas did not have the detailed facial features of this piece.  For several months I have been studying portrait sculpture and facial anatomy to get a better understanding of how to form facial emotions with some degree of believability.  Even though the face on this ocarina is caricature-like, I would like to believe that the direction is toward believability.

One commenter on my Flickr account noted that this instrument looks either Mayan or Aztec.  That is intentional and may be more evident if I can master the making of custom decals…but that is a post for another day.

Ocarinas with this much ornamentation (approximately 9 separate pieces assembled) brings with it a greater risk that cracking or breakage may happen in the firing process.  The majority of these pieces survive.  Some do not function as well after firing as a ceramic musical instrument due to warpage in the airway and tone-producing fipple area…all the more reason to at least have a surviving sculptural piece that can make a great conversation piece.

I have been asked on several occasions, “Why are these pieces so expensive?”  The total time to form, carve, assemble, tune, fire, glaze, and re-glaze several times can be upward of 20-30 hours. Factor in the cost of materials and energy and what may look like a toy become something of a serious investment.  For me personally, the “AH-HA” moment when a new friend hears the flute-like sound for the first time and inevitably smiles one of those happy, raised-eyebrow smiles makes it all worthwhile.

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Facing 2012


Stoneware Mini-Mask If there is a pattern in my recent work, it is a fascination with portrait sculpture, particularly the capturing of human emotion via facial expressions. Students in Clay I constructed some really interesting, multimedia clay masks last semester while I was sequestered in a corner of the lab carving architectural pieces for this month’s show. As a testament to the influence of learning communities, I must confess that those masks were an influence in the mini-mask direction that you see here.

I still refer to Philippe and Charisse Faraut’s book, Mastering Portraiture- Advanced Analyses of the Face Sculpted in Clay, on a regular basis. There is so much great information on the art and anatomy of portrait sculpture illustrated in the book, I consider it a must-have companion when sculpting clay faces. I am still hopeful that this summer’s travel schedule will not conflict with an opportunity to study directly under Philippe at a weekend workshop somewhere close.

A full-scale portrait sculpture still takes me all day to complete, but these hand-sized studies can be pinched from a fist-sized ball of clay and completed in about three hours. It does get a little easier to do with practice…and a review of the first of these with the last of these seems to tell me that I am making progress. Ultimately, I envision 5-7 of these little guys displayed together in some sort of installation…that’s not a completely original concept, but it is new to me.

So, here I am facing 2012…and looking forward to the adventure!

NaNoWriMo is Upon Us


Ten days from now, National Novel Writing Month begins. For anyone who has ever made the statement, “I’ll write a novel someday”, well, November is the month to write that some day novel. I have enlisted the utterly obscure, eccentric, music archeologist, Dr. Ephriam Bowen to write with me this year. He will have to find his way from a secretive excavation site in Central America to make meetings here in the states, but he has generously committed to do so. This shy, pith-helmet adorned fossil has much to say and I look forward to hearing his story. The following is just a glimpse of what the novel will reveal:

EB Note Top“I have been too busy and too excited to journal this week. We have discovered additional evidence of the reverence that the Uxmalico community placed on music. As hundreds of years of burial fill and dust were painstaking shaved from the base of a test pit, just a fraction of an inch at a time, a large ceramic shard overcame its shyness to bring smiles and cheers to the whole team. Wind of Macaw GlyphStaring up from centuries of silence appeared a glyph bearing the classic image of a Macaw playing a horn flanked by a graphical symbol reserved for identifying brightness of gods. On the horn is a simple arc and half-moon that can be translated breath or wind. A tiny inscription near the base of the horn is not completely discernible, but may be significant upon closer exam.

Surely it is mere coincidence that a calm day was interrupted by a gentle breeze and the flutter of wings as we gathered around the excavation’s prize. But I cannot help but to interpret this finding as another indication that music played a part in the mysticism of this culture. The scribe who painted this glyph has not been identified and the crudeness of the style may be an indication of youth, inexperience, or perhaps a caste who was not considered worthy of contributing to the permanent record. We continue to excavate and will expand the tests to the edge of a square depression that borders the hostile overgrowth.”
EB Signature

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Wealth & Poverty – Reflection


 - Weath & PovertyI was 15 years old when I first traveled to Central and South America. The experience broadened my horizons more than any single event in my entire pre-college experience. There were 100 of us..Boy Scouts selected from every state to represent the US at the First Pan American Boy Scout Jamboree hosted in Rio de Janerio. Our travels took us to some beautiful places and that included impressive places in and around Caracas, Venezuela.

I remember being escorted to La Rinconada horse track. It was fairly new at the time and perfectly manicured…an absolute garden of color surrounded by pristine architecture. Just beyond the beauty of the track were brown, boulder-covered mountainsides that seemed to have an odd texture peeking through gray-blue clouds that hung close to the ground. The reality of what I was seeing, however, was not a natural rock formation covered in fog, but shacks of poverty-stricken people built one on top of another, visible through the smoke of cooking fires, as far as I could see across the valley and leading down to the edge of the city’s high-rise buildings. Obviously, it made an impression on me.

This project is a reflection of that experience. The 15 tall bottles assembled in some fashion will create the silhouette of a city skyline. The skyline provides a background canvas for a subtle, second, textured skyline that terminates in a clutter of smaller houses and shacks protruding slightly from the base of each bottle. The bottles can be rotated in any number of arrangements and the basic result is the same. The power and wealth of the skylines will always dominate the poverty of the slums in their shadows.

With the amount of masking an multiple layers of sprayed glazes I anticipate doing, it will be another month before this project is ready to show. In the meantime, I’ll try to keep some progress images coming.

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Work in Progress


When I proposed a thirteen bottle, sculptural piece as my initial clay project for this semester, I was thinking that a couple of hours on each bottle would get the job done. As it turns out, 5 to 6 hours of throwing, carving, and texturing to this point translates into the fact that not even the first, test bottle has been fired or glazed. All that to say, I need to get some images online for everyone to see the work in progress. It indeed has turned out to be a bunch of work!

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Processing Italy


Paul - Sienna, ItalyLess than a week ago, Deb and I were traveling across Italy with the Belmont University men’s basketball team. It was quite a trip. We hit Milan, Lake Como, Sienna, Florence, Lucca, and Rome in glancing blows that would make even the most seasoned traveler’s head spin. I would be remiss if I did not add what a pleasure it was to be around the team, the coaches, and family members…a terrific group of people!

I will claim Florence as my favorite place and the city that I would most like to re-visit just to spend a week or two exploring in greater detail. Our hotel was just a block or two away from the Duomo in Florence, so walking was the perfect means to see the sights. I will probably NOT climb the narrow steps to the top of the cathedral dome again, but the view from the top was well worth the sweaty clothes and sore calf muscles. I would definitely allow for more time in the evening to eat and people-watch from a sidewalk ristorante or two.

Among the 700-800 images that I captured on the trip are just a few of me. This particular shot was taken by Cheryl Byrd during our brief stop in Sienna. It may have been the only time I was off my feet all day. The smile does tell the story of the trip. Great fun. Great company…and much to process.

Oddly enough, I don’t recall seeing any ceramic musical instruments during the trip…but there will be more coming soon from a clay lab here in the USA, I promise!