Saturday, January 07, 2006

The urge to make things whole.

I saved the shards.
The very first clay sculpture I lovingly constructed and delicately glazed and carefully fired in a kiln. It was a small weird little mask; strange protrusions for eyes and a wicked smirky smile. When I opened that kiln, I was pleased and, relieved. Relieved it hadn't exploded in the kiln, relieved that the glazes didn't melt all over the kiln, relieved that I created a piece that made me happy. It was a sculpture that had fufilled my intentions. These fears of the kiln had been impressed upon me by my ceramics professor, a sexist pig ceramic-teacher-good-ole boy who's greatest skill as an instructor was discouragement. He didn't get to me in the long run.

I took the still-warm clay mask from the kiln and realized I must get this out of here immediately. This was art school for godsakes, and students work became dust all the time (due to careless, spaced out artists, and oh yea, the janitor with Tourette's syndrome). I coddled the piece in my hands and begged a friend for a ride to my apartment 4 blocks away (and up a steep hill). He drove me in his Volkswagen stick, and I screamed everytime he shifted....My delicate perfect little piece was at risk! Up the hill, I thanked my acrylic paint-covered friend and exited the car with the sacred work in my hands. Only 3 flights of stairs and my precious sculpture would be safe. I walked up those stairs, slowly, as if I carried nitroglycerine in a vial. I reached the top landing. At last! Thank god I got this piece out of the school!

I reached for my keychain- a long lanyard rope with a nametag that sweetly said "INSANE". I put the key in the door and unlocked the knob, then the police lock in the middle of the door (it was not a nice neighborhood). I opened that door with glee. The glee melted as I saw my beautiful first little ceramic sculpture, float down down down and shatter in the doorway of my apartment. I did not cry. I did not move. I looked at all the pieces around my feet. I knew at that moment what ceramic art was all about. Fragility. I wasn't mad. I was a little sad but mostly I was just concerned with picking up those pieces, even the little fingernail sized ones (did I think I would glue it all back together happily ever after?) and put them in a mason jar.

10 years later, in 1991, after many moves and making many paintings and sculptures, I found those delicate little pieces in a dusty jar on an a neglected shelf in my studio. EUREKA! That shard sure would look cool if I glued it onto.........:)))