Friday, August 31, 2012

Death and the Maiden

Let me tell you a little story....a true story...
Back in March of 2009 I was teaching a workshop at the Upstart Crow in the Vancouver BC area.  One of my students compiled a list of places to visit for junking purposes.  I had a free day so I figured  I'd hit the town looking for goodies.  One of the addresses was for a place on Main St., called the Bakers Dozen.  I showed the address to the concierge at the hotel I was staying and I asked if I could walk to there, after all it looked fairly nearby as far as the map was concerned.  The hotel employee winced at me, paused and said, ", you can't walk to there".  I replied, "Really?  I doesn't seem that far away".  The concierge said, " should drive".    I figured he knew what he was talking about and I hopped into my car and headed down the road.  The address written down for me was 352 Main St. and as I got closer it dawned on me why the concierge was so tentative with me.  It was a very depressed area.  Substance abuse, homelessness, metal illness, and all the other misfortunes associated with urban despair were visibly apparent.    I drove around looking for the address...which turned out to be the location of the Vancouver Police department.  I drove around the blocks a few times, thinking that perhaps the address was off by a number or two.   On about the third spin around the block I was on the corner of Abbott and Hastings, and down and out folks seemed to fill the sidewalks.  I assumed  that a soup kitchen was nearby and lunch was being served.  As I drove through the intersection I noticed a number of folks staring and pointing toward a fenced-in vacant lot.  Curious, I wondered what the commotion seemed to be....and then I saw something I will never forget as long as I live...something poignant and mysterious that reminded me of something said in the film Citizen Kane:
Bernstein: A fellow will remember a lot of things you wouldn't think he'd remember. You take me. One day, back in 1896, I was crossing over to Jersey on the ferry, and as we pulled out, there was another ferry pulling in, and on it there was a girl waiting to get off. A white dress she had on. She was carrying a white parasol. I only saw her for one second. She didn't see me at all, but I'll bet a month hasn't gone by since that I haven't thought of that girl.

Well to some degree, the same is true for what I saw that particular sunny Spring day in Vancouver.  The empty lot was filled with weeds and trash, in the center was pile of concrete rubble.  
Here is the exact locations courtesy of Google Earth
Standing on the rubble, was a svelte woman in her early twenties dressed in black goth/punk clothing.    Actually she was not exactly standing, she was pirouetting.  Here...surrounded by despair, decay, and death...this woman was dancing...alone.   She danced despite the world she seemed to inhabit.   She was a small bit of beauty in monstrous setting.  I wish I could have captured a photo, but then again it is probably one of those scenes that would never quite turn out...the mind is a wonderful filter.

Of course, I have absolutely no insight to the  situation whatsoever.  Was this a common occurrence?  Was she mentally ill?  Was she on drugs?  Was she dancing in despair or in happiness?  Also, I have no idea what became of her...whether she has moved to better times or  whether she still dances to an invisible band.  Because all of these unknowns she has become a metaphor in my mind. 

I am reminded of Schubert's Death and the Maiden, where a young woman dances with death, afraid, but Death tries to ensure her that he will ease her pain.  

The Maiden:
Pass me by! Oh, pass me by!
Go, fierce man of bones!
I am still young! Go, rather,
And do not touch me.
And do not touch me.


Give me your hand, you beautiful and tender form!
I am a friend, and come not to punish.
Be of good cheer! I am not fierce,
Softly shall you sleep in my arms!

Over the years since I saw the pirouetting maiden, I often considered trying to translate the story into art.  Nothing I conceived of seemed to do the story justice...that was until recently.  

Last Spring I found a strange wooden device in North Carolina.  Looked like part of an odd door or ornate cabinet.  A large metal shaft protruded through its semi-circular opening (I assumed it was a latch of some kind).  It was from this that my version of macabre dance was born.  A doll head mounted the top of the device transforming into a strange devouring beast.  This would be my Death.  My maiden would be from a Barbie Princess cake topping...a little ballerina generously donated to me by my step-daughter.  She would dance in the mouth of Death.

My story varies a wee bit from  Schubert.  In his version, Death is the comforter and the Maiden a fearful of all that he entails.  My version tried to interpret what I saw at Abbott and Hastings.  A woman who was defiant in the face of the Moloch of death.  
The devouring Moloch in the film Metropolis.  
A most definite inspiration:
Death did not frighten her, rather she seemed to live despite Death's grip around her and her surroundings.  Her soul would never be his entirely...her body, yes, but her soul, never.

So here is the finished piece.   
Death and the Maiden 

Thanks for checking in...

Saturday, August 25, 2012

deMeng'd Dictionary word: sassypantsiness

Here's this weeks dictionary entry:  
sassypantsiness - (n) 
1.- the state of having el Diablo in one's pantelones....for whatever reason.   Usually referring to dancing. 
 example: That man dances with such sassypantsiness...ooh la la.
2. -the state of having oom in your pah pah.  
example: It is my sassypantsiness that keeps me young.
3. - the state of being a liar liar whose pants are on fire.  
example: I'm sick of your  #$@$%*&!! sassypantsiness, you #^*%*!

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

the Mad Alchemist is back! 10 days and counting!

My next online class starts in 10 days...don't get left behind! 
Click here to hop on board:
Here's what you'll learn:

Mad Alchemists Construction Guide Syllabus 

1. Inherent Thingy-ness 

-Looking at objects and seeing what about them will assist in the assemblage process.
2. Problem solving – Look before you leap,
3. Zen-ssemblage -The importance of making you objects ONE with each other
4. Defying gravity- Gravity is what needs to be conquered when doing anything sculptural
5. Boing Factor- Glues that “Boing!” E6000 and Sugru Hacking Putty
6. Getting Between the Cracks -Foam insulation
7. The Gorilla and the Carpenter - Wood glue and Gorilla glue
8. Resin-ating -Two part resin
9. In the Fray with Clay – Sculpey, Aves, and others
10. Ewey and Gooey¬ - Molding Paste and Gel Medium
11. The Ever Expanding Foamy Blob - Great Stuff foam insulation
12. Something Screwy – Bolts, Screws, Nails,Dowells and pegs
13. Don’t cut that off…it might come in handy- Intentionally using screws, bolts, and wires that are longer than you need.
14. Specialty Hardware¬ - L brackets and hinges
15. Tying One On - Wire , Twine, Rope, and Chain
16. Unusual Solutions – Pulleys, springs and other things
17. Master of the Plaster - Plaster and paint make it what it aint.
18. Bare Bones -Building Armatures

19. Mag-neeto

Saturday, August 04, 2012

deMeng'd Dictionary "suckiuppy"

Here's your weekly deMeng'd dictionary entry:

adj. suck-y-upp-i-est, suck-y-upp-i-er
- something very absorbent,  usually in the context of applying paint washes to a surfaces.  That mastadon skull is sure suckyuppy!
- (slang) the act of being a kiss-ass.