Sunday, January 9, 2011
Carving 2. A Creation story. From spit, everything is made.
On the last carving I learned to control the circlet cutter and know now that I could use it to hollow out freeform bowls if I wished. I don`t right now, but in looking at this two inch thick red cedar plank I begin to understand how I could use that technique for my next image. Another face, I think, because I am simply moving from carving to carving right now, getting into the flow and saving the really big blocks of wood for later when I hope to be really up to speed. My thoughts are still slack and unfocussed.
I begin to hollow out a circular trough as though I was carving a square bowl with the center left for later. I draw a simple face with large eyes in the center, and begin to work on that too, slowly lowering some areas and delineating eyes, nose and eyebrows. This will need to be a broad fairly flat face because there is only a shallow depth to work within. While some sculptors build up their forms piece by piece, I am much happier to cut away and slowly expose the being contained within. This tool slices so quickly that I need to slow down. I can`t imagine as fast as I am capable of cutting. I am soon at the point where I must switch to the belt sander and use its nose to slowly grind out and refine the rest of the form.
To this point I have been thinking my process through in a practical way, but now, as the face becomes more refined, as the eyes, with some help from my knife, become more dominant, I begin to get a glimmer of what is being born. The mouth opens and the bottom lip stretches, leaving a round hollow waiting to be filled. I carve a separate plug of yellow cedar and glue it in. The eyes are blind still, I have yet to carve in the pupils, and I stop myself just in time. I get it! The image is blind as it presses upward through the force lines of the cedar grain. It is spitting out a gob of spit into the nothingness of another dimension and that act will come to be named the Big Bang, the creation of the universe, everything that we experience as reality sharing in the essence of that expectoration.
When all the finishing sanding is complete I apply an oil finish and later a paste wax to bring out the grain of the wood. Everything that is, but the eyes and yellow cedar mouth disc. The eyes I first paint white and when they are dry I apply several coats of Spar varnish to them and the mouth plug and gives a highly reflective finish to both.
I could never have known at the beginning what would eventually come out of this piece of wood and I remain a little puzzled. To imagine such an image, the creation of everything, is the stuff of dreams and this was a waking dream. I remember the stories about serious scientists who have their impossibly difficult to develop theories solved visually for them while they sleep. I also know that every culture on earth has an origin story, Chaos, in the ancient Greek pantheon of the gods, is how the world came to be and that parallels my own realization in wood. This is a small and simple carving that has dreamed big, providing me with an intermediary thought in concrete form which, if I can stretch my mind far enough, will lead me to on to new understandings and creativity.
P.S. So, seriously, what came before the Big Bang? Spit? And if so we should be able to find its ‘DNA’ spread out through the universe. Some wave, matter, or perhaps the tendency for the development of life from some pretty basic elements? Those old stories from all world cultures about how the word began: perhaps they were not so far out after all. Certainly our minds work comfortably with metaphor, forming images that can speak to us of things that are difficult to conceptualize in a purely rational way. Science misses a lot when it does not also train its specialists in the art of intuitive imagination.