Tuesday, May 22, 2007

New! Glassmaking and a Graphic Memoir

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Flowers and Minerals as Inspiration

My friend Adrienne and I were playing at recess in 4th grade when we discovered the most unusual, tall flowering bush. In my memory, the flowers were small, white with pinkish-red dots, radiating out from the pistil, and best of all, they looked like tiny stop-signs -- I hadn't yet taken geometry, and actually, they were not hexagonal, but that was my first memory of their shape; perhaps they hadn't yet totally bloomed and did still look hexagonal before their petals split apart to form small stars.

Later, we learned that they were mountain laurel and our home-state, Connecticut's, state-flower. I was proud that Connecticut's official flower was so unique, and yet had no curiosity about the official flowers of other states.

Back then, rocks and minerals were my obsession. Another friend Amy and I were the youngest-ever members of the Stamford Mineralogical Society. Fortunately, as an adult, my mineral-love was shareable. Pat has gone rock-hunting with me, so far, for garnets in Maine and for Franklinite in Franklin, New Jersey.

Combining Passions

This weekend, for the first time, I considered flowers and minerals together as art. Paul Stankard gave a presentation, a demo and a tour at the Newark Museum on "The Art and Science of Glassmaking."

When he described the orbs (perfectly spherical, wonderous glass paperweights) he began creating two-three years ago, I smiled hard and happily as he described using a machine that was most often used on geodes. He made a more explicit connection for me between flowers-as-art and minerals-as-art...and I acknowledged for the first time that glass flowers were really still minerals-as-art, since they were fashioned from glass, which was made of minerals.

On separate occasions, Pat and I were lucky to see Harvard's world-famous glass-flower and mineral collections. Pat visited them while participating in Harvard's Institute for Educational Management (IEM) 10 years ago, and I toured them the night prior to my remarks at the 2003 annual conference of the American Public Gardens Association (APGA); I was invited to address the organization on being more inclusive of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) visitors, employees and trustees based on my then full-time role in IBM's GLBT Sales and Talent team, helping IBM be even more inclusive of our GLBT clients, shareholders and employees.

Two Artists, Equally Inspired and Inspirational

I hadn't been so inspired by visual art since attending a slide lecture by Fun Home's author last spring, where she explained her process for creating the graphic art that accompanied the plot.

The two artists impressed me by their innovation and detail-orientation....I was reminded of Berger's and Luckmann's The Social Construction of Reality, where they explained how habitualization in the background, as the foundation, enabled deliberation and innovation in the foreground (p. 53).

Both were meticulous and extraordinarily disciplined; both achieved first-of-a-kind works particularly less than five years ago; and both had challenges that propelled their art.

Stankard was exacting in the intensity of the flame he produced, in his creation of glass stamens, flower-petals and leaves, and in expressing how he was inspired continually by nature. Bechdel was supremely attentive to photographing herself and others, appearing in the positions of the characters she drew, so that she drew from models, rather than exclusively from her imagination. Each page represented, if I remember correctly, hundreds of pictures integrated with one another.

Stankard built on the French paperweight tradition and created sorts I had never before seen: eight-inch-in-diameter and perfectly spherical.

Bechdel created a literary graphic memoir, including allusions to fiction by Proust, Joyce and Fitzgerald, plus references to a number of classic myths, yet telling her super-modern story. I thought about what seemed brand new in Bechdel's work; of all the graphic novels I've seen and/or read, none was ever so literary. The pictures were so rich, and so was the language.

Had Stankard been diagnosed with dyslexia as a child and helped to succeed academically accordingly, he said that probably, he never would have entered the flameworking field. And I surmised that if Bechdel had not been lesbian with a gay father, likewise, she would have lacked key inspiration for her recent magnum opus.

Local Art by Pat

Attending Paul Stankard's presentation more recently than Alison Bechdel's, I was reminded of the great photos that Pat took of him during his flameworking demo, and also of the amazing art Pat has created with organic flowers on our own land.

In our family, Pat is the amazing gardener and I just do what she tells me, helping add dark soil and natural cedar-chips, and placing the bulbs where she says they ought to go among our three gardens. We plant about four times as many bulbs as we hope will bloom because the squirrels feast on them no matter what we spray on the chips...particularly the most special among the bulbs.

Around our property, in the order that they bloom, flowers include:
  • Tiny snowdrops
  • Extraordinary crocuses
  • Several varieties of daffodils, including firetails and butter and eggs
  • A mountain laurel shrub, that pre-dated our arrival
  • Rainbow-orange and vivid, buttercup-hued crown imperials
  • Early-, middle- and late-spring tulips of all sorts, including ones that are:

  • Midnight-purple
  • Poppy-red
  • Feathery, pink-and-green
  • Deep lavender
  • Short, rose-petally, orange
  • Feathered red and white

  • A big, deep-magenta azalea bush that pre-dated us
  • A young, and bloom-filled, dark-pink tree-peony bush
  • Clusters of pale- and dark-purple candy-scented irises that we bought from our own town's Presby Memorial Iris Gardens
  • Dark-pink bleeding hearts
  • Short and cheerful, fresh-yellow-highway-stripe-colored blooms that Pat bought one spring at Shoprite, and planted around the street-light
  • A sprawling pink-red rose-bush that pre-dated us
  • Tangerine, burgundy and lemon dahlias
  • Two of what Pat calls our "Dracula flower"
  • Pale-blue-purple hostas with variegated white and green leaves.
This weekend, I learned that the violet represented New Jersey's state-flower, and was taught by example, again, that no matter how many people were in the room with the artist during the creation -- and it was standing-room only, including a workshopful of Glass Roots students -- doing one's art took total focus and an attitude of spirited, spiritual solitude.

By which visual art, artist, flower or mineral are you most inspired?


stonelion said...

This is a comment on the previous post, but I didn't see a comment link there: here is the geocities link you were looking for:

Sarah Siegel said...

Hey, thanks! I thought it was simply gone from the web. Interesting how the geocities model requires that I include apparently somewhat contextual advertising on my space, whereas makes no such demand, which is why this blog is ad-free.

Mohini Rose said...

So of course when I saw something on your blog related to art - and especially glass, I had to look. Roger and I have a small collection of hand blown glass by local artists. And I personally was just "blown" away by a glass blowing demonstration I saw in Tiverton, RI.
And... speaking of art... Hera Gallery just today, has it's own new blog site. Check it out every now and then.

Sarah Siegel said...

The blog's great. Really makes me want to be at the gallery to soak up the creative atmosphere.

Haven't seen much blown glass here in India, but maybe it's because the pre-sand, pre-glass state of minerals is much more common here(?)