In the arcane language of numerology, the number 8 represents Balance. Interesting stuff huh? I have dedicated this sculptural work from 2013, to one of my mentors: Susan Manion McDonald. I was under Susan’s care for several years, after shifting from BC to NS, in 2008. I was attempting to slay the dragon that was prostate cancer in my body, which I had known about since 2005 and lived with unknown for who knows how many years previously. Susan passed away on Sept. 11, 2012, after a long, arduous journey of Self-discovery in her own right, battling 4th stage untreatable, end-stage lymphatic cancer (non-Hodgkins lymphoma). In 2004, Susan authored her first book entitled: BALANCE ‘Natures Way To Heal Your Body’. This book became a Canadian Best Seller. Susan was known throughout Canada for her work regarding this writing, but, unfortunately, was little known inside her native province of Nova Scotia. And so it is.
During the late fall of 2013, my chi felt sluggish. Perhaps this was due to the witnessing of life’s events and the ongoing repetitive work here at this retirement house. Nevertheless, my instinct took over, as I began to feel stirrings within the silence, to create something for its own sake alone. I had some old growth, quartersawn hemlock lumber, which was slowly drying in the attic with our hot NS summers. This material was leftover from the slabwood cut from the 3 logs, which form the Pi portal sculpture to the front main entrance here.
We all “see” how we are, i.e., from our own perspective and not how life actually is. This aspect of ‘knowing’ becomes fundamental to how we understand our world. I’m quite certain that 30 years hence, should this piece of art still exist, had I not written down what my intentions were here, it’s entirely possible I would not know . . . what’s happenin’ dude? hahahaha Who knows if the Internet will exist in 3 decades from this era?
What remains a mystery to me still, is how form evolves from a place deep inside my own unconscious. I am only able to write of my own experiences. I owe all of this to The Formless. Some will say that this is the non-local conscious at work. That’s quite likely so. Whatever words we put on the process, the beauty of creation itself can become belittled and in some way is defeated, but never defiled, as life springs forth in its fecundity, harmony and beauty.
All I can pen, is that the germ of an idea awakens within my mind’s eye. As I ponder this seed, it’s as though many molecules of matter through visions of how it might be, arrive and collide, intermingling, entwining, becoming enmeshed in a framework that seems plausible. All this talk is fairly obtuse and arcane to those who do not share the creative impulse for doing. Your experience will be different. I’m not alone in having a process develop in my conscious mind, that eventually clears itself of the detritus of development, shining into a form that is doable with my current knowledge, skill set and with the technical tools at my disposal.
Today, being Good Friday, April 3rd 2015 in the Christian or Common Era (CE) logbook, one week from beginning my 67th year, it seems a good present moment, to set aside the blue jeans an’ white t-shirt of the woodshop for this keyboard: to place pen to paper as it were, inking out another chapter of my life. ‘Sides, ‘tis raining.
For the artist/craftsperson, who envisions a dream of form and then constructs that vision in shape, conception is a constructive and deconstructive process. It is not my intention here to launch into a diatribe through wordsmithing, to debate the finer points of art vs. craft. That has been attempted many times over the century’s ad nauseum, ad infinitum. All have failed imho. As my style of making has matured over the years of doing, my inclination has been to learn how to balance inline with outline, both visually and technically. There’s that word balance again. Many makers and viewers, who are not tutored in design, see only outline. Alas, that is a loss for their potential of enjoyment for any work.
In my view, the true woodworker sees both inline & outline. Another maker and mentor, the Scandinavian James Krenov, taught this to all who would listen. It has been written that wood is the one material that is most like the human being. For like people, wood is of seemingly infinite variety, with multiplicities of character and personality. You see, for me, wood has always been alive! Just to look at a roughsawn board is sufficient animation, let alone stimulation for the infinite possibilities secreted within.The grain or ‘line’ of the wood becomes paramount. The colour, texture, figure; all contribute to a resplendent, even flamboyant at times, parade of showiness, that is there for the human’s betterment. Please, just take the time to really look. This looking alone creates happiness within my soul. What does it do in yours? Keep looking.
In the spring of 2011, my friend Jan, of de Weever’s Wovens in Aylesford: http://deweeverswovens.com/ suggested I seed some transplant asparagus in a circle, within the bounds of the driveway turnaround. Little did he realize that he was speakin’ to a dyed in the wool (pardon the pun Hilda) crop circle junkie . . . but not groupie! hahahaha Now the Burgess Mtn Rd in Woodville, has its own permanent, crop circle formation. The centre seemed the logical placement for this new work. Digging, or rather picking, in the undisturbed hard pan red clay, commenced in earnest, to locate a 1M long plastic tube, surrounded by fresh hand mixed concrete to stabilize the red support rod.
I asked Peter, who operated his portable bandsaw to mill the eastern hemlock, to resaw the heavy slabs into perfectly quartersawn 8/4 lumber. In our nomenclature, 8/4 means 2″. Each ¼ = 1/4″ of wood. Therefore, 4/4 lumber = 1″ and so on. Quartersawn means that the annular rings lie at precisely 90° to the face of the board. If there is any deviation towards 45°, we refer to this as riftsawn, or cant cutting. The term comb grain can refer to both, as the lines of growth resemble those of the tines for a hair comb.
From here the construction process would be of most interest to woodworkers, so I’ll not go into full details, allowing the images to divulge secrets on their own.
After the design was completely wrought, I textured by means of chip carving, the entire surface; front/back/sides/edges/ends, to create shadow relief and to deter the eye from any abject anomaly, that may interfere with the normal sweeping movement of eyesight in its appreciation mode. Ahhh, this works for me. Hahahaha
Suffice it to say, I did use a core box bit to hollow out the recess for the support rod and then glued back the centrepieces with waterproof glue, inserting a plastic tube during this process. Thanks Nistal. http://www.nistal-sculpture.com/bronze-sculptor-artist.htm
The finish on this piece, since it is subjected to the elements, is a powdered water mix called Lifetime Preservative. Does it work? Come back in 10 years and I’ll let you know. There is already some end-grain cracking due to absorption and release of rainwater etc. That’s to be expected with any outdoor wooden sculptural piece. Don’t become attached to your work. As the Tao states: do your work, then step back. The *only* path to serenity.
Fill your bowl to the brim
and it will spill.
Keep sharpening your knife
and it will blunt.
Chase after money and security
and your heart will never unclench.
Care about people’s approval
and you will be their prisoner.
Do your work, then step back.
The only path to serenity.
or . . . the work’s 8-fold path to higher consciousness for any to behold.
1. The black & white, Asian/Taoist yin/yang symbol ought to be obvious. I’ve employed polished obsidian cabochons and white plastic domes for the ‘eyes’.
2. The flip side is the morning star or Venus. It is a First Nations/North American Indian icon meaning courage. There is a large, polished 30mm leopard stone cabochon in the centre, to denote solidity [my addition].
3. The overall shape of this work, is a stylized personification of an early Christian Coptic cross. There are many other shapes from that epoch.
4. The proportions are in the form of phi or the golden ratio/mean. Width to height is exactly 1.618 units of measure. I used the full length of the slabwood cuttings.
5. The scales along each edge embody the two golden fishes from Buddhism, representing the doer and his/its witness, as in the metaphor of the two birds from the Hindu Upanishads.
6. The red circle around and through the yin/yang, epitomizes the ancient Egyptian sun god Ra.
7. The red rod steadying the fish is my derivative of one aspect only from Tantric Hinduism. The divine Shiva entering the divine Shakti, complete with mountain of Venus in polished agate cabochon likeness on both sides. Make a pilgrimage. hahahaha
8. Lastly, the totality of the symbology within this composition, corresponds to my personal concept of a nonduality belief in The Unity of Existence, meaning that we are all One. Indeed, all of creation is One. This is the essence of the teachings of the late Father Thomas Berry and his cohort, Brian Swimme. “Nothing is itself without everything else.”
Here is the winter resting place for Balance.
I used a malachite cab inset in this maple dowel, for winter hanging under the eave, away from storms and severe weather
There can be a great deal of wind here, where I live on the south side of the North Mtn. Wind sweeps up through the Annapolis Valley from Yarmouth. Air, also descends from behind, down over the mountain, coming up from the Fundy shore. As a result, one cannot fly a kite on this property, as the updrafts and downdrafts are going ‘every which way but loose’. Thanks Clint. The Balance sculpture seems to act in concert as a weathervane, even a sail, as it spins and turns this way and that, with every slight breeze.
The veg garden, which I shall write about at a future date, is well placed to the east. All of these happenstances seem to become aligned in some mysterious synchronicity, that work well together. Grace indeed!
This is a new format of WordPress to me and since I haven’t figured out how to add captions to the images, I have decided to let them be the thousand words of promise and parable.
I AM John Ötvös, aka jayöh.