Monday, August 5, 2013

The Inspiring Work of Walter Linsenmaier

When I was around 9 or10 years old I remember looking at a  Life magazine and seeing the amazing insect illustrations of Walter Linsenmaier,(1917-2000). " His gift for drawing and painting, together with his lifelong interest in the animal world led to his vocation - the study of zoology, and the drawing and painting  and photography of animals." 

A few years later, Life magazine published a large book entitled "The Wonders of Life on Earth", published in 1960, which contained many of the drawings and paintings that I had seen in earlier in Life Magazine plus some new ones of Linsenmaier's work. My parents gave me the book as a gift and it quickly became one of me favorite possessions.

Ever since I was a child I have been extremely interested in insects and had several of my own collection. Mr. Linsenmaier's drawings exemplified the beauty that I had always seen in them. The drawings were much more interesting than photographs because it was evident that he had really looked very closely at them.

Years later in 1979 while visiting a library, I found an  book, "Insects of the World" and I checked it out again and again so that I could read and study his beautiful drawings. In 1991 I finally obtained a copy of this out of print book, when a bookstore in Jackson, Wyoming found it for me.

Though I have done many small drawings and painting from his book, I now am inspired to create a series of ceramic bas-relief tiles based on  his drawings of insects.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

The making of "Shall We Dance?"

For several years I have wanted to sculpt an alligator piece and in March of this year, I decided that it was time, especially after the Loveland High Plains Art Council called me and asked me to be part of their 30th year anniversary show, Sculpture in the Park in Loveland, Colorado. This also gave me a good reason to return to bronze after a three year break.

In 1972 I ran across some drawings of  Preston Blair, an American character animator, from the hippo-alligator dance in Fantasia's "Dance of the Hours" sequence. I  was familiar with.and inspired by his work as an animator for Walt Disney Production and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer had always wanted to do something based upon these joyful images.

 During the past several years, I decided to focus on sculpting bas relief tiles in glazed ceramic instead of producing cast works in bronze. Creating tiles during the past couple of years has been an incredible study for me in rendering lifelike images in a very controlled sculptural sense. Bas-relief is a type of low relief sculpture. One has to learn to create an illusion of three dimensionality  in an almost two dimensional plane. It made me explore and focus intently on surface detail to a degree I had never done before.

I started exploring bronze casting in 2004 after working in ceramic sculpture for over 30 years and my initial approach to it was to continue what I had been doing with my ceramic sculptures which was one of expanded  and exaggerated animal forms that where cartoon-like and expressed human-like characteristics. It was fun to take these impressions into the bronze format. I would sculpt an original piece of sculpture in ceramic clay, bisque fire it, and then make a silicone mold.  I would then make a hollow wax from this mold which I then took to a foundry to be cast in metal.

A few years back I was commissioned to do a bronze sculpture of Pan. It was the first piece I sculpted using non drying clay which had an internal armature to support mass between thick and thin areas.    This piece, its uplifted weight and attention to detail was a turning point for me.  It was the most detailed and involved sculpture I had ever done and involved hiring a model which I worked with for over two months. It was an opportunity to explore realism, mythology, detail, and my own sense of design all within the same piece of work.

The next bronze piece that I sculpted  after Pan was called "Sheep Skate" and it was sculpted with the intent that the subject would be lifted  up into the air flying (possibly out of control) and sculpted completely in the round in great detail and  supported only by a single bronze support. This was liberating for a person like me who was use to  glazed ceramic clay sculpture and it"s fragile limitations. This piece was about movement and intricate surface detail and again, I used an internal armature and  non drying clay.

After a period of not having things cast in bronze, I returned to it this spring with the creation of "Shall We Dance".  It is of course, the dancing alligator piece that I have wanted to do for all these years. I felt confident that I could successfully merge extensive detail and sculptural movement within the same piece. For me, this piece explores a new aspect of playfulness with perhaps an bit of danger.

Dwight Davidson, Denver, CO 2013

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Aerial View of a Crystal City

Occasionally when I have irritated gums I pour some salt into a cup of warm water and then after stirring , I pour it into my Waterpik. A few weeks ago I did this using sea salt, and water and then walked away leaving the cup on the bathroom counter. A few days ago I noticed that a sparkle coming from the bottom of the cup and some very interesting crystals. I decided to take the cup outside into the sunlight and take some photos of their shapes in the bottom of the cup. I have a SLR Digital Camera with a macro lens and I always enjoy looking at small intimate spaces enlarged. After downloading the photos and looking at them on my computer, I was amazed at the shapes and the arrangements that these crystals had placed themselves in as they grew. They were mostly all pyramid shaped and the arrangement reminded me of an encampment that perhaps had been photographed by a satellite high above earth. I had a certain topography to it. I also could not help thinking about the Pyramids in Egypt which looked so similar to these sea water crystals and certainly must have been visible thousands of years ago to anyone observant enough to look at crystals formed from evaporated sea salt.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Artifact at 1000 Palms Canyon, CA

Upon a recent trip to visit friends Bart Haszelbart and Carl Heohn who had moved to Palm Springs in January of 2011 I thought it might be a nice occasion to do an installation. The Artifact Project is an ongoing art project (not geocaching) which I started in February of 1986.

This is the first time that I have posted any reference to this on my blog. I decided to so because as we were leaving the site of a group installation at 1000 Palm Canyon, California. David Sorg, who had just helped participate in an installation suggested I started putting these on my blog.

For those of you who do not know about the artifact installation project, I have written a detailed description on my website

I wanted this artifact to be a group installation and something about the San Andreas Fault.

Carl Hoehn suggested that we do the installation at 1000 Palms Canyon because the because it was on the fault and had been created by it. The fault had fractured the underlying ground in such a way that water bubbles it's way to the surface. This had created the oasis.

On Sunday, November 13, 2011 Bart Haszelbart, Carl Hoehn, David and Patti Sorg, and myself drove to Coachella Valley Preserve 1000 Palms Canyon with artifact number
GC5:08.21.03B. I was immediately impressed with the presence of these amazing native trees, the California fan palm, or Washingtonia filifera. It felt like I was in a very sacred space. It was also interesting to become familiar with some of the native desert plants which were labeled along the hiking trails. This is an incredibly beautiful place and was a real highlight of my visit to the Palm Springs area.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Rebirth of a Studio Companion

In October of 2007 I was doing one of the last firings in my Paragon Kiln for the upcoming Open Studios Show. The kiln was full of glazed bas-relief tiles and I because the glazes that I had been experimenting with were more interesting at higher temperatures, I decided to let the kiln "soak" after it reached my customary temperature. (A soak is when you hold the kiln at a certain temperature without going higher so that the glazes or clay have an increased vitrification.) I maintained a temperature of 2200 degrees f. for twenty minutes.
The next day when I opened the lid, to my horror, I looked in at kiln shelves that had bent and sagged into each other. There were blobs of what were suppose to be tiles that looked like lava rocks full of bubbles. After removing the shelves and the contents, I checked for further damage to the kiln. Four of the five elements would not turn on because they had broken.
I bought the Paragon Kiln in 1972 and had used continually for 35 years. There was always a quality of the work that came out of this kiln that I could never seem to duplicate from the other two kilns that I had additionally acquired during that time.

During part of those 35 years, became known for my ceramic, cobalt glazed purple and white cows and I had fired so many of them in that kiln that the inside has developed a blue patina. From this kiln came 90% the artifacts for my Artifact Project.
I have three kilns and so I decided to use the other two and try to get new elements at some point for the Paragon Kiln later. I had also transitioned into producing bronze sculpture a few years before and was doing less ceramic sculpture.

Recently, I decided it was time to revive the Paragon Kiln and while checking the internet for element prices and repair, I came across a technique that someone described in which you heat the broken element with a butane torch and then while hot, twist the ends together. The elements become very brittle after years of use and the heat makes them flexible.

Well, I thought that it was worth a try and I repaired all four elements, testing them as I went. They all seemed to heat up fine. Yesterday was the true test as I decided to fire six artifacts. I opened the kiln this morning and there they were with that very particular cobalt blue that I can not seem to get in the other two kilns. I did some calculations and I also realized that the kiln had sat dormant for a little over 1000 days. So I welcome my special life-long studio companion back. I am sure that I will have to replace the elements soon, but for now, I get the predictable results that I have for so long depended upon.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Datura Magic

The datura in the front garden had a tinge of violet around the outer inner part of the bud last night and I have not seen it this intense of a color before. I decided it would be a good night to photograph it opening. I have watched the datura bloom open many times before and it is something that leaves me transfixed.

The sequence from close spiral to open flower only takes about a half an hour. Even before it is open it begins to emit it's amazing scent which drifts in the evening air.

The open flower has ten points around the outside of the bloom. When studying the unopened bud one can see that the spiral is made up of five outer points and five inner points. The flower bud expands and the spiral unwinds until the inner points suddenly release their hold and the flower literally pops open and then one can see it slowly move as it continues to expand to full.

One of the most impressive elements of the bloom is the spiral. This shape is so familiar to us from nature in the form of shells, flowers, cactus spine arrangements, our milky way galaxy, our inner ear, and many more. The flower bud is upon first inspection a right handed spiral, but a closer look reveals that it makes a turn in the center and spirals back out. This type of configuration is known as a double spiral and has some symbolic significance which represents an evolution and then an involution, or a coming into being and then back out. A metaphor for life and death. But the most magical aspect of this datura blooming is that these five interlocking spiraling lines traveling in and then back out again are but a single circular line. The line around the edge of the flower. Amazing to think that it grew folded that way.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Room Without a View February 4, 2010

The Building is now as high as it is going to be and the crane
is coming down in a few days. This is a composite photo made
up of 43 images taken from my studio window.