A surreal short film. Most days I know how the characters in this film feel. Why do we allow ourselves to be wage slaves?
What better way to wash away the memories of long, painful week at work than immersing myself in some creativity. By the way, what is the percentage of people who ACTUALLY love their jobs? I'm thinking it's a small number who truly love what they do for the living; the remainder may say they love being wage slaves, but they're flat-out lying. Sorry--I digress. Anyway, the weekend's here, and I get to do what I love, ramping up my addiction: ART. Before I share the next steps in my gourds-into-Day-of-the-Dead-style-masks project, let me show you some of my recent flea market/yard sale finds. The first is this cool bird cage. It's not an antique, but I'll "grunge it up" eventually with some paint. I've got an idea for a creepy creatures in a cage piece.
Here are some dolls--and a doll head--I found. The three little dolls may be transformed into the "creatures" that will haunt the cage. The doll head is old, and I haven't figured out what it's made of. It's not porcelain, but it may be made from some kind of paper mache-like substance. No matter, it's cool.
The item on the right is just some rusty tool. It's intended use? Beats me. But for 50 cents who cares.The item on the left is, I think, an old iron holder. I see it as an "architectural" element (it looks like an arch) in the background of one of my assemblages.
Speaking of architectural elements, check out these. Two plaster pieces (perhaps old corner molding?) and four metal legs of some sort (love the texture).
And my final finds.... Much more bawdy than everything else. Two, phallic bottle openers--hilarious! Don't know what I'm going to do with these, but they were so funny I had to buy them.
After a few hours of searching for junk, I put in some time on my Day of the Dead masks. Today's first order of business included sketching out the eyes, nose, and teeth.
Next I cut off the stem (top) end of the gourds, which is actually the bottom of the masks, so that the masks will appear as though the bottom jaw is missing. After that, using a drill with a hole-saw bit, I made the eye openings. Then, using my little work-horse Dremel tool, I carved around the teeth and removed the outer shell for the "noses." Cutting and carving is finished. Up next? Bring on the paint.
The next steps in the gourd-to-skull-mask transformation are soaking, cleaning, and cutting. Hard shell gourds are harvested like any other vegetable, but gourds are left to dry for a year or more. During this time, the water inside a gourd leeches through its shell, which usually results in a layer of mold. The mold sounds gross, but this process can leave some fascinating mottling on the gourd's surface. In addition, gourds have a thin outer layer of skin; during the drying process, this layer often flakes off or partially flakes off. Unfortunately, the parts of this layer that don't flake off--which can have a waxy consistency--can be difficult to remove. To rid the gourd of all its ugliness, simply soak it in a tub of water. Depending on the tenacity of the gourd's outer layer, this can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours. Oh, by the way, gourds float; so when you soak them, you'll have to weight them down with something (I use a five-gallon bucket of water) to keep them immersed.
After soaking the gourd, I scrape off the mold and outer coating with an old, dull paring knife. I also use a plastic kitchen scrubber (one of those round things that looks like it's made of netting) to rub off any tough spots.
The result is a clean surface to work with. Notice the shape; I've flipped the gourd over, which is the orientation I plan on using for my masks. If you squint really hard, you can perhaps make out a stylized skull shape: wider cranium at the top, narrowing down into the jaw-area. Actually, at this point in the process, I'm thinking of creating skulls missing their lower jaws; that way the very bottom of my creepy little creations will end with the "teeth" of the top jaw. If you're not "seeing" it now, hopefully you will shortly.
Using my trusty jigsaw, I next cut the gourd. (I'll cut eye holes later in the process.) Notice the gourd's shell, which, depending on the variety, can be much thicker than this. Working with a hard shell gourd is a lot like working with wood; I use saws, drills, and a Dremel with varying cutting bits on these types of gourds. That's it for now. Stay tuned for the design process.
From the summer of 2005 until early 2010 I created dozens upon dozens (see my Gourdations Gallery) of vessels and masks using hard shell gourds. Even though it was dusty, messy work, I loved the process of taking an ugly, moldy, dirty gourd and transforming it into something beautiful. But like a lot of things in life, I grew bored with gourd art--after all, I'd made pitchers, vases, bowls with handles, bowls without handles, bowls with lids, jugs with rims, jugs without rims, jugs with lids, masks, and so on. You get the picture--I was tapped out. Then I was bitten by the assemblage bug and left gourd art behind. Or so I thought. For the past year-and-half or so I've had about a dozen gourds hanging in my garage. I've walked under them probably hundreds of times, and most of those times I've thought "Why don't I throw those damn things out?" Something in me kept me from going through with the deed, so there they hung--until today. I've been talking lately with a woman who owns a neat little shop in my town. She asked if I'd like to have a "trunk show" at her shop in October, a little gig to display some of my (as my kids like to say) "creepy" little assemblages. (Ironically, neither she nor I knew what a "trunk show" was, but it sounds good.) Anyway, I told her I'm up for it, but that's when it hit me... Day of the Dead-inspired masks! I'll turn my remaining gourds into some bizarro skull masks to accompany my assemblage art at this trunk show. Keep checking my blog over the next couple of weeks because I'm going to try and post pictures of the process. Here's pic #1: a "raw" gourd. Notice the dirty, flaky, moldy exterior. Actually, it's no big deal to clean, leaving you with an outstanding surface for just about any medium.
Today was the first day of my twentieth year as a high school special education teacher, the "real" job that funds my art habit. It seems the word is out that I've become obsessed with assemblage art because Candy, one of my teaching colleagues, left me an old mantel clock and a reproduction wall phone. Possibilities for both are bouncing around in my skull as I write this, but I'm really chompin' at the bit to gut that clock and get my assemblage on. Thanks, Candy, for thinking of me.
The (sometimes mad) ramblings of a mixed media artist.