The intention I chose was "Kindness". I decided to post a blog entry here about my struggle to create this piece. I hope you have a chance to go and see it in person, as the photo does not begin to do it justice. The exhibit will be up through March 31st.
My challenge in this endeavor was to express the concept of kindness without resorting to an illustration of someone or something we equate with kindness. I wanted to evoke the impression of kindness without illustrating it.
I spent a long time just thinking about what kindness would look and feel like in abstract concepts. What shape is kindness, what color, what type of marks. At some point the image of an oval took shape in my mind. For me, an oval carried a certain type of presence. The verticality, referenced the human body, the oval felt inviting and encompassing, compassionate. So the search was on for an oval piece of wood. I enlisted the aid of a friend of mine that often helped out in estate sales. I told him to keep his eye open for on oval tabletop. I still hadn’t figured out what sort of imagery or colors would evoke kindness. I found an inexpensive veneer table at a thrift store for backup, in case my friend never uncovered anything better. I was uninspired by the veneer table, but I still responded to the shape, it felt right.
After a couple months of pondering, I received a phone call from my friend saying that he had found a table, but that it was old and had several layers of paint on it and he asked me if I wanted him to sand it down a bit. I was thrilled. I asked him if he could take off the legs as well, and that if he wanted to sand it a bit that would be great, to “knock himself out”. I was anticipating that I would need to gesso it to prep for the painting and the sanding would speed my process.
What I didn’t anticipate was the innate beauty of the scarred tabletop revealed by the random sanding. When my friend presented me with it, I gasped. He has no artistic training, and probably thought I was crazy, to him it was just a worn table top desperately in need of a paint job. But to me it evoked a lifetime of service.
At that point, it was obvious to me that I needed to work with what had been revealed and not totally obfuscate it. The whole process had involved kindness on the part of my friend. He had searched, he had found, and he had prepared the table. It was his offering of kindness to me.
I began to slowly respond to the marking left by years of use. There were circular rings left from sweating water glasses, and other circular marks I couldn’t identify. There were deep cracks that refused to be healed by my layers of hot wax that I applied in light colored glazes. I began to appreciate those cracks, and the delicacy of their mark. I opted to work with the colors that remained stubborn to the sanding attempts. Kindness requires that sort of stubbornness, that persistence. I worked to unify the existing marks and introduced more circular elements and a rhythmic movement. However, the real kindness in this piece is the complete conceptual package, all the pieces that brought it to life, including all the years it spent in service as a humble table.