*Desserts as Sculpture: A Casestudy in the Meaningfulness of Containment and Display Methods for Small Objects and Modular Forms

thoughts

Over the past several months I have become sooo inspired by desserts! As a result I have re-familiarized myself with the old european standbys (battenburgs, macaroons, decadent cookies, etc.) and in the process I have also officially become aquainted with the strange world of Japanese and middle eastern desserts among other treasures. By nature desserts are small objects, but even in spite of their smallness these intricate masterpieces pack a strangely impactful punch in terms of their innate ability to leave an immediate and lasting impact upon the human imagination — at once diagnosing every last one of us with some stripe of synesthesia accompanied by an insatiable lust for the unmistakable  combination of flour, sugar, and fat as they become arranged in countless delectable configurations and forms.

But their edible nature aside — how do we become seduced by desserts as mere objects?

While it seems rather obvious that much of the aesthetic appeal of desserts has to do with their frequently complex repetitious patterns and decorative motifs on a diminutive scale combined with their dynamic textural variance I think there is also something to be said about how the packaging of said objects affects their visual charge. I find it fascinating that the means by which a thing is contained can become such a direct generator for narrative backstory. Invariably, it seems, the bonbon, truffle, baklava, or marzipan figurine finds itself shrouded in an air of especially regal uprightness and dignity when individually wrapped and carefully compartmentalized under glass cabinetry or encased within a box wherein each counterpart can be found neatly nestled in it’s very own special dwelling place.

If indeed these were live specimens I think it would not be inaccurate to say that the general sentiments of say, an eclair, would be akin to that of Catherine I on her way to some unspeakably glamorous affair in a gratuitously gilded horse drawn carriage embellised at every angle with filigree and tufted velvet.  (Traditional pâtisserie shops are, afterall, perhaps one of the only palpable remnants of the overthetop decadence we generally associate with 18th century Europe and Russia). This all to say that there is something inherently betwitching about decadent desserts that is (I think) altogether due to the fact that they are generally contained in an utterly rigorous and thoughtful capacity that perhaps belies the fleeting lifespan of a given confection during the momentary act inwhich it is gleefully consumed.

In my new body of work I am very excited to explore the myriad of methods by which small objects or series of modular objects may be contained and arranged and even packaged and how these varying approaches to containment suggest a range of divergent narratives from preciousness to preservation out of sheer obligation. In anycase, the stringent regard for the aesthetic consistancy which precedes the formation and  distribution of the most esteemed desserts of any culture seems to me an undeniably remarkable and fascinating thing.

  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  

*fountains, delightfully hierarchical forms

Fine Art, thoughts

I have been absolutely smitten with marble fountains lately! Lately because, well, there really are no such fountains here in southern Alberta.. But the front yard of the building just a few blocks away from me just so happened to catch my fancy yesterday while I was out on my run due to it’s fantastically imposing ostentatious fountain! Yes, a fountain right in the middle of a residential Calgary neighborhood, covered with snow. But the thing was complete with pedements composed of horses and spouts comin’ out the wazoo! I tell ya, that thing  is the bell of the ball around this part of town.. Anyways, I digress. Fountains are the new wedding cakes in my books as far as sculptural inspiration goes. And I’ll tell you why. Fountains (especially those of a western european origin) are almost always unmistakably obnoxious and unapologetically loud all in spite of their supposed elegance ! Fountains are the intersection of the seductive voluminous marble embraces one encounters in the romantic epics of Antonio Canova  — dripping with sentiment — clashed with the brutal pragmatism and logic of a flourescent orange road pylon. In short, fountains are Rococo and Bauhaus all in one: a meer pyramid… decorated into oblivion! They are formiddably regal, laughably salacious,  undeniably well engineered, and highly functioning at the same time . What utter fabulousness.

  
  
  
  
  
  

*Contemplating the impropriety of people against the perfect grace of Christ

Faith, thoughts

Lately my scripture reading schedule has been dominated by the OT Prophets, so encountering Hebrews this week has been a beautifully simple and refreshing reminder of the goodness of Jesus. I sometimes forget how the bible speaks of Christ’s humanity, and today I was reminded. And I think I really needed to be reminded.

‘For since He Himself was tested and has suffered, He is able to help those who are tested.’ — Hebrews 2:18

I find such rest in this passage! Its so difficult to come to terms with the fact that Jesus truly loves me this much. Enough to want to be there for me and to listen and to forgive me again and again in spite of my selfishness. And honestly, I forget that He does. In His perfectness He wills to come to my level — to anyone’s level, to hear my pleas and to love me in spite of my wretchedness and continuous straying. This is the radical God who loves me. This is the fearfully vast capacity of Christ to allow us to be His children! This is.. astoundingly radical free love from a Father who is full of grace. And yet I take it for granted.

‘For it was fitting, in bringing many sons to glory, that He, for whom and through whom all things exist, should make the source of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For the One who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one Father. That is why He is not ashamed to call them brothers, saying: I will proclaim Your name to My brothers; I will sing hymns to You in the congregation. Again, I will trust in Him. And again, Here I am with the children God gave me. ‘ — Hebrews 2:10-13

I am a child of God. Thank you Jesus!

*Inspector Gadget: a Case Study in Auxiliary Appendages

Fine Art, thoughts

How much of Inspector Gadget is human and how much of him is springs, drawers, synthetic arms, fins, choppers, and inflatable rescue devices will forever be up for debate. He is, at any rate, superfluously endowed with gadgetry of every stripe, and — at the end of the day — an arguably compelling aesthetic smorgasbord.

  
  
  
  

*Rosie, humanoid maid

Fine Art, thoughts

Rosie from the Jetsons has remained a great fascination of mine since I first observed this classic product of Hanna Barbera animation as a child. She is immensley complex as a maid and partime tyrant (need I say more). Wiki describes her as the following:

Rosie the maid is a humanoid robot fictional character in The Jetsons animated television series of the 1960s. She is the title family’s maid and housekeeper. Jean Vander Pyl provided the voice for Rosie. Rosie is depicted as wearing a frilly apron, and was often seen using a separate vacuum cleaner. Her torso is mounted atop a single leg and she rolls about on a set of caster wheels. She frequently calls George Jetson “Mr. J”. Rosie was an old demonstrator model hired by the Jetson family from U-Rent a Maid. The series’ first episode, “Rosie the Robot”, gives her model number as XB-500. In the episode “Rosie’s Boyfriend,” we learn she has a boyfriend, the robot Mac, a helper for Henry Orbit.


  
  
  
  
  


*the thing about the renaissance painters 

Fine Art, thoughts

In researching for my upcoming classes I’ve found myself intentionally leaving out the old dudes. You know, the italian boys club along with their byzantine cohorts — whose elaborate surnames inspired the collective naming of all four teenage mutant ninja turtles. And yet for me, somehow, they seem to prove undeniably relevant to contemporary picture-making (or atleast the process of discovering the intrinsic properties of composition and color). Masaccio and Botticelli in particular have been recurrently on my radar. While the biblical and mythological narratives they tend to illustrate are compelling, it is the push-pull of foreground and background elements in their compositions that is perhaps most compelling. Consciously or otherwise, both of these guys have a wonderful way of creating dynamic spatial relationships through their implementation of color and highly-contrast areas wherein intensely mottled fields of flesh bump up against sharp delineations color. Call me old fashioned, but I still get goosebumps when I look at these pictures.. Piero della Franseca and Giovanni Bellini too!.

  
  
  
  

*Debutants & Scamps: Investigating the Prowess of Decorated Objects

My Life, thoughts

It is the detection and projection of conceivably human traits onto the inanimate material world that relentlessly inspires my object-making and drawing practice. As the formation of my work is continually informed by the idiosyncrasies visible in everyday objects, I am a habitual observer of the narratives these things naturally invoke by virtue of being inadvertently personified. Over the past year, I have found myself infatuated by a specific breed of objects in light of their peculiarly heightened ability to appear as animated characters amidst a sea of otherwise idle paraphernalia. Here, I am referring specifically to those which possess highly embellished exteriors, verbosely constructed bodies, or a combination of the two. Essentially, those which are excessively decorated.

What draws me to these things is their capacity to be met with highly opposing sentiments. An ornate candelabra, for example, seems to possess equal chances of being perceived as sophisticated and beautiful as it does absurd or deplorably kitsch. This dual-propensity, I believe, is enabled most certainly by the distinctive presence of overtly superfluous design traits. (In this case, through an overabundance of auxiliary appendages).

That an item can be revered as formidably regal and playfully juvenile at the same time fascinates me greatly. It is the potential for an object’s identity to commingle between such divergent associations and the resulting contradictions that become tied up in it’s perceived role as utilitarian implement or play-thing, furniture object or veneration effigy, that motivates the creation of my own sculptures.

I want to create in-between objects that are capable of generating responses akin to those elicited by fondant encrusted multi-tiered wedding cakes and exotic dim sum buffets being as the presence of these things conjures reactions that could be described as delightful and repulsive with seemingly equal rigor. It is the humor implicit in this absurdist proposition which feeds my long-time preoccupation with characters of a beguiling unpredictable nature who frequently belie their presumed role. As such, my most recent work has aimed to indulge this fascination by examining the explicit role of decoration as it pertains to the activation of such a character trope.

Namely, I find myself persistently attracted to highly decorated objects because of their proneness to be imagined to possess innately controverting traits which result in contradictory classifications such as ‘noble and flamboyant’ — ‘trite and austere’ — or ‘demure yet outspoken’. Tassel-laden couch cushions and dressers obliterated with miniature drawers and floral patterns, vacant chandeliers spewing gilded limbs, and grandfather clocks standing atop multi-level pedestals all seem to invoke this sort of nonsensical persona. In light of my obsession with this quality, I tend to view any object imbued with a comparable aspect distinctly as an underdog; be it elephant or dancing puppet, debutant or scamp.

Whatever the case, excessively decorated things can scarcely be described without having human attributes projected onto them. Which provokes the question: Just what is it about being ‘decorated’ that so rigorously stimulates our inclination to perceive otherwise abstract forms as distinctly animated beings?

My conviction that decoration has as much to do with anthropomorphic narrative as it does the mere pleasure of experiencing something aesthetically compelling is largely rooted in my preoccupation with textiles and fashion. In the case of printed fabrics, it’s as though the role of pattern is to inoculate an object with some yet unspoken measure of vitality — energizing it with foreign moods and tendencies which at times undermine the very form of their garment. The kaleidoscopic prints depicted on the designs of Mary Kantranzou, Peter Pillotto, and Louis Vuitton, for example, frequently cause the clothing to appear strangely autonomous; suggesting the impression that the garments are wearing the model, and not the other way around. In such cases, the wearer becomes fleetingly understood as subservient to it’s donned garment. Yayoi Kusama, Valentino, and Moschino no doubt understand this phenomenon as they employ pattern and decadent textural surfaces to a similar end which often results in the printed frocks appearing to dominate the frames of the models on which they reside. In this way I am especially interested in densely complex, highly elaborate graphic surfaces as they become capable of denoting characters of a comparably manic nature.

When pondering this notion, one can imaginatively conceive of the would-be persona of an antique Victorian interior, or that of the a Vegas casino floor as the two are both virtually covered with decoration. The chintz on the wing-backed chairs mirroring the wallpaper as the crown moulding re-articulates the filigree relief carved on the legs of the dining table, the dizzying geometric configurations on the psychedelic casino rug — endlessly reflecting the oscillating shapes that flash about on each maniacal slot machine screen. In these scenarios, the forms become narcissistic and self obsessed, coming together to participate in the tireless collective effort that is self-veneration of form. An absurd narrative, in and of itself.

Nevertheless, here it becomes evident that obsessive layering and repetition in the form of meticulously duplicated pattern connotes both austere supremacy and playful mimicry, giving way to a host of possible dispositions who become united on account of their mutual voracity for embellishment. I’ve come to adopt the term ‘hyperbolic surface’ in reference to such explicitly ornamented items as I’ve been continually charmed by the audacious power of their designs to evoke characters who are at the same time ebullient and tyrannical all by virtue of their sheer excessiveness of form.

After all, a radiator is simply a radiator… Until it is engulfed from head to toe in embossed gold enamel floral motifs. Then what is it? This simple inquiry, strangely enough, perhaps best serves for the task of logically deconstructing the subconscious thesis question that has been pervading my explorations in the studio over the past year. And I even have an answer for it. But be warned, it’s inspired by my obsession with Dickensian and Tom Waitsian character descriptions whereby said authors make a frequent point of exploiting the traits of street urchins in so far as they contrast the refinery of bureaucrats and the extant to which peasant girls in turn assume the role of character foil to queens of state. So here you go: He is a geriatric radiator. Dressed up for a night of bingo which will invariably involve one or seven double-jamesons-and-gingerale followed by a pit stop at the seedy cabaret next door to take in the traveling burlesque show. Or, (in less poetic terms), what I’ve learned through my current studio research is that the adornment of our surroundings lends itself irrevocably to the fetishizing of objects, which in turn gives way to the habitual constructing of various theatrical roles. Roles for which imagined characters of all stripes are continually conscripted and devoured.

So enjoy these decorated objects, I hope they charm and enchant you as much as they do me!

I’m presently in the process of completing a body of work informed specifically by the above observations and ideas and I can not wait to share it ! The random image mash-ups below are just a few that I will be using in a small picture book which will be accompanying my upcoming exhibition.

xx

Meg

IMG_7176IMG_7179IMG_7183IMG_6917IMG_6884IMG_7018IMG_7308IMG_7315IMG_7174 

                              

*sushi rolls and licorice, studies in pattern and repetition 

Misc., thoughts

I’ve always been enamored by the look of all sorts candies. I find their taste abhorent so I have never spent any time with them beyond casual romantic encounters in the bulk foods aisle and from a distance at my grandmas.  (I cannot say the same for my beloved sushi) — but both of these foods inspire me tremendously in terms of  appearance. I love the high contrast coloring and graphic modular deliniations of their composition. These foods could be miniature masterpieces of architecture as far as I’m concerned. Beyond that, their understated beauty has stood the test of time, no?  

                      

*Cakes vs. Tanks: The Imperisism of the Vigilante Object 

Misc., thoughts

In my ordinary perception of objects I often derive imaginary hierarchies wherein specific objects are assigned the role of guardian, overseer, or outright menace over their surrounding object fellows.

I’ve always been drawn to the imaginary dual-motif of the object as ‘patroller’ as it implies both tyrrany and a humorous futility. A military tank is an overtly literal example of a tyranical object. Yet curiously, it seems to me that ornately decorated wedding cakes, grandfather clocks, rotating fans, mall escalators, hospital wheelchairs, faberge eggs and mic stands (among other things) also seem to perform in this capacity in spite of their more reticent nature. . .

Which begs the question: What are the qualities that imbue an object not only with a sense of autonomoy, but  with a sort of domineering presence over their environment? Is it an object’s scale, it’s form, or it’s proximity to other objects that makes it seem imperious?

 This is the question that has been driving my experimentation in the studio over the past year.

I am continually fascinated and bewitched by my observances of objects native to my own everyday experience as well as those discovered via my research into lesser known territories and environments. More on that to come..

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1947 – cake for Queen Elizabeth II

 

    

*Japanese Kabuki. Ever intrepid, ever indomitable.

Misc., thoughts

Lately I have been so inspired by imagery of Japanese Kabuki theatre! I find the bizarre characters in their peculiar gestures and even more peculiar makeup and attire simply beguiling. In short, what draws me to Kabuki is that it’s creations are grotesquely handsome and playfully allusive in a way that is incredibly attractive and unabashedly repugnant at the same time. A level of dynamism most compelling, if you ask me.








 
   

I love the manical quality of these performers acheived by the incessently repeating forms