Three Breaths and Under,
Repeated in Three Pieces
(or little things that may be bigger ideas find their way out of my mind into our shared reality)
In "Three Breaths and Under, Repeated in Three Pieces" I hope that I've capture some of the feeling of the original "Three Breaths and Under" executed at Ohio State University in the fall of 2005. In each of the parts on display here, I've built the inside of a raw, deteriorating, clay corn crib. Lacking the power of scale of the original work, I've added a new feature to the end wall of each piece, a digital pinhole photograph transferred to porcelain - perhaps hinting at the place that two five year olds might find their next 'other' world. Finally, ten second excerpts of the original soundtrack enhance each view.
A year ago at NCECA, Rebecca Harvey invited me to visit Ohio State University to explore new avenues of making. The Ceramics Department at Ohio State has a unique set of high technology tools (3 dimensional scanner, 3d milling machines, inkjet glaze printer, et cetera) available nowhere else in a studio teaching facility. As it turned out, all of these wonderful toys were packed away when I arrived due to an extended studio renovation. Undeterred, I proceeded to follow through on a project that had been fermenting for several months...
During the summer of 2005, I experienced a vivid memory of playing with my childhood friend Nathan in an old corn crib that stood on his family's farm. The more I remembered, the farther I traveled. Not physically, of course, but to that 'other' place that existed once for two adventurous five year olds. Yanking the sticking door open and stepping up into that building was an act of faith - a tumbling through the back of the wardrobe into Narnia, if you will. Door closed, our previous world vanished as we climbed around on wooden crates and broken tools. The dust ebbed in the rays of sunlight, allowing us to see what needed to be seen.
I decided to recreate that corn crib at Ohio State with the hopes that it might transport myself, and visitors, to that 'other' place. At the same time, in this and other recent work, I've been trying to consider all aspects of my chosen primary material, clay. It does some great things - gets slippery, sticks to things, stains them, smells, dries, cracks. As an ceramic artist, I'd been taught to ignore most of these abilities, or, at the very least, call them problems. In this project, I wanted to flip them around and embrace one or more of clay's deprecated attributes.
In "Three Breaths and Under," I hoped to combine memories - faulty to be sure - and one of the very real aspects of clay, cracking, - fault by default? - into a transforming sense of place. So, I built my corn crib. In redefining space and marking of time, not unlike memories, the crib performed well, pleasingly so. The drying clay's large cracks were descriptive, informative, beautiful on their own, but not breath taking. However, the smaller cracks and their rays of light were an unexpected gift - a "star field" of great depth. In the dark, with light filtering through the fissures, one tumbled through into the 'other' once again.
Throughout all of this primitive raw clay work, high technology was not forgotten. From the outset, I had the intention of affecting clay with sound, something I had never done before. Thus, I developed a sound track of the corn crib's making combined with children playing. The digital track was played through special speakers attached to key points of the building. So, the sounds served not only as an additional clue to the narrative, but as a active manipulation of the clay. That building shook! Clay moved, vibrated, fell to the floor. Sound worked in concert with the other characteristics of the piece to carry one off into 'other, otherland.'