Monday, August 1, 2011

Sunflower Masks 1 - Cake

Not everyone knows that I'm actually educated as an Art Historian and Archaeologist - a Bachelor's Degree from Michigan State and a Masters of Arts from Cornell, where I was actually in the PhD program.  Why does this matter?  Well, when I first started doing ceramics with Gene Pluhar, I was still thinking I was trying to do a dissertation on my chosen topic (griffin-head protomes, for those who want to know) and so very much "in" my field of study.  I had been deeply interested in Greek mythology for much of my life (avidly reading Edith Hamilton's book cooling off by the Windmill Pointe Park pool during childhood summers), an interest which translated well to a program in any discipline relating to Classical Studies.  So, when I started working on masks, some of the stories from that body of work (especially those that fed Ovid's Metamorphoses) seemed good fodder.  I experimented with images of the Furies, the Graces, the Fates, Arachne, Medusa (which resulted in a very successful multimedia piece) and Clytie.

Who was Clytie?  Clytie was a nymph and good friend of Daphne, both of whom knew Apollo.  Unlike Daphne, she actually thought Apollo was pretty cool and let him know as much, even though he chased anything in a chiton; but Apollo wasn't interested in Clytie, probably because, well, because she was actually interested in him and he was more interested in women who weren't interested in him and who would go to great lengths to get away from him (something about "the chase" I'm told) - Daphne turned in to a tree, for example.  Anyway, Apollo said, "No thanks."  But poor Clytie was severely co-dependent (she probably came from a dysfunctional family; you know the type) and wouldn't give up; instead of benefiting from some individual or group psychotherapy or some prescription medication, she sat herself on a hill for nine days, subsisting solely on the morning dew, watching the Chariot of the Sun cross the sky on its daily route.  (Yes, in our day and age, this would be stalking and Apollo would take out a PPO against her.)  In the end, she turned into a flower that follows the sun, our most common modern interpretation being the sunflower, which did not exist in the ancient old world.

I created my first Clytie in time for my first show back in 1995, where she was part of the "Girls Gone Wrong" wall, along with Arachne and Medusa (talk about a girl gone wrong!)  I started out using my own face, of which I had a mold, but while I was working at Honigman Miller (don't ask!), I met my friend Tia Nero, and asked her to be my Sunflower Girl.  I had gotten the mold for the male mask some years previously when my friend Jeanne Galloway's stockbroker, Jose Vasquez, consented to be our victim.

For this pair of masks, one of six designs I've developed for this series, I used a cake tip and slip to apply rosettes of clay to the surface that would look somewhat like the disk flowers on a sunflower.  I use red iron oxide (RIO) precipitate for the petals.  This is applied in the same manner as the Mason Stains, although I don't wipe off any access.  (This stuff really stains, so try not to spill!)  The RIO gives the clay an interesting bluish metallic quality many folks find interesting and is one of the more popular for my sunflower pieces.

No comments: