Friday, July 13, 2012

Bulbs Redux

Earlier this summer I drove down to Columbia Basin Community College in Kennewick, WA to see the Esvelt Gallery. I drove down to see the gallery because I thought I was having a show there this coming winter (2013). As it turned out, I misunderstood an earlier e-mail conversation and the show is not scheduled until 2014. (When I finally realized my mistake, a huge weight was lifted and I felt like I had plenty of time to finish the work.)

I wanted to visit the gallery to see the space, meet the gallery director and get a sense of what work she expected from me. Incidentally, my meeting with Mary Dryburgh, the gallery director, went very well and I was happy to discover that I appreciated the way she thought about the gallery and the exhibition. It is hard to identify just what it was about our meeting (not just the fact that the show is another year in the future) but I left feeling energized and excited about the show.

Mary was already familiar with my stand-alone sculpture, my main work, but after connecting me with the other artist, Laura Ahola-Young, I was inspired to want to plan an installation for the exhibition. Laura sent me a picture of one of her watercolor and ink paintings. I was struck by how similar some of her imagery was to forms I have used repeatedly for years. One of her works, "Homeostasis" has a grid of bulbous outlined forms across the entire canvas. These bulbous forms looked a lot like an outline of the bulbous forms I have used in my "Ericano" installations. 

"Homeostasis" by Laura Ahola-Young

"Ericano" (detail) by Rachel Dorn

The first of these installations I did for my senior show at the end of my senior year in college. The galleries at Coe College were rectangular, white and clean with no windows. This installation of 100 bulbs hanging on the wall took up the majority of the short wall to the left as people walked in. My undergraduate professor was at first skeptical that the installation would work, but he later showed me how to make my first plaster mold and I was able to complete the whole set. The pieces below were raku fired, hand-built or press-molded and originally just about 10 (if I recall correctly) had added surface texture. I sold the pieces individually, then someone bought the whole wall and I needed to make extras. 


I later did another version of the installation on my dad's office wall at work and much later on my parents' wall at home, the latter, at least, being completed in graduate school included a variety of firing methods and much more surface decoration. In about 2003 I made a smaller installation of pieces that came off the wall and "evolved" onto a pedestal. This piece was eventually installed hanging in a window (quite an engineering undertaking for me, at the time, to figure out how to hang them without a visible support) at Higher Fire Gallery in Madison, Wisconsin.

So now that I have seen the paintings of my colleague, I want to revisit this bulb installation. I have been working on some of the pieces this summer. Some are in the kiln now, some are drying. None are fired. I figure I have over a year to make 100 bulbs. Last time I set out to make 100, I had only a month or two.

bulb in kiln with SRAM bike parts sprigs

bulb in kiln with glass bits (before firing)

more SRAM bike parts

shell sprigs

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