Inspired by Calder

We had a great time in NYC this weekend. The entire trip was prompted by the Calder exhibit at the Whitney, which I mentioned on Friday before our trip. Short of using an audio guide (which I dislike on crowded days), I spent an extensive amount of time in this fabulous exhibit. I even took a seat with a crowd of adults of all ages and a sizable group of four-year-olds to watch the extended version of the video above. This five-minute video was on display above a huge installation of Calder’s circus pieces. There were even more pieces around on display in other cases around the room.

I am not sure how long Jean Painleve’s full “Circus” ran but it was long enough for me to doze off a couple of times. I was pretty exhausted from a busy week and early train to the city. Midway through the video, Henry came over to inform me that Lou Reed was also there to see the exhibit. I missed him because I was determined to watch the entire video. But today when I returned to my studio to work, I wondered if the exhibit had impacted him in such a way that he was thinking of a potential new project. Because I was…

One of the most amazing elements of Calder’s Circus is how it clearly has built off one another. The number of pieces are so extensive. Five huge suitcases stand in one of the display cases, with the top one open and full of more pieces. I can easily imagine how a couple of fun little toys quickly amassed into a little world into itself.

I want to make my own little world of dioramas in different sizes. I would love for them to be collapsible into book covers. But I don’t do so well with fiction. At least that is what I thought. So today when I went to the studio, I cleaned up a little while wishing Sarah a happy birthday. Then I just sat there and played. No real intentions, but more exploration.

First, I created this piece using my new Japanese screw punch, which I received for Christmas. I drew all of this little monsters with a chalk pencil that I think is supposed to be for tailoring.

Second I created this little book as an ode to one of my favorite memories from Kindergarten. In my lifetime, we went from a slide show and a record player to pretty sophisticated animation. I believe that the Lollipop Dragon I knew and loved has been lost to its reinterpretation in the the mid-80s. So sad. Warning! Don’t click on this link if you can remember the Lollipop Dragon theme song of the seventies. It will be replaced by this terrible theme song.

Third, I finally broke out the Chinese brush paints for the first time in a very LONG time. My skills have gotten rusty. But I was inspired by Calder, who also painted in this loose, free-flowing format. In fact, my favorite of the wire sculptures was “Le Lanceur de poids (Shotputter)”, which reminds me more of Chinese brush painting with the thicker wire. (See it here, third row, second image from left.)

So something different is brewing inside of me. Maybe those puppets I dreamed up this summer are ready to be sewn. But I promise more Art and Play during the weeks to come.

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