As a child, one of my favorite summertime games after farm chores were done and the animals fed and watered and set for the night, we’d go out to the orchard and pick up fallen branches. We’d run around in the gathering twilight and, with the fireflies starting to appear, we’d lay out the branches on the ground.
“This is my living room,” we would say, moving sticks to indicate a door that opened and closed, “And here, this is the kitchen, and here’s the porch.” We folded space and time effortlessly, because no one told us we were doing it wrong, no one pointed out there actually were no walls and doors and windows, only our twigs and pebbles. We were parents and children and dogs and cats, and our perfect planet had no fires or earthquakes or tornadoes or wars. We went in and out of the rooms of our little twig lines as the sun fell behind the trees and eventually we were driven inside by the mosquitoes and promises of watermelon on brightly lit kitchen tables.
I started out making sculptures from sticks, but there are some issues. They are brittle and break. They don’t hang up well, never polished and neat, always primitive and rough.
One day husband and I were driving through Mt. Sterling, and I saw a pile of old broken chairs, and had one of those Ah Ha! moments. It was a line, that single chunk of chair back, it was a wonderful, thick, strong line, complete with little holes and cut-outs from the previous joinery, was curved yet straight and square and rounded. I stared at it like a person seeing the ocean for the first time, or the first nude in a museum, or opening up a four-page statistics problem while sitting there waiting for the instructor the first day of class. My head exploded.
I bought a truck load of broken chairs, borrowed the husband’s drill, got two boxes of screws at the hardware, and went to work. A restaurant agreed to let me hang the sculptures, and I created those sculptures in three months on the living room carpet and the kitchen table. They were lines, important, strong, powerful lines, which were spaced far enough apart to let the walls beneath the works become an equal part of the sculpture.
A friend came over one day and asked, “How do you do this? How do you figure out which piece you will use next, where you’ll cut it?” And I told her, “These are my bones. These are pieces of my whole life, and I lay it where it needs to go.”
Husband and I learned not to walk across the living room after I went to bed, because it was full of lines, sculptures laid out to sleep in the dark, waiting until I returned in the morning.
Early in the process, I hung one of the works on the wall by the stairway only because I was running out of room. In the night I came downstairs and the one lamp nearby was casting its light across the surface of the sculpture in an oblique angle, in an otherwise dark house, and I stopped, frozen, on the stairway.
I had not only laid out twigs in the grass. The artwork cast unintended shadows across the wall, and these fascinated me. I created the sculpture, it created itself again in patterns which surprised and delighted me, and in that moment, I realized that these wood and metal “drawings” took on a life that was more than what I had birthed to them.
Eventually husband and I realized I didn’t have the skills or space or tools to grow. I volunteered for six months at a woodworker’s makerspace, and learned to use power tools, identify woods, learn how wood is measured and sold and prepared. Then a friend opened a machine shop, so for nine months I cut steel, loaded CNC machines, deburred parts, sharpened drill bits, and learned how wire, steel stock, and sheets were measured, sold, and prepared.
I rented my studio warehouse in July, 2014 and prepared nine works that hung in a restaurant in Easton Town Center. I bought more equipment. And the next problem presented itself: where can I go to continue to grow? Where can I put larger, more involved works?
When I walk into a large atrium, I sit and stare at the walls, visualizing all the wonderful things I could make and place in that space. I wander unfinished buildings, wishing my art could be hung there. I visit hospitals and libraries and government buildings and think about what I would fill the walls with, what people using that space would be inspired by.
Lines, it’s all about lines and shapes and shadows. It’s all about lasting works that will stand up to long term display, permanence long into the future. I’m drawing with these lines and shapes, inspired by Miro and Motherwell and Nevelson. I’m still growing and I’ve got a long way to go, but I have a sketchbook, and a place to work, and am still in a state of wonderment that that same excitement of laying out those sticks in the orchard decades ago, that same excitement fills my heart when I lay out pieces to be assembled into another sculpture.