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Molting Season

May 19, 2015

 

I'm fascinated by how much of our language refers to the world of birds, feathers, and nests--iconography that relates to freedom, flight, home, family, and the spirit. The empty nest, migrations in search of a better life, building a "nest egg", finding other birds that are "of a feather". This is all symbolic of things I'm dealing with in my life: my kids are grown and independent, and I am moving through the experience of living in a strange and beautiful land called Alaska, far from friends and the familiar landscapes of the Southwest. I wrestle with the ongoing challenge of balancing work, art, and play.

 

I've started to look deeper into the choices I've made with my art. When I began my serious inquiry into kiln-formed glass, I chose feathers and bird imagery as inspiration. I've been asked why I selected feathers for my sculpture experiments. At first I answered with the most practical of explanations: I needed a simple, three-dimensional form with enough flat surface area to explore color and pattern. I needed something that I could slump over a stainless steel mesh mold. I needed something handy, and happened to have a great many feathers on hand in my studio. All very plausible explanations, but not nearly the whole story. Why birds, indeed?

Of course, I'm not the first person to be inspired by what John James Audubon called "the feathered tribes." The world abounds with myths, art, and scientific literature about the most complex beings in the sky. What could I possibly contribute to the conversation? Up to now, I've mostly been focused on perfecting my technique as I interpret the forms of feathers into glass. I've also made glass eggshells and nests, which I will share in future posts. I have so many ideas that I'd love to translate into glass; it's hard to know where to begin. So I'll begin simply, with this opening missive and a simple trio of pale grey feathers, called "Molting Season".This wall grouping of three individual feathers is sculpted from powdered glass, using my own unique process. The largest feather is about 8 inches long.

 

For birds, molting season--this periodic remaking of themselves--is a time of vulnerability and growth, as they replace feathers that have become worn from use with new, glossy plumage that will carry them aloft until they, too, wear out. It's a symbol of renewal and a fresh start. Feathers are nearly weightless, wonderous structures that combine strength and delicacy. And on top of that, they make flight possible. What could be more amazing?

 

I've decided to use this blog to capture not only my visual experiments, but the inner journey that the work represents. Hopefully you will be inspired to take a moment and consider the birds out in the world, as well as those living deep inside of you. Let them fly!

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