So, Where Really does the Work of Art Reside?

A little bit of detail work on the catfish skull

A little bit of detail work on the catfish skull

The true poem is not that which the public read. There is always a poem not printed on paper, coincident with the production of this, stereotyped in the poet’s life. It is what he has become through his work. Not how is the idea expressed in stone, or on canvas or paper, is the question, but how far it has obtained form and expression in the life of the artist.

Henry David Thoreau, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers

How heartwarming to read words penned over a hundred years ago that match perfectly with your own sentiments! For years, I have loved art and literary history because of how the lives of the creators inspire me. Yes, I stil love the visual beauty of the plastic arts, and the intellectual and auditory pleasures derived from literary works, written as well as spoken. But the humanity is what always moves me–I am inspired every time I perceive an example of how someone felt that inward compulsion and expressed the powerful forces surging from within.

Today could have been written off as boring, since I had a myriad of tasks to complete, appointments to keep, etc. And it wasn’t until the hours began to wane at the end of the day that I even got to enter the studio and look over this catfish skull that I began last evening. But the image remained on my mind throughout this harried day. And though the natural light didin’t stay with me very long this evening, the time spent over the drafting table was still sublime. I’ve been playing Enya’s “Shepherd Moons” on the stereo and those songs transported me back to July 1992 when I was studying Emerson and Thoreau at Oregon State University. We teachers involved in that National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Seminar laughingly referred to the corner suite of our fifth-story dormitory “The Penthouse”, as we were given a key to that room, to use it as a study. The week before my presentation was due, I occupied that Penthouse during the day hours and enjoyed Enya as I studied, wrote and typed, looking out at Mary’s Peak in the distance, wanting to be there. The memories, so many years later, are still strong. And I found them a comfort as I listened to the music and focused on this skull. I felt that her lilting, soothing voice was affirming what I was trying to accomplish.

The face of the skull, on close observation, has a number of fascinating serrated lines etched into it, and some subtle colors in the stains. I’ve also tried to keep from coloring in the cavities as mere black holes, because I can see plenty of variety going on within those holes. There is a myriad of tiny bumps, texturing the surface, perfect tiny hemispheres rising from their sepia/green floor. I’ve attempted a masque pen for the bumps, and then scoured an ugly brush of neutrals over them, hoping that when I strip them off, they will appear as they should. Once the masquing was removed, I was happy with what emerged, and believe that I will stop now that the light has darkened in my window. Tomorrow is another day. The second photo shows what happened to the masqued area, once I scraped it clean.

I still haven’t studied up on my ichthyology. I am told that this skull belonged to a gaff topsail catfish, commonly called the hard head catfish, or, because of the structural cross on the underside, a crucifix fish. I’ll try to post more on that later.

Thank you for reading.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

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3 Responses to “So, Where Really does the Work of Art Reside?”

  1. mazzellaerasmo16 Says:

    Beautiful Art

    Like

  2. Xraypics Says:

    Your detailed drawing of the wonderful marks on the surface of the catfish skull reminds me of the cat that walked by himself “the Woman sat up, combing her hair. She took the bone of the shoulder of mutton–the big fat blade-bone–and she looked at the wonderful marks on it, and she threw more wood on the fire, and she made a Magic”

    Like

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