Saturday, March 10, 2012

My Bipolar Brain Project…

I spent a lot of quality time with my Brain last week. I have been gluing and gluing and gluing objects onto the “depression” side of my brain. The best news is that I can finally see the light at the end of the very black tunnel. That’s important when you spend hours upon hours gluing black painted objects into a sea of black felt. Now I finally have everything affixed to a first approximation on the depressive side. And so on Friday I did a little victory dance at Stone Belt. I still have to make another pass with my fine-tip glue gun to tighten all the connections and test that everything is securely attached, but oh does it feel good to be approaching done on that part of the Brain project!

The most exciting (and somewhat concerning!) aspect of my efforts this week involved crawling inside my brain. I need to attach some 18” butterflies and the structure of lithium citrate to the surface in a way that lets them float above the brain. That involved projecting rods (maybe picture bolts) from the surface. To secure them I needed to be inside the brain to add the washers and nuts and secure everything with epoxy. That’s when I called upon my two Joes (usually it’s Toms in my life). Joe from Stone Belt drove the forklift to pick up the brain, while Joe LaMantia, public artist extraordinaire, helped me position the brain to raise it safely. It’s hard to watch the art piece you’ve invested hours and hours into creating being picked up by two big metal tines that don’t have much respect for felted flowers. When it was safely lifted onto a raised shelf I crawled inside and held the bolts in place while Joe LaMantia added the washers and nuts on the outside to secure them. I have uploaded a short movie to load so you can live the moment with me, thanks to my iPhone.

Once inside the brain I realized how interesting it was, mostly because of the textures. It was too dark to get good pictures, but the fiberglass material has kind of a cotton candy look and feel to it. Of course one dares not touch it for fear of picking up glass splinters. I certainly loaded up on personal protection, donning glasses, a mask, a balaclava, and full artist body armor (OK, a turtleneck). Bonnie Gordon-Lucas was there to snap a picture of me for posterity as I entered. Once inside, I found surface features of mountain rows opposite the furrows on the outside, so it has a silent landscape all its own.

Back on the surface of the brain, I created a second vine and attached both of my vines this week. I really like the effect it gives. I feel like it adds more dimension to the piece, with more visual interest. It accentuates different parts of the piece that I’ve already created. One of the interesting aspects of building up the surface features of the brain has been working in the community of brain artists at Stone Belt. I was getting pretty wrapped up in my own thoughts because I work with the brain so intimately, trying to develop my original vision. It can be hard to pull yourself back and look at the composition critically. I’m fortunate to have friends like Bonnie, who gave me some important advice about not overworking the piece. It’s easy to get so physically and emotionally close to the piece, especially as you work on a deadline, that you forget to step back to look at the whole of the creation. Bonnie and Robyn helped me decide that my plan to put three vines on the brain would have been too much. With two vines you get to have a little peaceful meadow on the green side. That brought back a conversation I had with Dawn Adams recently about incorporating regions of calmness in art pieces as you fill up the space. You just need to have some mental breathing room in some areas. I’m just really happy with how it’s turning out! Next week I should be able to complete the butterflies and chemical formulas to complete the floating elements. I’m really happy to have the support and help of the Poynter Sheet Metal Center in town for creating several of the steel structures I’m using—they are an unexpected and very helpful support group. Now I finally feel like I’m on the other side of the process, where I’m beyond the creation stage and the feeling of being overwhelmed - that it will never come together—it definitely will. I’m in the home stretch, and it feels great!!

In family news, it turns out that I wasn’t the only one who had big projects coming due. Jacob participated in his classroom’s county fair project. He studied Lake County, Indiana. He created an elaborate, three-dimensional sculpture of the county courthouse. That went along with his poster and write-up about county features. We even baked a recipe for ‘plain cake’ that he got from the county historian of Lake County. We baked three big, BIG loaves, which I cut up into small pieces and brought in on a big serving dish. They were very popular in the class. It’s cool to bring in cake! The only leftovers were a set of handmade bookmarks that he printed in color, cut and decorated with a ribbon to be used as prizes. If you have use for some nice bookmarks let me know! Tommie had his own big project as part of the sixth grade class studying aspects of World War II. It’s a huge event where they all make posters and projects, and they bring in veterans who served in the war to tell about their experiences. Tommie studied the Manhattan project, learning all about the development and use of the atomic weapons used at the end of the war. He made and painted elaborate sculptures of the two bombs, which drew in a lot of students to ask questions about the project. I’m just super proud of both of them for carrying themselves so well during the expositions of their work, and for putting so much effort and dedication into their projects! Good job, boys!

Until next week…

Martina Celerin

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