Ragdale Revisited, part 2 & Now

I might have predicted that the pieces below would begin to occur at Ragdale; the images had been popping up for a good long while beforehand.  I devised and built reconfigurable armatures and cast three of them while there, but also, of equal importance, solidified my understanding of what they mean, and how and why they will extend my current body of work.  There will be several more, and even though they will receive color, the fiber patterns will still be very apparent. I didn’t push to finish them while in residence; they are a good size to be continued at a slower pace now at home.

After finishing the first large piece, I felt a little cheated by the season, because one of the sweetest features of the Meadow Studio for me is making large sheets of paper out on the big screened porch in summer.  But then I became curious about the heated floor. One evening, I couched some sheets of overbeaten abaca directly onto it, and also plopped a large-ish blob of drained pulp onto it to see what would happen.  The floor has a dimpled, slightly pitted surface, and is coated with multiple layers of glossy polyurethane or varnish. I pretty much expected the high-shrinkage abaca to pop off the shiny heated surface as it contracted.  It didn’t.  And both the sheets and the pulp blob (which contracted down to become a sheet) had different, intriguing textures when dry.

So, I became a bit obsessed with using The Floor.  There followed several days of tests of dye migration, and ways to lay pulp directly onto the floor, while evenings were spent sketching and researching; my self-imposed stipulation was that whatever I did should also fit into my current body of work*, even though it would be a physical departure.  Finally, those things merged, and I was ready to roll.

The piece had to be done in one go.  I did it on a Saturday (no dinner break). My old mobile’s battery died so I had no clock; without realizing it, I worked till 3 am.

finished, wet

I worked back into it a bit after it dried, and when I finally, carefully began to pry up the piece, all hell broke loose from the tension of the abaca and I had to lay on parts of it to keep it from tearing itself in its eagerness to release.  (It was a bit like cutting those steel shipping bands.) The piece is mounted about an inch away from the wall, and light bounces back through the translucent fiber.  I’m still considering its title, but I am pleased with it…I’ve hung it in the house to live with a bit. Here it is:

Back to Now: I’ve begun nearly three uninterrupted months at home in my own studio. Currently, I’m working on a commission, then heading on to finish the first piece I showed you today and bookworks that were begun before Ragdale.  I’ll also be updating the web site, solidifying the 2011 schedule and applying for one or two select residencies. I have a definite dilemma regarding one of them: summer with Porch, or winter with Floor?

Last but not least: I took my first (short) walk yesterday in weeks, and finally, the foot didn’t hurt any worse when I got home than it did when I began. I feel tons better because of it, and I’m heading back out (and a little further) today.  This excellent post by Michael McColly (a fellow resident twice now) explains why.

* Forthcoming updates to the web site in the next month will highlight the body of work, if you are interested; I’ll keep you posted.

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6 thoughts on “Ragdale Revisited, part 2 & Now

  1. I didn’t know it, but one of the writers stopped by with a friend while I was desperately trying to contain the piece while removing it from the floor. They looked in the windows, saw me sort of wallowing all over it, and decided, “Well, we’d better leave her alone.” I could have used their help, but I wouldn’t have been able to let it go to open the door. It was crazy!

  2. LOVE it!! and i am ALL about working on the floor so i am glad you made your acquaintance with it. i wish there was video footage of the great wrestling match!

  3. also, thanks for the walking post link. i have been thinking a LOT about exactly that these days, so i’m glad to have it confirmed. which is something ALL of my other friends are aware of. i’m just slow.

  4. how fun for you to have a new workspace that really works for you. i wish i had seen the great wrestling match, daniel in the lion’s den had nothing on you and the “tense”abaca. glad about the foot improving bit by bit. be gentle with it…

  5. Melissa,

    Your work is so inspiring and lovely! The piece you created on the floor is absolutely gorgeous. I hope to see more of those and would prefer to see it in person at some point!

    So glad you are doing well!

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