Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Progress Report...

Slowly, very very slowly.  And not all that surely...

Today was to have been a heavy-duty work day, so I could make amazing headway with the new piece of sculpture I'm planning to deliver to the WheatonArts Museum of American Glass next week.  Hours and hours of uninterrupted creative time, at the end of which I would be able to stand back, amazed at my progress. 

Well, maybe not so very much.

I did get some actual work done -- a procedure that may or may not make any difference to anyone viewing the work, and probably doesn't give me enough of a visual bang to justify the labor-intensive process involved.  But would that stop me?  Oh, no...  I spent hours, wrapping lengths of hardware cloth around the cart's 3/4" copper tube structure.  When this is painted over and over (if I have the time), it tends to make the piece look as though it's made of rebar, although what I really like is just the additional texture this mesh provides, and the way the washes of thinned paint gather in all the little indentations between the mesh and the copper itself.  What I really don't like is working with the hardware cloth itself -- it's spiky and uncooperative, and after a couple of hours wrestling with this hateful material, my hands always look and feel as though vicious birds have been pecking at them with their sharp little beaks.  Tens of nasty little nicks.

But that part is, more or less, over, and I've thrown on a first coat of paint.  I usually use the mis-mixed paint from Home Despot, and I had a vast selection of these high-quality weird colors in the basement, but when we had all our flooding drama however many years ago it's been now, I moved all those cans of paint out into the garage, where they were to stay temporarily, until I had a chance to move them back into the basement again.  Which hasn't happened yet.  Which means that all that water-based paint has frozen and thawed and frozen again, over and over, and will be of no use to anyone, at least as far as painting goes.  So I picked up a couple of new cans of mistake paint last week, and opened the big can of dark brown, only to discover, upon beginning to stir it up, that it has the consistency of... maybe fudge?  Something quite viscous, and more like spackle than paint.  So I slathered some onto one section of copper, figuring I could at least see if it ever dries.  If it works, it'll sure be easy to build up a heavy layer of underpainting.  Then I used what I think is a more normal kind of paint for the rest of the cart, and then moved it to stand in front of a floor fan, to encourage rapid drying.

Then I began to gather the glass pieces I'm 'auditioning' for the work.  I brought in some pieces that have been lying in some plastic bins, in the driveway, for about as long as the latex paint has been enjoying the change of seasons in the garage.  Now that we've had a bit of a thaw, I could actually prize some of the glass pieces free of their icy matrix, to bring into the house.  One piece is sitting more or less upside down in the basement utility sink, so the ice inside it can melt and empty down the drain.  Then tomorrow, I'll continue making some choices about which glass objects I'll include, and which I'll have to wrap in paper towels or bubble wrap, and reshelve, until the next time.  If such an eventuality ever arises again, that is.

A couple of interesting things happen, reliably, as I go through this selection process.  First, I'm often pleasantly surprised by what I uncover, as I look through one shelf after another, hoping to find a group of things that will look right together.  I often feel a sense of wonderment, at what I've been able to do with this strange and wonderful material, through the strange and wonderful processes that go into making glass in the first place.  In many ways, it's as though I'm seeing these things for the first time.  Then, sometimes I can remember exactly when and where I made a particular shape.  So this process quickly stops being work, and starts feeling more like opening presents I've made for myself.

The other, less productive behavior I notice, as I paw through my collection of glass oddments, is my tendency to 'save' the 'good pieces' for... what, exactly?  Even though I'm choosing these things in order to make a piece of my own sculpture (which will be mine forever, I suspect), I'm often stingy with myself, not wanting to commit a particularly handsome or unusual glass shape to the project immediately at hand.  I often react the same way to the cache of found materials with which I'm so richly blessed.  Or dismally cursed, depending on one's point of view, I guess.

Every once in a great while, I'll manage to sidestep this hoarding mechanism, and put some glass or a bit of weird hi-tech waste to immediate use.  I can't say that I've ever regretted these choices, if I can even remember what they were, and when I made them.  I do know, though, that as I work with something freshly acquired or created, there's a different feeling during the process -- maybe a heightened sense of expectation, or the feeling that there's something more at risk with this work, than there might be when I'm using things that have been lying around, gathering dust for years.

The challenge I know I'm going to face, over these next few remaining days I have, for finishing this thing, is the struggle I always have, with... finishing this thing.  Or that thing.  Or the other thing.  I used to feel that this was a sign of intractable laziness on my part, and an indication of some deep moral flaw that was going to consign me to... something bad, anyhow.  But I think it was while I was in grad school, in Rochester, that I became aware of the Meyers-Briggs typology tests, and being a sucker for such things (because they're such reliable ways of wasting time), I took a self-administered version, to find out... what you find out when you take this test.

It was quite a revelation, really.  I discovered that I am, according to the test results, an ENFP, and that one of the hallmarks of this typology is a reluctance, to the point of actual pain or panic, when it comes to finishing things.  I much prefer to daydream about what I want to do, instead of actually doing it.  I actually hate making progress in a work, because every step forward is one more step toward that place where the work has its own life, and I'm now superfluous.

Of course, knowing this 'fact' doesn't make my reluctance any less difficult and dense -- but I don't spend as much time excoriating myself for sin, when it's really just the way I'm put together.

Oh, and this also tends to mean that, if at all possible, I will delay finishing something until the last possible micro-second.  So, instead of using an extra day to put in eight more hours of good solid work, I'll do the same amount of work as normal, but spread out over more time, and interspersed with far more TV breaks, or trips to the hardware store, or finishing a difficult crossword puzzle.

Now, I've got one week, during which to finish the list of itemized steps that need to be checked off, in order for this latest work to be as complete as it will ever be.  Of course, there are also lots of other things that have to be done during this week, as well.  I'll just have to be extra clever about, say, splashing another coat of paint on, before I run out to do an errand, or keep an appointment -- so the work will continue to advance, even if I'm nowhere near the work space.  I'll also have to think about how detachable I want the glass objects to be -- it's easier to move my work if the glass can be taken off and packed separately, but it's far more work, both in the preparatory stages, and also when it comes to the actual moving and installing processes.  I'd like to figure out a way to make bubble wrap a convincing part of a piece of work, so wrapping and unwrapping would become obsolete.  As it is, I suspect that the glass pieces I'll be using will have little bits of cloth hung around them, to keep glass from rubbing against glass.  I just hate the thought of that.

Oh.  I had to title the work, for the curators.  I've recently made a list of possible titles for upcoming works, with the idea that these titles might be like the little sayings you see on those Valentine's Day heart candies -- quips like, 'You Win', or 'Dream Come True', or 'Best Bet' or 'Congratulations!'.  In a fit of ironic self-laceration, I've named this newest work 'Best In Show'.  I just think that's hilarious.  

It's raining.  I can hear the spatter of drops against the kitchen window John and I both hate.  I love going to sleep when it's raining, so I think I'm going to end this, and creep up the stairs and crawl under the covers, and listen to the patter of precipitation on the front porch roof.  And try not to worry about whether the gutters have stayed clean or not.  Rosanne Rosanadana was so right -- it is always something.

©   2013                Walter Zimmerman    


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