pulpit by tj worthington
I've finished the most recent project and fixed it in place. Made it from parts found over a span of the whole time I've lived here. Every element is something found. No part has been altered except the four wood blocks have been sanded. The little bird at the top was a gift from 45 years ago, a souvenir Christmas tree ornament from Peru. It's a memory of a friend who left the body 35 years ago. I've kept it amidst a collection of found things. I would not have included the bird in the piece if it were going to an unknown buyer. It was going across the road for my friends Lucas and Judy. The bird is in the family, so to speak. The bird is hand-painted wood, not plastic, made in Peru, not China. The box, shelf, I call it the frame, came from the old Dr Grabow pipe factory's wood-working department for making boxes and displays. I think this frame had to do with a display having to do with Dr Grabow pipes. It's made of nice cedar wood and its back is a finish plywood. It's put together with staples, which I like all the better, the very simplest construction: four pieces cut 6 inches long, two pieces cut 41 inches long, a piece of plywood for the back, done. I believe it's original purpose was to hang horizontally. I like it better vertical. This frame has been in the house at least twenty years. It stayed in the room full of my someday-I'm-gonna found objects. Now is the time for realizing the potential I saw when I picked it up and brought it home. Some are the skeletal remains of tree stumps and roots, small, easily carried, wild shapes.
Next project is to go at a section of pine stump with tempera paint. Only the core remains. It stands upright about two feet. Might stand it atop a stool. Thought I might paint the flow I see in the lines and shapes in the wood. Not to anthropomorphize it or make it look like fish jumping out of water, but to celebrate its own abstract essence, use it for a canvas of itself all the way around, remembering while applying the paint that this is the core of the tree's being, it's what is left of a tree long returned to soil. I will honor it as the relic of an individual tree that once lived. I see trees in the world of plants as the fully individuated plant form. This next piece will celebrate the tree's individual essence. Now is a good time to gather the found things and play with the potential I saw the day I picked up each one. I'm bored of painting inside the lines. It feels, anymore, like filling in the spaces in coloring books. It's a skill. Now I want to bring together art objects I've found along the way, old wood in the forest, even things found at the dump. I have a piece of wood beside me on the left. It is a chip of wood maybe four inches long, about two inches wide. One side is old and fencepost gray, the other side is the inside of the wood where it was ripped by a splitter. This piece broke free and fell into the bed of the pickup unnoticed while somebody was cutting firewood. Wood unloaded, taking the week's trash to the dump, sweeping out the back of the pickup. Within the hour, TJ backs up to the unloading place, went to unlock the trunklid and saw this chunk of wood at my feet, one side old and weathered, the other the raw interior, totally different texture, yin and yang of the same thing. It has found a place among the rocks I stack. This moment it has a small round rock on top of it, and it is standing on a largish white rock that is standing on a smaller black rock on top of a square block of wood. It's good for stacking. It has the earthy color of the rocks, just a different shape, and two sides.
god the mother
I like using things anybody else would throw away, or already has thrown away. This dark brown tree branch with the two arms upraised was found I don't remember where. It was already old and dry when I found it. By now it is dry to the bone. It soaked up the first coat of tung oil. Before the tung oil it was gray, old gray wood. Two coats of tung oil and it turned to coffee color. I loved it. Of course, goddess would be black. Original mother would be a black woman. I've seen this piece of wood hundreds of times looking for something else. It has been floating about waiting for its day. I felt celebration in it, like Ruth Schowalter's Jubilee pictures of joyous soul in celebration. I wanted it to be an upward feeling. The day I held it to the rectangle of cedar frame, it felt like a puzzle piece fell into place. I wanted the arms to rise up from the top of the frame, and they did, almost a reference to Minoan bull horns. I wanted something between the hands. I thought of a ball first. A little too cliché. I saw the painted bird suspended from a copper wire like a child's toy. My mind immediately took it for a reference to Jerzy Kosinskis's novel, The Painted Bird. Here, in this piece, the bird feels more to me like the lightness of life, the individual soul, goddess/god playing with it like a mother with a baby. I don't mean for any of these allusions and references to appear so that somebody else would see them. They make a story for me in the creation that helps me feel the flow of the piece, that pulls all the parts together into a whole. The flow of the piece, the feeling in it, is for the viewer. The other is back stage, the mechanics of it. I think of these three rectangles something like individual images like tarot cards that have no established meaning; you interpret the image's meaning for yourself. Like a totem of three images. I have my own interpretation. Everyone who sees it will find their own meanings for the images. Or not.
god the father
Next is god the father. He may look like somebody in the Restaurant at the End of the Universe. Who is to say God looks like he was born in Norway? Thor maybe. Krishna told Arjuna if he could see Krishna as he really is, Arjuna could not survive the experience. Who is to say god the father doesn't look like a knot in a log? Who is to say god the father can be seen? Anything visible is a representation, a symbol, a likeness. I figure if I'm going to represent God visually, physically, it could be everything and it could be nothing. I can pick any old thing. A knot in a log. It's an image of the growth process, evolution, life, spirit, god. Not looking for logic. Looking for association. Even that doesn't matter. I like this representation for looking like Confucius with a chicken head. Like there is Hanuman the monkey god, I've an idea this whiteman God that Michelangelo and John Milton articulated is the whiteman god. Pictures of Jesus made in Mexico are very different from ones made in Austria. Buddhas made in India are very different from Buddhas made in Tibet, Thailand, Japan. We so obviously shape the image of God as a projection of ourselves, you see Jesus pictures in cheap frames in discount stores, a white American guy in a red, white and blue gown. I can't completely de-anthropomorphize God; scriptures do say we are made in God's image, whatever that means. It suggests some anthropomorphic resonance for me, though I don't know how much or in what ways. In the rectangle at the bottom of the totem images is a man, possibly a preacher, leaning on the pulpit praying. The maple squares are like talk balloons in cartoons, though without words. They are like sticky-paper notes, statements with no words. God speaks in silence.