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Sunday, April 5, 2015


masks by tj worthington

A quiet Saturday. Satisfied I'd taken an inspiration to completion the day before, assembling the parts of a project from vision to done in 24 hours. One of my favorite aspects, in dim light and from a distance it looks like two small paper bags glued to white paper. In light, it is wood, the wood itself. Two parts, each composed of three pieces of wood an eighth of an inch thick. I like the raw wood against the white with the black rectangle around it. I'm seeing it now in dim light across the room, two paper bags. I like the paper bag suggestion as well as the wood. The feedbag of sweet grain for the donkeys has a good, heavy paper bag texture. I'm thinking about not throwing it away. It has two layers of heavy grocery bag paper. It has wrinkles from use. Texture. Printing on one side, plain on the other. The inner layer all plain, no printing. Since I've been putting found things together, the hardware store has become my art supply store. Now, it's supplying paper, too. I don't even know where the nearest, or any art supply store is. Used to be one in Galax. I heard there is one in Elkin, but I never go to Elkin and have a hard time motivating myself to drive a hundred miles round trip for one item. It's not the most enjoyable drive around. It's like one of the commercials that is good the first hundred times you see it. The thousandth time, you'd just as soon not see it again. I've been up and down the highway's twenty-seven curves that are cop infested in the stretches of highway at either end. I like restricting myself to locally available resources. I can buy in big quantities online, but can't go into a store and buy one thing. It's ok. I like about it that it makes me inventive. 

minimum shadow when they look like paper bags

The glue used to fix the wood to the background piece of wood a quarter inch thick is wood glue that makes a bond like a weld. My friend Chris Durgin, who makes extraordinary furniture, and is now in a period of making guitars, suggested this brand of glue to the hardware store, Titebond III: Ultimate Wood Glue. He let me have the scraps of wood from a project a year or two ago, several triangles and rectangles of different angles. I keep them in a small box to the right of where I'm sitting now. I look at them from time to time, waiting for them to give me suggestions. Day before yesterday, sitting here writing, I pulled out the sliding shelf to my left and transferred the box to the shelf. I took out the pieces, looking at them in relation to each other. First arrangement I made, I hated it. It told me not to go in that direction. Shark teeth. Triangles have an element of threat and anger in them. I wanted to make something peaceable and quiet with triangles. I wrote awhile and between sentences would sometimes shift focus to finding a composition for the triangles and rectangles, using shadow the number one consideration. Eventually, I put two rectangles cut at the same angle together and stood a long triangle between them on its edge. The standing triangle would cast a triangle shadow to right or left. Made another and put them side by side, at this time seeing two larger rectangles, planes for the shadow to fall on. Side by side, I saw the comedy/tragedy masks. Arranging the incline of the rectangular faces with Picasso noses made by shadow, I began to see body language relationship as one sees in photographs of couples. Sometimes the heads lean toward each other, sometimes away from each other, sometimes one leans toward the other and the other's head is straight up or leans away.

another view

I see the nature of their relationship in photos of couples, which led me to give the rectangles a body language association with one another. The one that came to mind was the incline of the heads in a photo of my mommy and daddy when I was one. His right arm was around her waist pulling her to him. Her head was inclined rather sharply away from him. His head was straight up, angled slightly away from her. Their entire marriage was illustrated in one photograph. I chose the inclination of the masks in relation to one another from their pose, photo taken by her mother. The photograph strikes me primal when I see it. It's the same feeling I see in the rectangular wooden shapes I call masks. The long triangles make such obvious noses, the eyes and mouth are easily implied. I first thought of painting simple lines for mouths, but felt it was the first step toward complex, and withdrew the thought. I like, too, that from a distance it suggests two rectangular objects were placed on a piece of wood or cardboard to be spray-painted white. They were lifted and taken away leaving the two rectangular shapes surrounded by white, negative space, positive space. I like that the wood is raw and will change color over time. I did not set out to make masks, which makes it all the better. It's just that mask is what I saw in a particular arrangement of the parts. They are shapes independent of the idea of mask. I think of Marcel Janco when I see them, the Romanian Dadaist in Zurich who made masks. I'm happy with the association. Where influence is concerned, I see Jean Arp, French Dadaist in Zurich, more than any other. Every Arp I've seen in a museum I felt was holy, the way someone of the Russian Orthodox faith might see an icon.      

rocks for weight while the glue dried

I think I like it better with the rocks. Wanted to find a way to fix the rocks in place -- what it would take, I'm unable to do. Thought it would be fun to paint or draw. The rocks give it a Japanese flavor, a visual haiku. I've rested much of Saturday, rose reluctantly from a long nap to take grain to the donkeys. Going out the door, Jack brayed and I sang back to him. He will bray longer when I sing with him. We had a good one going. Jenny watched us closely like she was enjoying our song. I'd like to encourage Jenny, somehow, to join us with her bray, a high-pitched squeal. I believe the day will come she will join us. I'll talk with her about it in the morning at carrot time. No need to drive anyplace all day. I'd made something that satisfied my aesthetic. Celebrate with a good nap, sleep as long as I can. I carried in the new bag of grain returning from the empty mailbox I was hoping a book would be waiting for me to dive into it. No race this Sunday. And everybody else is doing Easter. A free day. Time to give some thought to next project. Time to read in the 150th anniversary book-sized selection of articles from the Nation magazine, a welcome bonus for the subscription. I'm thinking about watching Pink Flamingos. Haven't seen it in several years. It feels like a good time for a slap-stick gross-out. It's the nature of the news every day. It's not like John Waters will be a shock to the system. I will celebrate a commercial-free Sunday as quietly as I did Saturday. 
portrait of the artist by vada


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