This yet-to-be untitled piece has finally been finished! Right now, I am referring to it as the Bell Shrine, a shrine for all the elephants lost to poaching.
Ironically, parts of it was made from old gunstock – the wood was from a rifle factory that had gone out of business and these were blanks that were made of beautiful old growth claro walnut. Because of the stock’s odd shape, I designed this piece to be made of slats and sections of this material.
Kudos goes to Joyce and Bill Teague, members of the San Diego Buddhist Temple, who taught me the meaning of the obutsudan. I would like to share Bill’s information with you because I found it to be especially meaningful.
The most basic elements of the obutsudan are
The Central Object of Reverence or Worship (Gohonzon). The Elephant.
Flowers. Always on the left, representing impermanence.
Candle. Always on the right, representing unchanging truth (Dharma). We see the candle as a symbol of transience as the burning flame consumes the candle. But the candle works as a symbol of unchanging truth because the flame persists, even if transferred to another candle.
Incense Offering/Burner. In the middle, in front, as it relates to our spiritual state in the present moment, as a kind of living synthesis of transience and permanence. Sometimes our transient life is identified as horizontal time, and unchanging truth as vertical. Burning incense brings us to the current moment in which we experience the intersection of horizontal and vertical time.
The cast bronze bell was made by Sophie Glenn – and rings every 15 minutes, which is when an elephant is killed by a poacher. (that’s right: an elephant is killed every 15 minutes for its ivory).
The piece will debut at The wildLIFE Project exhibition, which opens in September at the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft.
Another curious looking animal, with a sweet face, and scales and a long tongue is being threatened with extinction. The Pangolin is a type of anteater that is being poached for its scales (medicinal qualities, they say: its just keratin, the same material that rhino horns and your fingernails are made of) and they are getting eaten to extinction. (the Chinese make a soup that is made of pangolin fetuses).
Why, oh why???? If ground keratin makes a man more virile, why don’t these men just rip their own fingernails out and use that??
My fellow artists at Glashaus (studio collective), Rondi Vasquez and Monica Hui and I decided to collaborate together on a letterpress print to help support Pangolin Advocacy. Rondi is a letterpress artist, Monica is a mixed media artist who also loves animals. We have created an edition of 50 letterpress prints and all are signed and numbered. The unframed prints are $30 and ALL proceeds will go to wildlife and specifically to a pangolin preservation organization. You can purchase these at this link.
I am pleased to announce that the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft will be exhibiting The wildLIFE Project in its entirety for its national debut! Under the guidance of HCCC curator Elizabeth Kozlowski, the exhibition will also travel to five destinations across the country. I am thrilled to be able to work with Ms. Kozlowski and the HCCC for the next several years. While the exhibition is definitely opening in September 2015 at the HCCC, the other five venues are in the works. I will keep everyone posted as to that final schedule via email.
Keep in mind that this exhibition seeks to support several important wildlife advocacy groups. The exhibition will also provide an educational component on the plight of wildlife and animal poaching with hopes that the public will become more aware of the problems and will step up to help the cause.
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I just finished the last of the six large elephant “masks”, this one being the largest, and made after my trip to Africa in January. The piece was going to be entitled, simply, “Satao”. But in the process of its making, Satao was tragically killed by poachers, his beautiful long tusks butchered off his face.
Completing the piece after his death was painful, but as the last piece was stitched on, I realized how much strength he gave me to complete it at the same time.
Whew. Starting around the first week of June, I started an intense two months worth of work in the studio, fresh from my two week residency at Pilchuck Glass School. I decided to work in the shop at San Diego … Continue reading →
I am fostering two baby elephants through the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust.
Ajabu was born just around the time that my USA Projects was launched in April. She was found wandering alone with no sign of her mother or herd in Tsavo East National Park. She also was a newborn: her umbilical cord was still attached. Her name translates to “mystery” in Swahili. I chose her because she was born just around the time that the wildLIFE Project was launched and I hope to follow her progress as time goes on. Here is her video, and you can also see her story here.
The second elephant calf is Barsilinga: he was found on March 28th last year in Northern Kenya next to his dying mother, who was riddled with bullets by poachers who were after her tusks. Sadly she could not be saved and had to be euthanized. His story is here.
I hope to learn more about these animals through the notes made on their progress as they grow up. Most of these orphans are lucky to be alive – poachers are relentless – in order to get the ivory, they will kill every animal in the herd if need be, despite their ages. The future of the elephant population is dependent upon the success of this program as well.
The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust has been dedicated to wildlife preservation since 1977 in the Tsavo National Park.
Daphne Sheldrick was the first person in the entire world to successfully hand rear newborn fully milk dependent African Elephant orphans, something that spanned 28 years of trial and error to achieve. By the year 2008 the Trust had successfully saved and hand-reared over 82 infant African Elephant calves, two from the day of birth. Currently, over 40 of the Trust’s hand-reared elephants are fully established and living free amongst their wild peers in Tsavo, some returning with wild born young to show their erstwhile human family. Based at two established Elephant Rehabilitation Centers within Tsavo East National Park others are still in the gradual process of re-integration with yet others in early infancy at the Trust’s Nairobi National Park Elephant and Rhino Nursery. The Trust has trained a team of competent Elephant Keeper who replace the orphans’ lost elephant family until such time as the transition to the wild herds has been accomplished, something that can take up to l0 years, since elephant calves duplicate their human counterparts in terms of development through age progression. Those that were orphaned too young to recall their elephant family remain dependent longer, but all the Trust’s orphans eventually take their rightful place amongst their wild counterparts, including those orphaned on the day they were born.
I have been placing all of my images related to my artworks for the wildLIFE Project on Flickr. Right now I am at an experimental phrase, trying out glass, bark and burned wood. This week I am working on a series of masks and have finished a full sized mockup. More photos to follow!
There is also a video link, on the same site, and you can find that here.
I am beginning to realize that I get so excited that I can’t hold my camera still. but here is a couple of shots of stuff I am tinkering with. As soon as I figure out how, I will post a video of Nancy and Dan wrestling with one of these tusk forms while its still on the pipe.
I’m at Pilchuck Glass School, up here in Stanwood Washington, and really having a great time. Old friend Dick Marquis is teaching here, I am learning how to put images in glass from Joanne Teasdale, I have a terrific assistant, Kazuki Takizawa, and working with two terrific gaffers, Nancy Callan and Dan Friday. It has been almost 25 years since I have been at Pilchuck! Hard to believe. It’s been fun to be around strange and different tools, completely different materials, and I has forgotten what a wild and crazy bunch these glass people are!! And I understand now why they are that way – glass is a crazy material: it’s hot, it’s got a mind of its own, it’s dangerous, it’s fast work. I tried my hand at it: you have to be incredibly coordinated and of course I am a complete klutz.
While I am here I am working with glass of course but also found some bark that looks a lot like elephant skin. Probably would never had the opportunity to experiment like this had I not come here.
Nancy, Dan and Kazuki helped blow some beautiful tusk forms. It’s been a conflict in that creating these pieces conjure up dreadful and difficult visuals of elephants being hacked up and left for dead. But it’s a visage that always sticks in my mind. I keep thinking I have to get through this process to dislodge this image for my next move.
I also found some stripped bark from the local trees and it looked much like elephant skin. It’s a challenge to work with – the bark is fragile and because it is still drying out, it’s constantly changing its shape. I am cutting, fitting, wrestling, stitching, breaking, fixing, stitching, assembling, looking. The whole time I am thinking of elephants – as I stitch, and repair, it is almost a ritual for me, just desperately trying to “fix” a situation emotionally.
Will try to post pictures in the next few weeks.
My wildLIFE Project has reached its goal!!!! Many thanks to all of you who contributed!!
The GOOD news is that if you have meant to donate, you can STILL do so!! I discovered that USAProjects extends the project fundraising period to 30 more days once the project meets its original goal! So once again, here is the link! Please share!