Friday, November 12, 2010

Deconstructionist Delight

Beads salvaged from Soul of the Sea. Even the most of the snippets of thread go in my scrapjar as future stuffing.

Bulky old unsold works of art, no matter how beloved, are a millstone. I don't want to keep putting them out to galleries because there's always new works I want to show. Keeping them in storage is inconvenient and expensive.

Thus one of the most effective cures for the persistant existential angst plaguing me this spring has been deconstructing pieces that for whatever reason have passed their used by dates. It is extremely satisfying to be actively engaged with the materials, solving logistical problems and clearing the decks for new creativity. I am determined to salvage as much as possible for reuse.

Being gentle to the planet is a central concern in everything I do, not least in my art practice. Deconstructing my work is giving me fresh insights into how I can improve my art footprint in the next pieces I make. I am most pleased with my latest dismantlement which resulted in only a handful of gluey threads and some sticky tape from the packaging going to landfill. Every thing else from the work itself, the hanging hardware, and the packaging will be reused.

Shroud for King Tutankhamun/Soul of the Sea

My latest act of deconstruction is a piece with an illustrious history. It started its life as New Shroud for King Tutankhamun and was selected as a finalist in the NZ Art Guild Art Award in January 2008. It went from that exhibition straight into storage while I set off on my Australian adventure. Later that year when I set up my Etsy shop I renamed the piece Soul of the Sea and it continues to be my Etsy item most frequently selected for Treasuries. So often has it appeared in various mermaid-themed collections that I became quite blase. Last year I touted the piece around a couple of local galleries and Soul of the Sea enjoyed a few months in a prominent postition in the Thornton Gallery, then went back into storage.

Watercoloured die cut circles straight from the Sea

It is always the handwork that I love most about my art. Taking apart the Soul of the Sea brought back the happy memories I had of every stage of its original making: hand painting offcuts of water colour paper, diecutting them with my daughter on the Chandler Price press, pricking the holes, stitching the circles together with beads and finally building the elaborate packaging that has kept this fragile piece perfectly intact through its travels.

Inside the packaging I made out of cardboard from windscreen boxes, masses of bubble wrap and duct tape

As a finished object I was pleased that it was so well liked: as a finalist, as a Treasury frequent flyer, inviting much attention in the gallery. But I also was mostly frustrated that it never sold and so had to continue to be stored. If I had a big enough house I would have happily hung it in my living space. If I was close to anyone with enough wallspace I might have given it away. But now instead I am all afire with new enthusiasm to be beginning again with stitching the circles.

Post Sea circles, tidied up and ready to be stitched again.

This time I will make an edition of smaller Soul of the Seas, that are mounted on a rigid backboard and can be easily and affordably posted overseas. It will be so much easier to spread the love of the original piece in affordable and postable packages. And I get to do a whole lot more pleasurable making without having to buy any new materials!

The small pile in the foreground is going to landfill. The cardboard will be repurposed (for the third time in its life) to make a solar oven. The bubble wrap will come in handy, though these days I prefer to give it away rather than use it to package art.


Sophia Elise said...

Hi Meliors - I absolutely loved this artwork - in fact it is the one that has stayed with me, in my heart, since the art awards. I wish I had known it was up for deconstruction because I would have loved to have bought it (I had assumed it would have sold by now) - I thought it was stunning especially as the breeze caught it - the colours - I admired the patience that you had contructing it and the work that went into it - the packaing in itself was a piece of art! It's great to see how little wastage there was in the deconstruction of this beautiful piece. I look forward to to seeing what new artworks come from it. Sophia

Carol said...

Sad as it is to see Soul of the Sea deconstructed, I look forward to its next life. Great to see how little went to landfill. We can all learn from your example.

Tim Jones said...

I am impressed with, and somewhat in awe of, your ability to do this - I can't imagine I'd ever be able to do it if I were a visual artist. I would end up with a very full storage lock-up somewhere. (Just typing that last sentence has made me realise that your way of dealing with a backlog of artworks is so much better!)