Mushroom Wedding Arch

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Front View

The Mushroom Wedding Arch was completed on December 24, 2014. This sculpture took five years to complete and is a good test of work ability of surface bonding cement. For more details on the design and construction check out the following links on one of my alternate blogs PsiKeep Venture.

https://psikeep.wordpress.com/2013/05/30/building-the-mushroom-wedding-arch-part-i/

https://psikeep.wordpress.com/2013/06/21/building-the-mushroom-wedding-arch-part-2/

https://psikeep.wordpress.com/2013/07/11/building-the-mushroom-arch-part-iii/

https://psikeep.wordpress.com/2014/12/31/lake-countys-mushroom-wedding-arch-at-psikeep/

https://psikeep.wordpress.com/2014/10/28/quick-update-on-the-mushroom-wedding-arch/

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Left view

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Back view

At this point in time the arch sits at the entrance of one of the goat pens. So there is a lot of chain link and field fencing still around it. But the intention of the Arch is to be a wedding arch sometime in the future when the goats have been moved to another location. The arch and the mosaic steps leading through the arch will frame a flower garden beyond and it actually look like a setting for a pagan wedding.

Modifying the armature of the upright columns

This work is one of my first architectural sculptures.  I created the armature in three sections, the two uprights and the arch, using 1/2 inch galvanized steel pipe and fittings. Half way through the construction, after I had applied the Styrofoam, I decided to add an extra column of steel pipe running parallel to the original armature and cross connecting the two parallel columns.

This was a surgical procedure because I had to cut into the Styrofoam and carve a trench to lay in the steel pipe and cross pieces. I connected them with unions. All this effort was to prevent the cement from cracking and rotating around the armature. I think that my idea worked because the piece has been standing for four years and has shown no sign of cracking.

Working on the arch

I had nightmares of lying face up on a scaffold under the arch trying to apply the cement. I finally solved this problem by completing the arch on a table in the shop the year before the piece was completed. It was my birthday and my friend Lorna put together a small party of friends who we commandeered to carry the arch out to the foam covered uprights and lift it into place.

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This was a heart-attack moment to see if the pipe unions would connect with the uprights. To make matters worse a tree had fallen on the armature several years before so it was bent slightly and there was no room for error. Thank the goddess everything screwed into place. It was November and winter was coming so the completed arch was wrapped with tarps and sat until the following summer on two foam covered uprights.

 

 

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Working on the arch the following summer

Some details of the Mushroom Wedding Arch

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A very tired sculptor standing under the completed Mushroom Arch

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Lycanestra – Goddess of Wolves

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Lycanestra was completed in 1998. The medium is extreme paper mache, a term I coined to define a process of paper mache using brown paper bags soaked in a proprietary glue mixture and applied over a steel armature. The work is 5 x 4 feet.

Designing Lycanestra brought up an interesting question. How does one describe the goddess? Throughout history the goddess has been portrayed as a female human figure, many of these figures are rotund to symbolize fecundity and plenty.  But I decided that this did not fully describe her vastness and power. Instead I incorporated the element of negative space. First, I sculpted a woman’s body in bas relief. Next, I flipped the form over and pulled out the interior stuffing used to support the woman shape.  What remained was the inside of the bas relief – an empty space. In this sculpture her empty form is all women. She is every woman’s face and she is faceless. Her outline is tangible because we both feel and know the effects of her power.  But her center is both nothingness and all things. She is the vast empty space of creation among the stars and in our DNA.

In this avatar of the goddess, her entourage is a pack of wild wolves following her in the moonlight. The wolves symbolize both family and ferocity. Wolves are known for the complex relationship of members within the wolf pack and the need to savagely bring down prey in order to survive.

She dances with one foot striding forward into the freedom of the next moment, and one foot standing within the crucible of unending rebirth from stardust to the molecules of life.  And we, reflected in her nakedness, dance with her under the unfolding embrace of her wings.

 

To Dream of Griffins Rising to the Sun

This four-foot, hanging sculpture was completed in 1991. The medium is extreme paper mache over a steel armature. It is painted with both acrylic and enamel paints.

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Opposite View

Paper mache is a very old technique. Paper strips are soaked in an adhesive. They are formed into a shape and allowed it to dry.  Paper mache objects have been found in Egyptian tombs. Chinese war helmets have been discovered dating back before E.B.C. The American colonies had a thriving  industry using paper mache to create such furniture pieces as chest and tables.

This piece was designed to prove that the paper mache could be viable sculpture medium and that forms and shapes could extend beyond the strength the paper. This could be accomplished by constructing a steel armature. I also developed a proprietary  adhesive which I taught in my paper mache classes. A small renaissance evolved as many of my former students began showing their work in galleries around Santa   Monica, California.

Why the image of the griffins?

 It is said that only poets, mad men and children can see griffins during times of great change and cataclysm.  The griffin is an interesting combination of the body of lion, which symbolizes strength and the head and wings of an eagle, which symbolizes wisdom.

The symbol of the griffin is significant today as we enter into a time of great change, both global and within ourselves, as we witness and react to what is happening in the world.

The message of the griffin is simple: We need both strength and wisdom to survive times of apocalyptic change.

Note: These are the only two images which have survived. Somewhere this sculpture is hanging in the back of the carpentry shop on my farm.

 

The Night Watch

The Night Watch was created in 1969.  Today I reflect on that image of four dark figures huddled around a candle, passing a smoking joint as they wait out the night.

Image of the painting titled "Night Watch"

Night Watch

In the days of hippiedome every mind-altering substance was explored. Never in the history of humanity had there been such a chance for mass revelation.

But in our innocence we failed to notice that for each of these mind-altering and psychedelic substances there is a gateway to that altered perception. An ally guards the gateway; and each psychedelic substance has its own ally. Call it a force field or an entity, it needs to be appeased or won over. If you are proven true by the ally you are allowed to pass across the abyss onto the shores of splendor. These allies are both fierce and extracting waiting to bag us soul and all if we fail to make the proper offerings.

In most societies shaman and visionary leaders guarded this psychedelic knowledge. But with our western sense of entitlement we ploughed through millennium of ritual and wisdom without a care or a guide to prepare the way. No wonder the whole psychedelic thing died in disillusionment as many of us found ourselves trapped by acts of silliness and greed and the foolish idea that we could take and give nothing in return.

“I just want to get loaded” was a sure chance that you would get loaded all right but not by what you were expecting. Mostly it was just dumb stupidity. For some of us it was the terrible consequences of the law. And once and while we miraculously stumbled on to a vision of self-enlightenment.

We forgot that you had to pay the price to make the crossing. Drug addiction is not the price. Addiction is what you get when you fail to pay the price. The price for the crossing is simple; you must offer a part of your self, a commitment to bring back a sliver of truth from those other worlds and to share the magic with the rest of us. In stories and myth it is the Prometheus gift. It is the return of the dragon hunter who has freed and brought home the maiden-mother of earth so that the crops will grow once again. It is the boon, the magic jewel, or a simple idea.

Instead we went for party, for pleasure, for need, for the release of pain, and we were doomed from the beginning to an empty journey. We were the “heroes of a thousand faces” who plunged into a failed quest, while wonderment was just beyond our reach.

We were so close to the divine and we blew it. We even had the act itself at our fingertips and I do not mean the smoking weed but the act of passing that sacred smoke to each other. It was the eucharist, the gift, the treasure, the sharing and the receiving of the sacred message of the gods.

Image of detail from the painting titled "Night watch"

Detail from the painting titled “Night Watch”

The Night Watch is dedicated to the Louie Kelly’s, the Lane Wooden’s, and the Ron Denend’s of Topanga Canyon and all those who huddled at the edge of that dark precipice waiting for the coming of the dawn.

Note: You may also enjoy the latest update on the construction of the Mushroom Wedding Arch at: http://psikeep.wordpress.com/

And of course comments are always welcome.

Angel Decending

She is the Angel of Change

Striding forward, trampling the status quo. She has one hand in condemnation,  and one hand raised  in blessing. She stares aloof into the unknown. We are not her focus or her compassion.  She is not for us.  She is the harbinger of the unexpected, the unpredictable, the collapse of the established order and the rebirth of that which is new. 

Image of painting titled: Angel Descending (full view)

Angel Descending (full view)

She was created at a time of great change and expectation. It was a time of discovery and hope. The last days of hippiedom were flourishing in Topanga Canyon. Yet she was born on the eve of its destruction.

Two things destroyed the kingdom of hippiedom: Charles Manson and our own ineptitude on that journey of self discovery.

After all, the journey was never intended to be pleasurable; it was never intended to be fun. It was intended to be filled with awe. But most of us were too frightened by the lack of structure and boundaries. We were without a guideline. We were given a proliferation of mind-altering chemicals and no operation’s manual.

Of course one could have looked inside oneself for the manual but most of us did not trust our own nature.

Image of  painting titled: Angel Descending (detail: lower right)

Angel Descending (detail: lower right)

I created The Angel of Change in pencil, white acrylic paint and acrylic varnish painted over art cardboard. When it was completed in 1968. For lack of better space, we hung her above the low stone altar at the end of the narrow living room in that tiny two-story cabin we rented on Highvale Trail. While it blocked the upstairs entrance to the cabin, it was, itself, a doorway, which towered over us in that tiny room.

She had one frequent visitor, Charlie Manson.

For weeks on our way to and from our work at the University of California we drove past the black and white Movieland bus parked along side of Highway 27. Every few days it was parked further up the road.

We met the Manson family early one morning with a knock on our door. Several of the girls had come by looking for towels and extra sheets. One of the girls was giving birth. We gave them what we could find and several days later one of the young men and two girls came by to thank us.

It was April and we were getting ready for the Renaissance Faire. We were making handmade tapered candles on a candle wheel in the downstairs room and I was up stairs carving on several wood blocks for a series of wood cuts I wanted to sell at the Faire.

The girls were fascinated by the candle wheel and one by one the members of the family came to visit us. My first impression of the family was that they appeared to be alike in their mannerisms. All the girls talked alike and all the young men acted the same. So when Charlie Manson finally made his appearance, it was a bit of a let down. The men were actually reflection of him but since they had come to visit first it was confusing as to who was a reflection of whom. Charlie Manson seemed like an after thought until we realized he was the thought.

Charlie Manson would sit for long hours in front of The Angel of Change. He kept trying to convince me to come and live on his commune.

“Give this all up and just be,” he would say. Like that was going to work on a workaholic with a deadline. The opening of the Faire was only two weeks away. The wood chips kept flying.

But I did consider his invitation. The man I was living with and I were having difficulties with our relationship and it was a tempting thought to run off and join a commune. But I sensed that Charlie and I would have a falling out very soon and then where would I be.

During the next year the Manson family visited most of the hippie enclaves in the Canyon. But we did not see him again and we soon forgot about him.

Big changes had come into our lives. The owner of our rented cabin sold the land in a scheme to make Highvale Trail the entrance to the state park. That plan never materialized but we were forced to move out and the cabin was torn down. While we were breaking up and going our separate ways we moved into another house with three other people. It was a loose gathering of people, who found themselves together under one roof. The house was like an airport with everyone taking off in different directions in their lives.

Image of painting titled: Angel Descending (detail: lower left)

Angel Descending (detail: lower left)

One day in late July and we were all sitting on the roof of the garage sunning ourselves in the nude. When a train of police cars and unmarked cars with men in white shirts and clip boards drove up Old Canyon Road.

Naively we thought they were coming to bust us for being on the roof in the nude. But they drove on up the street. Later we learned about the Gary Hinman murder. He was tortured in a house two doors from us and we never sensed something in the dead of night.  We never heard the man screaming for his life. For two days!  Nothing!

Where were we? Twittering with our flowers and our marijuana as the shock wave from those murders committed by the Manson family rolled across the country blowing us apart forever.

How could that happen? How could one person with such a terrible vision take us down? The answer is in the other half of the equation, our ineptitude. Manson came at a time when we were the most vulnerable. All our social values were being questioned and examined and we were left with a blank slate. What came out of
that was a hippier-than-thou-ness with everything from the length of our hair to what we ate and wore and how we talked. With the exception of the religious right we were the most judgmental of our peers.

So along came Manson with a simple formula for getting whatever he needed. It went something like this:

“What a beautiful ring you are wearing.  Give it to me”.
If you said no, you were not hip enough to give up a worldly possession.
If you said yes you lost the ring.

While we were all floundering along the way, Manson came along with his way. And it was easy for a certain kind of person to follow him. But what was his way, so horrific  and so fragile? Nothing to hold it together but the power of his personality and the lunacy of his delusion. Destroying society by murdering some people to start a race war that would bring on the end times!

Taking down society is not that far-fetched. After all we just came out of 16 days of another take down by a handful of equally deluded Republicans and while no one was murdered in the overthrow of the government, a lot of hidden suffering took place that will never be mention by the news media.

During the time we knew Manson he never mentioned his ideas about a race war. He was just another hippie passing through, sitting beneath an Angel of Change in that tiny cabin in the canyon.

Image of painting titled: Angel Descending (upper half)

Angel Descending (upper half)

Sorceress Ascending

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Sorceress Ascending is my take on the  Duchampian multi-image across time. It was created in the early 1970’s. In this work I used drafting pens with Koh-I-Noor ink and white acrylic paint on artist cardboard. It is sealed with a clear acrylic varnish, which has not yellowed over the years. The work is 5 x 4 feet.

I created it during a stressful time of my life when I was breaking up with a man I had lived with for a several years. The choice to break up had been mine but that did not lessen the pain of separation. We had lost the house we had been living in and we both had moved into a house occupied with three other people. He got the bedroom and I got the living room and the hall. We never regarded ourselves as a commune. We were just five people stuck at the same time in that place.

But the news media had other ideas. Channel 5 came out to our house and did an extensive interview about the “hippies in the canyon.” A year later they came back to the canyon just before Halloween. By that time I had moved into a cabin of my own.  Actually it was an 8 x 10 garden shed. Oh the places we are willing to live in our youth. I had just come back from trip to the desert with a haul of cow bones. I was building several sculptures with the bones for a show that was to open on Halloween night in the canyon. I do not know how Channel 5 found me but they did and I agreed to let them come out and film. I think they were looking for something “witchy” and all the bones around the place certainly helped with the atmosphere. For me it was great publicity. While I never got to see the footage that aired on TV, there was  a great turnout for my opening a few nights later.

Witches and sorceresses really do not ride broomsticks.  The broom is the symbol of womanhood,  the hearth, the fireside and the home.

In this art work the sorceress begins her sacred transformation by first removing her sandals to be one with the earth.

Detail of  the drawing titled Sorceress Ascending showing the Woman removing her clothes

Detail of Woman removing her sandles

Next she unbinds her hair to free herself from the restraints of society.

Detail of the drawing titled Sorceress Ascending showing the woman unbinding her hair.

Detail of Woman unbinding her hair

Last she removes her clothes, her earthly identity. She is no longer the housewife, She is Mother, Goddess, Giver of Life, Keeper of the Fire and the lowly broom is her staff of power.

Detail of the drawing titled Sorceress Ascending showing the woman removing her clothes.

Detail of Woman removing her clothes