The First Head

SO, I started taking a sculpture class two years ago. I had never worked in any kind of art medium besides drawing (no, you won’t see any of those) since I was a teenager. Writing had been my thang for as long as I can remember. My stepfather was an artist and painted and encouraged me to do so, but when it came time to decide on a future, art major was argued down by both of my parents. No money it it, apparently.

So, almost 30 years later, I find myself somewhat disillusioned with my writing (no one wants my YA novels) and while the poetry is a very important and necessary creative outlet, I itched to do something with my hands. My wife and my daughter are both very talented artists, but I didn’t want to paint or draw or do digital art. Those were their pursuits, and I would always feel like I was crashing the party or playing catch-up. and I liked play-doh and sculpey  as a kid. Why not sculpture?

Below, you will see my first attempt at a human head. I have done more, and will post more later, but these things take a long time (for me) to do. If I put them all up now, I would have nothing else to talk about (who am I kidding? I never shut up).

The sculpture is not based on any one person. It is instead based on the ideal face, as my sculpture instructor puts it, the faces you see in mainstream advertising. The course I took was once a night for about three hours, for ten weeks.  It took that long (plus a handful of weekends) to get this young man into shape. Maybe about 40-50 hours total.

Anyway, I was pretty proud when I finished. Looking at it now, though, I think, so many things I would change…

I may follow up with some process pictures of this piece if I can find them. Thanks for looking in!

blind sculpting the blind (20170131)

tonight i sculpted a back
not life-sized
–maybe three-quarter–
and somehow
i got it not quite right

the back was receding
as if just then turned away
and headed off to parts
unknowable

insert remark about
having seen enough backs
in that position
engaged in that act
of abandonment
that i should have been
able to push that clay around
blind

the origins of sculpture (20170128)

o, unlucky bastard who dug
uncovering wet sticky globs of clay
not for planting, but for
the first grave he ever had to dig

grimy and covered in filth
did he know the worth of those
handfuls of red earth that made it
impossible to grow his crops

did he have the capacity to
imagine or to indulge in idle
thought about that dense earth
that squeezed through his fingers

that kept the impression of his
thumbprint, his fingernails, his toes
did he make an image of a child lost
an image that baked in the sun

did he remember an old story
of life entering the earth
as breath or did he make that up
himself, and did he not

try to resurrect that child
did he not breathe into that clay
did he not rise with lips red and wet
his own lungs empty

demolding (20161211)

i made a mold of my arm using
food-grade alginate, the same stuff
dentists use to make impressions
of your teeth when you’ve got a crown
in your future (too bad the palace
and regalia don’t come with it)

working my arm free was an exercise
in patience and a slow struggle
against the vacuum that
adhered to my fingers and held them
firmer than any handshake

in the end, there was a sucking pop
and my arm came free
i used the mold to cast a model
of my arm in plaster
all the pores
all the veins
recreated in moon-white
manmade stone

i think that’s the way
i want to be born
if i get a second shot
at this shit
my soul pulled out of
this gelatinous
dessert abomination
with a single deafening crack
and then a body,
static
cold
still pocked with my imperfections
but no longer yielding to time
or sensation

Poem 20151110

this is the real thing, this life
an absence of the not thing
a scarcity of the not life

your skin burns away
in the heat

your skin dries up
in the cold

we are mummies and ashes and ice

let it all crack and crackle
let it split us open
hollow us out before
we step into the dry heat

–at least it’s a dry heat,
they say, as if that makes it
a better heat–

we will be put back together
maybe kinstuki
glittering and showing our flaws
but whole

Poem 20150901

not so picky about the details
or where the clay flies
the artist
pulls with the fine metal loop
tears out a huge
iris-shaped blob of soft clay
from the eye creating
the illusion of depth
and drives the tapered tip
of a paintbrush in
to make the pupil

it’s like those busts
at the haunted mansion
that seem to follow you
concave depressions
made to look like stone
but with the afterimage
of life
as they track you

these sculpted eyes too
follow you as you walk around it
even though they gaze into a future
of fire in the kiln
and uncertain finishes

Poem 20150815

the face seems
not quite right
maybe the chin too soft
or the brow not strong enough

no
something insouciant
about the mouth

but the clay
–red on the hands
red on the fingers
red under the fingernails–
the clay forgives
and forgives
and forgives

while you can fix a
broken nose
with a thumb and your index
finger

and scrape away
the lips with
a wire loop
and start again

you can’t re-sculpt
any words that pass
those lips