projects and writings of Tracy Burkholder
As I neared the end of this blog project, I thought I might continue it in a more casual fashion, posting only when something worthy happened. I didn’t imagine that something worthy would happen so soon. I didn’t know that meeting a friend for lunch would turn into me making wishbones out of wax.
I’ve always liked being around artists while they work. In college, I loved hanging out in the cramped studio spaces of my art major friends, crowded all around by canvas and paint, Prince or Public Enemy blaring out of a boombox. A few years later, I loved visiting my two best friends in their studio that sat right next to the train tracks in a big, dark warehouse in the eastside industrial area of Portland. The aisle to their studio was dim and musty but the studio was full of light. I loved the chaos of paper, paint, books and scraps. The slightly dizzying smell of art.
That was ages ago, of course. And I didn’t even know I missed it until I met my friend, John. He has a big sculpture studio in a weird little corner of town full of tools and tables, bags of clay and pots of wax. Finished and unfinished pieces line the floor and walls.
This week, John was on a deadline, trying to finish the wax sculptures he will have turned into bronze sculptures. My plan was to visit and chat and stay out of the way as much as possible while he forged ahead on his project. But within minutes of my arrival, he was asking if I wanted to help. Some other me from some other time would have politely turned down the offer. I wouldn’t have wanted to show my ignorance, make a mistake, become a hindrance instead of a help. But he wanted me to make a bone out of wax and that sounded like something my hands could do.
My hands know bone and the bridges of muscle between them. My hands know knead and press. But my hands did not know wax. So I pulled and folded the slightly sticky, chocolate-colored stuff and made a very ugly stick of a bone. No worries. John directed me to the clay and we tried a different technique. I pressed a femur into the clay with my thumbs then filled the form with liquid wax. The wax cooled, the clay was pulled away and there was the thing I made, looking better than I thought it would.
And as if that weren’t satisfying enough, I then set out to make a series of wax wishbones, or furcula, as I learned. My eyes struggled to see what my hands needed to do and then my hands struggled to fit the wax together the way I wanted. But all that was okay. The struggle was interesting because the art wasn’t mine. I could enjoy the act of creating without the layers of worry and doubt that get piled on so many of my own writing endeavors. And to have an actual physical thing I could hold in my hand and say I made this thrilled me the way it must have when I was a little kid holding up some mutant play-doh sculpture I’d labored over on the living room floor.
I’d love it if I could transfer more of this joyful, non-judgemental creativity to my own writing. It’s harder when it’s my own stuff. My inner-critic is a huge, fucking windbag of a bitch. So if that doesn’t happen, maybe I can find some part time work as an artist’s apprentice, let someone else do the thinking and critiquing while I just stick my thumbs in clay.
John May0’s work will be on display from Oct 30-Nov. 23 at Guardino Gallery.