Clay, Paper, Sticks

CLAY, PAPER, STICKS: Experiments & Meditations      Fig Tree Gallery, Fresno CA,  November 2013 The work in this exhibit derives from several different inspiration sources: A year ago in November I had the opportunity to work as a volunteer with Patrick Dougherty, as he created his willow sculpture, “The Learning Curve on the California State University Fresno campus.  I make and teach basketry but this experience took my relationship with willow to a whole new level as I experienced Patrick’s work from the inside.  He truly thinks on a GRAND scale.   The experience challenged me to think about and use willow branches in a different way.   To find my way in this new landscape has been a challenge and a joy and I know that I’ve only just begun this exploration. On a trip to the Southwest and Santa Fe New Mexico this past summer I came across a small clay “Rain God” from the Tesuque pueblo. Feeling that Fresno truly needed a Rain God, he accompanied me home.  He has been the inspiration for all of these willow meditations and compositions.  In a strange way, this clay figure helped my ideas coalesce and focus on a topic that we are all intimately concerned about  – water – our need for RAIN and the need to replenish our diminishing water table. Here in the Central Valley, we are residents of an “irrigated desert”.   We try to grow people and cities here as well as crops that feed the rest of the country, not just the central valley.  The stress on water supplies is huge and several years of low rainfall is a cause for great concern for all of us.  We pray for rain yet we often waste the water we do have and resist conservation efforts such as water meters.  The willows used in these pieces are actually water thirsty plants which only grow along streams or water ways locally but more extensively in rainier locals.  As a part of the local natural environment, it feels as though willows may assist us to slowly understand how to put our water usage into a more thoughtful balance with our own environment. In my 2013 exhibit at Fig Tree Gallery titled “Clay, Paper, Sticks” some of my “Prayers for Rain” pieces add “Remembering Mbari” to the title. I visited eastern Nigeria in 1988 and visited an Mbari house. I had read about them in preparation for my trip. An Mbari, is a mud structure built by the Igbo people in SE Nigeria. It can take years to build.  Through the many complex layers of activities and materials involved in the construction, the community seeks to make amends to the earth deities for offences and a life out of balance, which has resulted in a variety of disasters experienced by the community.  This grave situation creates the need to build this Mbari.  Once built it is allowed to melt back into the earth as a “mud sacrifice”.  Other offerings or sacrifices are NOT brought to this Mbari after it is opened. Considering our dire need for rain this year, (2013 – the third dry year in a row) I began to feel that great sacrifices on our part are needed in order to bring us back in balance. What does the earth need from us? What can we do? What do we need to give back?