Thursday, March 25, 2010
Trees of Life: The Passing Nature of Art
One of the things I loved about her art was that it was beautiful, but exceptionally fragile. One rambunctious two-year-old could wipe out years of work in about 4.7 seconds. (Yes, I'm talking about you, Lukey!)
Porcelain painting has a tough aspect, too. The artist paints the piece, and then fires it in a kiln to about 1500 degrees. The glaze on the porcelain actually melts, and the paint becomes a part of it. The artist then goes through the process again: a little more paint, another firing, another melting and cooling process.
Each of her pieces required a minimum of three firings. To get a really dark color, she could paint and fire a piece 5 or 6 times.
Of course, push the piece too far, and it would melt in the kiln like a three dimensional Dali painting. It was always a sad day when Mom opened the kiln's lid to find a mess like that in the bottom of it.
All of that is to say that my favorite artists are those artists who know that their art will be fleeting, and that it is somehow fragile in time. Paintings fade, sculptures erode, glass and porcelain breaks.
Maybe that's why I love the tree carvings that are sprouting (pun intended) up all over Galveston, Texas.
Or maybe I love them because they're just cool.
A little background: in 2008, Hurricane Ike roared through Galveston (verbiage on a t-shirt I saw there last month: Hurricane Ike: Category Two, My Ass!), creating a huge storm surge in the island's historic East End. During its visit, it displaced about nine feet of salty water, which sat in the neighborhood for a day or two.
The 100-year old live oaks (ahh, the irony) didn't like the salt, and many of them ended up dying.
Rather than keep these skeletal reminders of the storm around, most people cut them down and ground the stumps into sawdust.
But some people left about six feet of stump and had them carved into beautiful, transient pieces of art. Because wood, like porcelain, is ultimately fragile, especially when left in the elements.
But transience only makes these pieces more awesome, because you know that you have a limited time to enjoy them. I don't know how long--maybe 30 years, maybe 5.
So, given the fleeting nature of both art (and life), let's check 'em out:
Why a tin man? Because King Vidor, an uncredited director of the Wizard of Oz, was born in the house. King directed all the Kansas scenes in the Wizard, which are some of my favorite. According to Wikipedia (and they're never wrong, right?) he also did a film on the Storm of 1900. If any of you have more information on that, I'd be very interested to hear more!
In the meantime, I visit Tinny as much as I can. And I plan to name my next child and/or fish King. Because I don't think he'd be teased that much in second grade, do you?
King is a great name for a dog, of course, particularly given the kind of treatment that many household pets today seem to enjoy. Here are a couple of dogs that even I could own: they're cute and they never bark at six in the morning.
If you're wondering what Spotty is looking at, it's probably this beauty next to him on the other side of the firehouse's lawn: