Constructive Creativity

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Sculptural Interlude

A few weeks ago, my friend Attawie held a very successful exhibition of her sculptures at her art institute in the U.A.E. She is a wonderful and very talented artist! Well, drawing encouragement from her example, I have decided to have a very small exhibition of my own right here. I do not consider myself to be much of an artist, but I enjoyed drawing things in my youth and making all sorts of things with my hands. My most recent drawing was done a few years ago and I use it as my Blogger avatar (although it is too small to see unless you go to my "About Me" page). I made a post about my avatar which I titled: The Pilot. If you haven't yet seen it, I hope you will take a look. :) I will post some of my older drawings at some point, but this post is about sculpting.

I have never done a lot of sculpting, but I always enjoyed playing with modeling clay. :) The earliest sort of sculpture that I did was molding an impression of my hand when I was about five years old. All the kids in my first grade class did that. Our little hand prints were fired and returned to us as souvenirs. My mother still has my little hand plate somewhere. Maybe I should rescue it from its hidden storage box. ;) I seem to remember playing with clay many times in grade school, but most of those creations were never fired, and unfortunately, I didn't keep them. For some reason I really like rhinos, so I would usually try to mold a rhino when I had a block of clay. I actually got pretty good at making a shape that was at least recognizable as a rhino. ;)

When I was in the sixth grade, we were given clay and told to sculpt anything that we would like, and this time the figures would be fired. I decided to sculpt a duck. I have no idea why! My duck was very simple. It was shaped like a duck floating in the water, so it was flat on the bottom with no legs. I formed the head and bent it around to contact the duck's back as if the duck were sleeping. For the ducks wings, I very simply incised an outline of them on the body of the figure. I gave it a bit of a tail that jutted outward and slightly upward. We set our figures in a windowsill to dry for a few weeks. Some very naughty child in my class decided to try and lift my duck by its neck. I found the duck with its head nearly ripped off. I was very unhappy about that! I never found out who did the foul (no pun intended ;) ) deed. However, my duck was not completely ruined. I reset the head and neck as well as I could. When the figures were dry enough, we glazed them. I chose a bright orange glaze. Kind of odd, I know, but it made sense at the time. :) After firing, my repair to the neck became a very noticeable crack. That was rather disappointing. I guess that the semi-dry clay just couldn't be properly rejoined, at least not the way I did it. Oh well, I brought my bright orange partially decapitated duck home and presented it to my mother. As only a mother could, she said she loved it and placed it for prominent display in a window of our living room. I don't know where my slightly grotesque duckie is now. Perhaps it is sleeping peacefully next to my hand plate. :)

Ok, so much for my childhood art history lesson. Lets get to the sculptural subject of this post. Below are three pics of a figure that I created when I was about 20 years old. My best friend Ray, a lesser friend Michael, and I were gathered at Ray's apartment one day. Ray and Michael, who both liked to smoke a certain "substance", decided that they were going to try and make some pipes out of clay. There was some extra clay, and as I was not a smoker, I decided to create a figure out of my imagination. In those days, my imagination was rather dark (as I will explain in more detail later). I tried to imagine something that would have an aura of malevolence. The result is the figure below. Another of Ray's friends dubbed it "The Noser", which should seem obvious once you see it. As for me, I never named it. Ray and Michael had ideas of firing their pipe creations, but like many of their projects in that time, these were left unfinished. I never had my figure fired either, but it long ago dried out such that it is very hard to the touch, and I have kept it safe through the years in a padded box. The figure has a story. It is a very important story about my life at the time of its creation. So, without any further ado, I present my little attempt at sculptural creativity, followed by my story.

Well folks, its been about a week and a half since I wrote the above. My original plan was to tell a detailed account of the circumstances of my life that led to the creation of this sculpture. However, I have decided that I really don't want to tell the story at length at this time. Perhaps I will at some later date. So, what I would like to do is tell you briefly what was going on. For several years in my late teens and early 20's, I struggled with some very serious depression. Many of my relatives have also suffered from depression at various times in their lives. Depression can be a very difficult thing to live with, especially when it must be endured over a long period. I remember thinking at some point that depression was sort of like a demon that had seized my mind and stolen my life. Now, I never thought that demons were real. Rather, my thinking was in a purely metaphorical sense. When I made this sculpture, I was in an especially deep level of depression, and the demon idea was very prominent in my imagination.

As to my depression, I did seek help, but placing my trust in the medical profession really didn't yield much in the way of relief. I struggled to stay afloat in school, but I really didn't have any direction until I began to study psychology. Eventually, I earned my first college degree with a major in psychology. Along the way, I learned a lot that was helpful to me in terms of understanding my depression and how I could begin to overcome it.

So, that is the very short on details version of how my little sculpture came to be. I am sure some of you would like to know more. A few of you already know quite a bit more. In time, I may feel comfortable enough to make a more detailed version of this story public, but for now, I thank you for sharing with me something that I have mostly kept under a tight lid for a long time.

Update 3/14/08:

I would like to add a few thoughts about depression. It is not commonly known that approximately one third of all people will experience a serious depression at some point in their lives. Depression can occur for many reasons. A person may have a genetic susceptibility, or it could be brought on by a tragic loss, for example (in my case, both of these reasons played a role). Depression tends to occur more frequently in elderly people as their friends and loved ones pass away. Now, I can only speak for myself and not for other depressed people, but I think some would agree with me in that I am not at all interested in sympathy or pity. Those emotions are not helpful to me. What I always needed during periods of depression is understanding and acceptance. Some people seem to think that depression is only a figment of the imagination and that it can be banished simply by thinking positively. Well, nothing could be further from the truth. If any of you have experienced depression, then I think you will understand what I am talking about. When depression occurs in an individual, there are no quick and easy solutions. Many doctors these days are very quick to write a prescription for drugs to treat depression. However, often such drugs simply don't work, and many can have extremely unpleasant side effects. In many cases, the best treatment is simply time and having someone to talk to. For me, having good friends who I could trust with my innermost thoughts and feelings was a big help. Exercise and certain dietary changes have helped a lot, as well. Ok, I guess thats about enough for now. Thanks again for visiting and learning a bit more about how I came to be the person that I am. :)