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. :)


Blogger nyx said...

Hi DavĂ­d. Nice to read something from you again. It is difficult to decide weather you should be very open and frank telling all about your personal life, or write about personal stuff without being "totally open". Whatever you choose, your stories are gifts to us, and for that I thank you.
Take care dear.

3/06/2008 1:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Before reading your post completely, I took a look at the pictures of your sculpture. Seeing the first photo, I thought that it was a baby bird that's asking his mum to give him worm or any other food.

3/06/2008 6:07 AM  
Blogger David said...

Hi Nyx, I agree it can be difficult to decide what level of one's personal life to reveal in a public forum such as this. Some of my friends like to reveal everything, including their most intimate secrets. Others don't talk about themselves at all. When I venture out to visit the blogs of friends, I read their stories and sometimes respond with stories of my own, like similar experiences, for example. Other times, I try to give encouragement when I sense there is a need. Here, I present stories or discussions on a particular subject that have a special meaning to me. I very much appreciate your thinking of my stories as gifts to you and others! That is one of the nicest comments that anyone has ever given to me and it gives me encouragement to continue writing and sharing even more. :)

Hello Tess, it is very interesting that you thought of my sculpture as a baby bird asking to be fed. Pieces of art are often very subjective in that different people see different things in the same piece. I think that we tend to project our own emotions and experiences on a piece of art and those things effect our response to the object. You make me think about my sculpture in a new way. Depression can be like an emptiness that needs to be filled. There are often feelings of helplessness and loneliness, as well. A baby bird or a baby human is completely helpless. Both need to be cared for and nurtured. Depression can feel like an overwhelming need for caring and nurturing, yet there is the sense that no one cares and no one understands. This is often not true. There are usually friends or family who do care very much, but depression can really blind a person to the good will of others. Anyway, thanks for your thoughts about my sculpture. :)

3/08/2008 2:18 PM  
Blogger A. Damluji said...

looks like a boar'ish demon with a bit of Cthulu..


and sorry to hear about your depression, happens to a lot of us, glad you are better now :) and yes, it is a mistake to hurriedly pump a depression patient full of meds without treating the cause of depression itself..

thank you for sharing, again i am glad you are over it

take care dude

Love and Peace

3/14/2008 5:58 PM  
Blogger David said...

Hi Anarki, I have never heard of Cthulhu before, so I looked him up on Wikipedia. They have a pretty cool painting of the mountainous Great Old One. ;) I have heard of H.P. Lovecraft, but I never read any of his books. Maybe I will check them out one of these days. Glad you found my sculpture cool.

Thanks for your understanding and good wishes my friend. :)

3/15/2008 9:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey David. Funny enough, I have never experienced depression. I often find myself being quite ignorent of the conditions of the depressed people.

As for my English blog, well, honestly I don't write much in the Persian one either. I am rather busy with the dissertation and have lost my appetite for blogs, plus no one (beside you) cared anyway, so I don't think I am missed. How are you anyway?

3/20/2008 4:56 AM  
Blogger David said...

Hi Khodadad, nice to hear from you after so long! :) I'm glad that you have never experienced depression and I hope you never do.

You are missed by me! As to how I am, it is always a complex question. ;) I'll send an email your way.

3/21/2008 1:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


You were right, I really liked your post. I laughed when i saw the sculptures... they reminded me of those creatures in old mythodology between humans and animals, or hybrids between two animasls...

It is always interesting when someone tries to embody their demons... you reminded me of a book by Isabelle Allende, in which the main character has nightmares and takes up photography in order to try and find her demons... i remember thinking that it was a creative way of dealing with things.

About your depression, I find it helpful when poeple share things like that. It is helpful to me, because once i share a though, it seems like it is sorted, and i believe it is always informative to other people...

I do like it when you write more personal things... This whole technology amazes me... I mean i know about you, when you are thousands and thousands of miles away.... interesting,eh?

3/21/2008 3:14 AM  
Blogger David said...

Hi Mariam, I am happy that you really liked my post. :) Yes, I suppose that my sculpture is sort of a chimera, but I'm a little surprised that it made you laugh. Ah well, it made Tess think of a baby bird, so it must not look very scary. ;)

It is interesting that you like Isabelle Allende. My friend Attawie also likes her writing, and she recommended the movie "The House of the Spirits" to me recently. I thought it was a very good movie!

It can be helpful to share things that are troubling with friends. I have done that for many years. However, it is something of a first for me to share something this personal in a public blog.

It is very interesting and fun to get to know people who live far away through the internet. I feel that I have changed some people's lives for the better, just as they have changed mine, and that is a very good feeling. :)

3/25/2008 3:53 AM  
Blogger Dr O2 said...

Rehello note ;-) it is nice to see you up n running ;-)

3/29/2008 7:44 AM  
Blogger Naj said...


glad to see you!

I see you are well and busy with constructive creativity!


3/29/2008 3:27 PM  
Blogger David said...

Hi Omid, its good to see you alive and kicking. ;) Well, I never really stopped running, I just spend most of my blog time visiting my friends. :) I should really try to post here more often.

I'm glad to see you too Naj! :) Well, I guess I got a bit busy here a few weeks ago. Thanks for stopping by.

3/31/2008 2:21 AM  
Blogger Michomeme said...

Hi David, this is the second time I visit your nice blog, I found it realy interesting. First of all I want to thank you for visiting my blog, that's realy make me happy, in the second place I want to tell you that depression causes psychological pain, as well as make us know yourself deeply, I think it is transitional period between two levels of one-self developping..it is good that you have passed this period, at the same time I'm sure that you learned a good thing from it..so if there is a second once, you'll know how to deal with it..
every one have a depression period in his life, the important thing is how to get over it..

by the way, I liked your sculpture, it is kind of odd..nice work..


3/31/2008 4:46 AM  
Blogger David said...

Hi Micho, I am happy to have you visit my blog once again. :) Also, I will be glad to continue to visit your blog.

Thanks very much for your thoughtful comments about depression. I agree with you that depression can be a significant learning experience. It can help to teach a person what is really important in life, and how to appreciate many small things that most people seem to take for granted.

I'm glad you liked my sculpture, and you are right, it is rather odd. ;)

4/03/2008 3:59 PM  
Blogger Yoda said...


This is the first time I post a comment in your blog, and to be honest, I liked your words very much, they show your intelligent way of thinking and creativity.

About your art works, Confucius says:

"If you shoot for the stars and hit the moon, it's OK. But you've got to shoot for something. A lot of people don't even shoot".

And he also says:

"Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it".

And about depression, Confucius says:

"Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall".

And he also says:

We should feel sorrow, but not sink under its oppression.

Thank you very much


4/17/2008 8:08 AM  
Blogger David said...

Hello Yoda, welcome to my blog and thank you very much for your nice compliment. I have never studied the sayings of Confucius. He seems to have a lot to say on a wide variety of subjects! Well, I have heard that he was a very wise man and these sayings would seem to lend credence to his reputation. You know, I suspect from some of his words that you quoted, that Confucius himself was no stranger to occasional depression. Thank you Yoda for sharing these wise sayings. I think that I will try to learn more about Confucius. :)

4/17/2008 11:27 PM  
Blogger attawie said...

Isn't time for a new post here too :D

5/19/2008 12:45 PM  
Blogger David said...

You're right Attawie! I will start working on the new post today. Thank you for the encouragement. :D

5/19/2008 1:18 PM  

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