November 2010

‘Stressed but OK’

Quick sketch, about a foot high.  SOLD  Fired, underglazed…may just wax it and leave it pretty much like this photo. I resonated with this while sculpting it, decided to leave it alone when I grabbed the head and pulled upward, causing neck to appear strained. ‘Stressed but OK’ is a common modus operandi for many of us these days.

“If You’re Not Laughing, You’re Not Paying Attention!”

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Another experiment with a wall mounted piece; working title, “If You’re Not Laughing, You’re Not Paying Attention!” It’s almost life size. (photo of finished piece added 12/23)

This one happened without any preconceived idea of what to make today…just pawed through some reference clippings first thing this morning in the studio and used a postage stamp size mug shot of some random guy as a jumping off point. It was fun to be “surprised” by the day’s work. No I don’t have any idea what kind of ears those are…except that they are NOT intended to be rabbit ears! I roughed in various shapes and sizes of horns and hair tufts, but these ears seemed the funniest so I went with them.

Not sure where if anywhere this is a step toward, but at least I’m making wall mountable work for a change instead of work that needs a pedestal/table/ledge to live on.

I think of “sketches” like this one as experiments/explorations because I feel like I’m flailing about in new territory. I learned from such things as:

–I first made the neck straight under the head, then impulsively sliced off one side and added to the other, instantly making the pose more interesting to me.

–moving the irises/pupils to one side enhanced the “turning his head” effect (extrapolating from the ram’s horn experiment a few days ago where I directed the gaze sideward/downward, in that case to engage the viewer as she/he comes along the hall toward the studio door)

–still didn’t get the lips flat enough…it looks like he’s saying “Heyyy” or something…difficult to convince my brain to flatten the lips out against the teeth as they would be when smiling broadly. (It isn’t obvious in the photo, but that’s his tongue, not lower teeth, just inside the lower lip.)

–nostrils widened since they are attached to the skin that is pulled back by the cheek muscles

–I’ll correct it before the clay dries, but when I snapped this photo I had forgotten to add clay underneath his left eye (right in the photo) where it would be pooched up from the rising cheeks. This makes his left eye look more like it’s looking, and his right eye look more like it’s laughing.

–experimenting with muscles in forehead and their contribution to the emotions conveyed

–it’s difficult for me to get wrinkles right…to get a solid material to look like supple skin…I feel I made some progress on this piece, but have a long way to go.

–I’m curious why a certain shape looked “funnier” to me (horns/hair/ears)? Is it the extreme sideways positioning of the ears? Are moose inherently funnier looking than deer? Is it because predators faces are often more vertical (eyes closer together and smaller), and harmless creatures’ ears are usually larger (to hear predators)? Chihuahuas do look funny with their big side mounted ears, vs a dobie with clipped vertical ears.

So, while the resulting sculpture is the most obvious product of a sculpting session, it’s definitely not the only product; I’m also enlarging my repertoire of ideas and skills to use on future projects.

Another nice by-product when it happens, as it did today: enjoyment of the process!

Ram horns experiment

Progress as of Tuesday night. It was about 8 p.m. when I was ready to slice off the horns, so I asked one of the moped guys next door to catch them. With horns out of the way, I sculpted regular human ears underneath…but then covered them mostly back up with hair. Sculpting phase is over, let the hollowing out begin.


Partially done — hope to finish the sculpting phase on Sunday. About 12″ high. Noodling around for something to put over the door to my new studio space…originally intended for this to be a small maquette, but it grew along the way, so maybe if it turns out OK it can serve as the final, at least for awhile.

‘Obsession’ show write-up

Nice write-up by Teri Sund about the ‘Obsession’ show:

Steve Eichenberger refers to himself as ‘sculptor,’ yet that term seems limited in describing his artistic accomplishments. Perhaps the titles builder, engineer, architect and alchemist all contribute to the understanding of what is involved in the creation of each work of art. For Eichenberger, who works primarily in clay, the finished piece is the end result of a long developed process of “how to.” His obsession lies within the challenge to do what appears to be the impossible. While his imagery is strong, direct and uniquely profound, for Eichenberger it is not the crux of his drive and/or passion as an artist. His obsession lies in deciphering what needs to be developed to achieve the monumental sculpture he is known for.

That being said, Eichenberger’s imagery cannot be taken lightly. When discussing his work, he states, “Sculpture is my attempt to combine desirable and/or necessary attributes for navigating our post–911 world into symbolic form. It’s a messy business trying to decide what’s ‘right’! For example, gentleness sounds good, but too much of it and tyrants will rule. Heroism sounds good, but what if the saved aren’t worthy of the hero’s sacrifice?” These are considerations of Eichenberger’s as he utilizes the three dimensional realm to convey the complex question of what it means to be human. He incorporates such things as massive musculature, impossible balance, direct meaningful gaze, the tension of posture, animal analogy, as well as scale to reflect the delicate battle of balance within mankind, as an individual or a society. “I don’t mind looking strange to others as I struggle to concoct the optimum balance of attributes to ethically deal with today’s out-of-balance world. The privilege of being alive is so enormous that I don’t mind putting enormous effort into appreciating it, observing it, and reflecting on it…and I use sculpture to do so.”


And here’s the statement I wrote for the ‘Obsession’ show:

Artists’ Statement:

Steve Eichenberger

A person who is obsessed may well not consider themselves to be. This has been the case for me. I’ve simply been going along with what appeared in my sketchbook, trying to stay out of the way. And rabbit ears kept showing up. On everything.

The obsession’s first project was the physical challenge of keeping tall ears from falling down in the wet clay stage. I propped and skewered and accepted whatever motley shapes I could get to stand up. The familiar inner response of “that’s cool, but you can do better” compelled me to keep trying again, and again, to form the perfect pair of hare’s ears. By “perfect” I don’t mean anatomically correct, but rather a vivid, insistent inner vision I was compelled to replicate in reality.

I was/am mesmerized by the long slow curves, the tapering of the thickness of the clay, the ear shape’s inherent structural integrity, the volume enclosed, the interaction of negative space between the ears, the flow of line from nose to eartip.

Dozens of iterations later, after developing better armatures and refining sculpting techniques, I have come much closer to matching that inner ideal of form/shape…and the obsession is vindicated as I draw my fingers along fired curves.

Just as romance can be diminished by over-analyzing, an obsession can dry up when exposed to light and air by rational critique. Is it even possible to purposely generate an obsession? wouldn’t it then be a “pursuit”? I experience strong right and left brain influences simultaneously. Too often this means my left brain heckles the right brain into submission. So I value a good obsession once in awhile. The trick is to look the other way and let it play out.

RiverSea Preview Opening

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RiverSea Gallery “Obsession” show on Preview night, November 6, 2010.

This coming Saturday, November 13 from 5 to 8 Jackie and I (and Shannon) will be there again for the “regular” opening when locals converge on downtown Astroria for Second Saturday walkabout.

The trend toward having two openings — a “preview” night for art lovers and a second one for the masses — is ironically the result of the success of “gallery walks” nationwide. We’ve seen it happen in Portland; First Thursdays have become a party night where everyone parades themselves around downtown. Gallery hopping fills up some galleries with wine-sipping hipsters to the extent that it’s hard to see the art or get a word in edgewise with a gallerist. Hence the trend toward preview events for art lovers.

The preview at RiverSea went well, with each of us — Jackie, Shannon and myself — giving a brief “artist’s talk” to genuinely interested patrons. Everyone was quiet and attentive. Good questions were asked. Appreciation was expressed. Red dots were placed. This “art first” atmosphere would be less likely on “citywide party night.”

RiverSea show Nov 6, Mtn views, new Raven birth

I’ll be in a three person show at RiverSea Gallery in Astoria, opening Nov 6 with a reception from 5 to 8. I took four of my large sculptures to be in the show. Jackie will have lots of work in it too. We’ll be interviewed on a local radio station, live, about the show on Friday afternoon the 5th.

New Raven sculpture completed for my line of cast ravens/crows available through galleries.

Mt Hood from my new studio location on Milwaukie Ave.

False color rendition of Mt St Helens looking to the north from my new sculpture studio location. If it weren’t for a willow tree precisely placed to block the exact outline of her, I’d be able to see Mt St Helens out my window as I work. I only have to go a few paces to get this view though.

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