Places of Contemplation

The work showing at the Museum Humanum this August as part of the 2013 Kulturbrücke is about the human experience, spirituality and the subconscious. Throughout time and across cultures humans have felt the need to create religions, spiritual practices, and art to express their subjective and intuitive experiences. For the Musuem Humanum I am exhibiting work that incorporates the archetypal female form with artifact and cave imagery.

Glimmer Glass Art

Artifacts have a life of their own that span many human lifetimes. They can often be the only windows we have into another person’s life and how they understood the world. Can we really identify with a prehistoric person? They may have the very same basic desires for food, shelter, and clothing, and perhaps even self-expression, but their worldview would be so different. Can we ever view their possessions with the same understanding they did? They who may have made it and viewed it as a vital part of their life and survival, and us who hold it up high and revere it as valuable art?

Moving from the objects that people leave behind, to their stories and myths, we find caves playing a mythical role in society. Caves are closely tied with female sexuality and its life giving powers, they were considered to be the ‘wombs’ of ‘Mother Earth’. Mayans believed caves to be sacred, a place where the gods could move between worlds. In my work I use caves as a metaphor for the subconscious, and spiritual dimensions of human existence. With the shift to a secular society, science has replaced mysticism and has renamed the realm of the gods ‘the subconscious’. Spirituality, psychoanalysis, and art are all human endeavors to explore this hidden aspect of our nature.

Using the archetypal female form and its close associations with caves this exhibition explores a common and deep-seated intuitive attraction to these forms and the mysteries they present.

“The Year of the Woman” opens on August 24th, 2013 at 3pm, at the Museum Humanum, Fratres, Austria. Please email criss@crisschaney.com for more information if you would like to attend.

Museum Humanum, Fratres welcomes international Artist Criss Chaney for Solo Show

Window Glass Wall Art

As part of the 2013 Kulturbrücke, hosted by the Museum Humanun, Fratres, Austria, I have been invited to fill the gallery with as much artwork as I can. This years theme its ‘The Year of the Woman’, so I have created a dozen new pieces specifically for this show revolving around the theme of women, goddesses and caves, using my unique blend of glass and mixed media. The exhibition opens August 24th, and is free to all, but bring your wallets as this is a unique opportunity to buy some original artwork and support the Museum in its cultural activities and events.

Latex Moulds

Now that my bronzes have arrived safely I’ve started on making the glass section of the sculpture, its in wax at the moment, and I’ve decided to make a latex mould of it in case anything happens to it in the casting process. Once the latex mould is finished I can use it to make wax copies of that shape.

Here is the first layer of latex freshly painted

 

The first step in the process, is to paint two layers of latex directly onto the wax, letting them dry thoroughly between each layer. Then mix the latex with latex gel thickener- follow the instructions on the packaging. I get my latex from Tirant.co.uk. They recommend mixing their latex in a proportion of 10 parts latex to 1 part thickener. Do a few more layers of that until if feels good.

Here, I have filled the shapes the stick into the mould with cotton wadding.

Now here’s where I went a bit rogue, and other ‘proper’ artists might find this a bit distasteful. I needed the little shapes that recede into the wax to hold their shape firm enough so they could stand on their own and if I needed to pour another wax in the wouldn’t cave, or bend with the pressure of the wax pouring in. But I also needed them to be flexible enough to squish when I pulled them out because there are some undercuts in the shape. I looked into a soft foam mixture that I could pour into it, but it seemed quite expensive for the little bit that I needed and I didn’t know if it would work. So I just decided to stuff the shapes with cotton wool and tape them in with packing tape, I did a couple layers of this with more cotton wadding and tape and made the shape as much of a smooth hemisphere as I could. Then painted a couple more layers of the latex and gel thickener, to get the overall mould to a good thickness. Then I just put tape over the latex to reinforce it and also it’s kind of ‘grippy’ and I wanted the outside to be able to slip in and out of the plaster mould easily.

Then I carefully pulled the latex off the mould and it worked a charm.

Finished latex mould with wax

 

With the wax safely removed from the latex mould I will then make a plaster/quartz mould around it, melt the wax out, and put it in the kiln to melt the glass in. And this is where its a bit tricky, as you can see from the pictures, there are negative stalactite shapes poking in to the wax, and where the mould fills these shapes it will be quite fragile. Not only that but the mould in that area needs to be made quite soft, as the piece cools down in the kiln the glass will shrink around that shape and if it’s stiffer than the glass it will cause the glass to crack. Thus the mould in this area will be even more fragile, and in the past when I have attempted this, the tips of the stalactites have broken off.

 

I will keep you posted on my progress. Wish me luck!

Bronze Sculpture Elements Just Arrived

I’m working on a new sculpture based on still pools and stalactites in caves. In it I’m combining cast bronze and glass. I’ve been working on this piece since March and the bronzes have finally come back to me today. I don’t want to give too much away, the piece is nearly done. I just need to cast the glass element that is suspended between to two bronze pieces.

Bronze for Still Pool, landscape Bronze for Still Pool

Some things that inspire my work

Caver staring into still pool in Lechuguilla

I just thought I’d share with you some images and things that I find beautiful and interesting. My interest and fascination with caves began when I saw the Planet Earth episode about caves, a few things really struck me as intriguing, the first was Lechuguilla, it was the remarkably still pools that really caught my eye. It was like looking into an alternate dimension, a perfectly crystal clear window into another world. Perhaps that is one of the reasons they had such spiritual significance for ancient cultures.

Still pool in Lechuguilla

Introspection

Here is my latest piece, its called Introspection. It was exhibited in the British Glass Biennale this year, and currently resides in the Creative Cohesion Gallery. It’s the largest and heaviest piece I’ve made so far.

 

Introspection is the first piece in a series which revolves around my fascination with caves. Some of the caves that have been discovered are beyond our wildest imaginings, like the Lechuguilla cave which contains some chambers with giant crystals, and others where every surface is covered with white crystals, the perfectly still and clear ponds are full of sulfuric acid, and when you shine a light into the chamber the whole thing glows and glistens.

The Mayans depended on a system of underground flooded caves for their fresh water. The cenotes where the lifeblood of the Mayan civilization and they believed caves to be sacred, a place where the gods could move between worlds.

Using the imagery of stalactites and stalagmites, my work explores the ancient interests in caves and the duality of existence between the material world and immaterial spiritual dimension of human existence. My interests also lie in the latest breakthroughs in quantum physics so while we know conceptually that space is not empty and that solid objects are mostly made up of empty space, we do not experience it as such. Reversing the two, negative space inside the cave actually becomes solid matter.

Using glass as a metaphor for empty space, the object calls attention to the shape of the space, and veiling or included elements allude to non-material possibilities that we are unaware of or unable to see.

The imagery of caves is a metaphor for undiscovered worlds or possibilities bringing into focus the fact that there are numerous unanswered questions about the nature of the universe an that there are infinitely more unasked questions about the reality we think we are experiencing, alluding to hidden human potential, and untapped realities yet to be discovered.