Summer Newsletter 2020 – The Thrill of Mud Between My Toes

Waves XVII: Seafoam – 14.5″ x 14.5″, 2020

In The Studio

While the “COVID quiet” continues in the studio, I am taking advantage of some of its positive aspects.  Although I live in the Colorado foothills where tranquility is relished, I can take it one step further.  Earplugs are a necessary part of working around noisy equipment, but when I leave the saw room after cutting rocks, a certain calm overtakes me.  I can work for hours in the outer studio, earplugs still in place, focused intently on the task in front of me. It might seem odd but earplugs give me immense power of concentration.  It is an introvert’s nirvana!

One of the inevitable consequences of cutting all this stone is that I have a serious amount of left-over material.  It is a wonder that all the shelves in my studio have not broken from the weight!  In the last few years I have used some of these bits to make my Wave Series, but I started thinking it might be interesting to arrange other pieces so the polished surfaces, rather than just the rough edges, could be seen.  But how? All the negative space between these imperfectly fitted pieces did not agree with my aesthetic sensibility. Hmmm…

Enter thin-set mortar.  In recent years I have seen thin-set used unapologetically as the visible background for various mosaics.  Although I used thin-set mortar in my art for 15 years, I converted to construction adhesive in 2015.  I truly never looked back.  Construction Adhesive is faster and easier to apply, lighter weight, and stronger (Of course I get a big kickback from the Loctite Company for saying this! ;-)), so the thought of going back to thin-set was daunting.

Also, spreading thin-set is not exactly as easy as smearing buttercream frosting!  To get the clean look I wanted was going to take some new tools and patience. But little by little it dawned on me that I had been here before – when making beer bottle cap stepping stones several years ago. For the stepping stones I would spread thin-set over a concrete paver and very gingerly push in the bottle caps. (Now don’t get me started on the hundreds of bottle caps I have left over in my cabinets – once you are hooked you are hooked – but at least they won’t break the shelves!)  Although my first recent attempt at smooth thin-set had to be deep sixed, I steeled myself to keep going. On my second attempt I was happier with the look of the “frosting” and started pushing in the stones.  Much to my surprise, the thin-set started oozing up between the pieces in a voluptuous manner. It reminded me of soft sediment deformation but looked delicious!?! I felt like a kid letting mud squish between my toes!

Maybe I will become a thin-set convert… again. Then many more off-cuts can find a home outside the studio shelves!

1. Beer bottle cap stepping stone, 2013                       2. Seafoam detail, oozing  thin-set

Another project that was recently finished was a 2 ½-D landscape with some exquisitely intricate banded dolomite. Matching the edges of the disparate pieces of dolomite was the first challenge. But then to add dimensionality, I thought we should try to make some “grass” from epidote and garnet discs tilting one way and then the other.  I wanted to emulate grass blowing in the wind. My assistant Meriel persevered on that just before the COVID lockdown! We also sliced some sandstone pieces and varied their elevation to create striking peaks. The highlight might be the gorgeous lepidolite, quartz and feldspar sky from Western Australia.
The name Dolo Landscape is a working title that never got replaced with something more appropriate.  Does anyone have a suggestion for a new name?? If chosen, I will send you a copy of my new book on my geologic maps that is coming out next month.

Dolo Landscape – 19.0″ x 27.5″, 2020
Slate, epidote with garnet, limestone, banded dolomite, travertine, sandstone, lepidolite pegmatite

3. Matching dolomite bands, testing layout              4. My assistant Meriel making “grass” 

In The (Future) Field

It is unfortunate that current travel restrictions are preventing me from fulfilling my Artist-in-Residency in the Canary Islands. But I am still looking forward to seeing the Hawaii of the Atlantic when the time is right!

In The Gallery

When my art was in lockdown at the Foothills Art Center in Golden, Colorado the staff challenged members to create a piece similar to Instagram’s “Between Art and Quarantine.”  Member Charlotte Bassin made an hysterical pairing of pancakes with my piece “Pocket XIII: Star Cluster.” Does it make you hungry?

Waves XIII: Star Cluster – 10.75”x 11”x .75”, 2019
Liesegang banded (Kanab) sandstone; azurite and malachite concretion;
azurite nodules
Pancakes not included 😉

In The Exhibit Hall

The American Association of Petroleum Geologists meeting that was planned for Houston in June was cancelled.  Sadly, other meetings and exhibitions that I was planning to attend through the end of the year also have been cancelled.

This has given me a very rare window of time for new commissions.  Having just completed two long-term commissions: the Nevada geologic map and a custom pocket piece with azurite and malachite crystals, I now have time to take on some new commission work.  If you have something in mind, please call or email.  I look forward to discussing your commission proposal!

Pocket XIV: Feathered Light – 10″ x 19.75″ x 2.5″, 2020
Banded marble, scolecite, apophylite druzy with XXX, tumbled carnelian

In The News

The September/October issue of Rocks and Minerals Magazine will feature an article about my art written by Susan Robinson.  Susan has featured artists who portray minerals, prehistoric life, and aspects of geology and mining in her column since 1987. I appreciate her including me and will send a link in my Fall newsletter.

All the best,

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