A Sense of Wonder…

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Whenever I go to my friend Iren’s house I am astonished anew by the art – work that defines this particular landscape, inside and out. Iren creates art in every medium I can think of often utilizing Nature as her collaborator by using found objects, wood, stone, bones, shells, metal, glass to create highly original sculptured art forms.

Take the garage for example, not usually a place one thinks of as an artist’s canvas. The windows are made of old bottles whose colors shine brilliantly – amber, grass green, and cobalt – in the late afternoon sun. There are wooden panels replete with metal objects arranged in such a way that my eye returns again and again to the powerful and intriguing designs; these panels are hanging on the walls above the carpenter’s equipment that lines one side of the room.

Iren uses the chain saw like an old friend to cut the log I brought with me in two. Turning next to the table saw, she shapes one piece of the pinion pine into what will become another piece of Iren’s most original art. Awed by her expertise using these machines I ask her where she learned these skills. Iren tells me that her father taught her to use these tools as a child. I suddenly think of the gorgeous dining room table and chairs inside the house built by her dad…

I am delighted, excited, honored to be witness to this process of hers. Ideas are flowing, even as she runs the edges of the split log over rough sandpaper. We both comment on the sweet intoxicating scent of the newly cut wood as she shaves off its irregular edges effortlessly. We run our hands over the extraordinarily beautiful design that the bark beetles created while they devoured the cambium layer beneath the bark of what once was the trunk or branch of a tree. I am amazed by the fact that this destructive beetle created such beauty while it was killing the evergreen, and how Iren’s creative mind and hand is turning a piece of this conifer into an object that is more than a canvas depicting natural art.

“We can drill three holes in the top for sticks.” This remark excites me. The use of the word “we” is more than generous, since I am simply observing. But it reveals a lot about Iren’s character, her generosity of spirit, the manner in which she invites and draws a person into her world… I suddenly imagine gnarled roots coming out of the newly flattened and lightly sanded top with its three holes… “Which size drill shall we use?” she asks next, as she shows me the different sizes and we both agree on the same one.

“We could bore holes for some stones on the side,” she states more as a question to which I instantly agree. In the next breath she hands me the wood and gives me a pencil to mark the places where the holes will go to complement Beetle’s designs. I love every idea that springs to her mind. Iren picks up the drill and I watch as the drill bit grinds three holes in seconds. Each is quickly sanded. We discuss what we might do to bring out the design. Perhaps a little more sanding. Olive oil and beeswax are two other possibilities.

We leave the garage in the golden late afternoon sun walking swiftly to the studio. My eyes fasten on the rounded metal sculpture with scissors to my left, and then jump to the beautifully sculptured adobe wall with a niche containing what looks like a small statue of a goddess that Iren built to hide a gas tank. Every time I pass the wall I want to go through the small inviting wooden door! As usual I am lagging behind her. There is just too much about this landscape to feast my eyes on.

Once inside the spacious studio with its tower that overlooks the river, and which has to be the best place in the world to watch the full moon appear over the eastern horizon, Iren pulls out tin boxes. One is hexagonal in shape. Even Iren’s containers intrigue me. I pour through the stones with the eyes of a child, thrilled. There are three holes to fill. The blue green copper pieces catch my eye. I choose two. “How about a piece of coral?” she asks. Perfect, I think, as I choose a small irregular shape, a fragment of the sea creature that lives at the bottom of the sea… Iren’s already rolling little glue balls and puts a couple in the holes before handing the wood to me to press the last glue ball and the three chosen objects into place.

Just like that we are done.

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“We’re running a bit late,” Iren remarks as I snap back into linear time. I shake my head trying to catch up with the switch. This whole art-making process took less than two hours and it’s time to go back to the house to feed my two little girls (that happen to be canines)…

As always I leave here with regret. Once again I have spent a mystical, magical afternoon at Iren’s house with a woman who stops time, allowing me to become the child I once was. Thank you Iren.

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Above: Picture of half a log – look at the designs!

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