Get out of your studio! Get in your studio! These push-pull messages are always with me as I decide how to spend my art time. We have been inside for most of June, as my area of the country has had record rainfall. As the sun began to peek out, I quickly kidnapped my husband from his nearby university office and we went out to the Indiana Limestone Symposium held on the grounds of the Bybee Stone Company in nearby Ellettsville, Indiana.
One of may favorite things to do, when I am not carving a new linoleum block, is watch other people creating -- especially those who work in 3-D media. I find ceramicists and glass blowers fascinating. I have lived in Indiana's limestone belt for over twenty years, and I wanted to see how stone carvers coax life out of our fossilized sea beds.
Amy Brier uses an air chisel to free this figure from the limestone.
Amy Brier, a co-founder of the annual event, showed us a technique where she used an air chisel to sculpt a figure. She explained that as she is working on an area, she is seeing each individual line as it makes its way around the figure. Her chisel is actually more gentle on the stone than a hand chisel and hammer, and the air forces the chips away from her. (Amy was very quick to mention this, as she insists that all of her students and those doing hand carving wear safety glasses.)
As she carved, the noise from the compressor was loud, but the carving looked surprisingly soft. The grey stone only hints at the entire ecosystem that lived and died in this place, giving us the material that we have used to create structures both grand and mundane. Amy talks in depth about her love of limestone in her Bloomington Tedx talk. She also designed the world's largest anatomically correct brain that now resides outside Indiana University's Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences where my husband works.
Visit this sculptural brain at the Indiana University Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at 10th & Woodlawn in Bloomington. Visit it after dusk for an interactive light show.
I chatted with site director Delaine Gerstbauer about the challenges of deciding what to carve, and what to allow the viewer's own visual system to complete. When is an incompletion a hint of something else, and when is it an error? This is a question I ask myself all the time. Too much and the work is to literal or static. Too little and the entire image is confusing and frustrating.
How much of "anything" should be carved away? Wht cn yr brn rd nywy?
I not only observed seasoned stone carvers at this event, but I also saw a noted neuroanatomist and a beloved local singer/songwriter, each lost in the creation and destruction of the carving. I decided since they were clearly there to stretch their creativity, they didn't need me outing them, or acting like a groupie. I doubt I will ever have need of such anonymity, but I thought I would extend it to them.
One person I did chat with was glass artist Abby Gitlitz. I asked her about the differences between blowing and working her glass, as opposed to her hand sculpting a limestone block. She said that working in a different media helped her to get her creative juices flowing. We both wondered about the possibilities of combining her colorful glass with the quiet mat textures of the limestone.
Glass artist Abby Gitlitz uses a hand chisel to coax a form out of a limestone block.
Getting the creative juices flowing is so important, especially after you have worked very hard for a period of time. I'm taking baby steps with a new small linoleum block, and enjoying using my Iphone camera to capture images of inspiration. Perhaps next year I will schedule a few days at the Limestone Symposium and try my hand at relief carving in a whole new way.