On Music as Inspiration

                                    Beneath the Sea

Picture of Maple Burl
                                    Maple Burl – approx. 14" x 10" x 9". Wood, fabric dye and airbrushed acrylics.

I'm sure that I am not the only person in the world who has focused on the sound of waves slapping on a shoreline, rolling and breaking upon a beach. Many of us have heard a crescendo of waves crashing like cymbals on jagged rocks and promptly trickling back into the sea. Following the dimuendo of the after-crash, the wind and water shape yet another approach. Allegro!

In my mind, the movement of water can be considered symphonic. As a tide comes in and then recedes, a cadence of two chords of musical punctuation can be heard at the end of repeated phrases of moving water. In the woodturning pictured above, I have tried to capture the lively musical quality of such a flow or movement on the surface and stillness in the deep. Where a relatively free play of fancy contrasts with the movement below, there's caprice (capriccio). The silence of the deep is potentially dark and fierce, but maybe not.

Just as the movement of water can catch your imagination and draw you into its depths, anxious to explore an ocean's cratered bottom and come face-to-face with its vibrant population, so I hope that this turning draws you to it. The colours and natural edges of this multi-centred woodturning were inspired by notions of moving water, including the fish-like figures in the wood's grainy swirls and coral-like faces in its outer below-the-bark texture.

Picture of Maple Burl
                                    A view into the sea, including fish and other sea life.

Picture of Maple Burl
                                    Close-up of the sea bottom, frought with many creatures of the deep.

The wood turning originated as a partially rotted maple burl that was turned with several centres on a lathe. The decisions of when to stop and how to finish the exterior were carefully considered. With the water metaphor in mind, the bowl-like side became an irregularly shaped window into the sea, somewhat similar to looking through a glass-bottom boat in the Florida Everglades. This memory sparked my decision to colour the fishy shapes with watery solutions of Dylon fabric dye, which when dry, were then sprayed with a clear laquer.

Flipped over, the sculpture became a coral structure on the bottom of the sea.

To get to this point required several hours of picking the craggy bark off the burl with well-worn dental tools. That process revealed fascinating formations of prickles and depressions in the blond wood. The outer bark was often many centimeters deep.

Picture of Maple Burl
                                    Early pickings of the damp maple burl.

Picture of Maple Burl
                                                                   Bark inclusion ran deep as the tree
                                                                   sought to protect its inner core.


The hole on one side of the structure was the consequence of turning/cutting through the spinning wooden form on the lathe. Then, a little carving altered the surface from some perspectives.

Aniline dye combined with a pearly acrylic airbrush finish finished off the exterior of this sculpture.

Picture of Maple Burl
                                                         Another view of the sea bottom. Can you see or hear
                                                         the howling, gasping, cackling creatures hiding
                                                         in the "coral"?


Picture of Maple Burl
                                          The sea world upside down. A duck drifts along in the current.

With the sculpture set on a lazy susan in the centre of our kitchen table, friends who have come to lunch have enjoyed turning the piece around, looking for the eyes of creatures peeking out of crevices in the 'coral'. This turning is one of my favorite pieces and has become a fascinating conversation piece that tests the imagination of my grandchildren!

Creating the Site of a Murder-Suicide to Music

Another musical experience served to inspire a piece that I sculpted in a combination of clay and wood. When attending a rehearsal of pianist Jan Lisiecki's engagement with the Montreal Philharmonic Orchestra at Place des Arts in January, 2010, I listened to the concert's opening composition, a piece by a young Canadian composer named Andrew Staniland. The movement inspired me to create an imaginary plot, a drama set in castle garden two hundred years ago. The aging castle was situated aside a meandering river that ran through the property.

Drum rolls of thunder and resonant drops of falling rail set the scene for the murder. Within the movement reverberating gusts of wind, intermittent yet resounding footsteps brought chills to my being. I felt the presence of the woman during the final moments before her life was shattered. I felt the immanent death of her lover, as he fled the scene, only to take his own life a short distance away.

This sculpture is currently a work in progress and images will be posted upon completion. Please click on "Penny's Gallery" in the menubar to return and visit the other elements of Penny's art.