Sculpture accepted for the international juried exhibit “In Tandem” at the Cape Cod Museum of Art, May 10 - July 30, 2023.
“Con-Struction.” Sculpture from a single cooper beech tree log, on sycamore base. Created in Chatham, MA, January 2023. Base: 11”x 18”, height: 18”. Log found by Tom Getz. Carved as five separate forms and mounted in tandem.
The title “Con-Struction” combines the Latin terms for “with” and “fitting together.” The five constituent forms of the sculpture fit together with each other to produce a composite structure. They work with each other in tandem, becoming individually subordinate to the piece as a con-structed unit. While each of the five individual forms has some complexity of shape and often includes a small central opening, the sculpture as a whole has many times the complexity and opens up significantly more interior space. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts due to the physical and spatial connections through which the parts fit together.
Since 1976, I have carved wood sculptures with biomorphic or organic three-dimensional forms, which contrast with the geometric shapes of manufactured commodities. Their embodied forms are nuanced and asymmetrical; they present different, often surprising views from alternative perspectives. By cutting across the growth pattern of the tree, I strive to bring out lively grain patterns. Finishing smooth curves and surfaces with natural wood oil, I revive and preserve the life of the wood. In a piece like Con-Struction, the organic parts work in tandem to form an organism, which cannot be reduced to the functioning of its individual parts.
I have increasingly endeavored to “open up” the material of my sculptures during my focus on ceramic and wood sculpture since retiring to Cape Cod in 2015. When working on logs, this involves piercing into the core wood and creating interior spaces. The negative spaces of the openings become equally important sculptural forms. They allow light and sight to flow into and through the usually opaque volumes. Often, cavernous spaces are created, stimulating primordial images of shelter and endowing abstract 3-D space with elemental form, complex structure and human meaning.
Con-Struction is the latest in a series of wood sculptures where I have opened up the log from a tree by sawing it into two to five segments. I then carved the individual segments separately, allowing me easier access to internal areas and facilitating the effort of creating negative volumes. In order to maintain a view of how the parts will work in tandem, I generally develop a ceramic maquette of the overall intended design, working out the positive and negative spaces and relationships for the assembled final piece. The specific forms and eventual surfaces of the wood emerge largely through the work of carving, so the finished wood sculpture differs significantly in detail from the ceramic maquette. However, the approach to opening up the material and the way the parts work together, abutting each other and framing negative spaces, persist from the conceptual model to the finished product.
The primary tandem relationship is that of sculptor to sculpture. The sculptor’s experienced hand and eye respond to intimate perceptions of the evolving materials and work. Even for someone who has worked extensively in 3-D, it is challenging to plan, visualize and work in the round. Human understanding is primarily formed through 2-D experiences of visual perception. Thinking deeply about a complex object from multiple perspectives requires prolonged interaction with the object as it emerges from its raw materials ... and even living with the sculpture after it is finished. Such interaction builds upon experience in the many stages of crafting sculpture and upon experiments with series of attempts at related aims. Con-Struction benefits from my previous carvings that investigated biomorphic form, opening up solids, creating negative space and dividing a log into multiple pieces that work in tandem.
A free e-book about my works and aesthetic as well as videos of my sculptures are available at: https://gerrystahl.net/sculpture. (The book is also available in paperback from Amazon.)
Videos of my wood sculptures at: https://gerrystahl.net/sculpture/wood.
Video of Con-Struction on YouTube at: https://youtu.be/BsGA30VukIo.
Photographs of Con-Struction submitted for In Tandem exhibit:
Other photographs of Con-Struction:
Stages of constructing Con-Struction:
1. Making 5 ceramic pieces for maquette of Con-Struction --