black walnut on limestone. 50″ tall. 1973-75. private collection I write extensively about the process of carving this piece (also known as The Split Woman) in my memoir Seeing Into Stone: A Sculptor’s Journey. After the Sculpture Center was torn down in 1971, David and I moved to Oregon where we built me a hexagonal studio in which many sculptures were hatched. On every level, the Cracked Woman was a breakthrough piece for me, a self-portrait that, once I claimed and celebrated it, says much not only about my journey, but also the journeys that many women travel in this difficult world. How do we put ourselves back together, embrace ourselves, stand strong, see clearly and express our truth in a world which persists in humiliating and denigrating women and our contributions? It starts with claiming, and celebrating our so-called “flaws”—the splits and cracks which we hide because we fear they will divide and dismember us, until we come to realize that they actually offer a great gift: the honesty, vulnerability, and spirit of the wounded healer. As Leonard Cohen sings, “there’s a crack in everything. That’s how the light comes in.” That’s what makes us “flawesome.”
Eucalyptus wood, 30″, 1971. Private collection Gordon introduced me to the mystery of carving, a subtractive process quite opposite to working with the plasticity and malleability of clay. He lent or gave me hand chisels and an old mallet, showed me how to sharpen the chisels on a whetstone and machine buffer, and conveyed the essence of carving with cryptic statements such as “Go with the grain.” Eucalyptus is very dense and hard to carve. My interest in asymmetry is evident in the figure’s contrapposto—lopsided hips, breasts, arms, and especially eyes—an asymmetry that mirrors my own crooked eyes, and a theme that I have pursued in many pieces since this one.
Sawdust fired clay, 6 inches tall, 1971. Status unknown from 1971 to 1972, I was the youngest member of Gordon Newell’s Sculpture Center in Monterey California. I was also the only woman. Because I was familiar with clay, I started out making clay sculptures and firing them in a homemade kiln in the same way famous potter Maria Martinez did. Sometimes it seems to me that some of my older work is stronger, fresher, and more confident than more recent work. Certainly this little piece is more raw and gestural, beautiful in its incompleteness than some later “finished” work. That’s a good lesson to bring forward and apply.
mournful clay woman
terra cotta, 24” tall, circa 1968, Status unknown After starting with wheel-thrown and slab-formed pottery, I turned to clay sculpture. Looking at this work from a distance of over fifty years, I feel compassion for the misery expressed in this carving—not just typical teenage misery, but also the angst of living in a family with more than its share of physical handicaps, and in full awareness that the world at that time was threatened by racism, pollution, the Cold War, and nuclear annihilation.