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.