Sunday, November 4, 2007

The Seated Figure

I bid so long to my parents and sister Sharon. The week went by fast. There's never enough time. But I think it was a nice relaxing break for them. Apparently everybody's blood pressure went down a bit during their stay. Mom and Pop look good. Hard to believe they have 7 kids, most of whom well into their 50's. I'm 27.

It's getting crazy up in here with the work. We have ten days to pull some kind of show together. It's mad but it's a great time. I'm scooting all over Sumter county like a country doctor, calling on folks to help me build this thing.
At Demopolis High I have two classes working on the Freedom Bus. Like Mr.Bones, the Freedom Bus is a recurring theme in Mose Tolliver's paintings. I chose to expand on it a little by having each student create a passenger for the bus. The passengers must be freedom fighters through American History. Students had to research diverse people, write biographies, and find quotes and images and other details, all of which will be added to the artwork.

Our sculptures are inspired by the Seated Figures of Africa, a devotional image representing authority and wisdom. The seated figure is common in African cultures from Egypt to the Congo. Approached in many styles, it's a great format to explore theme, symbolism, and form.

The young lady on the right is 15 going on 50. Totally intimidating but far from mean. Just full of character. She has an accent like molasses. It's really wonderful and I love to hear her talk. But I often don't understand her. The other kids translate.


In North Sumter County and Livingston we have younger kids in afterschool programs creating Tolliver plant life and birds. Before we got to the actual constructing I wanted to introduce Drawing With Scissors, an approach to art making that frees the imagination, reorganizing the thought processes behind visual communication to incorporate improvisation and free association.

The students are shown simple scissor cutting techniques. They are then asked to cut a sheet of paper without preconceived notions or specific intentions - to create an amorphous form with otherwise concise angles, curves and shape. Once the form is freed from the box, so to speak, they then begin to identify it and to give it more specific detail according to it's character. The results are always stunning and the kids get a kick out of it, surprised by their own latent creative potential.

We then combine the many cutouts in a collaborative collage, using scraps and the negatives of our cut-out shapes to complete our composition.

Mary, a talented girl, points to one of her creatures. She said she loved "creating things from nothing".

After the Drawing With Scissors exercise cutting, pasting, and painting the Tolliver shapes is far less intimidating. They know they can do anything now that the brain is a little more free.


I wanted to make a slew of Tolliver characters on my own but I'll have time only for three. That's okay. There's a lot of work being generated right now. I'll get to more stuff later. I decided to extend my stay in York. Probably through next year if everything works out. I friggin love it here so everything's gonna HAVE to work out.

Haven't finished painting the Waving Woman but I figured out a detachable wooden bird.

The Red Creature will have a Chinese Dragon style body, requiring maybe up to ten people to operate. There's much fabric dyeing, painting, and sewing to be done for all these pieces.