I thought I’d share some thoughts and images about the evolution of clay. In a nutshell, it is the earth grinding its jaws in its sleep. Multiply by billions of years and this clay was born out of disintegrating rock, which, as it decomposed, deposited alumina and silica particles into quiet deltas, valleys and riverbeds. A simple, patient math equation: stone + time = clay.
And then there is the evolution of artistry. A wad of clay + inquisitive fingers = this Buddha figure. That, of course, is the short version of the story. I suspect that the longer version predates clay by a long shot, going back all the way to the Big Bang, actually just before that, whatever that was.
Anita Feng has crafted in Sid a delightful jewel that captures both the classic story of the Buddha, as well a deeply personal and familiar reflection of the story in a contemporary retelling.
Sid weaves the traditional tale of Siddhartha, the Buddha-to-be with the story of Sid, an everyman who finds himself waking up amid the reality of work and family life in the modern world. Returning to the standard tale with careful consideration of the relationships in Buddha’s life—to his wife, parents, and child—Feng’s narrative embodies the Mahayana perspective of living one’s enlightenment in the world.
Beautifully told with a blend of poetic prose and verse, Sid teaches that the key to the story of the Buddha’s life is that the story could be about any of us.
He sits rooted to the iron city bench, riveted as completely as the bolts holding his seat together. For hours night shadows perform silent movies under a street lamp. A cool breeze wraps itself around him like a scarf.
Just then, a solitary rabbit hops lightly across the grass. The rabbit pauses to turn and look at him. His eyes, this close. Sid’s eyes, just as close. Though they are of different species, they recognize each other. All the dots connect. And then the dots disappear.
This doesn’t seem to surprise either of them. Two sentient beings gaze at each other at the shimmering gate of dawn. The morning star picks the lock, and leaves them as they are, open and shining free. He looks up and sees a star. Instantly, city gates and cerebral chains crumble. He and the star both fall together into what feels like a great ocean of being. Sid marvels at the brilliance of this momentary world. Looking about him, he sees glistening beings going to work, the tips of every blade of grass brushed alive by the glow of streetlights, each reflecting the universe, just as it is.
Just so, just now, it is a clear, bright day. He smiles. All the stars in the universe say, Yes! And precious beings everywhere turn as one, nodding in complete accord.
(from somewhere in the instantaneous universe)
The morning star looks down and sees it all happen in 3-D, High Definition real time—Sid cut free of the phantom iron chain strung between his shoulder blades and his high-stakes, demonic dreams.
Like the greatest Houdini of all time, the Enlightened One has released the leaden bar over his own eyelids and opened his eyes wide. And he has seen the morning star. Finally.
“Took you long enough to look up,” the star says.
“Took you long enough to rise,” Sid says right back.
Both within and without. I’ve always been intrigued by the classifications of artists as being in one of three realms: beginning, emerging and established. May we all aspire to the first two and remain highly suspicious of the last!
Here is a new piece, more abstract and at the same time, I would suggest, more real.
He’s one of my all-time favorite musicians from Mali. And his face is so intriguing to me, I had to try my hand at sculpting it.
So much is written into a face….
but, we are a captive audience of standardized icons and story lines! What to do? Tell it new. Show it fresh. What else could we ever authentically do? Tricky parts: trusting that, trusting that, trusting that.
I’m reminded of drawings that my daughters did in their early childhood. Such conviction and surety (and purity!) in those portraits.
I’m reminded of a few of the earliest raku Buddhas I made and realize now, that it might be a good idea to revisit that squishy, likeness-free realm!
I love using the “naked raku” technique of firing. The surface of the raw clay is coated with a thin layer of slip (known as terra sigillatta), which is then burnished smooth with a soft cloth. The surface is glowing but not shiny; truly reminiscent of a skin-like quality that I love. Lately I’ve been experimenting with colorations added to the terra sig. And I especially love this blue. Though light in shade , it’s no baby blue, but rather something smoked and crackled and lined just as any aged face ought to reveal.
I always have to hold my opinions in check after a piece has been glazed and before it’s fired. It’s raw, monochromatic, somehow very flat-looking.