Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Art Open House at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center

The MCCA Art Program began in 2005, just one year after the grand opening of the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center (BCEC). Over the last three years, they have developed a well-rounded art program that embraces the creative talents of Massachusetts’ artists – from experienced art professionals to emerging young artists honing their craft at art organizations, high schools and colleges. Their exhibition schedule changes frequently in order to fully tap into the artistic resources available here in the Commonwealth. They are very proud to offer a rotating schedule of contemporary art exhibitions, each thoughtfully designed to engage viewers from all walks of life.

Donna Dodson: Elephant Parade will be on view from December 2011-December 2012. Through the elephant-headed female figures that emerge from ash, pine and maple, Dodson appropriates for womankind the creature that has long been an incarnation of power and wisdom. The twelve elephants in the parade also reflect the animal's family group in the wild: females travel together in herds while males live alone. Donna uses a female elephant- headed goddess figure in her work to create a dozen formal iterations of this piece that explore female figureheads, and women as symbols of power such as a female Uncle Sam/Madam President, Indira Gandhi, Madame Chiang Kai Shek and Iron Lady/Margaret Thatcher.

The Hindu elephant god Ganesh inspires her work but all of the elephants are female. Studies of African sculptures and Native American totems inform Dodson’s figures. In the process of carving, the ears are developed realistically but as the form develops, they are transformed into headdresses, helmets and hair-dos. These monolithic and serene sculptures are enhanced by the use of paint whereby color transforms wood sections into objects such as tusks, gloves and hair. Dodson is inspired by Jessica Stockholder’s interplay of color and form in her art work as well as Cynthia Moss’s field studies of African elephants.

She uses logs of osage orange from her grandfather’s farm in Illinois, and ash, pine, and maple from New England. Each piece of wood speaks to Dodson in a different voice. She sculpts with a chainsaw and a belt sander as well as chisels, rasps, and files. The wood’s surfaces are smoothed out with sandpaper, colored with paint or pigment and finished in varnish and wax. Dodson’s pieces range from one to four feet tall, and one to two feet in diameter. These iconic goddesses are crafted in the manner of fine woodworking similar to the sculptures of Brancusi, Moore, and Puryear. They are unique objects and each piece has a magical presence.

Update(s): Check out this video preview of the work. Thank you, Susan Merritt, for putting together this fabulous exhibit of art for the City of Boston to enjoy all year long! There is a featured write up of the exhibition on the Advantage Boston blog. Check out the listing for this show on the Greater Boston Convention and Visitors Bureau calendar.

Image: Prom Queen, 31" tall, poplar, paint, 2009 by Donna Dodson

Monday, November 14, 2011

Working on my Artist Statement and Other News...

What do I believe about my artwork? My sculptures are heroic but interconnected. Not one is above the virtue of another. Each one is honored to be in the company of the others. They are all made greater by their association yet each one is an individual of their own.

What do I believe my artwork is about? Self expression. Autobiography. Self redemption. That I dare to evoke self hatred and indulge it, act it out, embody it, project it onto a form, in the female body, exorcise it from my body and my mind, and understand it, transform it, gain power over it, and myself in the process. Also to gain a skill that is marketable, is to redeem myself from poverty and to free myself of having to marry, or be dependent on a husband or partner for money. A platform of the self to stand upon. Self made woman.

Are my process and the finished sculptures the same thing?

Through the abstracted language of animal headed goddess figures. Human/animal. A believable fiction. A willful suspension of disbelief. Animals that talk, walk, wear clothes. A celebration of the goddess within. Her Entity. Divinity. Hybrid. Anthropomorphic. Make believe Iconography. In my church as a kid growing up, there were no icons or visual representations of women, or the divinity that was female. Not an animal mask on a human body, not a human head on an animal body, but the animal mind in the human body, and the line between logic and instinct, intellect and emotion, reason and intuition.

In the creation of my work, I feel it’s necessary to evoke a strong feeling about each piece that leads me to the point of daring to fulfill my vision, taking risks, listening to the piece, making mistakes, in the creation or completion. It’s the emotional investment in the reality of creating a sculpture that crystallizes the piece for me.

Sometimes I think up an idea, or a concept, and I imagine what the piece would be to go with that idea. But more often, I work from my intuition in the studio and once it’s completed, I can look and see the intentions behind the piece, or the desire from which it is born.

Feminist? Self-loving. Where does the animal in the body begin and end? How does the animal in the body express itself? Its appetites? Its vanity? Its social status? Its playfulness? Its survival? Its mind?

How can we imagine women as cardinals? Women as presidents? Women in power? Are they grand old gals? Grand dames? Larger than life? The girl next door? Fag hag? Gal pal? Working girl? Housewife? Mom? Matron? Matriarch? Vampire? Victim? Self-righteous? Pious? Slut? Whore? Good girl? Sex goddess? Power monger? Above it all? Breezy? Bare? Raw? Polished? Holier than thou?

How do girls become women? Mother, daughter, grandmother? Maiden, mother, crone? Fairy tales: Little red riding hood, little match girl, red wing black bird, tiger mom, white stork, bantam babe, dancing crane, seagull Cinderella, culture vultures, red tail hawks, brown pelicans, wood peckers, secretaries, nurses, teachers. Strength in numbers.

I've followed Jungians more than Freudians on psychoanalysis because the Jungians seemed more transcendent or spiritual, i.e. Nor Hall, The Moon and the Virgin and Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Women who run with the wolves. In their writing they talk about female archetypes. The idea of the story that paints characters with words, that form pictures in our minds eye. The story that has a message, a meaning, a teaching, an allegory, an illusion that is open to interpretation in the imagination. I want my work to do the same thing. Enchantment. Not a literal meaning or symbol of a doctrine. Anime. Cartoons. New stories. Patterns. Stereotypes inverted. Robert Graves, The White Goddess. Encoded. Encrypted.

The Hindu elephant god Ganesh [remover of obstacles] inspired my last body of work but all of my figures were female. They took the form of a tribe, just as they organize themselves in the wild. The matriarchs lead and circle around the younger females. These were not literal studies of Ganesh- but original artworks from my imagination and each one was unique. What if Ganesh were female? The founder of the Shaker movement, Mother Anne believed all things have a male and female, manifestation. She believed she was the female incarnate of Christ, yet they remained a celibate community.

My studies of African sculptures and Native American totems inform my elephants. The idea that Native Americans teach kids about the wild by hunting, to respect the power and danger of an animal, where as American kids learn about animals through pets, stuffed animals and cartoon characters. Family Clan. Masks. Rituals. Stories. Tribal. Primitive. Animism. Animated. Performance. Dance.

I’m interested in the interplay of color and form. Especially Jessica Stockholder’s work where color is a transformational visual device, changing the way we see form. I’m interested in personality type and body language. Character and sexuality. Beauty and sensuality. I like Katharina Fritsch’s sculptures. Sacred figures are turned into pop icons with the use of color.

Look for my work in these upcoming exhibits...

Knight&Hammer Flat elephant jewelry collection at Daniela Corte 211 Newbury Street in Boston. 1⁄2” elephant links inspired by sculptor Donna Dodson's work.18K yellow gold over bronze bracelet, necklace and earrings from The GTAEF (Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation) Collection. Part of the Knight&Hammer's Jewelry with a ConscienceTM that is premiering November 17th.

Photos courtesy of Boldfacers.com.

THANKSGIVING SILENT ART AUCTION, Gallery Ehva, 74 Shankpainter Rd, Provincetown, MA
Preview opening and start of bidding - Friday, Nov 18, 6-8pm
Preview will continue all week, till Sat. Nov 26, Noon-2pm
Closing Party: Saturday, November 26, 4pm - 6pm ---> Wine, Music, Food!

Artful Giving for the Holiday: Paintings, Pottery, Jewelry & Sculpture
Now through December 24th at The Mill Brook Gallery and Sculpture Garden, 236 Hopkinton Road, Concord, NH 03301
Open House: Saturday, December 3rd 11-3 during ART CONCORD