Friday, August 29, 2008

A HOOT OF OWLS

Owl Teapot by Leanne Pizio

"A Barred Owl"

The warping night-air having brought the boom
Of an owl's voice into her darkened room,
We tell the wakened child that all she heard
Was an odd question from a forest bird,
Asking of us, if rightly listened to,
"Who cooks for you?" and then "Who cooks for you?"

Words, which can make our terrors bravely clear,
Can also thus domesticate a fear,
And send a small child back to sleep at night
Not listening for the sound of stealthy flight
Or dreaming of some small thing in a claw
Borne up to some dark branch and eaten raw.


Stone Owl Sculpture by John Philip Capello

Looking at the stone sculpture by John Philip Capello makes me think of a little altercation I had with my mom during my early teens. I can distinctly hear my mother's voice rising up from behind me. "Robyn, what on earth are you doing?"


Horror of all horrors........ caught red handed. ....mincing fieldmice... fur...tails...bones and all .....in mom's mincer. I had 2 hungry owlets that had to be fed. Our induna's children had brought me several limp field mice they had caught caught in primitive tin can traps that very morning. These they usually roasted on sticks over a fire before eating them...with relish I might add. But today they had "gifted" the mice to me in exchange for sweets. Anyway after mom looked into her mincer and saw the mangled mess of mouse I was threatened within an inch of my life so had to revert to wrapping minced beef in cottonwool to feed my hungry pets. Such is life growing up on a farm.

Wire Owl by Elizabeth Berrien


I posted this Stainedglass Owl by Jay Gubitz for Chris over at Shady Grove

Picasso Owl Print

Monday, August 25, 2008

COLLECTIONS


I'm in the last stages of completing a totem I've called "The Collector".


It fits in very well with the theme at The Altered Page where Seth is showcasing artists who have taken part in his Artist Survey. My favourite part of the survey is Question 5.
Show and Tell. SHOW us one photograph of the object or objects that you collect and TELL us how your collection(s) came to be and/or what they mean to you. Feel free to include any anecdote about how you might have found/bought any of your treasures.

My reply was : I love Ethiopian artifacts and I think this love for anything Ethiopian started with a very old shield in my collection. A South African soldier stationed in Ethiopia during World War II brought it back for my mother who eventually gave it to me. As a child I was fascinated by its conical shape and all the engraved metal embellishments. (I actually thought it was a hat). The fact that it is made out of tough hippopotamus hide made it all the more exciting. I love the coptic crosses in my collection. The ones with hollow bases were used mounted on staffs during processionals and the others are hand held crosses. The baskets made in Ethiopia are unique to that country. Woven straw, covered in leather and embellished with metal beadwork.

There are some wonderful collections featured in the survey.....and a few wierd ones.


Dneese from grrl+dog collects vintage sex and medical books.


Kristy Chrisopherson and Jennifer Gordon collect old letters.


Ingrid Dijkers collects marbles.

Steph Bouwers collects antique ethnic jewellery amongst other things.


There are 90+ artists talking about their collections. I've practically been camping at The Altered Page, just to absorb the creative buzz.....and losing a lot of sleep too, I might add. There's so much to see especially if you go on little excursions to the individual blogs that are featured there.


Go have a look if you haven't already done so.


Friday, August 22, 2008

EARLY SPRING


"Spring has returned. The Earth is like a child that knows poems." - Rainer Maria Rilke.

Locusts are prevalent in August. Probably getting ready to nip off all the little spring buds before they have a chance to unfurl. Not my most favourite creature!


The cuckoos are back...or one is anyway. It must be spring. I always hear the first Red Chested Cuckoo in the middle of the night...or morning.... 2.00 a.m. to be exact. I get the feeling that he arrived, threw his suitcase on the bed then flew straight out again to rustle up a mate. He calls incessantly, almost feverishly, desperate for someone to answer him.





There he goes again ...Piet-my-vrou, Piet-my vrou. His nick name Piet-my-vrou comes from the Afrikaans "Peter my wife", a representation of the birds call. He's a very shy bird except when testing his voice. You don't often see them close up because they tend to stay in the shadows of the tallest trees.

During my early teens the induna (zulu headman) on our farm presented me with a big fluffy cuckoo chick. He had found it in an old tin oil can, lodged in the hedge where a Cape Robin had made her nest. (Cape Robins are the favourite breeding hosts for cuckoos.) By the time I had traced the now dislodged oil can the cuckoo had been handled too much for it to be reinstated in the broken nest.

The Cape Robin


He was the funniest little chick with a voracious appetite and the biggest gaping mouth I'd ever seen. In fact his mouth seemed to be open wide most of the time I had him. It wasn't long before he doubled in size, which is what they do, and the next thing he had done a flit.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

CREATIVE PEOPLE


Something that really interests me is the creative process and studying the process in different artists, different mediums and different cultures.......which is probably why I am addicted to arty blogs.


Seth over at the altered page has designed a project "to bring together the online artistic community, introduce you to new artists, and help you to know some familiar ones better.
95 artists answered 7 questions and, in doing so, opened a window into their artistic process and imaginative minds."

The third episode of The Pulse is out! Many of us are participating and had great fun answering the questions......and Seth?...well it must have been a mammoth task so a big thank you to Seth for putting it all together for us.


Saturday, August 16, 2008

TO MARKET, TO MARKET


We are home from our little jaunt out of town. First stop was at the farmers market which turned out to be far more than a few stalls selling farm produce.


It was practically a village of brightly coloured gazebos touting anything from ostrich windpipes for doggie treats to man sized metal roosters, Yoruba artefacts and the most foul smelling, rainbow striped cheeses.


Speaking of dogs...everybody brought along their deliriously happy canines on leads, all behaving excellently I might add. A lot of giants like Great Danes and Newfoundlands greeting each other very politely, a little sniff here and a little sniff there and then off on their curcuitous way.


A labrador plopped down on the grass opposite the doggie treat stand (he had done this before) and tentatively stretched his neck out, his nose twitching delicately at the basket of ostrich windpipes. He was rewarded for his good manners and his mistress left with two packets brimming with pigs ears, giant bones and dried ostrich tendons.

I was thrilled to see a familiar face, an african gent from Nigeria who has sold me a few Yoruba pieces before. What I like about his artefacts is that though he sells curios and a few knock offs he also sells the genuine thing.

WE left with a basket of goodies just in the nick of time before it started to rain.... and as usual we forgot to buy the vegetables that had brought us to the market in the first place.

Next stop... the gallery to drop off a few carvings .......


..... a quick cappuccino at the Artscafe.....

........ take a few photos of the street murals and then.... home again, home again...jiggedy jig.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

BEACHCOMBER


"I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown for going out, I found, was really going in." - John Muir.



From the moment my toes sink into wet shingle I feel cleansed of the city buzz. There's something so calming about being at the sea. Breathing in the salty air, gazing out as far as the eye can see and generally just slowing down from the rushing about that we all do.


......And then there is the searching, the unearthing and the gathering of sea treasures.



Our family has been collecting cowrie shells for as long as I can remember. If a cowrie washes up on the sand we see it as a message from our loved ones who have passed on. A message of love. We see you, we hear you, we are here.

My eldest daughter favoured the spotless white cowries and my youngest, the little brown speckled ones. I love the sand buffed, worn cowries....though I have to admit that the first siting of a perfect new cowrie makes my heart sing.




I have been working on my "Beachcomber" totem for the past week and reliving those long languid days, wandering along the sea shore.




Tuesday, August 12, 2008

THE SIMPLE THINGS


I read the Newspaper about once a month, if that, because it unsettles me to read about the turmoil in my country every day. We have unacceptable crime levels. Rape and murder are so commonplace they don't even elicit a shocked reaction anymore. I'm tired of reading about fraud, bribes, greed, corruption, theft, burglaries, violence. We have regular strikes, demonstrations and electricity load shedding which is crippling business and as if the electricity blackouts aren't enough we can now look forward to water shortages too......And lets not even talk about the goings on in Zimbabwe.


As far as I'm concerned, "if it happens it happens" but I would rather not dwell on it by reading about it in the newspaper everyday. I certainly feel a lot more content since I've been avoiding the news.

Today I count my blessings and focus on the simple things in life.

Working quietly in the courtyard, the sound of the stream gurgling in the backround and the loeries calling overhead. My work is my meditation.


Sitting on the lawn with the dogs, gazing up at an amazing sky. Clouds with silver linings.




Breathing in the fragrance of crushed rose geranium leaves.


Orchids flowering on the meditation tree.

The scent of camphor as I remove clean sheets from mom's old camphor chest.


Gathering metal bits and pieces to use in my art ....or just gathering for the sake of gathering.





Listening to my daughter's unbridled laughter. Appreciating my husband's quirky sense of humour.

.........And while I am tapping away at the keys, loving being part of this blogging community, the phone rings. Someone has just purchased two of my carved doors at the gallery..."please send more." It's such a great day!

Friday, August 8, 2008

THE HYENA MEN OF NIGERIA



Pieter Hugo is a South African based photographer who was selected as the Standard Bank Young Artist for Visual Art 2007. His photographic series of the Hyena men of Nigeria is phenomenal!




The story I heard and later read here, was that a friend sent Pieter a cell phone photograph of a group of men leading chained hyenas down a street in Lagos. This is a sight I would find totally amazing because full grown hyenas aren't the most friendly creatures and I wouldn't put it past one to snap an arm off as easily as snapping a piece of celery. Their jaws are extremely powerful. On the other hand I have heard that when reared from puppies they make the most charming and amiable pets.

Anyway to cut a long story short, Pieter hopped onto a plane for Lagos, found the Hyena Men and actually traveled with them for 8 days.

The "Gadawan Kura" (hyena handlers) are a group of travelling entertainers who earn a living by performing with these hyenas..... as well as a few baboons and rock pythons.



The photographs of this unlikely coexistence are so extraordinary that I have returned to look at them several times but they leave me feeling rather unsettled.



Thursday, August 7, 2008

CHICKEN WIRE MASTERPIECES


Jean-Michael Basquiat by Ivan Lovatt


Australian sculptor, Ivan Lovatt , creates wonders with chicken wire. It must be one of the most difficult ways to create art which is probably why you don't find many people doing it in quite the unique style that Lovatt does. All the layers of mesh twisted and folded to form the hills and dales that make up a face like Einstein's.....



or a man's jacket or Dame Ednas purple possum picker ........



.....or an owl.


The man's clearly a genius.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

CROW

Curious Crow by James Kitchen


In Africa crows are considered to be guides, protector spirits and messengers.They warn people that danger is approaching.


I love this little handcarved flock by Allen & Mary Dee

For some reason artists have found crows highly portrayable and a lot of the art portrays them in a humorous light. I've posted a few crows I found while googling.

Another delightful crow, carved and handpainted by Allen & Mary Dee

When I was just a kid my brother arrived home with a poor pinioned crow that had been advertised in the Pets for Sale column. The owner couldn't handle him so my brother bought him for me to tame. Crow, however wasn't going to be tamed by anyone. He had the meanest of mean streaks and if he hadn't been pinioned we would have set him free.

We put him in the avery outside the bathroom window where he could chat to all the wild birds in the garden. He mimiced everything including running water, flushing toilets, ringing telephones and a whole repertoire of bird calls. He had us on the hop from morning til night and became extremely excited when we rushed around the garden looking for gushing taps and then back inside to answer the telephone.



Sculpture by Gunter Reimnitz

Eventually he managed to entice my Indian Minor (which I had reared from a featherless fledgling) to the wire and before anyone could blink he had yanked poor Zombie's head through the wire and swallowed it whole. That was the end of that...... Crow had to go!

Craven (half crow and half raven) by Rod Bearup

A friend of my husband's owned a pub....and a crow. The crow kept the patrons entertained every evening. She would strut up and down dipping her beak into glasses getting horribly drunk and rather raucus. Her favourite trick was to swipe an ice block out of a glass when nobody was looking and then rush to the other side of the pub challenging anyone to give chase. When she was sure that nobody was looking she would hide the ice block, either under the corner of a mat or behind a curtain. She then strolled nonchalently to the other side of the room from where she kept watch, making sure nobody went anywhere near the hiding place. Of course the ice melted and inevitably she couldn't contain herself a minute longer and had to have a little peep at her hidden treasure.....only to find that sombody had stolen it. She then flew into a major tantrum, jumping up and down flapping her wings and cawing with rage much to the delight of all the patrons.

Clay crow sculpture by Virginia Wyoming



There seems to be a rash of crow art about. They are obviously fascinating to a lot of people. I find I'm reminiscing about Crow too....especially when visiting Gwen over at Desideratum. I was actually quite fond of Crow despite his mean spirit and in the back of my mind I know that he had every reason to be mean spirited.



Crow or Raven art by Mark Orr