The most beautiful abstract woodcarving I have ever seen was done by the late Gothic German sculptor, Tilman Riemenschneider somewhere around 1600 A.D. His work was exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum early in 2000. There was a sculptural group, a pair of figures, one of which was a wingless angel, whose celestial existence was indicated by a weightless floating cape which was stunning as an abstract form. I had reached the point where my Angel series was nearing completion, and this carving called out with the force and clarity of an epiphany.
Most of my creative energy since that show has gone into the mosaic collaborations I have been doing with my wife Louise. However when she said she would really like to do a flag in mosaic, Tilman's Angel returned to consciousness, I ordered the Betsy Ross version of the American flag, which, with its circle of 13 stars, has always been my favorite configuration. Interestingly it was never an official flag of the United States. Louise ironed out the fold marks from shipping, and it lay on the dining room table until the anticipation of dinner guests or something like that prompted me to clean off the table and drape the flag over the abstract walnut carving To The Mountain. Bingo.
I needed a reference to work from in the studio, and agonized over the problems of generating an armature for such a thin form. After a false start trying to bend steel rod to the shape of the edge of the flag I realized something like chicken wire would be better. Louise went with me to Home Depot on the quest and she pointed out metal lath for plaster and stucco work. What about that stuff? Another Bingo! I bent it to the shape of the flag and brazed a support to hold it, and covered the whole thing with plasticine: oil based clay.
I harvested a piece of crotch cherry from the mother log that also provided the Leg to Stand On and the Cherry Volute, and went at it like a fiend. If the wood can be carved to a very thin form very quickly, the likelihood of the wood splitting as it dries and shrinks is minimized. As the carving emerged it became clear that if it were completely covered in mosaic it would only be a flag. My son Chris gets credit for the suggestion that the stars and stripes be only minimally articulated. I guess this missive is a sneak preview, since the recesses for the mosaic fields haven't been cut yet. With the Vermont construction season beginning next week, it could be awhile before the polychromatic completion of the piece.
The form reminds me of a hooded mourning figure. Make of that what you will. My best to all....BSB