Monday, December 11, 2006

Shawn Strange


Our sous chef Shawn Strange has written this entry:

The smell of turpentine reminds me of my mother.

I find it oddly familiar these fond thoughts of a toxic vapor pop
into my mind just as sitting down to gorgeous smelling and looking
Thanksgiving dinner plate. Even at the bottom of the earth, Palmer
Station, we celebrate traditional holidays, as well as create our
own. But as I sit down to the table with David Ruth and talk of
sculptures, paintings and artists circle the table, I find myself
lost in the familiar and taken back to my childhood.

At the end of each painting day, my mother, the artist, would stand
back from her easel and stare at her freshly-painted canvas,
watching it as if it would jump to life all while stirring her used
paintbrush around in a glass jar of turpentine, milky with the
smattering of her pallet colors. When she was painting, the smell of
this piney liquid would float from the jar and her studio to invade
the entire house, lying over every room like a layer of
pine-smelling dust.

As a child, I would stand beside her, watching her swirl paint
together on the pallet, blending one color into another until just
the right hue had been achieved, and then dipping her brush to
paint, shape forms that would emerge on the canvas as images.
These moments in my mother's studio were magical, watching outlines
take color, color take shape, shape evolve into patterns and images
begin to move with rhythm that sometimes swept me away or not. I
would always tell her my exact opinion, her harshest critic and
biggest fan. These moments with her, our conversations, watching her
paint are some core piece of me still.

My childhood was filled with her artist friends coming over to visit
in paint-splattered clothing, sitting at her booth during art shows,
and getting stuck staying late into the art-opening evenings,
because my mother was lost in artsy talk that bored my
twelve-year-old self stiff, the same kind of conversations that I
find I cannot do without now.

There have been a few times in my life I've found myself in
uninspiring places that were void of beauty and denuded of artistic
minds. This is not one of those times.

The landscape around Palmer Station is awe-inspiring, endlessly
white upon frozen white. Some days it's so glaringly bright that the
snow is mushy under your feet, your retinas cringe in the intensity
of the reflective light and glaciers calf like thunder.
Other days only small pockets of hazy sun make it through the foggy
gray skyline creating a charrosquurroo effect in only the shades of
white, which I would have never thought to be possible. Shadows in
the glacier are enhanced, and sunsets intensify the effect.

Four-foot crystal icicles drip down from the outer lip of the ice
arch, frozen to the cavern's edge, lacing it like a giant, surreal
white gingerbread house. Nestled deep within their arches, these
sky-blue Narnian doorways open up into glacial caves, the result of
thousands of years of snow cyclically falling, compacting, melting,
moving ever-so slightly and collapsing occasionally. The beauty of
these natural sculptures, these frozen sapphires, defy any words
that I've found thus far to describe them.

It's hard for me to not create in this environment. It's difficult
to not be inspired to capture some piece of what the naked eye can
see.

And so in watching David Ruth run around and try to lasso small
icebergs like the moon, I've felt a piece of home (minus the smell
of turpentine). I've been able to talk about form and texture and
see the ice differently through the eyes of someone trying to create
a work of art in its likeness, listening to the discussions of
process regarding fixatives, molds and freezing times. From over my
heaping plate of Thanksgiving dinner, I listen to cozy conversations
of creation being spoken from the corner room of a rectangular
building on a peninsula that juts out from this our Antarctic island
home on Anvers Island . We eat and talk and relax ourselves, our
bellies and the top button of our pants in this our slowly-thawing,
frozen world, warm with stuffing and pie.

5 Comments:

Blogger The Lone Beader said...

That is beautifully written:)

12/11/06, 12:00 PM  
Blogger Jon said...

What beutifully dscriptive language. I felt as I was there with you.
..more from the Sous Chef please.

Jon

12/11/06, 7:45 PM  
Blogger Angie Weid said...

Lovely story.

Thank you.

12/12/06, 12:20 AM  
Blogger Alto2 said...

Another unsolicited suggestion: when you complete your ice sculptures in glass, you should have Shawn Strange write the descriptions that go along with each piece. She is a gifted writer. I can smell that turpentine right here.

12/12/06, 11:53 AM  
Blogger Reggie said...

just amazing

12/12/06, 11:59 AM  

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