Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Why I make Reliquaries


I saw my first reliquary at the Cleveland Museum of Art while I was majoring in metalsmithing at the Cleveland Institute of Art.  I was not raised Catholic, but it seems that Catholicism, Buddhism, and many other religions had made numerous and impressive tributes to their Gods and Saints since the beginning of time.  Perhaps in Pagan times, these were talismans.  They became something to physically embrace in eternal remembrance.  This had a huge impact on me because it seems like I've always wanted to hold onto something that helped me understand the meaning of life through loss.


I've lived through the Aids crisis, the Cancer crisis, and most recently the Covid Crisis.  I am profoundly impacted by death and loss.  It has not left me unmarked.  Making something as a memorial or tribute to these losses gives me peace.

In the interim between birth and death, there s life.  In life, there are things we hold onto as memories and mementos.  It's a fact that we're born alone and die alone.  That is why I'm fascinated by the objects we hold dear to our hearts, the things, and memories we collect to ease the pain and celebrate the joy during our life journey.

What can be more special and tender than a memorial to those we've loved and lost or to the things we've held close to our hearts as talismans.  This is where my "act of art" becomes an "act of the heart".  In making these pieces it becomes prescient and relevant in these trying times now more than ever.

In my most recent reliquary, I explore God.  What is God?  To me, Nature is my God.  It is something that regenerates and dies and completes the process regularly.  Regeneration. Joy. Peace.  Things we all seek.  This Reliquary is made from an antique celluloid rosary case.  I made a watercolor inside that shows a rainbow at the end of the path,  I painted a small bluebird to represent the hope of flight and transformation.  I would love to be able to fly.  This little bird painting is encased in a gold bezel and set under an old watch crystal and can be removed from the hook to be worn on a necklace, close to a beating heart.

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Historical Inspiration and my obsession with Mansions

I love houses, especially old houses. And even more, I love mansions. The older the better I guess you could say;  they were a foundation of my youth even though I was struck strictly lower middle class.  Unity was the religion I practiced and it took place in the old Seiberling mansion in Akron, Ohio. The Seiberlings were the founders of Goodyear, where my father worked. This old mansion had been built when the company was first established.

A reformed Catholic, my mother discovered Unity when I was five.  Unity is a religion based in metaphysics and it was housed in an old mansion.   Unity had bought a huge Tudor Home and Coach house from one of the rubber magnates when Akron was experiencing a deep decline and the suburbs were booming.  Unity was primarily an adult congregation of misfits and mystics.  Void of other children, I would roam this mansion unsupervised.  I would run my hands over the weathered mahogany banisters and the brass hinges as I searched for ghosts in the fur closets.  I discovered two wall safes and learned to hear the clicking of the gears as I put my ear to the metal and tried to crack them open.  There were dumb waiters and secret staircases.  The bathrooms were enormous and stunning with glistening tiles and vintage porcelain.  There were carvings in stone and brass hardware adorned fine cabinetry.  In the basement, there was a second kitchen used for events with original stoves and sinks.  Down a few steps was a larger room that had been used as a small theatre with a rotating stage.  There was a fourth-floor ballroom full of gabled windows with nooks where a small child could curl up reading a book.  A butler’s quarters next to the ballroom had the smell of old books and incense.  Amber lighting illuminated this mysterious library with carved mahogany woodwork. 


As I roamed these hallways with fascination, I imagined the workers who created this masterpiece of architecture and design.  Who were they?  Where were they? How did they make this?


Not only did my curiosity become inspired, but I learned to meditate. Unity installed a bio-feedback machine where we learned to take the power of the mind over the body.  We studied the Bible yet not in a literal way.  At 7 years old I was smacked in the face on the playground by another child when I announced  “Jesus was not real”.  He was only written to convey “the ideal human” in a book of fiction.


I am expanding here because I want to emphasize how important it is to follow the signs on a path.  The journey is the meaning.  I may have developed a love of craft in this mansion but it was my ability to learn to control my mind through meditation that stabilized me on the journey for which I was never fully prepared. My journey forward resembled falling off a cliff without a parachute.  As a child, I had nightly dreams of falling over a cliff as it wrenched me from the depths of sleep into a panicked, sweaty fear.  I learned to combat this when I trained myself to imagine gently falling into a pile of hay when I fell off that cliff in my twilight travels.  The dreams stopped. Fear, however, did not.  It never does.

Some drawer pulls of my own design, below: