Works in Progress

A Skew

I read somewhere that the most frequently sculpted subject in the world is the elephant. But, that does not faze me. My elephant will not have a monumental body, with columnar legs and feet, head thrown back, trunk raised in a trumpet call. Nor will my elephant be marching in a parade, decked out in full regalia, carrying maharajas or Bodhisattvas in relief. The elephant of my dreams is in the midst of feeding, a branch full of foliage grasped between the tusks and the trunk, head tilted to the side, straining in the exertion of ripping limb from tree. The heat waves rising from the savannah floor obscure its body. All I can see is the shimmering head, askew in its efforts, hovering in the air.

This sculpture must be imposing. Almost life size, so I can literally feel its huge presence. There is no single piece of wood big enough to contain the massive head, flapping ears, and extending limbs. The framework must be created

To start the process, I analyze my slabs, plan the cuts, and glue-up the overlapping blocks of wood. A staircase of thick jagged plateaus, somewhat reminiscent of an elephant, is the result.

Now the fun can begin. It’s time to start roughing out. I grab a wide deep gouge and a heavy mallet. With my feet planted firmly, my center of gravity centered, I start swinging. Driving the gouge deep into the grain, I split off the errant sections that jut out from the form. The mallet rises and falls, rises and falls, rises and falls. I am riding the rhythm. Every cut marks a decision, but my mind seems to be whirring silently in the background. All my thoughts are embodied in the vigorous movement of my muscles.

After untold hours, a delicious fatigue sets in. I stop to size up the results. Yes, it’s time to move to the next stage.

Refining the form is not a barrage of wild action, but a quiet time of reflection. Chisels are chosen with care to the task at hand. The hands move deliberately but tenderly, one wrapped around the handle, the other gripping the cool metal of the blade. The wood whispers to me as the chisels sweep across the surface, leaving burnished curves in their wake.

My progress is measured by the debris underfoot. At first, heavy irregular chunks of wood trip me up, then I crunch over masses of fibrous curls and chips, then a day’s work leaves a mere scattering of slippery shavings and, finally, scratchy dust invades every crevice in the studio.

By then, the undulating forms are complete. The thick swell of the trunk merges into the bulge of the eye ridge, sweeps down to the receding curve of the mouth and rises back out to the flowing ripples of ears arched in space. The pair of tusks thrust forward with the power and grace of a scimitar.

But the sculpture is not finished, for I still see only a carving, a piece of wood with a striking resemblance to an elephant, but, somehow, remaining devoid of life.

I reach for a skew. The skew is the solution. This thin flat chisel with its deeply angled edge is ideal for incising precise, narrow lines and delving into tight recesses. With infinite care, I slide the skew along the edge of an eyelid, releasing a thin sliver of wood. A slight undercut is left behind, a well-defined shadow that brings the form to the surface. Next, pressing in the point of the skew I form the top leg of a V and then the bottom. A tiny wedge of wood is removed, and a deep, black corner pops into view. The eye has gained its curvature. An expression takes shape.

Commanding but cautious. Aloof yet curious. The elephant takes a breath. Stares back at me. And feeds.


Think of something that touches your soul, a poignant situation, a burst of color, a profound memory. Now capture that in three-dimensional form. Such is the challenge I set for myself. I create portraits of a thought, emotion, or specific human experience that tempt the viewer to enter the work and find there a new, or renewed, appreciation of a sensation or world.

Figurative and narrative pieces predominate in my work, which range from the whimsical to the erotic. Through modeled clay, carved wood, or draped fabric, light and shadow, movement and rhythm play off each other to create a compelling whole. Texture is a major component of my work, designed to evoke a strong tactile response.
My first and abiding loves, dance and fashion design, taught me about the expressive potential of the human form and the power of presentation. My expository and descriptive leanings spring from a 15-year career in technical/marketing writing, in which the goal was to clearly communicate the details of complex scientific subjects. In my art, the subjects are more familiar, the concepts simpler, but the communication is still clear, the forms still powerfully expressive.
An unlikely story sums up the process, purpose, and experience of my work


Five hours with nothing to do. No commuting to work, ironing clothes, cleaning house, or running errands. No blaring TV, droning traffic, ringing phones, or chattering children. No political gridlock, chemical weapons, domestic violence, or terrorist attacks. No concerns. No demands.

Just one pleasantly self-appointed task. Size up the problem lying at your feet and execute. The process is clear. Use everything you’ve learned before and adjust the parameters to the situation at hand. Implementation is solely a case of mind over matter. Ah, there’s the rub! But, similar feats have been accomplished before. You’ve carried the day, met the objectives. You’ve measured the distances, calculated airspeed, and let muscle memory do the rest. Now, you simply have to do it again.

From where you stand the goal seems within reach, only a few minor obstacles to overcome. Exactly one hundred and fifty yards separates you from the pin. The hole itself is not visible; only the flag and a bit of the pole rise above the hill upon which the green is perched, the hill, in turn, protected by a moat of soggy marsh, bejeweled with sand traps. A delicious challenge! The trajectory of the ball will have to be steep and the backspin strong to carry the water, make the green, and stop the ball in place before it rolls into unknown hazards. The seven-wood should do the trick. Just the right amount of loft, just the right length.

You initiate the set-up. Right hand folds over left, encasing the club in a firm, even grip. Shoulders align parallel to the flight path. The ball is set slightly back in the stance. The stance slightly closed. The center-of-gravity slightly off-center.

A perfect Zen moment. Complete focus — total concentration — without a single disrupting thought.

And then, the backswing. Hands, arms, shoulders, hips sweep the club head off the ground, wrapping it around the body as the torso twists into a coil of pent-up energy, a compressed spring of taut muscle. A torque machine. An instant of calm at the top. And then, in a rush of movement, you fling the power out from your core to your limbs to your fingers to the club. Power becomes speed, and speed again becomes movement as — thwack— the ball goes screaming through air, and you surge into your finish.

You are a burst of energy tearing through space, spinning in a kaleidoscope of blue/green/yellow/brown/blue/green/blue/green. Soaring over the fairway, tracing a beautiful arc straight at the target. Up, up, up until all your energy has been released and gravity starts its downward pull. Now you are falling, faster and faster, descending back into the realm of reality, down towards the dangers waiting below. Your eyes track the path of the ball as it sails over the rough, clears the water, skirts the bunkers, and, finally, drops squarely onto the green. You are stunned into silence.

That was puuuuure sex!

Your next thought, “Let’s do THAT again.”

If you now want to take up the game of golf, become a sculptor, or find somebody to love, then my work has succeeded.