The Marriage of Sol and Luna

"The Marriage of Sol and Luna." 38" diameter mandala. Mosiac paper collage on board, finished with polyurethane varnish. Hanger affixed on back. $2,250.00. SOLD

The British sculptor, Henry Moore, stopped halfway through the first chapter of Erich Neumann’s book, The Archetypal World of Henry Moore (1959) because, as he later said, “I did not want to know about these things. . . .  I did not want such aspects of my work to become henceforth self-conscious.  I feel they should remain subconscious and the work should remain intuitive.”

I don’t know whether it was a sign of strength or weakness, but I was halfway through the creation of this large collage, The Marriage of Sol and Luna, before I realized what I was making might be symbolic of a lunar eclipse.  Days after that I learned a lunar eclipse was soon to occur, in a rare coincidence with the day of the winter solstice.  At that point I was within striking distance of finishing the work, which took me nearly a month of long days to complete.  Thus it was with conscious intention that I laid down the last of what seemed like a million (probably closer to 10,000) tiny collage pieces within one hour of the occurrence of the solstice, on December 21, 2010.

The dark lines which curve throughout the piece, dividing it into many smaller sections, are in fact a single line which I made at the outset, never picking up the pen until the line, through its labyrinthine twists, turns, and undulations, was finished.  I established the area of the inner white circle by tracing a 78 vinyl record.  The template for the larger white circle was an enormous quilting hoop that once belonged to the grandmother of my college roommate.

In his notes for the 1937 article, “The Sculptor Speaks,” Henry Moore wrote this:  “The subconscious plays a great part in art, that is to say that in conceiving & realising a work a great deal happens which cannot be logically explained–the mind jumps from one stage to another much further on without there being traceable steps shown between–preferences for one shape over another which cannot be explained–sudden solutions which cannot be followed step by step–in a word–inspiration.”

Part of the ongoing, and sometimes difficult task of the artist, is to cooperate with this process, rather than imposing one’s self in a way that occludes or subverts it.

–Deborah Norsworthy

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“Mandala: Gran Cirque”

"Mandala:  Gran Cirque" by ameliamandala
“Mandala: Gran Cirque”, a photo by ameliamandala on Flickr.

Mandala, 44″ diameter, paper collage, created by Deborah Norsworthy for March 2010 exhibit “6 @ 549,” at Gallery 549, Lafayette, Louisiana. Now held in private collection.

Making Mandalas

From "The Gracious Circle." Gallery exhibit at the Jung Center of Houston, January 2011.

Making mandalas has taught me that it is good to be centered and it is needful to have boundaries.  Making mandalas has shown me how things grow.  I have seen that

1.  You must start from somewhere.  Anywhere.  Preferably the center.  But anywhere.  You  must start.

2.  It is perfect to be imperfect.  Even more, it is beautiful.

3.  What seems like not much in the beginning may add up to something good, even remarkable, in the end–if you persevere.

4.  It is not helpful to judge until a piece is finished.  And even then it is not good to judge too much.  Or maybe I should just go all the way and do as Jesus said:  “Judge not. . . .”

"Poesis Lyrica." 18" x 21" set mandala wallpiece. Paper collage on wood finished with polyurethane varnish. Hanger fixed on back. $325.00.

5.  Repetition of the same simple thing may become beautiful.

6.  When you work from the center the piece maintains a measure of wholeness at every stage.  As the circle grows it becomes more complex and interesting it gains depth.

7.  Things that seem not to go together can go together if you let them and help them.  This is called integration.  There is integrity in that.

"Song of the Eye." 7.5" x 9.5" set mandala wallpiece. Paper collage on vinyl record, vintage book covers, and wood, finished with polyurethane varnish. Hanger fixed on back. $125.00.

8.  Surprises stand out in the context of a consistent pattern.

9.  Many pieces go through an unattractive adolescent period.  Don’t give up.  Sometimes the ugliest adolescence develops into the most beautiful and unique maturity.

10.  Expectations and preconceptions are often unhelpful.  To create a piece that is alive one must be open to what it is and what it is becoming, and then help it to become that.

11.  Courage is essential to creation.

Here is a poem I found in a list of words I made out of letters of the word “refrigerator.”

To get fire:  rare.

To free fire:  rarer.

To err:  oft.

Tiger at gate:  go

Forge art or fear.

Great gift after grief.

—Deborah Norsworthy

"No One's Perfect." 13" diameter mandala wallpiece. Paper collage on discarded cd, ceramic charger plate, finished with polyurethane varnish. Hanger fixed on back. $165.00.

Queen of the Heart

 

“Queen of the Heart.” 16″ diameter mandala wallpiece. Paper collage on assemblage of compact discs, finished with polyurethane varnish. Hanger fixed on back. $375.00

I sometimes fear that too much struggle in the creation of a work will violate its purity and integrity.  Time and experience have shown me, however, that each artwork has its own story and character, and that a piece born smoothly is not necessarily better than one over which I have worried.  Sometimes it takes me a long time to learn to like a work simply because it is so different from my expectation, unlike anything else I have made.  Rainer Maria Rilke, in Letters to a Young Poet, writes “We must assume our existence as broadly as we in any way can; everything, even the unheard-of, must be possible in it.  That is at bottom the only courage that is demanded of us:  to have courage for the most strange, the most singular, and the most inexplicable that we may encounter.

 In Queen of the Heart, the struggle for art and love unite.  I created the piece in 2009, near the end (of course I did not know that then!) of a four-year period of living alone without an intimate partner.  During that time I encountered many individuals who were cynical about the possibility of loving relationships; I myself sometimes struggled to keep my faith.  This mandala incorporates an earlier collage which I had to seriously refashion in order to create an aesthetic harmony in the piece.  It also incorporates texts that encouraged me to trust love, even in its winter; those include a stream of consciousness meditation on excerpts of 1 Corinthians 13, part of an e. e. cummings poem:  

love is the voice under all silences,/the hope which has no opposite in fear;/the strength so strong mere force is feebleness:/the truth more first than sun more last than star

and the important words of Clarissa Pinkola Estes in Women Who Run With the Wolves, a book that has become like a bible to me.  Wisely she writes:  “Three things differentiate living from the soul versus living from ego only.  They are:  the ability to sense and learn new ways, the tenacity to ride a rough road, and the patience to learn deep love over time.”

Rondo, by D. M. Norsworthy

 

"Rondo." 16" diameter mandala wallpiece. Mixed media (paper and plant material) collage finished with polyurethane varnish. Hanger fixed on back. $350.00.

 

It seems miraculous to me when I suddenly see something (or someone) common to me in a new way.  This happened to me last year when I was preparing one of my favorite dishes for my friend, Judith, who was coming to lunch.  What I saw suddenly differently was an inedible byproduct of my food production I was about to throw in the trash.  I saw its natural beauty, both sides.  It is now incorporated (or one like it) into the mandala pictured above, which I have given the musical title, “Rondo.”   A rondo, incidentally, is an instrumental musical composition in which the leading theme is repeated alternately with other themes.  And of course the Italian word rondo does somewhat suggest the notion of roundness. 

The regular concentricity of the “Rondo” mandala, combined with the slight variations in the materials, highlight for me how commodities manufactured from natural materials–here, various papers–may through time, use, and exposure, gradually return to nature.  Much of the paper in “Rondo” had a musical use.  One readily recognizes the sheet music embellishing the scalloped border.  Less obvious is the origin of the paper used in the dark outer ring–paper salvaged from disintegrating sheaths that once protected vinyl 78 records in an album.  The paper, worn soft, was extremely absorbent of the varnish I applied at the end; I did not anticipate how much it would darken, but I liked the effect it created.  I also incorporated paper from an old, unused photo album, from a copy of The Oresteia by Aeschylus I found in a dumpster (I already had the play), and from a discarded menu from the restaurant Chino Latino in Minneapolis.  

The almost-finished collage, however, seemed to call for something more at its center.  I studied it a long time, considering various possibilities–freshwater pearls? a piece of glass?  a flat rusty bottle cap from my collection?  

"Rondo." Detail.

 

In the detail of Rondo (left), one may see what I settled upon–a centerpiece that blends without getting lost, that stands out as unique without being ostentatious, that is sufficiently–but not slavishly– symmetrical, and that appears, above all, natural.  That’s because it is.

But what is it? you may wonder.  Or do you know?

What I saved as a byproduct of food preparation, and have been saving ever since, was what remained of the stem of a knob of garlic.  Not all stems look like this one.  Some are smooth.  I find the other side, where the cloves of garlic attach, equally beautiful.  

The recipe, for Roasted Garlic au Gratin, is good too–if you like garlic (and maybe even if you don’t).  My friend Judith, for whom I have made the recipe maybe 10 or 12 times (every time she comes to lunch) once responded to my query that perhaps she would like me to make something different, with a sad-sounding, “What? No garlic?”  Below is the recipe, which is VERY amenable to experimentation.  Creativity is not just for art and artists, but for all of us, and all of life.

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Roasted Garlic au Gratin

Use a small (6″ to 8″ in diameter) ceramic or glass oven-proof dish.  Pour in white or red wine and a little olive oil, enough to cover the bottom of the dish.  

Lay down a layer or two of fresh, whole, peeled garlic cloves. (I’ve used cloves from 4 or 5 or more full knobs of garlic.  As you ready the garlic, be sure to appreciate the beauty of the stems, regardless if you save or discard them.)  Then pour on more wine, maybe some half-and-half, and a little more olive oil.  If you want.

Mix with that pecans or slivered almonds, or other nuts you like.  Or forget the nuts if you don’t like nuts.  Sprinkle that with fresh or dried basil and/or a pinch of some other herb (oregano, dill, rosemary, marjoram, etc.), and a little brown sugar.  Top that with as much parmesan cheese as suits you. If you want to sprinkle on anything more–parmesan, wine, brown sugar, basil–go ahead.  I’ve also put in golden raisins on occasion.  Once I put in figs.  A few times I’ve added diced fresh tomatoes.

Cover with foil or a lid and bake at 350 degrees for 45 or 50 minutes, even an hour. This isn’t rocket science; it isn’t even cake chemistry.  Use your judgment and sense of your own taste (i.e., do you like your cheese dark and crispy, or do you want the whole thing to be pale and juicy?)  When it’s done the garlic cloves should be soft enough to spread.  This dish goes very well with roasted garlic and onion jam.  Serve with bread, pita, or crackers, or whatever else suits you.