Layers of Life

I have desired to create really tall sculptures for years, so preparing for my gallery show was the time to start! I wanted an all-tile six-foot tall sculpture that could be used indoors or out. But how to do it? I had to figure out what shapes and foundation would be the best, but not be so heavy that the finished sculpture couldn't be moved. My first effort resulted in a stella/obelisk out of pine; it was so heavy (33 pounds) that I could not add heavy clay tiles to it. I decided to make a 4" x 4" x 6' foundation out of OSB wood and affixed it to a strong 12"x12" base on a turntable. This framework was only 15 pounds and was ready for tiling.

It took about one month to make hundreds of 4.25" tiles using my extruder and slab method. They were catalogued by color and set in boxes on the workbench in my studio. I thought it would be simple to cover the structure with tiles, but was I ever wrong! First of all, only one side could be done at a time, so the structure was laid on the worktable and I began experimenting with which tiles looked best, row after row. Clay swirls, faces, glass baubles and other items were juxtaposed next to the tiles along one 4"x6' side, then adhered in place. The adhesive had to dry for a couple of days before the structure could be turned one-quarter turn. The second side was more difficult, for I want to have some measure of continuity of color and texture and shape between the sides. Arranging, rearranging, adhering. All three remaining sides were finished over several weeks time. Then grout was applied and other finishing touches.

On top of this colorful tower is a breast cancer survivor, inspired by my mother, Mary Marshall, who battled breast cancer for ten years. She is on top of the tower (her life), surveying all that is around her from her lofty position. Underneath her are the memories, or layers, of her life - both the good and the bad, the happy and the sad. She is satisfied with her present status. Confident in her nakedness.

This was a labor of love, to be sure. I held a contest with my customers to come up with a title for the sculpture and artist friend, Dianne Mattar, came up with the winning name: "Layers of Life." This monolith was featured in the 2008 California State Fair.

The tile structure was complex, interesting, colorful, dizzying even. But it simply was not enough. I needed something to tie it all together. So I topped the stella with a simple female form from my mastectomy series. She is relaxed, leg crossed, comfortable with her naked self, sitting on top of the world, in control of her life, loving the color and texture of her life. She is the epitome of "Layers of Life."

We all have complexities that put roadblocks in our way. It is our job to figure out how to deal with the good and the bad, the yin and the yang.


Here are pictures showing the progression of the creation:

Kanika in her studio, surrounded by boxes and boxes of clay pieces and tiles that she made, glass, stone.

A wooden form is underneath the clay pieces.

     Sample of one of about 15 boxes of clay pieces made 
     by Kanika.







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