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Christine Cox
Since 1999


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Harnessing Chaos
By Pamela Allen

Have you ever wondered how an artist comes up with a body of work, spending day after day in the studio?   Do they get an idea, explore it through sketches and small images, and finally produced a fully realized work of art?  Or is it a matter of waiting for inspiration to spring fully formed from the mind and travel directly to the hand? It’s a fascinating thing watching an artist at work...and the approach is surely as diverse as are the artists themselves.

I am going to invite you into my studio to see how I do it.  I am working in the medium of assemblage at the moment.  To say that is to necessarily reveal that I am a pack rat.  In order to have a maximum choice of elements, I like to have small hoards of found objects, dollar store treasures and plain junk at hand.  This is my palette so to speak. Furthermore, I like to have this stuff all around me , in full view and in various stages of construction.  I suppose this would be the equivalent of preparatory sketches for a painter, and in the same way, represent snippets of ideas or the shadows of themes. Janet Hofacker, in The Muse's last issue, celebrated the act of collecting all this good material. Scouring flea markets or scrounging from benevolent business people does confer a history onto each item collected.  That history seems to prevail when it comes time to make use of a given item.  Off-cuts of copper roofing when beaten and embossed can indeed become a “roof” for an assemblage box.  An old pocket watch can be slipped into a wooden “pocket” in its new life. Still, single elements do not a work of art make. So I have many things on the go at the same time...slowly adding, replacing, embellishing, deleting items as I make them until a theme or narrative seems to be taking shape. It is fair to say that the completion of a piece takes place much faster than its inception!

So what do you do when you are stumped for an idea?  Well,  I fixate on a method or technique to get me over these humps.  I might gold- or silver-leaf everything in sight for a while.  Or put tissue paper laminate on the inside of cigar boxes....or coil wire into shapes and hammer them flat (a great way to reduce stress by the way!).  I find this to be a very useful way to mark the time and in the end, I have more grist for the mill to make more images.  The important thing for me is to keep going to the studio each day and to produce SOMETHING.

In this way I can accumulate a substantial body of work over the months.  It also ensures that there is always something in progress to carry on with each morning.  What a great job!

Controlled Chaos

Finished Product

Rolling Workbench

Pie Plate Lady

Workbench, March 2001

Copper Lady in Boat