This past winter, I had the opportunity to design a touch tour and write verbal descriptions for an exhibit featuring the work of Ohio artist James Mellick. Here is one of his more lighthearted dog sculptures.
When I Grow Up, 2007
This abstract sculpture of a very small dog on very tall legs stands about 4’ high. The body looks like a breadbox on stilts. The four legs rise up as four separate elements and are joined by a rectangular mid-section of two pieces with a wide gap running horizontally along its side. The legs are slender and elongated with knees and elbows about a third of the way up from the floor. The muscles, tendons and joints in the legs are subtly indicated by the gentle swelling of the stick-like limbs that then flare out at the thighs and shoulders. They appear to have been stretched as if they were elastic. The four pad-like paws with their carved front toes standing squarely on the ground seem large given the thinness of the legs. Behind each of the front legs, the dewclaws are represented by teardrop form attached at to the limb at its upper tapered neck and the globule hanging in high relief.
Two large bat-like ears resembling large pasta shells growing up from the back edges of the head mounted at the front end of the boxy body. The brow sits well below the ears. The muzzle tapers toward the blunt rectangular nose. The mouth is a narrow downward slit toward the bottom of the muzzle.
At the other end, a long thin tail curls down and around the rump, between the hind legs, where it then arcs downward beneath the middle of the torso.
The shapes are very simplified and there is minimal detail. The surface is smooth and polished with a soft sheen.
This tall narrow vase stands 16” high and is 5” wide. The body or lower portion is a little over half the height of the vase. At the shoulder of the vase, just below the slightly tapered base of the neck, is a strip of clay that joins the neck to the cylindrical body. It protrudes from the body like an uneven collar. The bottom of this strip has a rough edge that appears to have been torn. lug or knob has been pulled from this strip on either side. They stick out like little fingertips. The tops of these lugs have a small depression as if made by a thumb pressing down while the clay was wet. Two more lugs with holes in them are also on either side near the top of the neck, below the rim of the mouth. Uneven in size, the one on the right is a little bit longer than the one on the left. They stick out like two small rectangular ears.
This vase is like a recording. The depressions on the tops of the lugs at the shoulders, the rings banding the body and the neck, the splitting and cracking where the upper lugs and shoulder collar are attached, and the unevenness of the walls – they way they bow in and bulge outward – are all a record of the artist’s hands and the nature of clay. The color of the vase is smoky and streaky with flares of lustrous coppery reds, greys and blacks as well as the surface textures that range from glossy to matte, smooth to rough are all reflective of the wood-firing process.
This vase is part of the audio described touch tour for the exhibit “For the Table” at the Ohio Crafts Museum.
Above is a photograph of one of the pieces included in the audio described touch tours I recently did at the Ohio Crafts Museum for the Best of 2017 exhibit last month. This was one of the pieces we had permission to touch. The complete description, as given in the tour, is below:
Ginkgo Candelabra Set
Hand forged; mild steel land silicon bronze with walnut support base
Karine & Matthew Maynard
The artist’s words:
The Ginkgo tree has survived since the time of the dinosaurs and its leaves are beautiful in their grace and shape. This piece celebrates light and time by using the Ginkgo as a design motif and as a symbol of life.
This set consists of three pieces: a long, horizontal candelabrum that measures almost three feet wide and 14” high and two tall symmetrical candelabra that measure 12.5” wide and 40” high. All three pieces are 5.5” deep.
The low wide candelabrum sits on the front of the open display stand and is flanked by the two tall candelabra immediately behind. All three of the pieces consist of sinuous ribbons and tendrils of dull grey metal that swirl and curl around a more static form. On the long low piece, the form around which the tendrils travel is a thick arching vine or branch that rises from the far left and touches down several inches short of the far right edge where it curves gently upwards. Growing from the long the shoots that stem from the main arching vine are gold fan-shaped ginkgo leaves. They have a central vein and lightly scalloped arched tops. Their stems echo the left to right flow of the viny growth. Five small grey candle cups rest on five golden drip pans, like handle-less teacups on saucers, at varying heights along the length of the candelabrum.
The two tall candelabra are mirror images of each other so what is on the right side of one will be on the left side of the other. They each consist of a single straight rod-like element that is 40” high, the last 8” of which rise above a tangle of swirling tendrils. These tall forms begin as flattened triangular forms emerging from the base of the candelabrum, less than 1/2” thick. As they rise, the apex of the triangle is stretched upwards and the shape grows thinner and rounder until it becomes a slender rod topped by a candle cup and drip pan. Two more candle cups and drip pans perch on tendrils emerging from the twining growth: one to the outside of the tall rod several inches above the base and the other to the inside of that central rod, about halfway to the top. A few ginkgo leaves sprout from a curved shoot to the inside of the lowest candle cup. As in the low horizontal candelabrum, the main components are dark grey with antique gold accents in the ginkgo leaves and saucer.
All three pieces rest upon low walnut bases. The warm tones of the wood echo the warm notes of the gold accents. The gold saucers and leaves have a grayish patina so that the contrast between the two metals is muted. The metal itself has a hammered texture, tangible evidence of the artists’ tools.