Monday, March 11, 2019

AN ARTIST’S INTENT

Understanding the theory behind a work of art!

© 2019 Michael Auld
Above: Wall sculpture, is titled "Busta Deconstructed".

Q: What do you think is the meaning behind the above wall sculpture?

THE ROLE OF THE CRITIC

The above question is intended to have the reader play the role of an art critic. Can a critic truly evaluate and honestly critique artwork without the artist’s input? Omitting the artist's explanation is done every day. But can the criticism be accurate?



A: I belong to the group of fine artists whose works are intended to make specific statements. When I am in the role of a graphic designer the objective is as different as the role played by a decorative designer. Decorative design does not necessarily need to convey a philosophical message. Visual communication, practiced by a graphic designer or illustrator share the need for the clarity of communicating a message. However, images applied in my fine arts projects, need explanation. The above sculpture, titled "Busta Deconstructed" and the enlarged segments below, mean the following:




DEMONSTRATION
Above: Jamaica's National Bird, whose colors are in the flag and was the model for my above sculpture.
Above: Close-up #1. Trying to keep a Taíno geometric artistic aesthetic, I used the front fork of a small bicycle. Quarter circle of a bicycle rim formed the outstretched wings of a hummingbird. Segments of cut, etched Plexiglas with acrylic paint rubbed into the etched lines were inlaid into the metal framework of the bird. Split and braised (brass weld) halves of a split rim replicated the particular scissors-tail hummer, only found in Jamaica.



Above: Close-up #2. An enlargement of etched and colored Plexiglas overlay of the torso of the bird.


Above: Close-up #3. The head of the bird consisting of a metal bicycle sprocket inlaid with a Jamaican dollar bill sandwiched between two inlaid Plexiglass circles. The actual Jamaican $1 bill has a printed etching of the Hon. Sir Alexander Bustamante, Jamaica’s first Priminister at the island’s 1962 Independence from Britain.

THIS ARTIST’S VIEW

The late Professor of Sculpture, Ed Love, a friend, teacher and co-worker said while he was organizing an art exhibition for Howard University’s Department of Art, College of Fine Arts.

“Never depend on a critic to define your work...The artist must be the one to describe the meaning of the piece.”
He had come to pick up one of my sculptures for an exhibition that he had titled, “Objects of Power”.


THE SCULPTURE:


An Artist’s Rationale


Although small, this sculpture is complex. It honors Sir Alexander Bustamante who was affectionately called “Busta”. He was a Jamaican man of the people who also had indigenous Taíno ancestry (A colorful man, his actual family name was Clark. Busta’s family reportedly had Yamaye Taíno ancestry.) Founder of the island’s first trade union and the Jamaica Labour Party, he was a charismatic character who often spoke in the Island’s patois.


How does a sculptor turn this history into a sculpture?

As a man of the people, the metal framework was made from a Jamaican “common man’s” mode of transportation, the bicycle, in the form of Jamaica’s national bird, the Swallowtail Hummingbird. The hummingbird, although small (like Jamaica) is a territorial fighter. Called colibri by the Taíno and associated with gold. In both the island and Central American empires the hummingbird is considered a brave fighter that even challenges larger predatory birds. It is similar to Busta’s struggles against the British Empire. Mexica (Aztec) warriors, on whose graves hummingbirds were placed, revered the fiesty bird.


THE VIEWER’S ROLE 

While creating any artwork, the viewer is often kept in mind. Especially since I was schooled in advertising design, my aim has been to clearly communicate the message(s) within the piece.


THE ARTIST’S INTENT

Few people of the Americas are taught about Amerindian history and its impact on our current lives. So, after researching Taíno (the people who met Columbus in the Caribbean) mythology, I chose to recreate the Epic of Guahayona. Gua-ha-yo-nah, the First Shaman, whose name meant “Our Pride”. The epic was a cautionary tale.

He said to the (Taíno) women, “Leave your children and husbands and come away with me. And I will give you much gueyo.”
Gueyo was a green chewing tobacco, mixed with the salty ashes of an algae. Chewing it gives one a buzz.

Guahayona took the women away to the island of Matinino (meaning “No Fathers”) and stranded them there. Guahayona then went on to Guanin, the Island of Gold. He then continued on to other adventures. [This epic influenced the naming of California by Cortez after the conquest of the Mexica (Aztec) Tripple Alliance, who had read Garci de Montalvo's popular 16th century novel "Las segras de Esplandian". The novel was about "black" Queen Califia from the Island of La California and her female island of Amazons. While in Baja California, Cortez had seen the Californiana Mountains in thje distance. He had thought that the mountains were the tip of Montalvo's island of "La California". The Guahayona Epic had been transcribed by Fr. Ramón Pané in Hispaniola (Ayti Bohio or Kiskeya), on the orders of Columbus, and soon ended up in Spain. The Taíno had begun to rebel against Spanish oppression and Columbus wanted to know more about them.]. 


Sculptural Interpretation of a Myth


Using natural materials, I designed and built three sculptures as an installation for the epic of Guahayona's Travels in his life-sized canoe to Matinino (The Island of Women) and to Guanin (The Island of Gold)
.
Above: Guanin, The Island of Gold, cherry wood with inlaid mother of pearl, gold leaf and a carved stone Bird-Man cemi within the sculpture's base.



Above: Enlargement with shell eyes, inlayed mother-of-pearl and gold leaf wing feathers.

On this page (below) are enlargements of "Matinino" with details of elements associated with womanhood and childbirth. The artist used images incorporated in the sculpture to emphasize the island "standing alone" concept and its association with femininity. 

Matinino: 

The Island of Women (Enlargements)

Above: Enlargement of upper portion of Matinino, "The Island of Women". Since the theme is based on a Taíno cautionary tale, I used natural materials that included aged wood for the torso and body, red sandstone for the head and calabash/higuera tree gourd styled womb and Mound of Venus genitalia. (To the Taíno a higuera gourd with its white internal membrane surrounding black seeds represented a fertilized womb). The sculpture's breasts, are images of a frog and turtle, that are both associated with motherhood (the Taíno's Turtle Mother) and childbirth (the frog's lifesycle). Like humans, as tadpoles, frogs begin life by breathing water, then become air-breathers. Babies begin life in amniotic fluid in the womb, then breath air upon birth. 
These breast-cemis were made from gray sandstone. 


Above: Taíno tri-pointed stone cemi of Yucahu the "God of the Sea, made in a shape reminiscent of the tuber, the yuca/cassava, born of the virgin mother, Attabey and Without Grandfathers."-- Dominican Republic.
Above: Enlargement of sculpture's head. Carved from red sandstone, it is in the form of a tri-pointed cemi that is sometimes tied to a tree,

Some Viewer’s Interpretation

NOTE: Audiences bring their own ideology and idiosyncrasies to the interpretation of works of art. Contrary to the artist’s intent, curiously, a few female viewers interpreted the sculpture as a symbol of bondage. Although... the Island of Women story from Guahayona's Epic, depicted here, is a cautionary tale. Guahayona means "Our Pride" and the tale cautions      the Taíno women women not to be seduced by pride, [especially not through gold jewelry --My belief]. 

Oh well, the viewer's opinions are primary!

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