Friday, July 20, 2012

THE ELOQUENCE OF WORDLESSNESS

Some of the most eloquent people I know ~ okay, I'm referring to those I was with this morning ~ are absolutely silent.  They are sculptors. They say things wordlessly.

 Speaking as a writer, this is hard to admit.  But the work in my figurative sculpture class speaks volumes. It says more in a glance than most could say in several pages of text.

 We worked today on a standing pose. Livia had a hat on, and stood contaposto, with arms folded across her chest.  You can keep your hat on:  That might be the title of this pose.

Cindy worked, as usual, with clay that had more grog in it - and only used skewers in a Styrofoam base to keep her work steady. "Look over here," Chuck called me from his wheelchair. "Cindy doesn't need any fancy equipment."

He meant the comment as a rebuke, since I was working with an armature for the very first time, and having trouble.  My clay sank down on its frame, and the legs, no matter how much length I tried to give them, kept moving down on themselves like a collapsed blancmange.  They were shorter every minute.

When you haul out those beautiful cubes of fresh new clay at the beginning of a week, it's very tempting to use them in your work. But it's much better to use the left over dried out clay, because it keeps its shape.

In the end I opted not to articulate the legs, but to jam in a block of clay at the base, as a kind of space saver, and work on the torso first.  I'll worry about the legs when the clay has dried out, in a week or two.

Trish left her station and came across the room to help me.  "Do you want some drier clay?" she asked, leaving a massive sausage clump in my hands.  I thanked her.  Trish's work is always good.  She is a pro at abstracts and exhibits them across town.

Another sculptor, working quietly across the room, also managed to do everything I couldn't.  How did she get the legs and the body, with its particular angled posture, to stand up so lyrically? Her work was almost finished by the end of one session, while mine was an undefined blob.

Barry had wisely opted to work only on  the torso and he had captured the angle of the hip and the swell of the buttocks off to one side. He was feeling pleased.  "That will sell," said Chuck.

I tore my effort to pieces and started again from scratch.  "Concentrate on the torso,"  Chuck advised. "Don't articulate the legs.  Work on the upper section."

Meanwhile Charles, our elder statesman, sat beside me on his chair. His work stand was a pile of inarticulated nothingness. "I can't do a thing," he told me. How he wished we were working on a reclining figure! He laughed at his lack of progress,  shrugged his shoulders and tossed away his morning's work.  This was the process.

At the end of our class, Susan had almost finished her piece, in only three hours. She'd captured Livia wearing her hat, with just the right sway and movement to the torso.

Oh, the eloquence of wordlessness! It's a very good reminder to those of us determined to work in the medium of words.  Less is often more. You can say things in silence you'd never be able to communicate verbally.  As I revise my novel this week,  I'll ponder the implications.

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