Visiting Artist Paper: Arlene Sechet- February 7= by Ryan Baker

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Ryan Baker

Visiting Artist Paper: Arlene Sechet– February 7

Arlene Sechet is an artist who works with a variety of materials including ceramics, paint plaster, and a variety of strange and different materials.  During the lecture I felt that she was very open and wasn’t afraid to show us her vulnerable spots, which helped me really understand her work and why she created a piece. I was flabbergasted at her ability to take these deep and emotional feelings and experiences, and turn them into these beautiful works of art that perfectly epitomized her feelings.  By listening to her speak about her work, it was easy to grasp her personality and state of mind.

The first project of hers that she shared was one she began in 1992 when she found herself making statues that resemble the Buddha.  She was playing with plaster and found her finished piece to resemble a Buddha.   She aw these icons as reminders to behave the way she wants to behave.  She started studying Buddhism and realized that this is how she should lead her life in this calm and collected state.  She was working with the idea of life and death, and how they are so related and so delicate.  She made the Buddha shapes the painting on paint skins and embedding them in plaster, and would continue using the same mold, letting plaster on her fingers make marks on the paint skins allowing anything to happen.  What helped inspire these pieces was her ideas of life and death because during this time was the birth of her children and the premature death of a few of her very close friends.  She was putting these feelings into her inspiration from the Buddhism practices, and after the Buddha’s, which I thought were my favorite of her works, she moved to creating her own manifestations of Stupas.  Each work that she did was very personalized, and she took a risky move of recreating a religious figure, but all her own personal and intimate feeling and ideas into them that they turned out so influential and beautiful.

Stupas are architectural manifestations of Buddhist temples, where it is believed that one can achieve enlightenment by walking around it.  She started creating blueprints of stupas made from mandala plans.   She studied images of stupas and visited them to really grasp their spiritual meaning and the beauty of the object.  She made blueprints of them using a paint color called “flow blue”, which is very iconic in Chinese cultures.  She would paint them on hand made paper pulp that she would spread to make a canvas to paint on.  She received a grant from a paper mill that provided her with pulp and she used it with the paint so that it would blend together.  She started evolving using this method, flooding the pieces so that the images began to dissolve into a liquid state that signified that all things are changing all the time.  This reminded her of blue and white Japanese porcelain, which took her into her next project. In this, she created paper plans around a plaster mold creating these vessels, which still represented stupas containers similar to vases, which in her own theory were domestic versions of sacred architecture.  These were beautiful vessels which she created hundreds of them, reusing the mold and paint skins, which gave each of them a different and unique tone and look.

Of all of the works that she showed us, my favorite one she did came out of her interest in working with glass, which she started to use a lot in her artworks.  The one I loved was an installation she did for a museum that was once and old retirement home for sailors.  She wanted to create something that represented that past history of the installation space and very intrigued by rope and they ways it can be conformed and displayed.  Using her newfound love for glass,  she wanted to reference rope, casting it like a river weaving throughout the installation space.  She created these beautiful crystal ropes, which had an amazing fading soft blue hue to it.  The rope weaved through the walls, tying into knots, flowing like a soft and majestic river.  Something about these soft blue crystal ropes intertwining through white walls, mesmerized me and even by looking at the pictures, allowed my mind to transform the room and imagine thee sailors that used to be there.

By the end of the lecture, I felt that I had a newfound grasp about how my feelings and experiences can be transformed into my artwork, using so much more materials than I would think of.  She taught me that I could create with my mind and emotions, and not to worry about being neat or if I mess up because in her mind there are no mistakes in her art, just improvements.

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