10. "Life" through Sculpting

Dear PrillyCharmin,

I believe I mentioned that I had to take a class in public speaking, back at U of M. One speech I wrote and delivered to a class full of fellow students, who, like me, wished they didn't have to be there, was called "Man Can Create Life." I began by drawing a "Smiley Face" [which didn't exist as a common symbol at the time] , a circle with two dots and a smile, on the blackboard. Isn't it fascinating how much an image can convey just by placement of the components: youth, charm, affection and three dimensional form can all be conveyed by simply moving two dots around!

I went on to explain that by that simple act I had created "life", etc., etc., and how we will throw a log into a roaring fireplace, without giving it a second thought. But if that piece of wood was fashioned into a doll we would not commit it to the flames. (at least, thank God, Most of us wouldn't)!


Then, out of a trunk, I introduced a beautiful antique doll that I had fallen love with at the Paris Flea Market, and after that a glorious French Polichinelle that embodied an intense aura of life, born not only out of it's exquisite form, but intensified and enhanced by it's "life experience"!

Here he is - the very Polichinelle I used in that speech! I discovered him in Paris, where he cost $30 and it took me 3 months to pay for him!


Over the years I have developed my sensitivity to this life force in inanimate objects to something between a science and an art form. Some images are more "alive" than others. And I believe that an artist can manipulate certain elements to create "life" at will, and like any other technique at his disposal, to make it "happen", or at least recognize it, when it does "happen" even if it got there, only by accident!

One rule that have discovered applies to the creation of "life" is that the more Stylized the Image, the Stronger the Life force! In this respect Mickey Mouse is one of the most compelling images ever created, the Early Mickey is no more than a collection of circles. Not one single element of his anatomy is "Realistic"! He's a pure abstraction! Yet is there a new born infant on earth that will not respond to him with squeals of delight?

This is what unifies the Objects and Images I collect! They all embody that Universal Life Force to some significant degree. And Most are Abstractions, Most are Stylized, Because Most are Comic Characters!

Now for the other side of the picture. The opposite of the Life Force, one might even call it the "Death Force"! One might even call it "Realism"! An Image that looks very realistic (Think of the figures in a Wax Museum) Does not Look Alive It Looks DEAD! Imagine the Taxidermists "Art"! It Looks SO Real! - NOT! All these things may look alive and fool us for a few seconds, But we soon realize that they really kinda Spooky, We soon realize they are dead! Even some "beautiful"dolls can impress us, because they are so well done, we "like" them because we are trained to admire their craftsmanship, But on another level they make us a little uneasy, we may appreciate them, and even collect them, but we don't want to hug them! why? Because they are so rare? so precious? Or so DEAD?

So now we come to my greatest challenge in creating Baby Face. How to give her the gift of life? And still make her "realistic" enough to look "Real" to a little girl and Not look like a "Cartoon", without "Killing" her in the process?

I Decided To Make Her Stylized And Abstract, But Add tiny Touches of Realism, like nostrils on her nose instead of just a round button, Eye lids and lashes, and of course those wonderful real looking, but actually quite abstract, plastic eyes. All the rest is quite abstract indeed, Most people don't realize that, but they do realize that she looks alive!

Next Page: 11. Contriving Baby Face

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