Hey! What’s new with you? I’m pluggin’ away at my thesis show. 18 days til the opening! Right now, I’m working on a new piece that’s a little different than what I’ve been making for the past couple of years. It’s my last addition to the group of pieces I’ll be submitting for the show.
The piece is comprised of many individual porcelain objects. Each one fits in the palm of your hand. I’m not quite sure what to call them. (Suggestions welcome.) They’re going to sit in porcelain bowls (black in black, white in white) that are sunk into pedestals with built-in heat lamps. The lamps will heat up the ceramic and make them nice and warm to hold. Holding something warm that fits snugly in the palm of your hand has a strange way of warming your core. They’re a little bit like picking up a sun-soaked, water-worn stone on the beach, but they each also carry the imprint of my hand, and I’ve polished certain areas where your fingers might rub.
I was talking to my adviser about them last week, telling him that I really really wanted to make these but I didn’t know why. He said something about touch seeming important, as well as age, I think. I can’t remember exactly. However, I do remember that his comment made a connection for me – when I was in Istanbul, one of the most compelling things I saw was the impact of human touch upon the architecture. Some of the buildings there (like the Hagia Sophia) are 1500 years old. When you have a structure that’s that old, some parts of it are naturally going to start to fall into some sort of decay, no matter how good the upkeep is. What was curious to me, though, were the places where people have inadvertently caused the erosion. In those places, the degeneration of the building’s original form didn’t seem like a loss.
For example, when you pass a marble column and absently let your hand trail around its corner, you don’t usually think you’re leaving a mark. But if thousands or hundreds of thousands of people over one and a half millennia do the exact same thing when they walk past that exact same column, all of those casual caresses add up. The stone corner becomes soft, rounded and smoothed into a new shape by nothing stronger than human skin. You start to wonder who else touched that column. The sheer number of people who must have made that same action is incredible to think about. Each one of those people had a unique life. What was it like? Why were they in that place? What were they contemplating as they walked around that corner? So many people, so much time, so many untold stories. I like the mystery of it. I like the connection to the past and the implications for the future. I wonder who else will run their fingers across that same stretch of marble. What will that column will look like in another 1000 years?
If I could get even a fraction of all of that wonder into my pieces, I would be a very happy camper!
(Click on images above to open a larger version.)
I didn’t take a picture of the column I’ve talked about in this post. (There was one in the Hagia Sophia that was much loved.) But, just for fun, here’s a picture I took of a floor in that same place:
Going up to the second level of the Hagia Sophia. The stones have been polished smooth by people's footsteps.
All images are copyrighted, Amy Uthus 2010-2012.