the cosmos in miniature

I have always collected natural artifacts, from the moment I discovered pockets as a toddler to just this past weekend when I added a fist full of acorns from Georgia to my dad's old tool box turned cabinet of curiosities. I think as a result I have always found Joseph Cornell's work interesting in part at least because he too was a collector. I imagine his little basement studio filled to the brim with his curiosites and notes on life, celebrities and nature, and oh I wish I could poke around a bit.

Joseph Cornell-a parrot for Juan Grisvia the washingtonpost.com

Someone brought to my attention that the SFMOMA is having an exhibit of Joseph Cornell's work. Unfortunately it's much too far away to visit, and I am rather disappointed about it, but to tide me over while I mope, they have a great (if slightly slow) interactive website for the show! I am very excited to be able to see some of one of his early altered books. Check it out here. If you wish to see the book, go to the site and click on the bottles and then on the orange.

The site mentions the concept of curiosity cabinets as well:

From the 1500's to the 1700's, European royalty and affluent individuals often gathered an array of art, illustrated texts and maps, coins, scientific devices and natural specimens to create"cabinets of curiosities." Dense arrangements in drawers, chests, and glass fronted cases in private chambers suggested a collector's highly personal view of the cosmos in miniature.

How does one define the "highly personal view of the cosmos" as evidenced by collections? What do my collections say about me? At certain times in my life when I feel most lost, I attempt to find my bearings through the impossible and somewhat ridiculous task of mapping out my life. Elaborate lists, statements and mind maps fill pages and pages. I mine sketchbooks and childhood memories. Searching. Where is the thread? What are the themes? How am I, I? Eventually the chatter exhausts me and I stop. Usually I pull valuable reminders from it, but mostly it is overwhelming. Later I laugh at myself. "Personal view of the cosmos" is such a neat and tidy phrase. Yet the deeper one looks a tangled mess it becomes. When I am not looking to lists and maps to find my center or the way forward, I find a partial maps sit on my shelves in in my drawers, in the form on my little collections of objects. If I sit still and admire them they reveal themselves to me such quiet little whispers I barely hear and yet they speak, softly, calming, here listening isn't so tiresome.

Erin Curry-collection of crabsSomeday I'll elaborate more on Cornell, but I just wanted to bring the site to your attention. I'll be back soon, two weeks goes by too quickly!


Steel spun and felted

Working with wool this week made me remember some of the material studies I made with steel wool right around the time I was making Steel Trees (at bottom of entry). Here are a few of them (click to see larger) :

Erin Curry art-study in steel wool1Erin Curry art-study in steel wool2Erin Curry art-study in steel wool3Erin Curry art-study in steel wool3Suddenly I remember how fond I am of steel wool. It embodies such wonderful alchemy. With it the common understanding of steel is betrayed; replacing notions of masculine, hard, cold, and resistant with the feminine- soft, insular, and something altogether more vulnerable. Then in the careful wrapping of saplings for Steel Trees, the wool takes on the spun texture of worsted yarn. The small idiosyncratic details read as burls, a word which delightfully references both tree and yarn.


1. a large rounded outgrowth on the trunk or branch of a tree

2. soft lump or unevenness in a yarn; either an imperfection or created by design [syn: slub]

This work still resonates so strongly with me.



beforeafterclosersaved, some locks were just too sweet to fuzz.


tentative wool experiments

. . .a little bit of spun wool

and a tiny piece of felt. 1" x 1"
Went to my Dad's house to gather some old work I need complete digital images of including this book, this one. The inside of the second one will be reworked because the pages are made of gessoed canvas which are too difficult to paint with that delicate brush, and I have never been really satisfied with it (thanks Mien for the indirect direction). I gathered up a few daughters too because I miss them.

Hiked today and left feeling mentally refreshed if not physically. A little bit of fungi and lichen inspiration:

Oh and Penny of Little Brown Sparrow reminded me of this artist, Eugenio Recuenco, the link will send you to some fairy tales he did for Vogue magazine. And just because mattresses have made an appearance here before. . . The pictures that twist Renaissance paintings and adopt the Victorian look are amazing. Unfortunately I find a portion of his work too chauvinistic and overtly sexually violent, and that mars some of the enjoyment for me, still I think there is something in the details that I find utterly fascinating. Looking at these reminded me of Ann Hamiliton's installations, though her work is a bit more esoteric and the mark of the hand is somewhat more apparent. I would share a link but at the moment I cannot find the example I want. I remember learning about one installation where the floor of one room was covered tiled in letterpress type, a person stood in a robe at the head of a table the table's surface is recessed and filled with water, the person stands with their hands in the surface of the table the robe flows out behind them and into another room where it morphs into a huge megaphone, I think on the wall there are hundreds of glasses with spoons in them and when a person speaks the spoons begin to stir. So dreamlike.


Baa, Baa black sheep have you any wool?

Three years ago when I lived in the country I managed to wheedle some free wool out of a farmer neighbor, well really all I had to do was ask. The farmer was in fact, also the co-owner of the local hardware store, Reddick Bros., where I would frequently wander about cooing at all the baby chicks, ducks and rabbits and running my hands over ancient farm equipment sold "used" again and again over at least the last eighty years, and before I left would happily purchase the odd ball of twine, handful of rough nails, or once a mysterious old tool that resembled a wooden handled iron with a ridge down the center (I'd later discovered it was a tool for masonry work). On one such trip, knowing the brothers had sheep, I finally gathered the courage to ask if I could purchase some wool. Looking a smidge surprised the brother behind the counter bid me to call his other brother who would likely give me a bit of old wool. After making the proper arrangements, I was show to an open barn where said wool languished on an decrepit Cadillac, both covered in a fine layer of dust, mold and hay. A good country girl and fearless about bugs and dirt, I recklessly filled up and proudly waddled away with three bags full. I imagine the farmer later told his incredulous wife the story of the odd little artist girl who wanted half rotten wool.

A few weeks later I washed a bit of it to spin a bit of clumsy yarn that my ancestors would have scoffed at as an embarrassment, but I still find inordinately pleasing. I'll call it worsted if need be. The rest has been sitting filthy in a shed, forgotten, until "the move" six months ago and had to tote it to my new home, where it has been living on a side porch ever since. A quick inventory reveals about a half a fleece of beautiful brown wool and an entire fleece of yellowish brittle wool, that I am mostly avoiding, I have heard yellow wool dyes well, so maybe it will be indigo or charcoal grey someday. Today I have finally undertaken the task of washing another batch of wool. It's not high quality and hasn't been well taken care of, so it's not good for spinning. If it ever was I wouldn't know, I suspect that the herd of sheep kept by the Reddick brothers is not for wool production, but perhaps they are kept for food, hence the free wool. Whatever the case it seems to felt just fine, which incidentally is exactly what I desire. Washing has been put off for several reasons, one being, to put it lightly, it is a disgusting chore, the fleeces are filled with dirt, bugs, grease, and other "barnyard ephemera." The process is ancient, and it smells of ancient women's tasks and I revel in that despite the filth. My mind wanders. Are these tasks somehow part of our memory, carried out for so many generations, the techniques are so easily lost, but is the essence of it forgotten too? Who washes the Fates wool? Do they spin it directly from mythical sheep, or is our fate spun from our very hair, or is the strand as fine as our dna?

Alas onto technicalities most of us do not remember. . .
My cleaning method is loosely adapted from a few different sites, and I am very inexperienced in cleaning wool, so I suggest if you want a proper instructions don't follow mine. That said, my basic method involves filling a bucket or large metal bowl with hot, hot water in my bathtub (my hot water heater is really hot, so I don't have to bother with boiling water to get it to a good temperature), adding a big squirt of dish washing liquid, then dunking a net bag used for washing lingerie filled with the wool into the bowl. I poke it down with some sort of long utensil because the water is too hot for comfort and then let it soak for 15 or so minutes, I sometimes press the bag down, but don't stir because I don't want felt just yet. When I wash the brown wool the water turns an opaque black, I can see the white bag poking out of the water and then nothing, it's fairly gross. Drain the wool for 10 minutes, then fill up a bowl with fresh water rinse in bowls of clean water first hot, then subsequently cooler, until the water runs clear.
Then it must dry and be carded before anything else, I initially tried "carding" it just by pulling apart locks longways and brushing them with a comb, and that gets most of the leaves and dirt out, but I found it too daunting to do a lot that way, so I saved up for some wool carders, which I'll use on the new batch. Hopefully tomorrow will find me on my porch carding heaps of wool. . .


Things making me happy

my new(old) polaroid SX-70 camera- learning to slow down to carefully consider the image I want, and then sitting to watch the mesmerizing alchemy of that white square turning to organized color.

succulent cuttings happily growing on my window sill

blurb.com -imagining She as a professionally bound hardcover book, the program is quite intuitive to use, and I can think of a few people I wish would do this with their work. hint, hint. . .

an old, old Bible with a story (more on that later)

the stray orange kitty that has taken up residence on my front porch

thinking about:
oology- the study of eggs, how wonderfully appropriate is that word?
other bearded ladies


Day of the Dead

A modified version of Dios de los Muertos was celebrated in my house this year. I am not Hispanic, or Native American (that I know of), but the holiday makes a certain amount of sense, a holiday for the spirits revolving, as all good holidays do, around food and crafts. What spirit wouldn't love a party thrown in their honor? My mom was always fascinated with the work of Frida Kahlo and the idea of the spirit world, though I'm not certain she believed in it herself, I still think she would have approved. Preparations included making some of the dishes from the messiest pages of my mom's cookbooks: Tuscan Chicken, polenta, beet and beet greens with balsamic vinaigrette, and bread pudding. So utterly delicious and filled with such bright memories of my childhood. And then as part of the festivities, I included a little more traditional bits of the holiday with a little altar of "mom" things: flowers, art tools, bread, brie, wine, and then made sugar skulls. How happy was I to find a new material! Sugar skulls are made with a mixture of sugar, meringue powder, and water pressed into a mold and inverted on cardboard to dry. I bought a skull mold and meringue powder from a local store, but you can find them (along with various saints) online here. I took photos for a short tutorial but the one on the site is more than adequate, so I'll leave them out.

Making bunches of the skulls was so meditative, mix, scoop, press, smooth, invert, dry, scoop out the innards and glue sides together. Visions of molded sugar artworks as part of art opening fare danced through my head. We decorated them at the party, such a colorful mess. . .mine turned out very minimalist in color, but still quite intricate. Here's a snapshot of one of my mom's pieces, sorry it's a not great quality image, but you get the idea. . .

charcoal on paper
30" x 40"

Sang the Bearded Lady to her man

Happy 2nd anniversary! Nine and a half years hasn't been nearly long enough.
A party this weekend required hats and/or facial adornment, I went for both.

And while I don't actually play the mandola, I do know who made this one. My best friend's dad has been making these instruments for as long as I can remember (we are talking at least 20 years), and made this beautiful mandola (like a mandolin, but different). He makes electric ones too, if you like, check out his site the The Mandolier.

Promise a more art related post very soon. . .


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