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Animals on Spheres

Updated: Dec 6, 2022

So, I'm in the very beginning of writing an artist's statement, which is really a difficult thing for me to do. I've been developing myself as an artist, on and off, for so many years, that I've never really sat down and looked at myself, personally, as to the purpose of making art, other than I really love it, it's therapeutic, and I have a few collectors and admirers that I really want to please. As an introvert, I spend a lot of time in my head, and my voice has become my art, and my platform for getting my art out to the world is mostly social media, my website, Monica (wife), my family, and friends who support me. But, in the long run, I really need a purpose other than loving sculpting and move in the direction of exactly why I make art and subjects I cling to or return to, or pull towards, and their meaning. My artist statement will change over time, because I intend to grow, and with growth, there must be change. An artist statement isn't a place to gloat, which is great for me, but it is a way to self-reflect and explain what comes from my thoughts and process. An artist statement is also a form of the vetting process if I were to apply for certain shows or events or apply to a gallery for my own exhibit/one-man show, the latter of what my intentions are for the next few weeks. A perfect example for me and this artist's statement is my Animal on Spheres and why I have made and may continue to invest in this series. It has become a recurring theme within my latest sculptures during the past few years, and I thought I'd talk a little about the significance of these sculptures, and how they were born. For the one-man show I'm applying for, my intentions will have a different theme and meaning, but the similarities, techniques, movements, process, and beauty of the sculptures will be noticeable to the viewer as hopefully, one that says that's a Matt Donner piece, without a second thought, and that's as much as I'll gloat, lol.

In college, I used a sphere in one of my bronze sculptures. It was a lizard on a sphere and I envisioned it hanging from a tree or ceiling floating in space. It actually looked pretty cool, and I was able to hang it from our ceiling and moved it outside to a tree eventually. I ended up leaving the sculpture behind in one of our yards in New Mexico. I miss that silly lizard on a ball.

It's really common that I keep things in the darkness of my mind only to appear years later within my art. Maybe it's a form of incompletion, and my soul needs to finish the work and see it through just to know if I actually like the idea or not. It's a form of passion, I suppose. Kind of like returning to a past that was put on hold and being able to make the idea real with a more mature understanding of how to succeed with the design. The sphere design wasn't exactly eating at me, or consuming me, but more or less, a spontaneous light from my memory. I wanted to try to make the design impressionable and interesting with a deeper and more fulfilling meaning, instead of just an animal on a sphere that looked pretty cool. And, could I make it in ceramics? That's pretty much how Messenger/11:11 was born, which then sparked a whole new beginning of animals on spheres.

Owls have been a part of my life since I can remember. My mother, Tulagene, loved owls and anything to do with owls. From my first memories, I can recall owl crafts, paintings, sculptures, jewelry, cards, and everything in between displayed all over the house. It wasn't that she collected them and put them on every surface, but, more or less, tastefully displayed them so that, I'm pretty sure, almost every room had an owl. For the Messenger, I sketched a rough design of a barn owl on a sphere and liked the design, and began the task of making the sphere base.

Sketch of The Messenger/11:11

The difficulty was how to actually create the shape out of clay in the hollow form. I'm fairly new to ceramics and hadn't ever shaped one, but, it's in my nature to challenge myself so that I may grow as an artist and so I wanted to model the sphere and successfully fire it in the kiln without it cracking or exploding. I ended up making a plaster mold of those styrofoam balls you can pick up at most craft stores. It worked great as a press mold and below, you can see the owl before firing and mold making (another story) and the end result. I was so happy. If you want to know more about The Messenger/11:11, I've written a post about her before on my site. I really love this sculpture.

The Messenger/11:11 in clay

The Messenger/11:11

After The Messenger/11:11, I created one of my cats on a sphere. He's pretty much a rough sketch, not much detail, but the gesture, movement, gaze, characteristics, and colors are all Stan Lee. He turned out pretty cool, just like the owl, and sits on a table in one of our rooms. I felt like I was onto something and knew I needed to continue and feed my soul, as well as, bring something new to the world.

Stan Lee

My next small animal on a sphere was a bison. A neighbor had told me about how she really liked bison and was enamored by them and the idea of sculpting a bison blossomed and became part of a new vision for me. Growing up in North America, I think most of us could say we would recognize this iconic animal from a historical perspective, or visual rendition. It's rare to actually see them in the wild unless you have the chance to visit their new and reestablished habitats. Her family had and she enlightened me about the experience. I did a little research on bison and knew it would be perfect standing tall upon a sphere.

To start, I created the sphere, a rough and tooled hollow ball of clay, wedged and balanced on a steel armature. I then used a few stock photos from the internet and sketched (quick sculpture with minimum tools) him on top of this rough-hewn and tortured sphere, a representation of bison and earth, joined as one. Tatanka (his Lakota name) was now born on top of the deserted world, from the heart of the world, and above the world, made from the clay of the world. I gave him meaning, just as he always had, a survivor of a messed up world changed by the hands and disrespect of man. I took this idea and creation one step further and decided to put a cape on him, a representation of a hero, emphasizing that such an animal is the true hero and survivor rising above the violent hands and destruction of man. One of her favorite colors is green and so I underglazed the cape avocado green. Below is the result of Tatanka wears the Green Cape and now you know a little more about his meaning and the sphere, etc, something that carries into the next few iconic beasts I've created. I think it's a powerful small piece, with the movement, the gesture, meaning, and the use of an earthy color palette, and hope you see it in a new way after this writing. You can tell it's a bison, even without using exact details, other than characteristics and its powerful shape. Tatanka began the evolution of the caped animals on spheres, or caped crusaders, a branch of the animals on spheres, and I will continue with them sporadically aside from the animals on spheres. I really love Tatanka and how he came out.

Tatanka wears the Green Cape

Tatanka wears the Green Cape

Tatanka wears the Green Cape

I'm gonna stop here with the idea of the animals on spheres and return to them another time. But, I think you'll be able to go back and view my sculptures in a different light and have more of a connection to these special pieces. I'll continue to work on my artist statement as well, and, who knows, might share that one too, just to bore ya, lol. Seriously, I hope you can come back to my site and can be a part of my growth, and who knows, maybe with some luck, I'll see you at one of my shows. Wouldn't that be fun? Take care and much love, everyone.


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