Because of its complexity, only one work was featured in this issue's
It is Maricha Oxley's intriguing sculpture in the round, carved from one pine log, with elements that were carved in low and high relief, incised, pyrocarved, painted, and pierced. It is worked with fire and also uses fire as a symbol and theme.
Apart from its general interest, a study of this work is of interest to pyrographers to understand the role, albeit a less conventional one, that the pyrographic medium plays in conjunction with the other media to create this work, which dances around a fire.
There are many pictures to illustrate the multi-faceted piece from different angles (although none compares to seeing it in real life and viewing it by day and night both). There is also a lot of accompanying text, requiring a close and patient reading and frequent reference back to the images in order to grasp the subtleties described.
Belonging to a local woodcarvers club as well as an on-line woodcarvers mailing list has given me as a pyrographer a great awareness of just how complicated being a sculptor in wood can be from a technical point of view. For those of us engaged solely in pyrography or pyrography with color, it is amazing to discover the enormous amount of technical expertise and equipment needed to be a sculptor.
Thanks to an on-line thread, I learned about Maricha Oxley's planned
project of the Corroboree sculpture and also how much preparation
was involved. (Part, as you will see, was the fact that a green mould
was growing on the log!) Below is her e-mail of last May sent to the
whole group on the woodcarvers mailing list:
Have been carving all day; little by little the green mould is drying and
I'm carving it off as I go. The bleaching is certainly helping, and now
that I have removed a great deal from the centre of the log, I will have to
watch out for the drying, which could in turn cause cracking...[and]
will cover it each day with Linseed oil, particularly the ends of the
log. In the middle, I plan to burn off so that I can do an "inverted
carving." Instead of carving and then pyrographing it for detail [in
the usual manner], I will be
pyrographing first and carving detail off. Hope it works.
Although both her parents came from faraway Spain and her brother lives in likewise remote Argentina, sculptor Maricha Oxley calls Australia home. Given the opportunity to do this sculpture without constraints, she soon found her inspiration and realized a personal goal close to her heart:"My inspiration for this sculpture came from two sources--a painting by Matisse, and a live performance of Aboriginal dancers. I wanted to make a personal contribution to the process of Reconciliation."
View 1, detail of the fascia with the didgeridoo musician
It all came about because of a competition, sponsored by the State
Forest of Tasmania together with the Australian Wood Review
Magazine, designed to give the humble pine tree a better image.
Maricha had never carved pine before. (In Australia, as in many places, pine is the cheapest timber and is generally used by the building industry.) But after having been given "plantation timbers" like Spotted Gum and Eucalyptus to carve ("like carving steel," she says) in conjunction with commissions from the State forests in NSW, Maricha was looking forward to experimenting on Radiata Pine.
In response to the competition for "Re-Designing Pine," Maricha was given two logs of Radiata Pine. The challenge was to "translate both the symbolism of life and fire, and the fluidity and movement of dance into the timber."
Because the log was green, it was necessary to wet the wood as she carved to minimize splitting and shrinkage. Problems occurred along the way, Maricha recounts, that dictated how the sculpture would be completed.
Maricha explained that the concept of the 'Tree of Life' evolved with three trunks supporting the canopy for structural strength. Each trunk exhibits a different facet of Aboriginal life and culture. The growth rings and grain of the log are exposed to enhance the perception of movement. To explore the possibilities of carving Radiata Pine, Maricha incorporated many carving techniques: in-the-round, low and high relief, reverse relief, and pierced carving.
The fire is carved onto a turned cone, and fire is also symbolized in the texture and color created by the use of a blowtorch and pyrography. The design is further enhanced by the use of hidden electric light under the carved and pyroengraved fire and behind the pyroengraved pierced fasciae of kiln-dried Radiata Pine board.
Carving in different techniques also required contrast, and pyrography was again the answer for Maricha. It not only provides good contrast but also is twin-like to the pine grain--complimenting and drawing out the wood's beauty.
Maricha's notes on her work include the following observations:
"I found that pine pyrographs well but emits an awful odor;
burning was done outdoors.
Between the smells of the linseed oil to keep the tree from cracking and the pyrography, the smell and tendency to burn fiercely were constant factors, for which a water spray bottle was always handy as well as a fan to disperse any toxic fumes."
Below you will see the fifth and final view of Maricha Oxley's wondrous sculpture
Corroboree. Here Maricha explains the significance of fire
and light in her work, and recounts the elaborate techniques
(emphasizing the role of pyrography) required to achieve the desired
effects with these elements.
We have already seen that the sculpture consists of a tree-like canopy supported by three columns that look like three tree trunks on the inside and sides but have superimposed very thin panels (which Maricha refers to as the fasciae) facing outwards. These fasciae bear relief work or incised figurative images of Aborigenes and Aboriginal themes darkened (by blowtorch and a pyrography tool) to contrast with the interspersed natural woodgrain figures (carved in the round) of Aboriginal dancers (a hunter with pyrographed spears, a second dancer with musical sticks, and a third with a boomerang) dancing around a fire carved in the center of the sculpture. All of the above are supported on a blackened base that likewise displays three circular designs (one of stomping feet and two of clapping hands).
What we have only touched on so far is that the central fire with pyroengraved logs as well as the three outer panels (fasciae) are all lit!
Maricha explains that the combined effects of the central (lighted) fire, lighted fasciae (more on these below), and pyrography in this sculpture were essential for her to imbue her sculpture with the ambience, the spiritual celebration of everyday life, as well as sacred feelings and emotional reconciliation she sought to convey.
Moreover, Maricha says further, the grain of the wood has been blended with the pyrography to enchance the sculpture. Maricha's utilization and emphasis (through burning) on the grain of the wood contributes enormously to the feeling of movement in this sculpture.
Another amazing aspect of Maricha's sculpture is that it looks different during the day than it does at night because the lighting effects change the colors and shadows. At night, everything is dark except the flickering light from the center hitting the dancers and the fasciae on the outside drawing the viewer's attention with an effect like stained glass. During the day, however, the natural grain, harmony, and rhythm of all the sculptural elements intertwine within the whole sculpture.
The fascia in the view above was incised lightly, then pyrographed,
pierced, and painted with metallic pens--mostly gold, silver, red, blue,
and yellow. It was then burnt again slightly to strengthen and harden
the thin panel.
Following is how Maricha created additional 'fire' effects and how she lighted the sculpture: Inside (behind each fascia), a box was hollowed out to insert the fluorescent tubes. The back of each fascia panel was covered with a flame-colored transparent vinyl (with flame shapes in reds, blues, yellows--that is, fire colors), which was glued to the fascia, then pierced with tiny holes to allow heat to escape from the box while the electric light is on.
So far, the Corroboree's only real-world exhibition was in
church--a very gratifying first showing for Maricha's work, in keeping
with her personal goal (and Australia's national one) of seeking
Reconciliation with their Aboriginal population.
A picture of Corroboree's has already been featured in a recent issue of the Australian Wood Review magazine. Another magazine--The Australian Woodworker is considering the sculpture for their publication, and the State Forest Department will also display the Corroboree at the big Sydney Working With Wood Show, and are looking at doing an article on the sculpture in their magazine, the Bush Telegraph.
"Corroboree is my first sculpture carved in Radiata
Pine," Maricha says, "and I am surprised and pleased with the
results. I have several ideas crystalising for future
Maricha says "It is a pity that the readers can only see Corroboree in pictures because it is subtle but unusual. Those who see it [in real life] state what a wonderful feeling they get of peace, harmony, and love."
The AuthorKathleen M. Garvey Menéndez learned her pyrography techniques in Guatemala in 1975-1977. Her sister, Artist Sharon H. Garvey, later joined her there to collaborate on a pyrography project designed to promote this art form in the United States by means of a didactic book and a pyrography tool made by Navarro of Mexico.
Thanks to the internet, January 2001 marked the beginning of the fifth year of articles on pyrography for the Woodcarver Online Magazine (WOM), started January 1997, and the fourth year of the E-Museum of Pyrographic Art, which opened its virtual doors January 1998. In March of that year, the International Association of Pyrographic Artists (IAPA) was formed and members began meeting on line. Linked from the E-Museum's Café Flambé, which hosts the IAPA meetings, is the Yahoo Groups uniting_pyrographers mailing list, member list, and chat forum set up by IAPA Co-founder Mixo Sydenham of Australia for IAPA members.
© 2001 Kathleen M. Garvey Menéndez, all rights reserved.