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by Kathleen Menéndez

Pyrography News From Around the World

Newsletter No. 28, Page Three of Three


Page One:
Leah Comerford: Through Rose-Colored Glasses

Page Two:
Jan Farrar: Pooch Portraits
Bob Boyer: New Internet Free Art School
Jim Widess: New Gadgets for Gourds
David Wickenden's 9/11 Proposal

Page Three:
Peter Drewett: Homage to Joan Kerr
Sharon H. Garvey: Calligraphy for a Crucifix

Peter Drewett: Homage to Joan Kerr

Joan Kerr

Candid photograph taken by Jim Kerr

Digital scan of a photocopy of the photograph courtesy of Peter Drewett

"A Labour of Love"

Peter Drewett of New South Wales in Australia was introduced in the January-February 2004 Pyrograffiti, which highlighted parts one and two of his art and story and promised an upcoming part three talking about his work with youth. As this article goes to press, he is nearing completion on a project working with troubled youth that will be featured in that segment, so expect to see that story before long.

During that period when Peter was working on his story for the last issue and already showing his very successful gourd work "Unfoundlands" at the special exhibit Home Sweet Home, he talked about his serendipitous meeting with Joan Kerr at Grafton and her introducing him to the 'outsider' art collector Peter Fay, who commissioned "Unfoundlands." It was during that period that Peter learned that Joan had fallen ill. Peter never said anything at that time, but on February 17, he wrote:

"The attachments are of my most recent labour of love. Joan Kerr, the woman who found my work in Grafton and introduced me to [Peter Fay], who . . . brought my work to public attention, is very very ill. . . I am so very grateful to her and wanted to give her something in the way of thanks, before it was too late. So I asked Peter Fay to send me some images of Joan that may be suitable for a pyrographic portrait. He sent me a photocopy of a photograph that her husband Jim took the day she found my work." (Note that in the photograph image above, Joan is actually carrying Peter's drum Animistic Caller.)

Joan Kerr

Peter Drewett's computer manipulation of the photocopy
to create a workable pattern

Image courtesy of the artist

Peter wrote further, referring to the above image: "I sure learned some new computer skills formatting that photocopy for use for the portrait." Peter set to work on his first ever portrait in pyrography, working from his computer-generated pattern.

Using a very fine point under magnification, he burned fine dots as pixels on a hardwood flitch, 12 inches by 8 inches. He completed his pyrographic portrait (image below) in about 60 to 70 hours and finished it with Tung oil. He wrote:

" I delivered the final result to Joan in Sydney last week. It was worth any amount of effort to see the smile on her face and the light in her now childlike eyes."

Joan Kerr, 1938-2004
by Peter Drewett, 2004

Pyroengraving on wood panel

Image courtesy of the artist

A Full Life

Dr. Joan Kerr passed away at the end of February. Peter knew Joan to be a very knowledgeable woman, but because of "her humble demeanour," as he said, he "had no idea how influential she was" until Dr. Sarah Engledow, Historian at Australia's National Portrait Gallery, forwarded him a short biography she'd prepared for the exhibit of his portrait. Here are some excerpts from Joan Kerr's biography:

Joan Kerr (1938-2004), art historian, writer and lecturer, was responsible for several key reference texts on Australian art. . . [She studied] at the Universities of Queensland, Sydney, London and York. . . After a two-year postdoctoral fellowship in the history department of the ANU, and two years as President of the Art Association of Australia, she was appointed Associate Professor of Fine Arts at the University of Sydney, a position she held until 1993. A foundation member of the Society of Architectural Historians of Australia and New Zealand, during the 1990s Kerr was a Trustee of the Historic Houses Trust of NSW and a member of the National Portrait Gallery advisory committee. From 1997 she was a Professor at the Centre for Cross Cultural Research at the Australian National University. Kerr published regularly on art and architecture from 1980 onward.

--Dr. Sarah Engledow

The Memory Lives On

It seems the spirit of Joan's loving kindness and passion for art has somehow taken up residence in her portrait, which appears to have a life of its own.

According to Peter, he has "received some very favourable comments on the portrait from some of Joan's friends and colleagues." One of her colleagues is publishing a book of Joan's essays on art history and may be using a print of the portrait in the frontispiece of that book.

As of February 26, Peter was awaiting confirmation that his portrait of Joan might be officially accepted for exhibit in the National Portrait Gallery.

Sharon H. Garvey: Calligraphy for a Crucifix

St. Peter's Church
Landmark edifice set on the hillside
in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, U.S.A.

Digital image and art photograph by Sharon H. Garvey

Out of the Blue, a New Project

American artist Sharon Garvey is known for exploring various unusual art forms. However, even she doesn't plan on everything she undertakes. Some projects just seem to find her. That was the case with the crucifix at St. Peter's in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia.

In 1995, St. Peter's pastor had arranged for a plaster cast to be made from a sculpted figure of the crucified Christ (sans cross). The original was from Italy and had been fashioned to conform to the characteristics of the Shroud of Turin--complete with all of the wounds raised in relief. He ordered it for his parish and hired a painter of religious art to paint the white plaster figure when it arrived.

Also during that time, he announced at Mass one morning that he was hoping some artistic parishioner would do the inscription, perhaps on cardboard (!?!), to affix to the top of the wood cross that another parishioner had prepared.

After Mass, Sharon approached the pastor and advised him that cardboard would not be very suitable for this project, that wood was what was called for, and that she could woodburn the inscription for the cross, if he would like that. Little did Sharon know where all of this would lead.

Crucifix at St. Peter's in Harpers Ferry,
Detail of the Inscription at the Top of the Cross
by Sharon H. Garvey

Pyrography and color stain on wood plaque

Digital image and art photograph also by the artist

Researching Her Project

The pastor showed Sharon a book with the original crucifix in Italy. She was given the wood for her project by the parishioner who had made the cross. The cross and the inscription plaque were both done in nicely finished wood of the sort usually seen on crucifixes and crosses, not rough hewn as might have been the historical case and how it was in the Italian picture.

With that in mind, Sharon took artistic license to use formal calligraphy, which would look very nice in St. Peter's, a lovely little Catholic Church that is a landmark in Harpers Ferry, where it is set prominently on the hillside there overlooking the place where the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers meet. The church is easily viewed from the rivers as well as from the roads below.

According to the New Testament, the inscription was "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews" and traditionally was written in Latin, Greek, and Aramaic (Hebrew). She consulted a teacher of classical languages for help with the Hebrew lettering, which on the finished plaque is written from right to left as opposed to the Greek and Latin, which are written from left to right like English. She burned in the letter outlines and later stained both the background of the plaque as well as the color of the letters.

A Second Unexpected Project

The young artist had found the project distasteful because he was averse to the project in general and repelled by the inevitable gore. As a consequence, he did a slapdash job of the painting overall--by the look of it probably no more than four hours work--and entirely ignored the wounds indicated in relief on the plaster figure. When the statue was unveiled that Good Friday, many of the parishioners were taken aback by his blatantly substandard job of painting. That very night, Sharon was approached about salvaging the project. She agreed to repaint the figure and worked in oil paints. Here is an excerpt from her letter, which she wrote at the end of 1995, about that unusual project:

For several weeks after Easter I labored in the unheated church, balanced on two ladders. When I got too chilled I'd take a break, walk into the lower town and buy a cup of hot chocolate. Sometimes I worked during the day while tourists came and went, watched and asked questions. . . . Sometimes I worked late at night when the church was dark and deserted. At a certain point the statue became a corpse; later, when I painted the facial features one night, it became a personage. It took me 100 hours to complete the painting plus another 25 to do the accusation plaque.

(If you wish to see the whole crucifix--keep in mind that the image is very graphic--click here to visit the Sharon H. Garvey Salon in the E-Museum.)

The nearly life-size crucifix, which usually resides in the Baptistry at the back of the church, has become a tourist attraction in its own right, as well as a special place of devotion for many.

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The Author

Kathleen 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, this is the eighth year of articles on pyrography for the Woodcarver Online Magazine (WOM), started January 1997, and the seventh 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 for IAPA members by IAPA Cofounder Mixo Sydenham of Warragul, Victoria, Australia.

2004, Kathleen M. Garvey Menéndez, all rights reserved.