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Charissa Brock
Helix Oculi

2014

About the Item

Artist Commentary: Helix Oculi is made from black bamboo, called Phyllostachys Nigra Bory, or Tiger bamboo, gathered from the Portland region, and fused glass elements made in my studio. The shape of the bamboo elements in the piece, the long split lengths of bamboo, are made using a 5 part traditional splitting technique. This piece stems from a long line of spirals made over the last 15 years. The idea started with a very simple sea shell shape. Each time I made a spiral shaped piece over the years I have seen the potential to explore the form in a more elaborate way. Helix Oculi is an exploration in how many times I can let the form loop down into a spiral. It follows Spiral Penna, which has fewer spirals but has elements closer together. A slight variation in the thickness of the materials, the tightness of the curve of the material, or the spacing can entirely change the form. The addition of glass to the form is newer, within the past 5 years. What is wonderful about adding the glass is that I am able to add further pattern and depth to the spiral shape. My use of the spiral, cocoon, or seed pod form, predates working with bamboo and glass, and harkens back to an early childhood memory of finding a chrysalis of a locust in the ground. I had no idea what it was I had unearthed was so struck by the mystery of the small being that it has been showing up as a theme since I could first draw. Words used to describe this piece: nature, spiral, bamboo, tall Artist Biography: I work primarily with bamboo, and have made it my life's work to explore its potential as an art material. Until the advent of the internet little was known about this material in the USA despite being used for centuries elsewhere in the world. While a graduate student at Tyler, I discovered bamboo while investigating other plant structures. I was mystified by bamboo's structure and started investigating how to use systems to create form using this material. During the course of my investigations I developed techniques I still use today based on creating simple gestures repeatedly. I also use traditional techniques I have learned from Japanese bamboo artists. My material inspires me and keeps me on a quest to learn new ways to conceptualize and execute forms. I see no limit to the potential bamboo has as a sustainable art material and consider it to be one of the materials of the future. Bamboo's physical structure lends itself to being taken apart and reconstructed into patterned structures. To these, I add details with stitching techniques and glass. The glass catches or reflects light. The details draw viewers closer and fill their whole sight line with nuances created by the human hand and nature. When they leave the presence of the piece and walk out into the world, I hope they are reminded that there is beauty in the details and patterns - that looking closely requires being present, and that the present is where life happens. My technical vocabulary is large, and lends itself to creating works both large and small. My inspirations are wide. I spend time looking at the landscape and creatures within it, think about the way the air and water move, and the pattern plants grow in.I also look at the microscopic world for inspiration, fractile patterns, diatoms, and even molecular structures are all inspiring. In addition to this pallet, I add the environment I grew up in in New Mexico and a passion for artifact. I had a pivotal experience while in Rome during graduate school visiting archeological museums with classmates. The ancient artifacts within did not have identifying descriptions in English so my classmates and I had to guess what we were seeing. Everyone had a different idea based on their background experiences. I found this guessing game to be incredibly inspiring and have tried to invoke the same experience in my own work ever since that day by drawing from several references at once and abstracting the forms. As an artwork is coming into being, I have a story, a sense of place, or a reference point in mind. Using a wing, a leaf, or an element or pattern from the landscape, I invoke a story. It is not important for the viewer to translate precisely the references I am making. I want to engage viewers in playing a guessing game inspired by their own lives. Using form and an abstract narrative, I strive to create visual poetry.
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