“Our Lady in the Wood” is a multimedia sculpture created by Douglas Cochrane using carved alder, steam bent oak, kiln formed stained glass, and various other materials. It is approximately 2’ wide and 3’ tall. Her design was inspired by the poster by Alphonse Mucha, who drew complex posters filled with intricate detail. In this work, I tried to replicate a similar feeling in three dimensions using multiple mediums.
I am a lifelong self taught amateur artist working in multiple mediums. My artwork is an exploration of skills, techniques, and methods. Because I don’t sell my work, I often spend exorbitant amounts of time on its creation, to achieve the highest standards I can. This allows my imagination to run rampant, building layer upon layer of complexity whilst constantly trimming the project down to its basics.
On a deeper dive, what is art? There are many words that describe similar endeavors. Workmanship. Craftsmanship. Skill. Attention to detail. Creativity. Innovation.
Is a perfect weld, with no undercut nor excessive slag, that will not fail for the life of the metal – is this art? Is a beautifully woven basket art? Or only a craft? Is a useful software program art? It is certainly creating something innovative from nothing. If I spend years converting a homely plywood shack into a pretty little beach cottage, is this art? If you walk through a garden and are suddenly surprised by something you didn’t expect or have never seen before, is this art?
In the Sixties, a common question was, “What’s your bag?” In retirement, a common question is, “What did you do?” Somehow we are supposed to answer in a sentence or two. “What kind of art do you do?” I can only answer, “Mine”.
I rarely produce the same type of work twice. The fascination for me is in learning new processes. For example, “Our Lady in the Wood” required building the skills to steam bend oak and to kiln slump glass. I find myself circling back into long forgotten skills to bring out fresh ideas. Art is an endless upward cycle of imitation and creativity.
What influenced me most in creativity in life?
The work of Frank and Lillian Gilbreth, an engineering couple who delved deeply into time and motion studies, launched me into a career of efficiency in manufacturing. They also inspired me to seek a mate who could equal and exceed me in business, life, and creativity.
The “Pattern Language”, a study in the levels of privacy from communities to neighborhoods to the “child’s cave” in the depths of the home has influenced everything I’ve built since. Is a vibrant home or neighborhood art? Or just luck?
Dan “the Marbleman” O’Leary can draw nearly anything in perfect detail with a fine point pen. He continually creates interesting objects, experiences, and environments in his reclusive life high on a mountainside in Oregon.
Another poster artist, known as “Mouse”, drew amazing dance hall announcements in the 1960’s Haight Ashbury. To the casual observer, they were pretty posters. Like Mucha, his work was florid and fantastical. His rule seemed to be that if it was easy to read, he wasn’t done. To those who learned to interpret them, they advertised the upcoming concerts by people like the Grateful Dead or Janis. Those who couldn’t read weren’t invited.
The Vashon Island master tile artist Nadine Edelstein encourages me to think differently as her art and craftsmanship flows in new patterns. When we visit, the air sizzles between my ears and ideas pour out.
Of the modern day artists, the street painter Banksy is the most interesting to me. His work consistently challenges and amuses me.
A later influence is Franz von Holzhausen, designer of Tesla automobiles. He is the antithesis of Mucha and the Mouse, as his designs are on the outer extreme of simplicity. He challenges me to eliminate unnecessary words from my writing and to eliminate all the fancy frippery from my work.
I am grateful to Karen Milton of Karen’s Stained Glass Studio in Rochester and the specialists at Bullseye Glass of Portland and the Tacoma Museum of Glass for your expert advice on working with slumped glass. And mostly to my beloved Gerry for putting up with my endless hours in the studio. I couldn’t have created Our Lady without your help.