I am very blessed to have a solo exhibit of my sculptures coming up at the SCYAP Gallery in May. I’ve known about this show for over a year and have been busy preparing. I will be showing some of my existing work and I have created four new catoptric theatres (or infinity boxes) for this event. A catoptric theatre (or cistula or chest) is a box lined with mirrors and filled with mini libraries, cities, forests, or treasures that are reflected into infinity by the mirrors. Mostly I make forests. I had no idea these had a name and had been around since Ancient Rome until my coworker told me. I just thought reflecting mirrors would be cool and that capturing a bit of the beautiful boreal forest would be the ultimate in cool.
Finally I am finishing work on the Infinite Sadness box. Many years ago I fell deep into the infinite sadness and spilled out a spiral poem about the sadness and how consuming it was. I’m not sure how I stumbled my way out of the sadness and why I occasionally wade back into it. I wanted to create a piece that captured the feeling of this sadness.
My hope is that people who’ve stepped into that wilderness will recognize it, see that others know it too, and feel slightly less alone.
After some failed attempts at a figurative sculpture in the summer I decided to fill the box with a burnt out forest. I spent the last two months working on the box itself – covering the insides with reflective Mylar paper (not as good as real mirror as the surface is not entirely flat and the reflected image becomes somewhat distorted – like a fun house mirror) and finishing off the outside of the box. I wanted to cover one end of the box with the infinite sadness poem I wrote oh so many years ago. I even dug out the poem sometime this past summer and put it in a very safe place. A place so safe I cannot find it. Nor can I remember the poem. It did go on about the sadness and how infinite it was so perhaps it’s for the best that I lost it.
I gathered together some lovely twigs and small branches that I’d been saving and attempted to get a burnt effect by heating the branches up with a heat gun. I thought that would be safer and provide more control over things.
Nah! That was a waste of time.
Next I filled the inside of the box with some cuts pieces of florist foam and glued in the burnt twigs:
Then I went outside and gathered up some ashes from our fire pit and put them on the “forest” floor.
So I went outside and lit a fire. It was a bit wet and smoky. But a nice day to be outside even if I did have to shower off the overabundance of smoke smell once I was finished.
I waited until today to go out and get the new ashes (safety first!). Today’s ashes were more ashy than the charcoaly ones I collected yesterday.
I filled the inside of the box with them and voila!
It was interesting to me how the ash made everything look like it was the middle of winter. I wanted a bleaker look to everything (it is the Infinite Sadness after all) so I added some theatre lighting gel to the opening at the top of the box:
Luckily for me I happen to know a very nice theatre technician who said “try this” and gave me several sheets of a brown/grey gel.
I covered the box earlier this year with some old encaustic paintings I’d made a few decades ago (pre-children, when I still did things like paint in wax and smoke cigarettes and stay up late into the night making things).
I covered the paintings with resin; it worked well and is highly reflective – a different look from my other infinity boxes. Here are some pictures:
I printed out the words Infinite Sadness and covered them with packing tape. Then I soaked the paper off in a sink full of water and ended up with a transparent transfer of the words. I stuck these on the end of the box and covered them with resin. Once the resin cured the bits of paper I missed became more noticeable and the transfer became somewhat cloudy. How visible the words are depends on where the viewer stands. I’ve decided that this is OK. Here’s a photo that shows that last side of the box with my workspace reflected in it: