About This Life – Signs, Symbols and Metaphors

In 2014 the Allan Hancock College Art on Campus Committee commissioned me to select a location in the new Student Services building and create an art work for that location. After several tours of the structure I chose a wall adjacent the north entrance to the building and began to design the project.

Creation

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A full sized paper schematic was created and cut into individual pieces to be used as templates for the individual segments of a mural. Using two existing ceramic pieces to present a concept for the project, Photoshop was used to illustrate the proposal that was submitted to and approved by the committee.

 

This was the sort of project that challenged my technical experience and skill levels at most every turn. It demanded problem solving and the creation of techniques for accomplishing that which had only been imagined.

 

 

At the start of the 2014-2015 academic year the Art on Campus committee lost its administrative leadership and my parents required additional support from our household. Progress on the “mural project,” as it had become known to me, slowed considerably and finally came to a standstill.

At this point a shallow box shaped mold (18” x 18” x 2“) had been created and initial experiments with slip casting the individual modules had been undertaken.

In December of 2015 the Art on Campus committee was reactivated and with it the stimulus to move forward with the mural project. It had become clear to me that trying to make much progress while teaching full time was difficult. During winter break and summer session I was able to make significant progress on the clay work and eventually a bisque firing of all 21 pieces.

With the bisque firing complete a temporary wall was constructed in the patio outside the ceramics studio on campus. For the first time I was able to see the total composition as a whole. Previously all of the work had been on each panel separate from the others.

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Destruction

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On Oct. 6, 2016 a strong windstorm swept across the campus and the wall and bisqued mural came crashing down against some very solid tables. 12 of the 21 segments were destroyed. Fortunately, of the nine remaining, some of the more complicated panels survived and proved to be the “silver lining” that made moving forward possible. The 12 replacements received mild variations from the previous designs, bisque firing was accomplished and the modified composition was available for viewing on a much more secure wall installation during the spring semester of 2017.

Regeneration

During the following 2016-17 winter-break, the broken panels were remade with several subtle changes to the design. By March 6, 2017, all new segments had been through an initial firing and the project could, once again, be viewed in its totality.

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IMG_4398Coinnciding with the conclusion of spring semester was my retirement from Allan Hancock College. It took most all of the summer to move out of the studio that I had called my ceramics home for 27 years. All of the mural glazing work was now to be done at home, on the deck, in the living room and eventually in my reclaimed studio space.

Following the next glaze firing, the final level of surface prpearatiom was begun. This involved the use of mettalic lusters and china paint being applied. The glazing/staining steps in the process led to multiple firings that culminated in the final firing of overglaze metallic lusters and china paint.

Along the way several of the mural panels cracked or completely broke into two pieces. The final phase of the project was repair and detail touch-ups of the cracked and broken panels during the early weeks of 2019.

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Installation of the mural began in late 2018 with excellent/accurate placement of hanging cleats on the wall by an AHC staff member. Then on Jan. 14-15, the mural was delivered and hung on the cleats, with final placement and adhesive anchors on the fifteenth.

 

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