New Year, New Work! / by Hayden Michelle

("Propel", 2017)

The beginning of this year has brought much fullness and intensity, on so many levels.  As our country and world have been adjusting to the new transition of power, I, like many, have felt overwhelmed by the enormity of issues at hand.  One way I have been channeling my feelings has been through my art, always a safe outlet and source of healing.  It has been good to balance the outward energy of confronting change with being alone, working at my own pace, needing only to listen to the rhythm of my hands and heart.  

It is important for all of us to feel some sense of control over our lives, and although making art may seem like a small bit of choice, it is vital for me.  Perhaps because there is so much oppression and pain in the world,  do I need to create things that bring me peace and comfort, and at times, express my own challenges of this journey. 

All of these pieces were started months ago, in many different stages.  I seem to keep returning to creatures oceanic in nature, and wonder if that is not because of the expansiveness and mystery that the sea offers... offering some respite, escape, and connection to a greater whole.

I am really enjoying playing with color, and making things more wild than they might even be in real life (at least around the hills where we live).  That certainly is a very freeing part of making art!  I am teaching kids sculpture at our homeschooling co-op again this semester, and keep telling them the same thing-- there is no way to be wrong in creating... all of it is part of the whole of who we are.  It is such permission and freedom to just allow the expression of what wants to come out.  My hope is that everyone can allow themselves this opportunity in as many ways as they can.

"Propel", 2017, (4 x 18 x 4.25 inches)

Art glass, resplendent with imaginable form, was altered and printed on kozo, layered with fused wax, cut into intricate separate forms, rebuilt into one piece, adorned with mulberry paper and inclusion of hand-made paper clay, its protrusions coated in wax, all hand-colored in powdered pigment.  This creature appears able to propel itself across the ocean floor, perhaps never seen by human eyes, yet divine because it exists, leaving me pondering what serves to propel us forward in our lives.

It has been very exciting to delve into incorporating paper clay into my encaustic work, something I have been slowly experimenting with in the last year.  Making it by hand was an experience in and of itself, and photos that documented the terribly messy and long process would have provided some comic relief.  But alas, I will stay focused here, and share some of the end result :).  I can say that my fingers were exceedingly happy to plunge into wet clay again, as it has been a long-time favorite material, as primal as they come...

This other piece was a furthering in exploration, as I returned to printing onto textile rather than paper.  It has a very solid feel, and more work will be made this way.  I am sharing accompanying artist statements with the sculptures, as they speak succinctly for the pieces...

"Otherworldly", 2017, (4.25 x 12. 25 x 4 inches)

Otherworldly sprung up from a photo of hand-made art glass, its vibrant color and energy awaiting interpretation.  The altered pattern was printed on fabric, layered with fused wax, cut into new shape, sculpted, hand-sewn, embedded with wire tentacles, and hand-colored with powdered mineral pigment.  The newly embodied creature could have emerged from the sea, or perhaps the depths of my unconscious, reminding me of the beauty that resides both within and around me when I truly look.

The last 4 pieces were done in a series for a submission, and I enjoyed the challenge of needing to contain my work to 12 x 12 cradled panels.  I have previously incorporated my sculptural work onto panels, but this was more fully expressed.  Like the ocean, there is much symbolism in butterflies and moths, and I have collected found wings for some time.  Intentionally bringing them together brought some comfort, and made me realize what a past year of change this has been for me and my family...

"Vulnerable", 2017, (12.25 x 12 x 4.25 inches)

A small Io Moth wing discovered on the road under a street lamp grew much larger than life, as it was printed on kozo paper, layered with encaustic medium, hand-carved over the surface, sculpted, and wired onto a layered beeswax cradled panel, where organic swirls depicting movement were carved. Painted with oils to accentuate the habitat of the moth, I was struck by the fact that this wing was all that remained by morning, reminded of our vulnerability, and of the natural cycle of life.

"Fragile", 2017, (12 x 12 x 4.25 inches)

When discovering bits of brokenness, I pause in silence, marveling at the beauty that remains. Left blowing in the early morning breeze on the grass, coming upon this Luna Moth fragment took my breath away.  Photographed and printed onto kozo paper, layered with fused wax, hand-carved over its entirety, embellished by powdered pigment, it was wired onto an oil-painted waxed panel full of organic swirls of energy.  This Luna remnant made me connect with the powerful sacred energy of night.

"Migration, Interrupted", 2017, (12 x 12.25 x 5 inches)

A monarch on the grill of a car-- clearly struck during its journey-- brought awareness of how our lives can be altered… either in a single moment, or by long-held process/systems.  Each day there is desperate need to create goodness and gratitude amid the chaos and suffering in our world.  “Migration, Interrupted” evolved by merging photo with kozo, layering with fused wax, hand-carving and sculpting, coloring with pigment, and wiring onto depths of carved beeswax waiting like the midnight sky.

"Reveal", 2017, (12 x 12.5 x 4.25 inches)

A Blue Swallowtail feasting in our blackberry garden brought life to this sculpture. Printed on textile, layered with fused wax, hand-carved, sculpted into form, and colored with powdered pigment, it was wired onto a cradled panel layered with intricately carved organic shapes in beeswax and painted with oils, providing a resting place for this memorialized bit of nature’s beauty.  It illuminates the revelation of inner goodness that radiates out when provided with the sustenance we need.

Thank you for taking the time to see what I have been up to in my studio these past months... it feels good to see evidence that my work continues to evolve just by showing up at my table every day, and gives me hope for change in a more universal sense.  I continue to be moved to act in solidarity with others who are working for change in the many unique individual and collective ways that are happening.