Sculpture: An 'ode' to the pandemic
the furies outside, sanctuary inside
The making of:
I had a very frustrating session trying to sew the panels together using a heavy duty sewing machine. The stitching held, but alas my expertise with the sewing machine was non-existent; I was nervous, stopping, starting, the stitching veering off the material, the thread snagging; the thought of having to do this for the entire tent- an estimated fifty panels to stitch together, resulted in me fleeing the class early. The tent seemed to me then dead in the water. I had reached for the stars and stumbled ingloriously back to earth. I had been way too ambitious with this mammoth project. That was it, I thought dejectedly, my first attempt at sculpture had failed. However, the tent would not be so easily dismissed. I went back to the possibility of glue. I researched again and discovered the wonder of the hot glue gun. I ordered a small one, tried it out, and lo and behold, the panels held even when I pulled hard at them. And also there was no toxic chemical smell from the glue. I ordered a bigger, more industrial glue gun- the 200W Hot melt glue gun, and once I became more proficient in using it- the tent was a go. I had to be quick with gluing the panels together otherwise the glue would melt the plastic, shriveling it up. I sustained a few, minor burns in the interests of art.
I glued the side panels first, then the back, then the front and door and finally the floor. I had to keep setting up the retractable pole rods in the studio, fixing them on the tent floor which I had removed from the nylon tent and was now free standing. With some help I would put the glued panels over the poles.
Once on the poles I could see what areas needed more panels and I glued these on the panels as they were on the poles, a challenging feat, but accomplished. Next was removing the poles from inside the tent and placing them outside as how they would be in a real tent. I used the small side panels of the Fresh Direct bags cut in half to make the loops for the tent.
Before gluing the floor onto the rest of the tent I cut out the holding tags from the nylon floor and glued these onto the Fresh direct floor. I then raised the poles on the floor and put the rest of the tent over them. I glued the loops along the ridges of the tent where the sticks lay. I then removed the tent and in what turned out to be rather laborious work with another person, but with much laughter as we pulled and tugged, we finally managed to push the poles through the loops (unlike with a nylon tent the plastic is rigid and the rods had to be pushed through as opposed to gliding through the material).
And finally, there it was a real tent! It looked beautiful! And fully functional. I was pleased and proud that I had taken no shortcuts (okay, perhaps gluing instead of sewing was a shortcut of sorts) and that the patterns I had envisaged held, I was especially happy with the symmetry of the door. Inside, the tent was as I had envisaged it. The floor a rectangle of white space, fringed with panels of fruits (100% happiness) and lying down the light filtered through and images of the fruit were visible. It has been a labour of love and I felt exhilarated, rewarded for the execution and completion of an idea.
I had discovered and lived through a truth that artists have known- the process, the actual work of making the work can be just as illuminating and satisfying as the completed work. What went into the making of the tent spoke to me- it gave me that burst of energy and joy-I get when looking at a work of art that moves me. I had found myself sometimes working in a state of fixed concentration resulting in a state of bliss
The following week would be the final phase of the tent. The setting up of its environment. While having drinks at a pub as a celebration for completing the tent and when my partner made a comment about how outside the tent was the pandemic and inside was sanctuary, I suddenly had an illumination of what would go inside the tent- the fruits and vegetable (asparagus) that were all over the tent- the real fruits and vegetable- they would sit in bowls around the tent, their physical reality, echoing the pictorial representation of the tent- also it was these very fruits and vegetable that had been sustenance during the height of the pandemic- that had brought that guaranteed, 100% happiness. In the sanctuary of the tent there would be too my novel, An Act of Defiance, whose publication had occurred during that time- there would be bottles of water and wine which I had consumed a lot of during that time. A notebook and pen. A cushion. A flashlight for night reading.
Outside the tent would be all the symbols of the pandemic- masks and disinfectant wipes, tests and warnings.
I envisaged the tent in an outdoor space, among trees and wilderness- an outdoor sculpture, at one with is environment.
A week later: Inside, the tent was fragrant with the smell of raspberries, strawberries, grapes; no longer the plasticky smell of the bags. My fellow artists crept inside and helped themselves to the strawberries which were plump and juicy and delicious.
They were amazed that I had done it; they had watched me that first lesson deconstructing my bags, watched me with the glue gun and the laborious setting up of the panels on the retractable poles, and now here it was the completed work. We laughed, took pictures, reveled in the moment. Here it was, my own, my very own sculpture, complete.