The Little Pufferfish Who Could

…build her a castle

Art in the Sand

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Click on image for extraordinary video: Art of the Pufferfish

I am totally charmed. Who knew pufferfish are masters of art and architecture?
The scientific powers that be attribute the whole thing to a mating ritual and the sole purpose of the pufferfish’s activity is to impress a female.
Not me, though.

Mission Accomplished

I am impressed. Thoroughly and completely.

I feel a certain kinship to this pufferfish, who pulls his vision from the sand. I work in clay—rarely if not never do I sketch things out first on paper. It’s not that I cannot draw, it’s that paper is but two dimensional, and clay is three. For me, it’s just easier to ‘draw,’ so to speak, with the clay in the first place.

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Archimedes Flight, 2006, Ceramic sculpture by Mary C Simmons

The pufferfish didn’t draw it all out first either, for obvious reasons. No paper, no writing utensils, no thumbs…just an internal vision that drove his entire body in the performance of art. That’s how I do it too, engrossed in my task and operating from an internal vision that informs my hands to construct the compendium of details that comprise the whole.

Art and Sentience

We humans draw a firm boundary between ourselves and the rest of creation, based on a standard (set by us) of intelligence and sentience, which undergoes periodic redefinition to exclude all of creation except us. Originally defined as the ability to feel and perceive, the definition was expanded to include an ability to suffer. Once we started noticing that all animals have that ability, self-awareness became the defining quality of sentience.

I can’t imagine how the pufferfish created his art without an awareness of himself in his oceanic landscape of water and sand. Why is it that the creation of art is an instinctual mating ritual in the animals, but a sign of sentience and intelligence in us?

satin-bower-bird-nestUntil the pufferfish first maps out his sculpture on paper or via computer graphics, or when the bowerbirds use differential equations to construct their nests, they’ll never even approach us intelligence-wise. Cool that we get to not only set the standard, but keep changing it as well so as to exclude all that is non-human. But why?

I am over-awed and comforted by my kinship with the little pufferfish creating a work of art the same way I do—from an internal vision, using his physical body. I doubt very much, however, that I could create this or any piece of art with my nose. From that perspective, the pufferfish is quite a bit more talented than I am.

 

ANIMAL ARCHITECTURE, book out April 2014 087.jpg

Animal Architecture

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Mother, My Art

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Self Portrait, ~1950, Rita M. Simmons

Thanks to my very creative mother, Rita M. Simmons (1921-2004), my childhood was steeped in a variety of creative enterprises and the permission to make messes. She faced it, back in the 1950’s: creativity is untidy. She even organized a neighborhood puppet-making project in our garage that engaged the children of the whole neighborhood.

She painted. I opt for the third dimension. Far and away from my childhood steeped in the odors of oil paint and turpentine, my mother’s paintings inspired me from the hidden places of memory and imagination. I put my hands in clay and evoke the landscape, the dancer, the flowers that grace the Earth. As she, my mother, did before me, on the flat canvasses of her vision.

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Abstract Landscape, Acrylic, ~1970, Rita M. Simmons; Ceramic Sculpture Cylinders, 2005, Mary C. Simmons

The paintings and ceramic sculptures herein were part of a recent art show at the Church of Art, in Hotchkiss, Colorado.

In 1999, I received a Master of Science degree in geology, which also has exerted a profound influence on my art, both in design inspiration and technique (seeMaking Paint from the Desert Landscape & Bones of Earth, Bones of Clay…)

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Ceramic Sculpture Cylinders, 2005, Mary C. Simmons

I taught geology for 4 years in Indiana, and spent the summers in dry New Mexico, where the Cylinder Series happened, 22 of them, comprised of high-fired stoneware and porcelain.

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Skeletal Cylinders, 2005, Mary C. Simmons

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Textured Platter, 2014, Mary C. Simmons

My latest passion in ceramic art: bright, beautiful colors and intricate textures in low-fired earthenware clay.

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Textured Bowls, 2014, Mary C. Simmons

At last, I am painting. Like my mother, who by her example, made my life an open space for art.

Thanks, Mom.

 

 

 

 

Bones of Earth, Bones of Clay

I’m fascinated by bones…all bones, especially the white bleached remains of the wild creatures picked clean of all flesh, marking the place where they lay down on the Earth and died.

I am not alone….

full-scale-t-rex-built-near-the-seine-river-paris-designboom-01Bones of Metal

French artist Phillipe Pasqua designed and fabricated this full-scale, 21 foot tall Tyrannasauras rex sculpture. Comprising 350 bones of chrome and aluminum, the Lizard King towers over the Seine River in France. (Click here for more…)

Bones of Rock

Speaking of T-Rex, a rare nearly complete fossilized skeleton heads for the Smithsonian as the centerpiece for the new dinosaur hall. <more here…>r-T-REX-SMITHSONIAN-large570

In other bones, Paleontologists recently excavated the fossilized tail of a 72-million year old hadrosaur in the northern desert of Mexico. Discovered by locals, the scientists unburied fifty remarkably well-preserved vertebrae. From these bones, scientists determined the dinosaur suffered from arthritis and tumors (Click here for more…)

DinoBones of Clay

From molten origins of Igneous rocks, whose feldspars undergo weathering and disintegration at Earth surface, forming a variety of clay minerals that, thankfully, blanket much of Earth’s surface.

I too am descendent from Firstborn Earth. I know this clay. It is me.

During one muse-filled summer break from teaching geology, a series of ceramic sculptures, whose central theme of twisted spinal columns sprang to life beneath my hands, telling tales of my own origins, my vertebrate ancestry. My own bones.

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Cylinder Series, #1-22, after the bisque
Summer 2004

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Detail, Cylinder Series, #19
Mary C Simmons

Our evolutionary paths cross, clay and I, in a moment of geologic time-the instant in which I so briefly live. I witness a distant past and participate in this miraculous path of life upon which my hands and this clay chanced to meet.

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Cylinders Series, #23
Mary C Simmons