Thursday, April 30, 2009

History of the Offerings

I have been blogging a great deal about the new marble "Offerings" that I have been working on the past few years. The concept of "Offerings" stretches back in my work to the late 1990s, when I had a few shows under the title/theme of "Sex, Death, Offerings."

detail of "offerings." The entire exhibit was made of beeswax, fibers, wood, lead, steel, graphite, and granite powder. There was an installation video, "Sex/Death/Offerings," and a protective sound environment, "Detritus of Mating" by composer Dennis Bathory-Kitsz

first "sex, death, offerings" from "Exquisite Corpse" exhibit in Burlington, VT, 1997.

For "Offerings/Sex/Redemption" I turned the gallery space into a holy temple-esque space. The original exhibit contained interconnected altars and death columns with offerings being given to a deity who is observing and taking what is most precious from the mortal. The essential organic and inorganic elements, softness, temperature,and lifelike smell continue to float toward death and to wait for forgiveness. Everything is related to prior excavations and provides future evidence of human endeavors. It is beyond time and civilization. The offerings are anthropological and archeological. We can lean against, move towards, and take them in our hands: we can feel them. They've their origins in human hands, but we do not know whose. They are part of a culture that is ever-present and is inherited from Egypt, Asia, medieval Europe and elsewhere. The premise, in a short time period of life, is based on what we see and give back. They are stripped of decoration, fashion, and other ornaments that are totally irrelevant. They have weight, dimension, and have inherited the human spirit. Later, someone will try to understand these remains of the past and future.

After the Vermont exhibit, I started working on a series of books made of lead, honey, graphite, granite powder, and natural fibers. These books served as personal readers attributed to each offering. In the archeological temple that I have created, theoretical monks working in the temple spent their entire lives writing the books for each offering.

example of book from Joyce Goldstein Gallery exhibit, "Books of Lead and Honey" in 1999.

view of monument and offerings at Prague "Sex, Death, Offerings" installation, 1999

In this exhibit, a guard worked by reading books and paintings with guides depicting the positioning of the offerings depending on the position of the sun, and then moving the offerings according to the diagrams. His work in continuity with the sound composition (Zonule Glaes II) playing and aesthetic holy environment helped create the multi-dimensional realistic feel of being in the temple system. Pictures are from "Sex Death Offerings" 1999 in Prague.

Also in 1999, the "Books of the Keeper" opened at Skidmore College, featuring a collection of the aforementioned books, written by the monks. "The Keeper" in essence, is the librarian of the books. In the center of the display was the largest of the offerings, made of lead and fibers, and encased in wood and glass for safe viewing. On top of the large offering were two sheets of moveable marble, allowing the viewer the opportunity to interactively excavate the offering and take a peek inside.

views of the show and the offering.

"By Pound Per Piece" was a continuation show of the show in Prague, in Kunsthall, December 1999-January 2000. Here are some shots from that show:

Later in 2000, "Archaeology" opened at OK Harris Gallery in New York. These large wooden caskets covered in beeswax, lead, and other materials were home to the many offerings to the dieties.

The next "Sex Death Offerings" exhibit took place at the Robert Pardo Gallery in September of 2001. This part of the series was titled "Levitation," which occurred after the acceptance of the offerings. At this point, the offerings begin transcending toward the dieties, as represented by the mylar paintings located above the offerings.

images from "Sex Death Offerings/Levitation"

In 2002, "Sex Death Offerings" reached the stage of "Transfiguration" at the University of Wyoming Museum of Art. "Transfiguration" was composed of several sections, including "Library," "Altars," "Remains of the Present," "Offerings," and "Transfiguration." Please read more about the exhibit and its rich conceptual aspects on my website here.

Four years later in 2006, the "offerings" transformed again in the exhibit "Archaeology/Excavation," featuring excavated en caustic wax paintings, four beeswax offerings, and the first set of marble offerings. Directly based on the beeswax offerings, with all of the visual and tactile qualities of the original divine offerings, the marble offerings are a pristine representation of their authentic brothers.

From the exhibit in 2006, my "offerings" have transformed again into a sleeker, richer, and more pristine form. Now inlaid with semi-precious stones, these "Offerings/Redemption" represent a completely new stage in time for the offerings. The new offerings have grown in size from initially 15" to now up to 60."

15" "Offering/Redemption"
black marble with alabaster and red marble inlay.

22" Offering/Redemption
white marble, lapis lazuli and tiger eye inlay.


Thursday, April 23, 2009

About the stones...

So I thought I would make a blog about the history and spiritual meanings of the stones that I use. Much of why I choose to use the stones that I use is because of their rich spiritual history. Since these pieces are offerings to a higher being, it makes sense that they be laiden with symbolic meaning.
Lapis Lazuli

Lapis Lazuli is a stone with a rich history, large deposits are found in Afghanistan and lighter variations are found in Chile. Ancient references to “sapphire,” the sapphires of the Romans, usually, in fact, refer to lapis lazuli. It’s modern name originates in the Persian word lazhuward meaning “blue” and the Arabic word lazaward meaning “heaven” or “sky,” and came into use in Europe during the Middle Ages. In ancient Greece and Rome, there was a belief that sapphires, cured eye diseases and set prisoners free. It was noted by the Greek physician Dioscorides, around AD 55, that it was an antidote for snake venom; it was even an even older Assyrian cure for melancholy. The Romans also believed that lapis was a powerful aphrodisiac. In the Middle Ages, it was thought to keep the limbs healthy, and free the soul from error, envy and fear.
Another widespread ancient belief was that it protected the wearer from the evil eye – possible because its blue color flecked with gold pyrite resembled the night sky, the dwelling place of God. Similarly, a medieval treatise suggests that “meditation upon stone carries the soul to heavenly contemplation.”

In ancient Egypt lapis lazuli was a favorite stone for amulets and ornaments such as scarabs; it was also used by the Assyrians and Babylonians for seals. Lapis jewelry has been found at excavations of the Predynastic Egyptian site Naqada (3300–3100 BC), and powdered lapis was used as eyeshadow by Cleopatra. As inscribed in the 140th chapter of the Egyptian Book of the Dead, lapis lazuli, in the shape of an eye set in gold, was considered an amulet of great power. On the last day of the month, an offering was made before this symbolic eye, for it was believed that, on that day, the supreme being placed such an image on his head.

Many of the blues in painting from medieval Illuminated manuscripts to Renaissance panels were derived from lapis lazuli. Ground to a powder and processed to remove impurities and isolate the component lazurite, it forms the pigment ultramarine. Since the synthetic version of ultramarine was discovered in the 19th century (along with other 19th century blues, such as cobalt blue), production and use of the natural variety has almost ceased, though several pigment companies still produce it and some painters are still attracted to its brilliance and its romantic history.

Tiger Eye (also: Tiger's Eye)

Tiger’s Eye Quartz also spelled tiger-eye is a semiprecious variety of quartz exhibiting chatoyancy, a vertical luminescent band like that of a cat’s eye. Tiger’s eye is formed when parallel veins of crocidolite (blue asbestos) fibers are first altered to iron oxides and then replaced by silica. As a result, is it more opaque and has a rich yellow to brown color. It is found primarily in South Africa and Australia.
Tiger eye has a very subtle vibration. For this reason, it is frequently used in conjunction with other stones during healing work. It is a good stone for jewelry that you wear all the time, so that it's steady energy can work deeply. It's grounding and enduring qualities make it an excellent stone for meditation. You will frequently see prayerbeads (malas) made of tiger's eye. It is said to release anxiety, fear, and obsessiveness and to make emotions more logical. It is frequently listed as a good stone for business and achieving clarity. Tiger eye symbolizes willpower, confidence, and assurance. It is said to clear visual disturbances and provide protection during travel. Roman soldiers wore tiger eye because they believed it was an "all seeing" eye. Even today, one meaning of tiger eye is as psychic protection.


Carnelian is a blood-red to reddish-orange translucent variety of chalcedony. The coloration is due to presense of iron oxide, mostly found in Scotland, Brazil, and Washington State. Carnelian was once thought to still the blood and calm the temper. Conversely, it was also said to give the owner courage in battle and help timid speakers be eloquent. Many sources report that Carnelian be a powerful activator to the second Chakra, called the Sacral Chakra, which relates to a sense of Self along with the five senses, creativity, reproduction, sexuality and self-gratification.

Carnelians were used in Ancient Egyptian magic as protection for both the living and the dead. A Carnelian in the form of the "tjet," symbol of Mother Isis, was placed on the neck of a mummy to ensure the protection, safe passage, and rebirth of the spirit in the afterlife. Another Carnelian amulet was the Eye of Horus, which is still believed to offer protection against the evil eye. In Roman times, Carnelian was engraved with the head of a lion or a great leader.
Magical uses of Carnelian include using it as a focus for past life work and for finding a "twin soul" or family. It is good for all love and sex rites, especially to rekindle or increase passion that has begun to fade.

Mentally, Carnelian can improve analytical abilities and can clarify perception. It removes extraneous thoughts during meditation and sharpens concentration. Emotionally, this stone is a powerful protector against envy, rage and esentment...yours or other people's. It calms anger and banishes negativity, replacing it with a love of life.

Goethe wrote:
"Carnelian is a talisman,
It brings good luck to child and man;
If resting on an onyx ground,
A sacred kiss imprint when found.
It drives away all evil things;
To thee and thine protection brings.
The name of Allah, king of kings,
If graven on this stone, indeed,
Will move to love and doughty need.
From such a gem a woman gains
Sweet hope and comfort in her pains".


Malachite is possibly the earliest ore of copper, having been mined in the Sinai and eastern deserts of ancient Egypt from as early as 5000BC. Large amounts are found in Democratic Republic of Congo, England, New South Whales, Russia, Mexico, AK and AZ, Namibia. Mining Malachite began as early as 4000 BC by ancient Egyptians. It was ground into powder and worn as eye makeup as far back as 3000 BC. This very same powder pigment is used by painters under the name of "mountain green." Malachite has been dubbed "The Magic Stone" for it is said to bring good luck, safe travel, and protection. It is also believed to bring good health, success, and constancy of affection. In the Middle ages, malachite was worn to protect from black magic and sorcery. In Ancient Greece amulets for children were made of malachite. In the New Stone Age came the discovery of the possibility of extracting certain metals from the ores in which they generally occur. Probably the first such material to be used was malachite, then already in use as a cosmetic and easily reduced to copper in a strong fire. It is impossible to be precise about the time and place of this discovery, but its consequences were tremendous. Namely it led to the search for other metallic ores and to the development of metallurgy.
Malachite is associated with the powerful love goddesses, who could be either benign or vengeful. In Greek mythology the throne of Demeter, goddess of grain and harvest, was fashioned from malachite and adorned with golden pigs and ears of barley.

Malachite is used as a powerful stone for protective magic, especially if traveling by air or on busy roadways. It is also good for amplifying wishes, and can be used in prosperity magic.
It is believed that by gazing or holding Malachite it will relax the nervous system and calm emotional upsets, bringing a sense of peace and harmony.

It has been used to make objects as large as the enormous malachite pillars of St Isaac’s Cathedral in St. Petersburg as well as intricately worked objects by Carl Faberge. Many artifacts created using malachite can be seen in the Hermitage Museum in Russia and the Uffizi and St. Peter’s in Italy.

Hope that has illuminated the magical qualities of these stones!


More From India

So we got some good news about pieces finishing up in India and almost on their way out to the studio and to Santa Barbara! Here are some of the pictures of the new 36" pieces. They are made of white marble, lapis lazuli, tiger eye, carnelian & malachite. I will update with special spiritual meanings and histories of each stone later! Take a look.

As you can see, there is a white marble inlay in the white marble. The white on white look is very pristine and the carnelian and malachite pieces look great, I think.

Can't wait for them to arrive!


Thursday, April 9, 2009

Pietre Dure

The technique that I use to make the "eggs" is known as Pietre Dure. It has been around for over a thousand years and has a rich history among ancient cultures. Although my pieces are far from what would be considered "micromosaics" by English speaking communities, I still follow the simplified tradition of Pietre Dure, with a modern minimalist twist. The technique founded in the Byzantine empire and truly developed and fluorished in Florence with the founding of the Opificio delle pietre dure.

In July of 2008, the Met had an exhibit called, "Art of the Royal Court: Treasures in Pietre Dure from the Palaces of Europe." It was brilliant and they released a book with the same title that is completely worth buying. Although pietre dure is commonly known as a "decorative art," the magnificence of each piece is truly permiated when viewed in person. Due to their materials, these are "eternal paintings."

Fernando Partini's "View of Pantheon" (1795-97) done in Pietre Dure technique.

Pietre Dure is typically done as a flat surface. What I am doing different with my work is turning the already somewhat 3-D pietre dure to an even more sculptural form by having it carve and bend around forms.

"Reliquary Casket" attributed to the workshop of Andrea del Verrocchio, Florence, 1480s or 1490s.


Works in Progress

Here are some images I received from India a few weeks ago. I have some 48" eggs (Treasures) which are finally finished being polished.

48" Treasures. Yellow marble with red marble and alabaster inlay.

I also have a 24" Yellow marble with lapis lazuli and tiger eye inlay:

And last but not least, 30" pieces that portray a certain male-female duality. The two pictured below represent a masculine entity. I will post the female entities later.

These are being done with black marble, lapis lazuli, tiger eye, red marble/alabaster inlay.

That is all the exciting news for now!



Here are some images of the painting I've been working on in the studio. It's been a long process of building up materials, excavating, and building up again. The final layer for now is red beeswax, which I think is stunning. I've been working on making the texture very smooth with a knife, which is a long process but is very therapeutic.
A close-up of the texture:

It should take a while to finish!