Thursday, July 20, 2017

The studio is filled with Norma

The studio is filled with Norma. 
The studio is filled with Norma. I have reference photos on the wall, and a blown up copy for inspiration. There are piles of Norma pictures everywhere.  I'm also referring to online photographs of her provided by the family and ones I can find on the internet. If you have photographs, especially those of an older Norma, please sent them.  So with all of my online reference my computer is perpetually covered with clay.  I must remember to clean the bottom off of it before going to bed, as I usually write in the early or late hours and this dark clay smudged on sheets, well you can only imagine what that looks like.

Lots to do on Norma's hands. We are just roughing them in. 
I worked hard on getting Norma's face. Sorry no views of that.  I'm saving that for the family. I realized I couldn't really get her face until I had her hair, and boy did Norma have a lot of that hair. An intern spent the entire day just smoothing hair that it took me 4 days to add. Multiply that by about 5 more areas and you have Norma's hair.

Even without all of her hair, I'm real close to capturing her essence and I'm delighted. Meanwhile there are body parts everywhere.  Hands with Norma's jewelry are in one place, her sculpted boots in another and other appendages await to be attached. Norma is in pieces and I can't wait to start to put her together.

It is pretty much Norma central, but at this rate we will have her complete before the September gathering.  Then it is just a matter of having the funds to cast her. I can't wait to see her and Kippy in the park.

Norma's hair. Interns helped to
recreate some jewelry that we will
use on the sculpture. 
Oh, Kippy. He sits on the other side of the room staring with vacant eyes, wondering when it will be his turn again.  My granddaughter came to my studio, found a stick and walked around the yard with it for the entire day. We have given it to Kippy. It will be what he is waiting for Norma to toss.

 Onward to Norma. Need more of her music. Did the band have a CD?  It would be great to have it here in the studio as we work. The you tube songs are not very good. Some are, but then how many times can you listen to the same few songs? Love listening to her as we sculpt though.

Don't forget to send in your donations so we can get Norma cast.  More photos to come as we have time. Now I better stop as the 1/2 moons of clay are exiting my fingernails and are all over the computer.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Hide and seek

In all honesty I have been coming into the studio late. I work weekends, I work most days, but I love what I do. If I'm not writing, I'm sculpting, but this weekend I took time for family and I did something I have not done in a very long time. I made a pillow.

Anyway...In the afternoon evenings I'm coming in to the studio. I have a few days alone with Norma, no interns, nothing going on and I'm so excited. The dog Kippy sits on the other side of the room whimpering for me to get back to him. Norma's boots are roughed in and I swear they are also tapping, waiting to be put on a body. Norma's hands are in another part of the studio.  But I keep coming back to Norma's face.

It is a game of hide and seek. It is funny. I have had this hide and seek feeling mostly with kids who have died of accidents. I would not expect to have it with Norma. But for the last week, I sculpt in the evening, feel like I am getting closer, and then walk away. The next day I come back and I can see it differently.  Each day I make a mess, talk to Norma and look and hundreds of photographs. Each night I clean the clay from my fingers, load up my computer, clean the clay off the bottom of it before bringing it into bed and then go to bed hoping she will greet me in the morning.

I was talking to my sister yesterday and told her about a portrait that I did of a doctor. I felt so good about it all night long. I was having a grand time with it and felt confident. I closed up shop and in the morning when I came in, set my things down on the counter and turned around I found I had an entirely different man in my studio. What I had labored over for so long was my own deceased father.  I spoke right out loud, "What on earth are you doing here dad and where is the doctor?"

So, though Norma is taking stage in the evening, I want to be sure she is there in the morning.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Norma's party and making friends.

Being introduced on stage. I wish I would have asked everyone
to send pictures and stories. 
I was delighted to attend Norma's Birthday Party at Sambuca on Thursday.  I planned on taking Friday off, away from my constant search for Norma.  You see, I have body parts ready to be put together, but until I can capture the essence of Norma in her portrait bust, I can't really put everything else together.

There is an old movie called Hook. In one part of the movie there is a magical moment when a little boy is smooshing around the face of Robin Williams trying to find Peter Pan.  At one point he says, "there you are Peter." I have that moment with each of the portraits that I sculpt.

Fnding my subject can be a challenge.  Sometimes, I have to step away from the sculpture. This is extremely hard, especially when I have interns waiting to get to work on parts, but I cant go any further until I find Norma. So stepping away becomes part of the process.  Thursday, when I stepped away I was delighted to be surrounded by the Zenteno family. I actually began to miss them. It is a bit odd, but I'm not sure if it is me missing them or Norma.  I bond so much with my subject it is often hard to tell where they end and I begin, well emotionally.  

It is Saturday night, I have sat with Norma's head in my lap, flipping through images and trying to pull her into the clay. 4 hours later I mushed the clay around and finally said, "Oh, there you are Norma."  Now, I step away until tomorrow, to see how she will talk with me again.  Finding the essence of Norma is a lot different than finishing the sculpture. There is SO much to do. We have actually just begun. But tonight I can sleep a little more at peace knowing that Norma is taking the stage in my studio.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Stepping out

Sculpting Norma's boots.
I love that this sculpture of Norma is starting with her feet.  Whenever I create a sculpture I divide it up into pieces. Feet, hands, head torso- each are first roughed in, then put together and then detailed. I love working with the feet. Feet keep the rhythm they dance in times of celebration and they are raised when the day is done.

For me, right now, the idea of stepping out, moving forward and especially for strong independent women is important.
My personal journey of stepping out is stepping out to hike with other women in my hiking group and stepping out with helping others to learn salsa and bachata at SSQQ dance studio in Houston.

I see Norma as walking towards confidence, no matter what the challenge. I see her walking towards friends, to greet them, embrace them, to care.  Stepping out... shoes are more than just an accessory.
Giving Norma a seat.  

Every piece of a posthumous sculpture is a connection.
For me right now it is the feet, and then I'll move to her head and hands.

Other updates.

A picture of Kippy the dog sits next to the
beginning of a clay torso. 
Along with sculpting of Norma's feet, we have been preparing to begin the other parts of the sculpture.  We need an armature for the placement of Norma which will be her seat. This was  lovingly created by Johnny Rojas for me. We returned to the area on the East End of Houston, once again, to get a look at what was being done.  It is fitting that Johnny would be helping with the armature. I'm not sure all the details, but Johnny recommended me to someone who I think recommended me to the family for this job. Thanks Johnny for bringing your energy into this project.

Whimsy into art.  The clay that we used in each of the projects is reclaimed from previous projects.  Interns have been busy on the sunny days, laying part of the Alice in Wonderland sculpture, and the feet of the mad Hatter, and the torso of a seeing eye dog for the last project of John Turner all outside on plastic.  The sun melts the clay and the interns reclaim the clay for Norma.  I love that the creative energy of the clay is infused and reused.

Another intern pulled together a very rough armature of Kippy- photos to come.

This is the week I being to absorb all things Norma. It is a strange process sculpting deceased loved ones. I really want alone time with Norma. No interns, no distractions— just Norma and I. But first, the grudging work of getting armatures and clay on those armatures.  All part of the process.  More photos to come.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Kippy— A rescue, a cause, and a companion.

Thank you Barrio Dogs for coming to my rescue.
The sculpture that I am creating is of Norma sitting and singing, but with the sculpture of Norma there will be a special companion- Kippy. Kippy is a rescue dog that died of cancer. Kippy will be watching Norma Play. Below is a video with Norma singing about Barrio Dogs and another of a performance with Norma.

Today I xeroxed Kippy to size and printed out some images so she could become a part of the studio. I also wanted to see if the size given to me was indeed the true size.  We will start on her armature soon.

Norma began Barrio Dogs  with her sister in law Gloria Medina Zenteno. I asked Gloria to talk about Kippy.
Poor Kippy needed help. 

Kippy is a she, all of Barrio Dogs rescues are special and they wish they all could be included in this project, but Kippy made an impact to many.  She was found living across the street from the school KIPP Intrepid on Lawndale and Telephone Road, hence her name "KIPPY".  Had she been a male they would have named her KIPP...any of the students and teachers felt helpless about what to do for her because she was very skittish and sick.  Barrio Dogs jumped in to save the day. They started feeding her and rescued her...  It took a few months to build trust.  

Even the vice principal jumped in on the day of rescue. She stopped traffic as many watched the rescue take place. Barrio dogs rescue team took her right to  Gulfgate Animal Hospital.

There was lots of medication and a wonderful foster named Kim.  Kippy was rehabbed to be the most beautiful girl, she loved all dogs, even cats, children and adults, there were no issues with her behavior, she was such a happy girl.  Kim fostered until her s in New Mexico.   She lived only a couple of years more, maybe less and then died from cancer. Barrio dogs saw a connection between Kippy and Norma.  Gloria Medina Zenteno suggested Kippy for the project and the entire Barrio Dogs board agreed unanimously.
It is a wonder what love can do. 

A sad pup gets help. 
A xerox of Kippy to size, sits in the
corner of the studio for inspiration. 

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Meeting those involved in fundraising.

Some of the fundraising team with Norma's mom in the middle. 
This entire project is full of history. Today I got a chance to meet the incredible gang of people who are working on fundraisers for this project.

We met at Morales Radio Hall. I just learned the Houston history of this building on the east side, It was one of the first Spanish speaking radio stations started in 1950 KLVL-AM.  Here is a link to some of the history of the television station started by Felix Hessbrook Morales.

The Morales family has been inspirational in fundraising for the Norma Zenteno project.

Thanks to everyone on the committee for their hard work. I encourage everyone to share the blog posts and the project on their social networks.  Remember, every bit of money toward this project helps. I think we should have a special preview viewing of the sculpture after approval at my studio for those who give the big donations.  Can't wait to get started sculpting.

Remember you can also donate on the Norma Zenteno Sculpture Project website. 

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Music And "Mine"

Today I had the incredible privilege to hear the Zenteno band play.  What a treat. I arrived out of a business meeting late at Sambuca's after scrambling to park my huge van downtown.  The presence of the band was impressive.  The personas of each of the individuals in the family changed when on stage. You can tell that for them... this was home.

This video is old and shows Norma playing with her dad.

It was an emotional night as one of the musicians Lindy Pollard was leaving Houston and this was his last time playing with the band. If I recall this history correctly,  he has played with a member of the Zenteno family for 40 years.

Zenteno Family at Sambucas- Houston
The warmth from family and friends and the looks on their faces when we began to talk about the sculpture was endearing.  Each person added to the intensity, passion and life of this sculpture through their sharing. I encourage you please share both stories and photographs on the Norma Zenteno sculpture page. These stories help me to bring life to the sculpture.

Time and time again, I have heard people say that they still feel Norma, or have had "Norma" experiences since her passing.  I listen intently as each experience is so very personal, so very touching. I get the feeling that Norma embraced the essence of each person she met. Cherished them and made them feel special.

Many know me as a sculptor. Few people know that when I was in high school I vacillated for a time about whether I should be an artist or a musician.  My  childhood experiences with music were like many. I took piano, because my sister took piano, it was in the house and what you did. Though I have to say that reading music and spending hours plucking out notes to songs that were way harder than I could play, was probably my first inclination that I was self motivated. I also played to sing. I love to sing.

In grade school I took flute, but family life and other distractions made it impossible to focus and so that was not a good experience. It was not until I was in Junior high that I thought I might like to learn guitar. I got a paper route and worked it long enough to get enough money to buy an acoustic guitar and a few lessons.  I still have that guitar. Somehow old musical instruments are like family members. Some friends nearby played and I asked them to teach me some things as well. A guitar suited me. It was different than what my sister played, and was transportable. I could play the Mommas and the Pappas, Melanie and other folk artists.

Also from grade school I loved music classes. When I found out there was actually a place where a group could sing called a chorus I was elated. Even today I will put down the guitar and sing harmony given half the chance.

My graduate school was a liberal arts college. Goddard College in Vermont let you design your own program and since I wanted a program that focused on 3D technology in fine art it was a win. It was a distance low residency program, which meant we had to go to Vermont twice a year, for a week. We lived in the dorm and planned our next six months learning schedule with our advisors.  What I loved most about this is that there were artists, actors, writers, musicians of all sorts.  The college came to being in the 60's so there is a lingering hippie vibe to the college on a farm.  Down the hill is the music building. When I was not preparing my studies I spent my time there. I did not bring my guitar but instead my coffee cup and my dorm key as I would play percussion and sing. I was not the only person improvising as some students played the bottom of drawers. The music room was also the place of a the fire pit. So even if it was snowing and freezing I would alternate between hanging at the fire pit and singing inside with the musicians.  It as at Goddard where I met musicians who were focusing on exotic instruments or things like overtone singing. It was a creative atmosphere.
Other musicians I have sculpted
Me and B. B. King

My other major music influence is my adopted dad Harry Shepherd. This jazz vibaphone artist and I have known each other for years, and I adopted him long time ago as my surrogate dad, he bought me my last guitar.  So, having Harry in my life has introduced me to a lot of Houston music.

 I spent more time playing in church than anywhere. I have been a music leader in a few churches.  I don't play that much anymore. But in honesty I did pick up my guitar the other day to learn True Colors from the movie Trolls, inspired by my granddaughter. I sing mostly to her. She has her own show tunes, and requests them each time I put her to bed.  Music is in my blood and would have been my alternate path had I not been a sculptor/writer. It brings me great joy to participate with other musicians and singers and it is that "high" that I can feel when I think of Norma's performances.

Other musicians I have sculpted.
Bill Monroe of the Blue Grass Boys
When leaving Sambucas that evening I said goodbye to Norma's daughter, Angie. She shared some incredible stories of her mom with me this night, as many others did as well. But Angie also was the recipient of something else that this process holds. Creating a sculpture of a deceased loved one and being a part of the process brings a closeness, a healing, a way to have a celebration and continuing bonds.   Angie  held out her arms and cried "Mia" which if you are not hispanic, I'll translate, it means "mine." We embraced and in doing so I felt Norma hugging us both.  I heard Angie's voice echoing with her mom's as she hugged us and watched on.  Norma is in this project, and I'm so honored to feel her presence and get to know her. She is an example for all of us in how we love and care for others.

The family is trying to raise money for the project. Please share this information and visit the blog to donate.

One of the first musicians I sculpted— Willie Nelson. The IRS
confiscated this sculpture and auctioned it off with the
rest of his art to pay of his IRS debt.