I am creating a piece for an exhibit at the MFAH Glassell School, the theme of which is Learning From Athens. Twenty of us went to Athens this summer for the Documenta 14 exhibition
We were led through the exhibition by Anna Tahinci, Ph.D.
Anna is the professor and Area Coordinator of Art History at the Glassell School of Art at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston. In addition, she is from Greece. Those of us who went on the trip are invited to submit a piece for the exhibit. First, I made a list of images and thoughts that stood out .
My list of thoughts about Greece
1. Who can forget the beautiful, white marble, ancient architecture and sculptures, the kind and helpful people, and the fabulous fresh food?
2. I have a very vivid memory of a refugee/homeless man whose posture had physically changed from a lifetime of panhandling I walked by him several times, he always sat in a recessed doorway of a vacant retail space. The day I can not forget he was sitting on the ground with his legs crossed, he had fallen asleep. His head had fallen forward and sunk beneath his shoulders. His right arm was out stretched holding a spare change cup. His arm looked impossibly long from many years of stretching it forward, hoping for handouts.
3. The owl is the symbol of ancient wisdom and is also the symbol of Athens.
4. Poor financial decisions have left the government/country in poor fiscal health. This is Ironic for a country whose ancient symbol is a wise owl.
5. The country is overrun with refugees. 1.03 million people have entered Greece since 2015.
6. We noticed that many of the smaller retailers have signs in their shop windows that say ΟΧΙ ΚΑΡΤΕΣ, which means that they do not take credit cards. They do not take credit cards, so they will not have to pay taxes to the government, then they complain that their government is bankrupt.
7. Lemon trees are abundant in Greece.
8. Olives are the country's most renowned export crop. When I think of olives, I can't help but think of the saying, "extend an olive branch," which is a peace offering.
9. Many of the archeological sites have been framed by steel beam scaffolds, since 1975. The government does not have money to complete the restoration or to remove the scaffolding.
10. The National Technical University of Athens was used by students for refuge during a political protest in 1973. A tank broke down the gates. The mangled gates remain onsite in the state the tanks left them. The mangled, rusted steel made a beautiful memorial to the students who died in the protest.
After considering the above list of thoughts, my piece will be a life sized, homeless Athenian, or it could also be a refugee. I will build a steel armature and cover it with white concrete. I will not cover the steel with a rust preventer. I would like to find some olive tree cuttings to add to my concrete for texture. The piece will have an owl representing the establishment/government sitting on the figure's shoulder, weighing him down, and the owl will be looking away (turning its back on the people) from the figure. Once the piece is covered in white cement, I will then take a sledge hammer and diligently break away the concrete, exposing and (hopefully) mangling the steel.
Below are the day by day photographs of building the armature.
End of day one - from the bottom up- human rear end, backbone and rib, mid shoulders span.
added head, hanging below the shoulders.
Added crossed legs
added feet/shoes, and exaggerated out stretched hand.
day 3- I added a lot of rebar for support.
added the owl, (parliament or government) armature
Reinforcing the armature- no wiggles
End of the second day of adding the lath
Another day's work -
a leg, two hands and a cup covered in lath.
Starting week three-- adding lath to the owl
View from the front
View from on the back