2019-08-22T11:46:15-04:00

Art and Freedom

Art and Freedom

Last week at the Conversations with the 2019 Professional Artist Grantees I took away many pearls of wisdom from each of the esteemed artists.  But there was one that has remained on my mind that I’d like to share with you in case you missed the event.

The Artist, Akiko Kotani, well known for her enormous feats of woven beauty such as the recently exhibited Falling Waters and Soft Walls, responded to the question of “How does an artist arrive to the place where they know they are professional?.” This inquiry led to the expounding of what it means to be successful but also beyond external gain, what does it mean to simply  do the art?

Akiko said when she first discovered the enormous sense of freedom that doing her art gave her, she was hooked. To be unbounded, limitless in one’s thoughts and ideas is a state unparalleled for her and so in life and in her art, nothing less will do. This struck me as such a powerful idea in that all my life I have always been drawn to whatever makes me feel free. Whether conscious or unconsciously, there is a pull in that direction. Maybe it is for everyone but I certainly find it true for me. In my artistic expression there is no one making demands upon me and I’m not making them on myself. It’s simply and purely a connection to my true nature. To create is what I came here to do and in that I find my bliss and ultimately my freedom.

This conversation brought me back to the idea of why I’m doing art in the first place and clears all self-imposed criteria that keeps one from knowing what it’s like to be totally free. Because we are.

By Christina Bertsos

2019-08-16T16:51:16-04:00

The Art of Balance

The Art of Balance

 

As I practice my art and the art of living, I find that I’m in a constant search for balance. The earth spins around in the middle of nowhere, our heart beats and body functions without our telling it to, yet somehow we still think we are in control. And often move ourselves into a state of imbalance with all of the pressures we place upon ourselves.

The other day, I moved one of my almost finished sculptures and a small piece broke off. A momentary panic and devastation struck until I gathered that it probably needed to come off anyway. I’m quickly reminded that I’m not in control and the more I surrender to this, the more I’m able to get back to a sense of peace. And that everything will be okay.

As I’ve been preparing for the upcoming exhibit I’ve been on a fast moving schedule to reach the end goal. But I want to be sure that with each milestone I reach, such as moving to the next level of sanding the marble, to celebrate that moment instead of waiting to celebrate once I’m finished. I believe the end result can only be as happy as the journey has been. So balance is the key for me.

By Christina Bertsos

2019-08-08T18:22:10-04:00

Rasps, Rifflers and Rouge Oh My!

Rasps, Rifflers and Rouge On My!

 

When most people think of sculpting tools a hammer and chisel come to mind. But there are other tools that are almost as important, the rasp and the riffler.  These metal spear-like tools remove all of the scratches that were created by the previous carving chisels and begin to create detail and movement in the sculpture.

The rasp can cover larger areas while the smaller riffler is necessary for detail work and getting into tight spaces.  I’ve come to really love this part of the process because I now begin to see the final work emerging.  This is also when I determine if there may be something else I can remove as well as anticipate the kind of finish that will best compliment the piece. Things usually come up here that I somehow hadn’t noticed before.  This is also the time to make sure that I haven’t missed anything that may enhance sculpture. Rouge is a fine abrasive that comes later on in the sanding process and adds just another level of enhancing the surface.

At this stage touch is key so I remove my protective gloves and continually feel the surface as I work. I’m searching for a smoothness over the entire surface.  I sometimes like to close my eyes and just feel with my finger tips for any irregularities. The smother the surface I can create,  the more the beauty of the stone is revealed. Sunlight also plays a critically important role here because in direct sunlight the scratches can be more easily spotted.  This is a long and detailed process but having glimpses of the finished work brings excitement and anticipation. Getting close!

By Christina Bertsos

 

 

2019-07-31T16:35:45-04:00

The Last Mile

The Last Mile

It’s hard to believe that almost four months have past since the inception of my sculptural work for Creative Pinellas. It’s been quite an incredible journey! Realizing a dream to create three monumental sculptures in carrara, the most elegant of marbles, has been nothing short of sheer joy and satisfaction! But we’re not finished yet.  And that’s why I wanted to speak today about the finishing process. Now that the majority of the form has been created, it’s time to do what I call “finesse the details”.  As I polish and try to remove the scratches made by the tools, the pieces really begin to come to life for me.  The mable shows me how I must attend to its surface so I can create a level of sheen that best compliments the design and shows off the character of the stone. This time is so exciting for me but at times can be very challenging and arduous. At this stage of the game I’ve got to dig in and know that I will spend many hours sanding and polishing.

Marble is 6 on the Mohs hardness scale for stone between  1 to 10 so I really have to use some elbow grease to remove the scratches. For me, a pristine surface has to be the end result. Since the pieces weigh somewhere between 225 and 325 lbs. and cannot be easily moved, I must get into some pretty tight spaces and  weird angles. I’m jumping on and off platforms, kneeling on the floor, twisting and bending as much as my body can to get at every single area of the piece.  Every  inch will be worked and examined. It’s a major workout to say the least and challenging my stamina on these intensely hot summer days. I expect to go at least 5 or 6 levels of sanding before the final polish. And since the exhibit will be on 9/12, I’ve got to move at a quick pace.

I liken it to my own version of a marathon since I’ve never run one. My friend Cesar does however and he’s told me tales of how grueling the last mile can be. Your body may crying out in pain and your mind telling you to stop but your heart has a different agenda. It knows that if you can just make it through this last mile it will all be worth it. A higher purpose must kick in during the last mile. And that higher purpose is to create a object of beauty that inspires and uplifts those who see it. It is my joy and honor to do this art and present it on behalf a wonderful organization, Creative Pinellas and our beautiful community.

By Christina Bertsos

 

 

2019-07-24T18:40:04-04:00

The Evolution Of My Art

The Evolution Of My Art

I have known that I wanted to be an artist since the age of five and that knowing  has led me down several different paths but I believe they have all converged into the sculpting with stone that I have dedicated my artistic pathway to now for the past 8 years. Before this, a lifelong love of figure drawing and painting, and a career in fashion design and illustration that have completely informed and nurtured a fertile background.

At the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York I specialized in haute  couture design and was so completely entranced by the gorgeous textiles available in that realm, as well as the painstaking hands on process of creating a beautiful, one of a kind, made to order garment. Inspired by the iconic designs of Schiaparelli, Balenciaga and Gaultier, their works taught me to find the harmony between line, proportion, shape, color and detail, all intrinsic to the beauty and grace of the design. And  in that expression of the most exquisite garment, art is created.  Stone has a similar allure for me in that the medium is so gorgeous in and of itself and harbors an energy that I connect with. It is a tactile art form where I must feel the stone as I go just as when draping a garment, I must feel the character and movement of the cloth.

Stone is of the earth, actually is the earth and I love seeing how people are influenced by the work when they see it. Sculpture in stone special in that it begs to be touched.  People always ask me if they can touch my sculptures, an aspect of stone sculpture I enjoy very much. I love see how they interact with it, move around it, let their eyes travel through and around it, which then evokes a mood or a feeling. And in this mood or feeling they can get in touch with something within them. I come from a place of pure joy when I’m doing my art so my hope is that this energy gets infused into it and helps people transcend the intellect and just feel and sense an awareness of being alive. Stone sculpture also has a timelessness. Just like the timeless little black dress there is a grace an an elegance in stone that I always try to honor in each piece I create.

By Christina Bertsos

2019-07-18T15:27:40-04:00

Bringing It All Together

Bringing It All Together

 

Thank you for sticking with me as I describe the myriad of inspirational ideas that give direction and ultimately a cohesive meaning to the sculpture that I am creating for Creative Pinellas this summer.

I spoke about the Three Graces and Trees and now I’d like to move into the number of the sculptures, Three, and what that represents. The Three Graces as inspiration is pretty obvious, but the number three also holds strong symbolic meaning and so is significant in context. Below are just a few of the symbols that come to mind and the list could potentially be endless:

  • The Triangle and it’s relation to sacred geometry and cosmology
  • The totality of time as in the past present and future
  • The third eye as our center of intuition
  • The wholeness of man through the body, mind and spirit
  • The Family
  • The Holy Trinity
  • The Three Jewels of Buddhism
  • We and All

The symbolism is so far reaching across many cultures and traditions that I could go on and on so the number three is powerfully symbolic regardless of any particular ideology or belief system. For me in this work the three sculptures represent a unity or a coming together to offer a level of wholeness to the viewer. An equality and a strength held together by being together in a state of Love.

By Christina Bertsos

 

2019-07-12T16:16:23-04:00

Seeing Through My Eyes

Seeing Through My Eyes

 

In my last blog I wrote about the Three Graces and their inspiring mythological presence influencing the sculptures that I am creating for Creative Pinellas this summer. Once I get an initial idea, more ideas seem to spiral into the original, creating a multidimensional story that I begin to tell with the work. This part is super exciting for me as it gives meaning to the art and it comes alive for me.  I wanted to continue to share with you some of the other elements at play and what I’m seeing as I work with these 3 beautiful pieces of marble.

Creative Pinellas is trying to bring awareness to this area as an artistically thriving and culturally dynamic destination and as a local artist that has called it home for many years, I wanted to bring attention to what inspires me most in this beautiful area. Incredible natural beauty surrounds us.  So many birds, soft sandy beaches, abundant sunshine, but for this work what has been capturing my attention are the trees. The majestic live oaks that line the streets where I live and work stand out to me like the most gorgeous sculptures.  Their sinuous limbs twist and turn, they bow, stretch and are just so captivating. I feel grounded in their deeply rooted nurturing presence and light under their flowing branches and falling leaves. They represent the grandmothers of the earth to me, timeless beauty and the essence of life. We cannot exist without them as they absorb the carbon dioxide we exhale. These images and feelings are flowing into the vision of my work this summer in the hopes of bringing some of that energy through to you.

By Christina Bertsos

 

2019-07-05T14:25:53-04:00

The Three Graces Are Visiting Dunedin This Summer

The Three Graces Are Visiting Dunedin This Summer

My work for the Creative Pinellas Emerging Artist Grant is progressing and I wanted to give you an update on it’s theme and the various ideas percolating in my head all summer.  I’ll begin with this scenario:

The ancient Greek goddesses known as the graces or muses, Aglaia, Thalia and Euphosyne are peering down from a cloud and whispering to me the virtues they represent: elegance, brightness and splendor, youth, beauty and good cheer, mirth and joyfulness. I suddenly hear a loud clap of thunder and see Zeus, their father and ruler of all the gods agreeing YES I approve.

My inspiration is multilayered and I’ll be sharing all of the bits and pieces as the weeks go by. But the most immediate and prominent thought is how grateful I am for receiving this grant and the wonderful team of Creative Pinellas that’s making this dream come true. I feel as if I literally have been gifted by the graces and my hope is to share an original sculptural work that beams with all of the beautiful qualities they represent. Nothing less would be worthy of this generous gift I have been given. Thank you Danny, Barbara, Kimberly and Leigh and my mentor Marlene Rose!

By Christina Bertsos

2019-06-27T13:17:09-04:00

My 5 Life Lessons from Stone

My 5 Life Lessons From Stone

As I’ve followed my passion for sculpting with stone, I have found great joy and satisfaction in that expression. But I have to acknowledge the challenges inherent to the learning and practice of this discipline that have taught me some of my most important life lessons. The first is courage. I’ve got this beautiful piece of stone that has come halfway around the world; and there’s that scary moment when I must crack into it and more importantly expose it’s essence. I’ve learned to truly appreciate and respect the stone and what it has come to teach me, so it’s not just an insignificant rock.  I feel it is my responsibility to bring the best of what I have to offer to the experience of that particular creation and how it can potentially affect the world.

The second is acceptance. Once I have removed a portion of the stone, that’s a decision that cannot be altered. There’s no gluing the pieces back on. As in life there are certain experiences that we cannot change so we must accept them, make the best of them and carry on. The third is that there are no mistakes. I’ve often gone down a road that’s led me to a seeming dead end. When this happens, I simply walk away, give the work and my mind some space to re-calibrate. When I allow myself to do this, I always find clarity the next day or next week or sometime soon after.

The fourth life lesson that working with stone has taught me is to not be overly attached to the outcome. When I’m flexible in what I want something to be, even though I always want it to be perfect, I’m open to see new opportunities arise that are completely unexpected. These are the joyful surprises that you get when working with an organic medium. For example, when I carved ‘Night” out of a piece of Atlantic black marble, I wasn’t aware of the white crescent moon shapes that appear throughout the stone. So the name of the piece came so easily as these white flecks against the dark black of the rest of the stone reminded me of the night sky.

The last lesson is patience. This is honestly a virtue I never thought I possessed. And so I’m surprised to find that with the time and physical effort it takes to create one of my pieces, I have to be willing to be with it for awhile and so be very patient.  There are ways to speed up the process; for example you can use all motorized tools to carve out a stone sculpture and produce a simple shape in much less time than it it were done by hand. In fact, this is done all the time in the marketplace.  But I truly want my pieces to show the affect of my hands with the end result being something one of a kind.

By Christina Bertsos

2019-06-19T15:16:44-04:00

Escaping Time

Escaping Time

Michelangelo Cave Carrara Statuario is a mouthful and the name of the marble that I’m currently sculpting  for Creative Pinellas. Marble from this favorite quarry of Michelangelo is said to be 200 million years old. And yet it’s right here in my studio being carved! I continually marvel and wonder about this precious and beautiful chunk of earth beneath my hands and reflect on its ancient past and path, yet I’m at a loss to fathom the immensity of time it holds. I can scroll through the sequential earth ages and eras documented in history but cannot truly comprehend millions of years. What does that feel like when my life spam is nowhere near a nano second as compared. 

When I’m in my studio working on a piece and look up at the clock, I swear it was just a couple of hours earlier. I know time is passing through the sequence of events I perceive yet I know that in my unawareness of time it feels as if it’s  standing still. In fact, I love to forget about time completely when I’m creating my art or doing something I love. Emily Dickinson said “Forever is composed of the nows”. Maybe that’s all I need to understand of time and the millions of years between me and my beautiful stone. 

By Christina Bertsos

 

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