Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Freedom of Self Forgetfulness

What are the marks of a supernaturally changed heart? This is one of the questions the Apostle Paul addresses as he writes to the church in Corinth. He s not after some superficial outward tinkering, but instead a deep rooted, life altering change that takes place on the inside. In an age where pleasing people, puffing up your ego and building your résumé are seen as the methods to make it , the Apostle Paul calls us to find true rest in blessed self forgetfulness. In this short and punchy book, author Timothy Keller, shows that humility means we can stop connecting every experience, every conversation with ourselves and can thus be free from self condemnation. A truly gospel humble person is not a self hating person or a self loving person, but a self forgetful person.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Wickerson Studios - year four, 2014

Absolute Freedom at Wickerson Studios! There is no other way to describe it. Imagine 11 acres of rolling hills and timberland in the middle of America. A place full of red earth with plenty of hardwood. What more could test the strength, endurance and imagination of any creative spirit? What do we really know about pioneering our own alternative buildings, forging a life for ourselves and constructing and operating our own kilns and furnaces? In fact, unless one has ever challenged themselves beyond the realm of theories and ideas and attempted a hands-on approach of demonstration and experimentation, absolute freedom may very well remain impossible to achieve.

Although most of the processes may appear filthy, exhausting and undesirable, it is my belief that the highest form of clarity in life cannot be achieved without the uncertainly and risk involved in chain-sawing raw timber into new-fangled dwellings, forging metal, firing clay bodies and casting molten bronze and iron. Courage and survival still stand hand in hand. Sustaining oneself depends on relying on ones own resources. Personal instincts, skills and feats of stamina continue to uncover and reveal the wonderful experiences that await us in our lives.

As strange as many of the illustrations and photographs contain on this website may seem; my intention is to dig deep into our common desire to build our own foundations on this earth, disregard any traditional dogma, and allow for a more sensitive and better world to emerge.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

New Luddism

Neo-Luddism or New Luddism is a philosophy opposing many forms of modern technology.[1] According to a manifesto drawn up by the Second Luddite Congress (April 1996; Barnesville, Ohio) Neo-Luddism is "a leaderless movement of passive resistance to consumerism and the increasingly bizarre and frightening technologies of the Computer Age." [2] The name is based on the historical legacy of the British Luddites, who were active between 1811 and 1816.[1]These groups along with some modern Neo-Luddites are characterized by the practice of destroying or abandoning the use of technological equipment as well as advocating simple living. Neo-Luddism stems from the concept that technology has a negative impact on individuals, their communities and the environment.[3]Neo-Luddites also fear the future unknown effects that new technologies might unleash. The modern Neo-Luddite movement has connections with the anti-globalization movementanarcho-primitivismsocialismenvironmentalismcommunismleftismMarxism and Deep Ecology.[2] - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neo-Luddism

Tuesday, April 8, 2014



What gives you the most joy in working the land?

What gives you the most joy in working the land?
I am most content and tranquil while shoveling.  Digging the earth provides me with more material, both physical and psychical, that I could ever acquire by any other means.  I firmly believe that everything we purchase is basically free of charge and that we are only paying for processing and transportation of that material.  Looking to the land and what is beneath my feet allows me to “stand my ground”, fundamentally and conceptually, and, in turn, manipulate, transform, and reflect upon all that it provides. 
There is a time to dig and mix the earth after a rain. Transporting and processing occurs when the earth is dry for about a week.  The grass is utilized to bind and ram the adobe mixtures.  The sod is employed at the right time of year and the earth clay is pressed and kiln dried in the anagama kiln.
There is a season for everything, and the climate dictates what must be done.  Most importantly, it won’t get done on its own. “I build what I need because I need to...”
Tell me about the structures in the images.
Understanding the method of construction for each of the building is directly tied to gaining knowledge about the content of each of the structures themselves.  In an attempt to “build ruins” I have experimented and researched and developed several different processes while aspiring to create these structures.
Hamlet’s Mill
Hamlet’s Mill was constructed from 16 large foundation rammed molds and built from 400 large sun baked adobe bricks.  I have experimented with several different canopy designs from a rain guard to a corbeled roof, from herringbone bricks to a parachute awning, and onto a final wooded aviaries design.
Hamlet's Mill digs deep into the earth and boils rainwater into the air. It is a place for the mind and soul and constantly resists the term, dwelling. Gardens grow both inside and out and animals nest in its branches and twigs. No work will be done in this place. It is a place for well-deserved rest, relaxation and healing. – (Taken from Wickerson Studio blog February 2013)
I completely lost myself in this landscape sculpture. Hamlet's Mill harkens back to Jung's Tower, a lighthouse in Baltimore, a revolutionary water house in Toulouse, a Midwest kiva, an Iranian ice factory, and a traditional coke kiln. Rammed from earth, clay, straw and water; this structure rises from the mud and sets aloft stabilized bricks that intend to arch underneath a herringbone roof. Form follows function, as the space defines itself and sets my body and heart to work. Keeping pace with the rains and the sunshine dictates what chores must be completed today. I am only as good as I am when I am laboring over this form.
The Grieve Foundry
The Grieve Foundry was built initially using sod in honor of my grandmother, Ruth Polley, who was raised in a sod farmhouse in Winnipeg Manitoba.  Although she prided her family for owning the only piano around, my open vented building houses two large foundry furnaces that runs off of charcoal.
The Grieve Foundry is the laboratory. Raised and rammed from the dead trees and surrounding mud. This building houses the equipment required to cast liquid iron and bronze and the machines capable of manipulating and transforming cold steel. Traditional lost wax castings find their forms within this earthwork and the artist's endurance and strength are tested within its walls. – (Taken from Wickerson Studio blog February 2013)
Moby Dick
Moby Dick, the anagama kiln, used to kiln dry CINVA earth rammed bricks has been constructed from high temperature refractory clays that I use in my furnace and cupola designs.  It was constructed over an inverted ship mold using wooden lathe and plywood ribs.  Oddly enough this kiln is the most livable space, providing protection from the wind and rain and houses to its own internal hearth.
Moby Dick, the twenty-foot interior cave kiln is designed to fire the earth into bricks that will then be used to pavestone, wall, and build additional structures in and around the expanding studio.  Small earthenware artworks will find their way in and around the, much needed, bricks and inspire the utilitarian structure to achieving new creative heights. – (Taken from Wickerson Studio blog February 2013)
Little Otik
Little Otik, a.k.a. littl’ Oscar’s Tower, was an experiment in employing non-mortared and non-stabilized CINVA earth rammed clay.  Although this structure towers the highest on the land, it will be short lived once the spring rains begin.  This structure, more than any other, was built solely for the digital analogue prints, FIRE OVER KANSAS.  It is the beginning of my acceptance and embrace of the theatrical and temporal. 
Oscar’s tower was designed from the beginning to be in service to the digital happening that occurred in the fall of 2013 and is made “immortal” in the photographs that were employed in the artwork series, FIRE OVER KANSAS.  I have yet to fully comprehend my role as artist, architect, project manager, and sculptor during this collaborative project.
One thing I can say for sure is that the aesthetically similar yet different and new experimental processes assisted in maintaining a common theme, time, and place for the FIRE OVER KANSAS edition of prints.
Cupola, Cupola (the burning ship)
The last structure is the burning earth-ship.  I can best describe this piece as the last artwork I intend to complete in the city and away from the studios located out at the Wickerson Ranch:
Cupola, Cupola is a complex mixed media sculpture intended to display an alchemic vehicle that fuses together the concepts of both a ship and a bell tower. Inspired by the Klokkenstoelen of Northern Holland, this cupola capped tower and iron casting cupola come together in order to facilitate their own entropic existence. Imagine this smoking leviathan, meandering along, as the bells chime and the wagon lurches, all the while, casting 2500-degree liquid iron into functional wheels and bells.

Cast from boilers placed below the Kansas City Art Institutes administration building in 1904, this artwork memorializes, records and honors the matriarchs of the Wickerson, Polley, Grieve and Evans families in 200-pound iron and nickel cast bells set up to 18 feet in the air. Bellows assist in igniting the charges of iron and coke fuel while the machine struggles to work endlessly into the night.

The ship gathers the flotsam and jetsam of miscast and dead sculptures in its hull and recycles the heavy metals back into functional equipment. Although "all that is solid melts into air" and "this equipment belongs to the earth", this Sisyphean wagon trudges along, breaks down and rebuilds itself, as it bellows and rings out with all of its might. - Wickerson 2010

Is there a philosophy of success in your artistic career and your personal life, including your young sons?
The more I think about it, the more I believe that a center of fine arts must take on vocational workers ideals: ten days, ten months, ten years.  This seems to be the only way to meet inarticulate needs. - Wickerson Studios, Spring 2013

I wish to further develop the private studio and sculptural landscape of Wickerson Studios by facilitating it with additional equipment, supplies and materials in order to serve a growing community of artists.

My efforts and ambitions seem to be moving beyond my personal development and exhibition of sculptures and ideas.  I feel the need to expand my efforts in the arts.  My American arts community has grown from 12 students in 2001, when I moved here from Canada, into an international exchange of ideas spanning the globe.  Beginning to develop my private studios on an institutional level will allow me to continue to serve the alumni and artists that I have come to know.  I look forward to creating new artworks, all the while, serving other artists with the same enthusiasm and drive that has inspired me to make a life for myself in America that develops personally and professionally with creative individuals.

What is passion for you? What is passion for Beth?
Although I do not feel able to define passion in a general sense, I do believe that the following Mantra sums up the passion I have for the studio and the time I have on earth.
Wickerson Studios Mantra:
1. Work outdoors
2. Value the seasons
3. Utilize natural light
4. Watch the sunrise
5. Follow the moon
6. Let the weather control the temperature
7. It all returns to the earth
8. Everything exists in a long-term landfill
9. Endure, breath, move
10. The heart is the only motor
11. All we are is our mind and our health
12. Shovel, dig, make bricks
I will leave this section for Beth Wickerson to define her own concept of what passion means to her.
However, in my opinion, she is the physical embodiment of the heart and passion of Wickerson Studios.  She is the creator of our two sons, Oscar and Max.  The latter of which struggled and was born on the floor in front of our family fireplace (hearth and mantle) at Wickerson Studios in 2011.
What resonates in capturing and sharing Fire Over Kansas?
Perhaps FIRE OVER KANSAS can best be described in the following format taken from the website, however it is much more that this and I believe that your first writing started to uncover its origins regarding my family and my relationship with my colleague, Jaroslaw Rodycz:

Date: October 2013

Description: digital happening/archival pigment print
Fire Over Kansas, 20.5 x 30.5 Archival Pigment Print (Series 2/15)

Agni, 23 x 24 Archival Pigment Print (Series 2/15) 

Matylda, 23 x 34.5 Archival Pigment Print (Series 2/15)

the Watch Tower, 23 x 34.5 Archival Pigment Print (Series 2/15)
Collaborator: Jaroslaw Rodycz, concept/photography & editing

Collaborator: Michael Wickerson, production manager/buildings, artworks and forms

Collaborator: Erik Meulenbelt, consultant/logistics & personnel
All images © Rodycz Wickerson

Although I am still processing the meaning of the series of digital prints, I believe that I have come to understand that it is collection of analogue images that center around the same concept, place, and time: the Wickerson Ranch.  Similar to Greek Theater, the collaborators, attempted in a very short period of time to immortalize a happening that was framed by several years of building and planning. 
I hold very dear to me the statement that Ashley Anders, a long time participant at Wickerson Studios, has demanded an answer to and what the series of works resonates and captures.  Although I remain completely overwhelmed with the outcome, Ashley manages to simply and clearly uncovered the critical moment that all involved in the project are currently facing:

In collaboration with Jaroslaw Rodycz and Erik Meulenbelt from Holland, Michael has reached a point with Wickerson Studios in which a great deal of appreciation, contemplation and critique is in order. [Their} accomplishments call for internalization by individuals not only in our community but also around the world.

Additional Information
Quotes from Others:
As Homo Faber Mr. Wickerson’s show was well planned, but has a relation to an apocryphal and scatological tale of an old Inuit man, which I should like to recount now.  Rather than be acculturated/institutionalized in government housing; they have taken away all his tools: knives, spears, fishhooks, sled, etc.  He steps outside the govt. shed drops his trousers, defecates into his hands, and molds it, lets it freeze into a knife shape, uses to kill the first dog, which he skins. He fashions a sled out of the bones; traces and harness out of the skin; harnesses the other dogs and mushes out into the blizzard.  Michael determined to create a show with nothing but his hands and plaster, he’s a person who does what he intends. - Yours Russell Ferguson 2006
Michael Wickerson is a man of many words. His crazed appearance and anxious working manner is validated by intelligent expressions and deliberate actions. The direction and ultimate realization of his work is comfortable being in a constant flux.  The allowance of free thought and dreaming on this 11 acre land has lead us here today to view these three prints.  In collaboration with Jaroslaw Rodycz and ERIK MEULENBELT from Holland, Michael has reached a point with Wickerson Studios in which a great deal of appreciation, contemplation and critique is in order. His accomplishments call for internalization by individuals not only in our community but also around the world. - Ashley Anders 2013

"Whether in Cambrian or in other earth
Conceived; or yet in Protozoic slime
And ooze in the abysmal depths of time,
Dawn has concealed thine elemental birth;
Or whether yet, on-creeping man in dearth
Of tool offensive, welcomed thee sublime,
Perverting all thy virtues but to crime
While unmatured lay thy finer worth.
It matters naught-save only this-that now-
Man's better nature to thy baser yields;
His heart is steeled with temper of thine own;
His soul is hardened with thy touch, and thou
Dost send him blindly forth to reap these fields-
'Blood, sweat and tears'-thine iron hand has sown."-G.H. Case, "To Iron Ore", in M.F. Harrington, ed., Poems of Newfoundland, p. 5

"Nor do I doubt that whoever considers this art well will fail to recognize a certain brutishness in it, for the founder is always like a chimney sweep, covered with charcoal and distasteful sooty smoke, his clothing dusty and half burned by the fire, his hands and face all plastered with soft muddy earth. To this is added the fact that for this work a violent and continuous straining of all a man's strength is required which brings great harm to his body and holds many definite dangers in his life. In addition, this art holds the mind of the artificer in suspense and fear regarding its outcome and keeps his spirit disturbed and continually anxious. For this reason they are called fanatics and are despised as fools. but, with all of this, it is a profitable and skillful art and in a large part delightful." Biringguccio, "Pirotechnia

On a final and invitational note:
Please feel free to contact us, should you be interested in proposing a site specific work and/or would just like to shoot around some creative ideas with a herd of deer or a rafter of turkeys.

Sunday, April 6, 2014