Shades of Grey

from the Cat's Cradle series, by Lee Puffer. Unglazed high fired porcelain, wood, rope.
from the Cat’s Cradle series, by Lee Puffer. Unglazed high fired porcelain, wood, rope.
from the Cat's Cradle series, by Lee Puffer. Unglazed high fired porcelain, wood, rope.
from the Cat’s Cradle series, by Lee Puffer. Unglazed high fired porcelain, wood, rope.
from the Cat's Cradle series, by Lee Puffer. Unglazed high fired porcelain, wood, rope.
from the Cat’s Cradle series, by Lee Puffer. Unglazed high fired porcelain, wood, rope.
from the Cat's Cradle series, by Lee Puffer. Unglazed high fired porcelain, wood, rope.
from the Cat’s Cradle series, by Lee Puffer. Unglazed high fired porcelain, wood, rope.
from the Cat's Cradle series, by Lee Puffer. Unglazed high fired porcelain, wood, rope.
from the Cat’s Cradle series, by Lee Puffer. Unglazed high fired porcelain, wood, rope.
from the Cat's Cradle series, by Lee Puffer. Unglazed high fired porcelain, wood, rope.
from the Cat’s Cradle series, by Lee Puffer. Unglazed high fired porcelain, wood, rope.

There was a time when a colonial hunter would keep fragments of the animals he killed mounted on wooden plaques and displayed in his trophy room. These mounted porcelain double-hand sculptures allude to that practice. There are six sets of severed female hands, bound by rope. Coupled with the series of photographs (one seen here) this body of work is about desire; the base, human desire to own, dominate, and control.

This series, entitled Cat’s Cradle, is rife with contrast. The hands are bound, yet they interact with the rope, complicit in their bondage. The thick, rough black rope juxtaposes the delicate, ghostly white porcelain of the hands. There are elements of femininity and masculinity, beauty and ugliness, attraction and repulsion.

It is not unusual for me to reference popular culture in my work, and the title of this blog post is a nod to that. As we are steeped in popular culture through our constant access to media, there is no denying its impact. I see pop culture references as an entry point into the artwork, adding to its accessibility. Using relevant and sometimes controversial imagery might compel someone to look at the artwork. It is my hope that the quality and resonance of the work compels them to linger and contemplate deeper meanings.

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We Hold the Rope

net shot
“Cat’s Cradle” by Dave Veit and Lee Puffer, 2015. From an edition of black and white photographs in series.

This photograph is part of an ongoing series of images and sculpture that investigate the notion of desire. Consisting of framed original black and white photographs as well as a series of unglazed white porcelain hands bound by black rope, the work presents a monochrome meditation of desire, complicity, and accountability.

We are ultimately responsible for our thoughts, emotions and actions. Knowing this, it is still near impossible to change or control our deep longings and desires. It is so difficult to master the mind, to resolve the inner conflicts that keep us bound and captive. We are trapped by these inner conflicts. Resisting them only strengthens their hold.

As with all of my work, there are both a personal and political components. The implication of this topic, desire, is broad because so much of how we behave politically is motivated or controlled by how we feel on a deep personal level. Shame about our own fears and desires drives us to deny, suppress, repress. Conflict arises when we deny parts of ourselves, especially the part of us that is complicit with all human perpetuated atrocities. Could it be that our dark secrets denied make us an instrument in a world that is able to ignore slavery and exploitation?

We all hold the rope that keeps other humans in bondage.

This piece is about desire, base, human desire to own, dominate, and control. The human propensity for unspeakable acts of cruelty and depravation is a fascinating topic. How do we make these ideas thoughtful, beautiful, and compelling? How do we make it relevant? This is the job of the artist. Our role is to shine a light on challenging social issues with deft use of arresting imagery. We are drawn in by beauty and provocation. Only then can we ponder the deeper meaning of the work.

(On a technical note) As a figurative artist, I am a student of human anatomy. This rather awkward and painful hanging apparatus was created in Dave Veit’s studio using an aerial yoga swing as structure, as well as the net from my Duende installation. Dave gamely agreed to drill bolt-holes in the beams of his studio ceiling. I took a few aerial yoga classes at Aerial Revolution to prepare for the shoot. Professional photographer Dave Veit did the lighting, photography and postproduction. More work from this series is forthcoming.

Girl Talk

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‘Tampon Box’ from Girl Talk by Kelly Schnorr and Lee Puffer. Ceramic and mixed media, 2013. “slender and regular and living in fear”

Girl Talk (a conversation in objects)

Girl Talk is an in-progress body of work, developed collaboratively, made manifest in objects that are, essentially, a conversation between two artists/friends Kelly Schnorr and Lee Puffer.

Rife with humor and irony, the sculptures address contemporary life from both unique and shared experiences/perspectives of the individual artists.

The sculptures explore the similarities and differences between the two women, the nature of female experience, friendship, and more weighty and contemporary concerns such as…but not limited to:

Nostalgia

Upbringing, family history

Gender roles

Domesticity

Milestones (marriage, children)

Cultural expectations

Popular cultural influences

Definitions of beauty

Sexuality and taboo

Violence

Value

Sense of place

Drawing on personal experiences and offering cultural critique of events that most impact their lives, the artists present a frank, open and funny conversation in sculpture.

We each make a sculpture and trade them. Then we will respond to/embellish/add to the work we received to create a juxtaposition/dialog. The result is a series of two-part pedestal pieces and wall sculptures. The material is predominantly clay, but both Kelly and I use a bit of image transfer, textile, and found objects as well.

Godiva The Disobedient Wife

Godiva: The Disobedient Wife, 2009 (42"h x 16"w x 16"d) Ceramic, synthetic hair
Godiva: The Disobedient Wife, 2009 (42″h x 16″w x 16″d) Ceramic, synthetic hair
Godiva detail
Godiva detail

The inspiration for this piece came from reading the newspaper one morning thinking about the issue of domestic violence.  I read several short articles from around the country; woman killed by husband…man kills girlfriend, then kills himself…suspected pedophile arrested. This particular day there were several of these small snippets in the paper.

No parallels were drawn, no links formed, just a death in Boise, another in Buffalo, an incident in New Orleans, and so on. There was no mention of a connection because of course there was no actual link between the events. It seemed to me to be evidence of an epidemic. After all, this was only one days worth of news.

Of course the newspaper those days also contained reports from Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria. Violence and death, in unrelated stories, matter of fact. There was environmental news that day as well, global warming, the destruction of oxygen-producing rainforest, loss of animal habitat. Again unrelated, matter of fact.

This got me thinking.Violence has been a subtext in much of my work for ages. In general my work is straightforward in its message, but there’s a subtext of violence, another layer of meaning.

The idea for the piece Godiva: The Disobedient Wife, came from that one newspaper. How could I address violence in an artwork and draw parallels between domestic violence – particularly violence against women, with the violence we perpetrate against other nations/armies, and on our environment?

Many of us are familiar with the story of Lady Godiva. She rode through the town of Coventry on horseback with nothing covering her naked body but her long hair. As I attempted to research the legend of Godiva I discovered that she was believed to be the wife of an Earl who imposed oppressive taxes on his subjects. After her attempts to convince the Earl to repeal the taxes failed, Godiva made this historic ride in protest of her husband and to show sympathy for the townspeople. Both as an individual and politically, Godiva seemed the perfect image for my subject matter.

While it is disputed that Lady Godiva existed at all, the image is compelling. You may disagree, but for me as an artist, an enticing image is necessary. If it is not going to be a cool-looking object, I am not so interested in making it. The work must look good, cool, slick, funny,and/ or colorful but never to the detriment of or excluding its deeper meaning. If art is to be a means of communication, which it is for me, then someone has to be on the other end, willing to talk. If the object I attempt to engage you with fails to hold your interest visually, then you will not stick around for the conversation about its content.

With this in mind I envisioned a lovely nude figure with long blonde hair, thinking this would be enough to entice a viewer into looking further, perhaps an attraction/repulsion response would follow, hopefully then followed by a deeper readying of the image/sculpture itself.