Sunday, April 02, 2006

NatureS: Joyce Blunk's "Crown Conch"

One of the pieces by Joyce Blunk that I found (and find) really involving, one that conjured up a world for me, she's named, for obvious reasons, "Crown Conch". It's central image and columnar frame will be featured on the cover of NatureS; the photo at left includes the whole contruction. A couple of weeks ago I asked her how she's gone about developing it.

Jeff: I am intrigued by your description of your work process, and your statement that “a particular object is usually the starting place.” Would it be reasonable to speculate that the conch is the starting place for “Crown Conch”? Clearly, a lot happened after it got started! And I could offer you a hundred questions about just that piece. But let me ask just one: What came next, after the conch?

Joyce: “Crown Conch” is a 1997 box and I was interested at that time, and still am, in constructions dealing with windowed interiors revealing an element of deep space by incorporating the illusion of distant landscapes. I was after a contrast created between the romantic beauty of the landscape and a starker reality of the interior. Most of these pieces show lush mountains at the changing of seasons and at a time of day when the light is moody and transitional. The predominant feeling, for me, is nostalgia, yearning, and a great melancholy. The shell, in this case, was added to the box when I had nearly finished. It seemed to really fit, and I liked the idea of the conch being isolated and removed from its origin. The shell is transformed by being presented in a formal and ceremonious way, altering the viewer’s way of seeing it.

After “Crown Conch” I did a box with a closed-in interior, a porch or vestibule, and an Egyptian theme. As you know from your own work, early ideas pop up in new ways again and much later. “The Egyptian Fish” revisits the subject of trophies, those display objects that symbolize personal superiority, prowess, and victory. In this instance, the “trophy” started out as a fish skeleton some German friends found in Egypt and sent to me. Collected and enshrined objects are at the forefront of all the trophy-theme pieces, but not far away there is always evidence of struggle and emotional expenditure. An important aspect is that the tallying up and showing forth always associated with trophies take place in a relentless state of deterioration and change, so that the pride in accomplishment is eroded by an ironic sense of futility.
It might have been a reasonable speculation on my part, but "Crown Conch", as Joyce says, didn't begin with the conch at all. It seems to have begun, instead, with the contrast between interior and exterior, and the sense of loss and dubious consolation implicit in the terms of that contrast for her.

Joyce will be showing "Crown Conch" and several other of her constructions on April 28th, for the publication party for NatureS at the Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center . The book, after three sets of proofs, is now in the press, and should ship literally any day. More information on the festivities in the days ahead.


The photo of "Crown Conch" is by Joyce Blunk.

Original content © 2006.

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