Influences and other Boring Stuff

  • Influences
  • The Process
  • Explanation of Series
  • Statement

Some of the things that influence my work

Petroglyphs are images incised in rock, usually by prehistoric dating back to the Neolithic times. They were an important form of pre-writing symbols, used in communication.

A pictograph is created by painting on a rock using organic material such as animal blood, plant materials and other pigment materials. The pictograph is usually in caves or under overhanging cliffs. Common colors painted into the rocks are red, yellow, white, tan and green. The oldest petroglyphs are dated to approximately 10,000 to 12,000 years ago. Around 7,000 to 9,000 years ago pictographs began to appear. Petroglyphs and pictographs have been found in all parts of the globe except Antarctica with highest concentrations in parts of Africa, Scandinavia, Siberia, southwestern North America, and Australia.

In both pictographs and petroglyphs, the intent of the artist remains a mystery. The images may represent the cycle of birth and death; a form of religious belief or some kind of not-yet-fully understood symbolic or ritual language, or they may simply be “pretty pictures."
Researchers have noticed the resemblance of different styles of petroglyphs across different continents; while it is expected that all people would be inspired by their surroundings, it is hard to explain the common styles. This could be mere coincidence or it may mean that all people share a commonality that reaches deep into the soul. Some researchers believe that the similarity of petroglyphs from different cultures and continents is a result of the genetically inherited structure of the human brain.

The term fetishism was first used by Portuguese sailors who landed off the coast of West Africa in the 16th and 17th centuries to describe the so-called primitive culture's religion as the worship of inanimate things and of animals. Today fetishism is defined as the worship of material objects supposed to have inherent power. This term often contains condescending implications such as the belief in magic and superstitions. It implies that Westerners are at one level of the scale of human progress and misunderstood cultures are at the other end.

Native America:
The Southwestern american native people have used fetishes for thousands of years. The Zuni’s called the earliest fetishes Ahlashiwe. These were stones that naturally formed into the shape of a human or animal.
The power of the fetish comes from the Zuni ancient belief that we are spiritually connected to all life on our planet and to the heavens. The belief is that everything is alive and that everything has a power. This belief implies an invisible spirit presence; which exists in humans, animals, trees, rocks etc. This sense of connection to the spiritual presence within all life permeates the native peoples interpretation of the visible world.

North African and sub-Saharan African art were created and used primarily for functional puposes related to thier spitritual beliefs. Terms like fetishism and idolatry were used to describe African art. Contemporary discussion of African art has moved away from these terms and has been replaced with descriptive terms like power figure, dance staff, and fertility figure to better address the contextual functions of objects.

The Process

The Idea:
The Idea for piece may come in a flash or might be drawn out slowly while working. Often the ideas or images are revealed to me during a dream. During the dream the initial vision is usually fleeting, like a glimpse of something at the edge of your vision. Once I have had a glimpse of the image the process begins. Through the creative process I find what I am looking for. I find it in the wood, the shape, the form and the texture. I find it in the color of the paint, the stone and the metal. I find it in all of these things.
The Concept & Composition:
The concept for a piece is multi dimensional as is the composition. Most of my works are created using multiple parts. Often the shapes of individual or multiple pieces or the negative space they create represent a concept. This concept is usually based on cultural or religious symbolisms. The shapes that I chose to paint add to the piece one of the many levels that I have created for the viewer to relate to.

The construction:
Once I have decided on a composition many hours are dedicated to preparing the individual pieces to be painted. Cutting, carving breaking and burning. At this stage I determine how the final piece will be constructed and what the final presentation to the viewer will be.

The Painting:
The painting process is done in stages and is comprised of multiple glazes or layers. I feel the multiple layers and stages that I work in are a metaphor for how we live our lives from the cradle to the grave. Giving the finished piece an additional level to be appreciated by the viewer.

• The first layers (usually 2-3) are quickly put down, random and highly energetic. They are composed of drawings, words, thoughts and symbols often unrelated and purely impulsive. Much as a young child or adolescent is. This stage is totally focused on concept and sets the premise for the work (sometimes totally unrelated to the compositional concept mentioned above).

I see these first layers as being very similar to how our early years define who we are as adults. What I write and draw are usually very personal and I often refer to them as “my little secrets”. Sometimes this layer can be seen through the multiple layers of paint and at other times they are completely obscured. Just as in our own life’s some of our past is best left in the past and some of it continually is with us.

• The middle layers (usually 6-8) are done more slowly and with more thought of the overall composition and less with the concept. These layers are worked with awareness how they are visually relating to the first layers and how they will relate to the final layers.

• The final glazes or layers are usually applied in a slow and deliberate fashion. No longer concerned with composition or the concept of the piece but with how I want the final piece to look.

The Results:
The final result is multiple translucent layers of paint on multiple pieces. The translucent quality of the glazes allows the viewer to experience the various stages and hint at where the work began. This hint at what is beneath added to the multi dimensional composition and the combination of symbolism results in art that creates a relation with the viewer on many levels. What the viewer receives from the piece is dependent on what their own life experiences have been and what they have been exposed to.

Explanation of Series

Most of the Wall Sculpture work I do falls into a category or series. Not all of the work I do fits into the listed groups but the descriptions I have listed should give a better idea of my overall intent.

Fetish Series:

Inspired by the spiritual based sculptures and carvings from multiple cultures, this series utilizes stylized animal and human forms as a form of self expression. The goal of this series is to more closley understand the spiritual relation to nature and the thought process of ancient artist; to create a contemporary piece that has roots based in this ancient art.

Symbols / Icon Series:

Symbolism is defined as “the use of symbols to represent ideas or qualities”. An Icon is defined as “an object or image venerated and used as an aid to devotion”. This series is similar to the fetish series but concentrates on combining simple shapes, symbols and forms usually from my own imagination but at times derived from existing cultural symbols or icons.

Serenity Series:

A subset of the Symbols and Icon series, the intent of this series is to create a body of work that creates a response or state of calm, peacefulness and relaxation for the viewer without a necessary connection to cultural or religious images.

Transition Series:

The definition of transition is “the process of change from one state or condition to another”. The individual pieces in this series usually contain multiple pieces on a single board or multiple pieces to be viewed together. The work illustrates the transition from diverse states of understanding, belief or realities.

Statement of Work

WorkshopAll the components of my work: the centerpiece, box and frame are constructed entirely of wood. The centerpiece of the sculpture is usually a simple shape inspired by animal forms, nature, religious and/or spiritual symbolism. The centerpiece is carved wood finished with a number of different mediums. Usually I use acrylic paint, stains, powdered metals, coral, nails, stone, wire and other materials. Acids are combined with the powdered metals to create various finishes. Often the centerpiece is mounted in a shadow box or on a three dimensional display. The frame is usually finished using powdered metal that is then oxidized. Sometimes I am asked how long does it take for me to create one of my pieces? The answer I give might be a few hours, days, or years. For me the creation of a work of art is not limited to the time it takes to create the physical piece.

The process of creation is a manifestation of a person’s life experience. Often the process is a search; a search for something mystical, sacred, mysterious and personal. The search is what is most important and is continuous. The time from the point of conception to completion of a piece is different then the time it takes to create a piece. For me the process of creation is a culmination of works and involves many pieces of art. The concept or spirit of a piece or series of work may come in a flash or might be drawn out slowly while working. Often the ideas or images are revealed to me during the Hypnagogic state or semi-conscious state between being sound asleep and fully awake. The initial vision is usually fleeting, like a glimpse of something at the edge of your vision. Once I have had a glimpse of the image my search begins. Through the creative process I find what I am looking for. I find it in the wood, the shape, the form, and the texture. I find it in the color of the paint, the stone, and the metal. I find it in all of these things. I make an effort not to overwork a piece, to keep it simple. I want the work to be clean and un-cluttered. Often I stop work on a piece before I feel that it is completed. I do this to leave open the door to the next piece. I think of each piece as a link in a chain, each link being a step in the search. I think of the chain or all of the pieces as being the completed work. Religious icons, primitive petroglyphs, and symbols from a variety of cultures ancient and modern influence my work. The influence that the viewer sees is dependent on his or her own experiences.

Steve Hunsicker