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When is a sea shell not a sea shell.

Back in the 80’s I was working on a series of sculpture that was based on broken sea shells . What I produced then still has an influence on my work. I’ve always had an interest in the symmetry of shells but I was never interested in producing that perfection.

The search for new material gave me a very good excuse to travel to places that were known for beautiful sea shells. Places like Islamorada in the Florida Keys and Ixtapa on the west coast of Mexico.  I preferred Ixtapa once I figured the place out.

I’m not one for fancy beachfront hotels but there is little choice here. Before they developed this resort the Mexican government did a lot of research . Where were the best beaches on their coast, clean ocean, lot’s of sun and then they went at it with a vengeance. They created a Miami shoreline that was so pristine that there are literally crews out every morning sweeping the beaches. There was not a shell or a piece of seaweed to be seen.. Not good for what I wanted.

I decided to stay at the end of “Miami row” in a hotel that bordered on the undeveloped shoreline. Each morning I would walk along the beach, what there was of it, and collect all kinds of shells. The perfect ones I would bring back to the “Blue hairs” at the hotel so they could have a souvenir of their “exotic trip” to Mexico but I kept all of the broken shells for myself.

This routine was a very relaxing, The ocean was on my left and the beach was only a few yards wide before the land shot up into a cliff. It was me the ocean and the sky. After I had been doing this for several days the word must have gotten out because the manager of the hotel came over to me and told me I had to stay on the hotel grounds.

When I asked him why he told me because it wasn’t safe where I was going.. There were bandits in that area… that’s what he said, ”Bandits”. I thought he was kidding. I continued my walks but now I kept an eye on the cliffs. I guess if any bandits showed up I’d have to give them my shells.

Here’s what I did with them.

Because they were broken they had an interesting combination of beautiful curves and very sharp edges. As a photographer I knew light. I’d set a fragment on a white piece of paper and light it so it showed strong highlights and shadows. I wouldn’t draw the shells but I ‘d draw the highlights and shadows they produced and eventually those drawings would convert into a piece of sculpture.  There was always some character of a shell in the final pieces but mostly they were abstract. The interesting thing about the series was the fact that all of the pieces still had an aquatic look to them due to the source.

Here are two from the series

.From the shell series Shell Painted cherry wood 18″x 9″x7″

From the shell series in the 80's Shell 19 Portuguese Marble 23″x 21″x 13″

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