Philosophy

Lessons from a Golf Course
(A question about nature)
This past summer I was introduced to a completely enjoyable and unexpected experience - golfing. Forgetting the actual frustration of playing the game, the simple pleasure of spending a day walking outdoors was fun. It is ironic that this pleasurable experience turned out to be a valuable lesson, both to my work as a teacher and as a sculptor. No one can dispute that studying the human figure from life is a challenge whether the challenge lies in understanding proportions, internal structure or the quality of the forms, themselves. These difficulties are what made me initially reject the study of the human figure, but they became the challenge I chose to confront later on, in order to observe the figure accurately and understand its aesthetic range. To see and understand the human figure as a whole is the first challenge we face. To retain this while introducing the variety of forms that nature offers us, as evidenced by a softer mass surrendering to a harder one, or by a bone surfacing, only to escape and disappear under another form, is a greater challenge still. This variety can never be measured, only seen and understood. Studying the human figure on this level, where one can describe in one’s work the hardest form in comparison to the softest, and the infinite range in between, or equally, the deepest transition compared to the shallowest, should not be understood as being a slave to nature but a means to a greater goal: to develop an aesthetic vocabulary to help one fully express one’s ideas as they develop in one’s work. A writer who lacks a full range of vocabulary cannot be fully descriptive. A musician who cannot reach a high E cannot play most music. A painter without the knowledge of the value range from dark to light struggles with the illusion of three dimensions. Taking a brief survey of contemporary sculpture, there seems to be a lack of range of vocabulary in figurative work. One might imagine that pursuit of this vocabulary is suppressed or ignored for the sake of producing pleasant, professional and manicured sculptures. The lesson I learned having spent summer afternoons walking on a golf course, feeling it as a pleasant activity, is that if I could choose I would walk in the woods, where the path might often be unclear, where variety in nature exists and is vibrant, where senses seem to awaken.