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Artist Statement

Early in the 3 year MFA program in sculpture I decided to study the way forms interact, with the idea that if I can understand that, I would be more capable of using the language of form to say what I want to say.  Subsequently, I spent many years carving wood and stone, creating interacting organic shapes that respond to each other, a pursuit that led studies to become finished pieces.  Eventually I started to take some of the same shapes and create them on various papers with a fine point pen and black ink.  The feel of the various papers and the process of applying the ink is as sensuous as the feel of the wood or stone when shape takes place under carving tools.

In the same way that I became more and more sensitive to every subtlety of shape and form when carving, the pen point got finer and the ink lines tinier as I began to demand more of every single mark.   A point or a line is the creation of the tool that makes it but I want to control the mark, I do not want to be at the mercy of a tool, so I seek out finer and finer pen points.  Quickly  I began to enjoy the texture created by the ink marks and the spaces.

I have come to think of paper as a structure that holds the lines in space, but the papers themselves are sometimes very seductive, and become a very important partner with the ink.   I have also explored what happens when the paper is varnished to a subsurface of wood and/or clayboard, turning a two-dimensional drawing into a relief, and taking the ink lines out from behind a glass frame.  The possibilities are endless. The distinction between sculpture and drawing then becomes blurred.    

In my work I mostly alternate between carving stone or wood, and drawing with a technical pen.  I believe there is some connection between my having chosen to make 3D forms out of hard materials and to draw using a fine steel point instead of shaping soft clay and using a fine brush.   In any case, both the drawing and the carving inform each other and it's a joy to have these disciplines in my artistic quiver.

I have found endless fascination with the essence of calligraphic shapes and sacred texts.  Some of the  work focuses on forms that emerge, the softness of clarity until we know what it is becoming. There is something in unknowing that is both humbling and hopeful.  I love textures and patterns, be they people-generated or nature generated, nothing is really random, but the source and the reason may not be obvious.   I am trying to do this as I grow my own visual sensitivity, to use the marks and lines in the most parsimonious way, as would nature:  ideally nothing is random and nothing is wasted.  All suggest more ways to be even more sensitive, not knowing where this will lead.  That’s the creative process. 

The purpose behind all of this mark making, the shapes, forms and textures, is to celebrate the efforts we make to understand, to document and to enrich our world.  Pattern, space and shape are the letters, the verbs and the nouns of my visual world.


 Jo Margolis