Note to readers: I’m going to try to break this up into manageable, readable lengths that stand on their own. I’m not trying to do cliffhangers, I’m just trying to reduce dismay at the lengths of my huge posts…so this is a three-parter.

Sometimes, no matter how often you destroy it, a piece refuses to go quietly. Instead, it hangs around and bugs you until, in desperation, you finish it just for the sake of peace and quiet.

Triangle was one of those. Despite seven disastrous mistakes, it’s finally out of the kiln. Along the way, it taught me quite a bit about what makes my work tick.

Emotives: SHOUT

Emotives: SHOUT

Some backstory: My creative urges bounce between three series: Emergents, Emotives and Vignettes. The Emotives (like SHOUT) are the most abstract and experimental, usually cast transparently in crystal or soda-lime glass. They tend to be big and painful to cast, as I’ve mentioned, so most are still wax models sitting on my studio shelves.

Emergents are a more realistic salute to my beloved mythologies (ancient and urban), almost always pate de verre. Fast and fun, they’re usually what I make whenever I’m too frustrated with the Emotives.

Emergents: Currents

Emergents: Currents

Vignettes are personality studies, usually pate de verre portraits, that are as close to figurative/ representational work as I’m so far capable of doing.

Vignettes: May

Vignettes: May

I’m hoping all three retain SOME kind of signature style, because everybody says you’re not really a successful artist until random strangers can see anything you’ve done and say, “Oh, yes, that’s a Cynthia Morgan.”

But I’m afraid , most likely, they don’t.

So far, galleries and artists love the Emotives, applaud the Emergents, and make appreciative but dismissive comments about the Vignettes. “They’re good, I know they took a lot of work, but nobody buys portraits of someone they don’t know,” one gallery owner said bluntly, “If I were you, I’d either develop a sideline doing glass portraits for rich people, or just do them as exercises, like a pianist running scales.”


“The problem is, it’s just a head in a big black space,” said one artist I greatly admire, “Can’t the head be DOING something?”

OK, I get it. Maybe someday, when I’m good enough, I’ll make millions doing Vignettes for the my-yacht’s-bigger-than-your-yacht crowd.

But it did get me to thinking. The Vignettes try to pack as much emotion into a face as possible; I want people to look at them and project their own stories onto those heads. And they do–I’ve been told that May (above) is, variously, a stalwart pioneer on the prairie, a wicked witch, a guy’s grandmother after she caught grandpa with the next-door neighbor, somebody’s mother-in-law, an old lady who’s been cheated out of her life savings…and so on. (And today on Facebook somebody said she looked just like Neil Young. Go figure.)

OTOH, what I love about the other two series is the interaction; the Emotives react with each other, the Emergents react with their environment. The Vignettes react with…nothing. Hmmmm.

duiforlornclayThe latest Vignettes are small studies based on mugshots, mostly of DWI offenders. Some communities post these mugshots online; when I run across them I pick out the most interesting faces and save them. No idea why, I’m just intrigued by all those smiling, smirking, vacant faces on the way to the drunk tank.

This fall I discovered I now had about 200 DUI faces, and started making fast, exaggerated studies of their expressions. I can’t draw, so I work 3D, in clay, and when the portrait’s finished I make a silicone mold of it. Still not sure what I’m going to do with them all, but it’s a good exercise and it’s giving me a LOT of reusable face molds with all kinds of expressions.

About when that Vignette interaction thought popped up, I was pulling the clay models out of three of these silicone molds. And so I started to play–I plopped the clay down on a board, letting it distort a bit like a funhouse mirror, and watched them interact. In roughly five hours I’d finished a new sculpture, a piece maybe 16×20 and about five inches deep:


I loved the way the distortion emphasized the movement and flow of the piece, that the expressions were weaving their own story. I have a thing about sculpting hands, so I added one for balance (I’ll leave you to speculate as to whose hand it is). The shape made the name obvious: Triangle.

So far, so good. Over the next three days, though, I pretty much destroyed this piece, more than once. I’ll tell that embarrassingly sad tale in part II, my very next post. Thanks.