The thought process and construction process leading to artworks are often unstated or understated. The understanding of the purpose and meaning of an art piece is often left up to the art critic or a curator. To avoid a misunderstanding and misinterpretation of the art piece, #1-94 Homage to Women referenced in this blog, the process of making the piece and the thoughts leading up to the making are detailed. Even the title of the piece was in question. I had initially named it Women Time but settled on Homage to Women. I also realized that although I took notes and photographs before and during the construction process, a few steps remain sketchy even to me. The computer programs which I wrote to mathematically transform some of the images used in the piece remain elusive. Also like many art pieces, the focus and details change as the work is in progress. These may be subtle changes or a complete change in the meaning of the piece. The process of creating art stimulates other creative ideas.
I was always interested in women. The idea for this piece started during my photographic days in which I photographed women in various poses. In 1978-79, I photographed three women posed as the Three Graces as shown in Figure B-1, taken from Raphael, a 16th-century painter. I used white balls in place of dark balls. Not an easy task to obtain three models whom were mentally and physically comparable, compatible and adjusted to posing as the three graces. The three graces were according to one Greek legend named, Aglaia (Brightness), Euphrosyne (Joyfulness), and Thalia (Bloom). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charites. I am not sure of the names used by Raphael. These names seem to fit the dispositions of my surrogate three graces.
During this period, I also became interested in the meaning of time and how best to represent time in my artwork. Thus began the idea of doing a piece in which women were represented over different time periods. I approached time also from the fact that when art is done outdoors on rock, the rock fractures over time and eventually becomes fragmented. Fracture and fragmentation is an expression of a time sequence. In the breaking up of the works, parts are often missing, the rare case occurring where all the pieces are located. Fragments of artworks are found on a visit to any large museum and constitute much of our ancient collections.
The piece #1-94, Homage to Women was an attempt to characterize different events in the life of women over time. It includes a feminine triangular solid which optically changes position when observed by the viewer in approximately 4-second intervals. It also includes female images from time periods of up to 20000 years. The sedimentary rock on which some images are placed are of Triassic age. I incorporated the motion of the moon to suggest time. Animal skeletons were used to represent life as well as death. The image of a woman giving birth is primal. I think there may be something in the piece that refers to man as well.
As in many of my works, I sketch and record ideas for the art piece in a notebook. Figure B-2 is a copy of the original notes for this piece #1-94 with a more readable copy placed adjacent to the original.
Figure B-2 Notebook from 1994 showing sketch and notes for #1-94.
Homage to Women, Figure B-3 is an assemblage (1994) consisting of nine 50 inch x 31 inch panels separated from one another by a 2 inch spacing, making the overall dimensions of the piece 12.83 feet x 8.08 feet. Each panel had the dimensions of the golden rectangle with a ratio of width to height of 1.61. The overall piece consisting of 3 panels across and 3 panels down also has the dimensions that approach a golden rectangle with a ratio of 1.59. The upper portion of the piece is formed from a gray Diekeen poured stone (a gypsum based dental material with chromium III compound and black India ink). The rear portion of the piece is formed from hydrocal (a high strength gypsum compound). Watercolor, gold leaf, silver leaf, India ink, natural sandstone, natural clay, and bleached bone fragments were also used. Included in the piece are etched transforms of the Three Graces from models posed after Raphael, etched transforms of the female nude in the x direction, etched transforms of the female nude in the x direction, etched figures from modified Neolithic images from Alta, Norway, three imprinted images of birth and a modified dance group from The Civilization of the Goddess, Marija Gimbutas (New York: Harper Collins, 1991. Also included in the piece was a four second timeist feminine geometric form. After completion of each panel, the panel was then fragmented and epoxied or strapped together on a 50 inch x 31-inch hydrocal panel. Perforated flat stainless steel reinforcing was used internally to strengthen each panel. Each panel weighed approximately 250 lbs for a total weight of approximately 2250 lbs. JD Sage, Homage to Women, 1994, 38 Harlow St. Studio, Worcester, Massachusetts. Private Collection, Massachusetts and JD Sage, Metaforms and MetaNudes etcetera, 2003. Sagama Publishing, Paxton, Massachusetts.
The piece represents a time span of from 4 seconds to 20000 years. The petroglyph images are from 8000 BP and are placed on Triassic sandstone having an age of 200 million years. You the observer are in the present.
The individual panel of #1-94 is an example of contemporary artwork that was purposely fragmented, crushed and then reassembled. Artwork that has been purposely fragmented has advantages. On one occasion, a finished work (not this work) was accidentally dropped onto a floor, shattering the work. The work was reassembled and the accident contributed to the now finished work. The time of completion of the work was updated.
The paradox is that weathered and fractured rock art helps to verify the authenticity of the less weathered art. Forgers do not often spend time purposely forging strongly weathered or fractured images. For outdoor rock art executed at different time periods at the same site, weathering and fracturing of the rock surface provides a means of validation of the authenticity of the art and for assigning relative time values to each group of artworks.
Figure B-3 “Homage to Women” is an image of the completed work.
Figure B-3. JD Sage, Homage to Women, #1-94, 1994, 12.5 x 7.75 feet.
The following steps were used to complete the “Homage to Women” piece.
- An available wood platform (2” by 4” wood bracing and a plywood cover) was used to place the work on the floor of the studio. It was used in the gallery as the stage for musical presentations. Hence the overall work ended up being controlled by the size of the platform. So much for advanced planning.
- The layout of the image used in the piece was drawn to scale on paper for each of the 9 panels. Figure B-5 shows some of these images.
Figure B-4. Paper Outlines for the Panels
- Wooden frames for each panel of the piece was constructed using 2×4’s. Each panel had the dimensions of 50 x 31 inches, which was on the scale of the golden rectangle, having a width to height ratio of 1.62. A thin aluminum frame having flat edges with a depth of 2 inches was used to line the wooden frame.
- Paper outlines were placed down for each panel within the frame. It provided a template for the placement of objects used to represent images.
Figure B-5. Placement of Outlines within Frame.
- Plate glass was placed in the frame on top of the outlines and silicone spayed onto the glass to facilitate easy removal and ensure a flat working surface.
- Circular glass plates were placed down on the glass surface along a parabolic path, Figure B-6, so when the panel dried, circular Moon imprints would be imparted to the panels.
- Sand or clay was used to outline selected images so when the panel dried an imprint would be imparted to the panels and would be visible.
Figure B-6. Placement of Circular Glass Moons.
- Red Triassic rock from the Connecticut River Valley and a casting of an ammonite fossil made from gray Diekeen was also placed in the space allotted for them and bone fragments were placed down and surrounded with sand.
- A space through the panel for the eventual placement for a skull of an elk from Wyoming was made using sand.
- A gray Diekeen (black India ink additive) mixture was poured over the glass plate surface. Figure B-7. The material used for the basic panel was to simulate slate or gray rock.
Figure B-7. Placement of Diekeen mixture.
- The panels were left to set up and dry.
- The panels were then removed from their frames and placed right side up.
- The paper layouts from step one were again placed on the surface of each panel.
- Using an etching tool the three graces were drawn on the flat surface in addition to a few other images. Figure B-8.
Figure B-8. Etching Images on Surface
- Where required watercolor was added to the images. The panels were then carefully fractured to permit the fractures to appear continuous across panels, simulating what you would expect in the field. Figure B-7. The pieces were then reassembled and glued in position.
Figure B-9. Fractured Image for a Single Panel.
- A large ladder was used to visualize the positioning of the fractured panels.
- An elk skull was placed in the space provided in step 8 and cemented in place.
- A hole was made in the box frame to accept the skull when the panel was placed face down.
- The panels were placed face down and reinforced with stainless steel grated strips and epoxied across the broken sections of the panels. Figure B-10.
Figure B-10. Stainless Steel Reinforcement
- Sand was placed into and opens fractures or cracks.
- Additional gray colored Diekeen was then poured over each panel.
- Stainless steel studs were inserted to ensure adherence of the material used in step 30.
- The panels were left to dry.
- A wet white hydrocal mixture was poured over the rear of the panels and reinforced with thin flat perforated stainless steel strips.
- The surfaces of the back of the panels were smoothed and left to set up.
- Stainless steel threaded inserts to permit attachment of the panels to a wall were placed by drilling into the surface and epoxied into place.
- The piece was eventually placed on a specially designed and constructed wall (12 by 16 feet) in the gallery. The wall was painted black. Each panel weighted approximately 250 lbs. The backs of each panel had embedded threaded stainless steel inserts in order to receive bolts through the wall for the purpose of securing the panel to the wall. The wall was also securely attached to an existing gallery wall to prevent toppling. A two-foot wide access space was available from the rear of the wall. The hanging of the panels on the wall required a special lifting device and a four-man crew. Each panel was placed on an L shaped steel angle iron attached to the wall. Figure 11.
Figure B-11. JD Sage, Homage to Women or Women Time, #1-94, 1994. 12.5 x 7.75 feet. The 5 ‘ 11 ½” author was included for scale.
- Working part-time, the piece ‘Homage to Women’ took 1-year to complete. The piece was exhibited in a one-person show “Explorations” at the Worcester Artist Group Gallery on 13 April to 11 May 2003. Figure B-12 shows the piece in relation to other works in the show. The piece was left hanging for over two years (no one wanted to take it down). The wall was repainted and is still standing. The artwork resides on Staten Island NY.
Figure B-12. “Explorations” Exhibit, 2003, JD Sage, WAG, Worcester Massachusetts.
The piece, Figure B-3, “Homage to Women” was used as a backdrop for the ‘Vagina Monologues’ when they played at the Sprinkler Factory art gallery in Worcester, Massachusetts. I was invited to the show in Worcester. I was one of a few men attending. When the play started, one of the actresses said I see we have a few penises here. We all laughed. I did not attend their performance in Madison Square Gardens.
Figure B-13 is a photograph taken during the play Worcester Massachusetts, 22 February 2005 with “Homage to Women” as a backdrop. JD Sage.
I should have provided the actresses with white balls (rubber balls) for their use as in the three graces shown in the backdrop image.
The play explores consensual and nonconsensual sexual experiences, body image, genital mutilation, direct and indirect encounters with reproduction, sex work, and several other topics through the eyes of women with various ages, races, sexualities, and other differences.
The New York Times called the play “probably the most important piece of political theater of the last decade.” In 2018, The New York Times stated “No recent hour of theater has had a greater impact worldwide” in the article “The Great Work Continues: The 25 Best American Plays Since ‘Angels in America’.” The play has been staged internationally, and a television version was produced by cable TV channel HBO. The Vagina Monologues are not without criticism. One criticism was that women are more than their vaginas. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Vagina_Monologues#Criticism_from_feminists