I recently had to determine what 3 pieces of artwork I would be entering in an upcoming exhibit at The River Arts Gallery in Damariscotta titled 'Abstract'. I knew I had 2 small plaster reliefs that fit the theme, and ultimately decided upon a ceramic relief that I had not previously shown for the third. 'Aztec Oz' is made up of a series of interlocking high relief glazed tiles made with press molds. There are 3 basic tile shapes that were designed so that each was capable of 'nesting' against each of the others in varying positions. The tile designs were each made with four different elevations of decreasing size. I made a second set of tiles that had the same shape outlines, but in this set the elevated progressions were reversed so that what was high on one side on one piece was low on its fraternal twin. I did this to create more subtle variations in the surface of the relief.
The next step in the process was to choose glaze colors for the tiles. The clay tiles were made from red clay so consideration had to be given to glaze coverage...a satin might allow the glaze to thin on edges, while a matt glaze would probably not allow the red clay to show through at all. After testing out various colors and combinations I decided to go with a layered application of satin leaf green, teal, and a touch of orchid. I varied the layering of color on each piece, either as I went from one end to other or as I progressed from one elevation to the next. Once the tiles were fired, the final step was to arrange the design and to mount it on a wooden backing board. The board was cut slightly smaller than the tile design and its edges were slanted inwards so that the backing would not show when the piece was hung. The completed relief measures 14.5" high, 16" wide and 2" deep.
As I contemplated titles for this piece, I quickly found myself focusing on the design elements in the relief and its color palette. I not only saw maze-like patterns reminiscent of Aztec design, but I even envisioned the piece as an aerial view of a futuristic Aztec civilization with terraced farms and stepped pyramids. The colors led me to think of yet another aerial view... the one that the wizard probably saw as he approached the Emerald City for the first time in his hot air balloon. In the end, I decided that the title could reflect both of those visions, so I have called it 'Aztec Oz'.
*Note: 'Aztec Oz' along with the 2 additional pieces were juried into the "Abstract' Exhibit at River Arts Gallery by juror Suzette McAvoy, the director and curator of the Center for Maine Contemporary Art in Rockport. They will be on display at the River Arts Gallery in Damariscotta through January 18th.
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Cynthia Smith, Maine artist, originally from Connecticut. Taught art at secondary level for 35 years, retired in 2004. Sculpts in bronze, wood, stone, clay & plaster. Her work can be seen at several mid-coast Maine galleries and shows.