The art of Priscilla “Cilla” May Alden and Richard “Dick” Alden reflects the couple's captivation of ancient cultural themes and its symbolism. Not surprisingly their upcoming show at Studio 53 in Boothbay Harbor is entitled “Ancient Flow,” on exhibit Aug. 1-28.
Cilla is a tapestry weaver and monoprintmaker who feels a connection to ancient cultures that she says takes her to this “Spirit Place.” Her colorful textiles and monoprints are composed of Navajo, Turkish and Bauhaus weaving techniques. They also reflect Cilla's architectural design background that blends the contemporary with the traditional and ancestral.
Dick is a wood and stone sculptor who has been creating primarily in stone since 2009, but has been sculpting for over 30 years. Annually he joins fellow sculptors for the J.C. Stone Symposium in Jefferson and the week-long symposium at the Viles Arboretum held in late September in Augusta. This August Dick will be one of 15 sculptors at the Stone Cutting event at Boothbay Railway Village in mid-August. Dick was one of three featured stone sculptors in Maine Home & Design's October 2015 feature, “Earth Spirits.”
“Sometimes we think we're from 'back then,’” Dick said. A definite possibility given how profoundly their work is influenced by ancient cultures. Past lives aside, inspiration for new work often occurs during their travels to the southwest of the U.S. — or southwestern France as was this winter's destination.
They spent eight weeks in Lascaux, France, where they explored the Lascaux caves bearing drawings dating back to the Paleolithic Period.
“I could feel the energy in these caves,” said Cilla. “The walls were rounded, undulating. There were symbols and animals — bull, deer and horses — drawn there. I thought it all flowed with the weaving I'd been doing since the fall.”
“What's incredible about the (cave) drawings is the perspective they had. Nobody thought that got figured out until the Renaissance,” Dick said.
The energy of the caves — both creative (through the drawings) and earthen (through the stone itself) — affected them both and got those artistic juices flowing. Good thing they packed smaller versions of the tools of their arts for the trip — soft stone of alabaster, marble and wizard stone with smaller hand tools and one of Cilla's small vertical looms and yarns.
Cilla is the featured artist in the “Ancient Flow” exhibition for which she has crafted five gelatin monoprints and seven tapestries. One of the tapestries, “Ceremonial Dress,” was on her Spanish Walking Loom last fall. This large and fascinating piece, adorned with feathers and small brass bells, will be displayed to allow the viewer to walk within it.
“It will be extended out from the wall so that people can look inside it,” Cilla said. “I was thinking along sculptural lines, there's more of a 3D element in the weaving. I used a variety of techniques — like wrapping; a variety of textures, and created open spaces. This work just lent itself to the ancient flow idea,” Cilla said excitedly. “There was a lot of experimenting from techniques to yarns including silk sari yarn.”
“Cave Wall Painting III” is one of her colorful symbol-filled, multi-layered gelatin monoprints. A variety of techniques were used to create this piece and the other four including silk aqua tint technique as well as water-based inks, stencils and gelatin. One has between 10-12 layers of gelatin.
“Lascaux Bulls” is a 13” x 13” wool tapestry Cilla made in France on her small loom depicting the bulls and deer in movement.
Cilla’s tapestry “Earth Mother” features a bit of the wrapping technique used to resemble roots.
Dick is known for his large sculptures, many of the female form, many representing mythological women such as Penelope, wife of Odysseus (64”x 22”x16”), and the goddesses Aphrodite (49” x 38” x 52”); to his “Stone Spirit Family” — or chess pieces ranging from 40x12x6 to 56”x 24”x 9”.
This year Dick moved into two-dimensional wood block printing with “Gaia” the Greek goddess in repose in 2” pine.
The trip to the Lascaux caves inspired him to try to capture some of the small spirit animals, an intrinsic part of the life of the ancients. Nine of Dick’s 10 pieces will be displayed on a pedestal inside. The 10th sculpture, “Seeker” is of red raspberry alabaster, an 8-foot tall, 5,000-pound ancient shaman woman seeking guidance from the Great Spirit, will be in Studio 53’s Sculpture Garden near the water. Alden started this piece at last year’s Viles Arboretum Symposium ... the stone was as hard in composition as it was to sculpt.
Dick sculpted a raven, named Magic, from a piece of wizard stone and a brilliant choice it was. This heavy metallic mineral, known as orichalcum, is reputed to be one of few stones/minerals that store raw magical energy. And the stone is "rechargeable!"
“Whisperer” is a turtle that Dick says likes to impart his wisdom, sculpted of Carmello marble, weighing in at about 10 pounds, its texture and color complement the creature it embodies. “Messenger,” the snowy owl, is of translucent alabaster. This owl is ready to deliver a message — and he will have your attention.
“Lascaux Jumping Bull” is fashioned after one of the leaping cave wall bulls, one hind leg up and jumping ... right out of the sculpture. This is a three-dimensional deep relief soapstone sculpture of an image on a cave wall that left Dick in awe and inspired to sculpt it.
Priscilla May Alden and Dick Alden’s new works might just inspire those who come to see them to get in touch with our shared ancestral past. Take a walk on the spiritual side!
“Ancient Flow” begins Aug. 1 on the first floor of Studio 53. An opening reception will be held on Friday, Aug. 5 from 5 to 8 p.m. with refreshments. Studio 53 Fine Art is located at 53 Townsend Avenue in Boothbay Harbor. For more on the artists, visit http://studio53fineart.com.