Tom Small Sculpture


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Cloud Writing

Cloud writing: barely edited, strokes unpolished, drafted with diamond blades. Stream of consciousness text and drawing on an attenuated taper. The tool is a fast gestural marker, pulling toward the center, like a pencil, showing direction the way charcoal does. Stone holds its ground, but moisture, weather, shadows and sun change what’s written, on any given day.


I think back to a high school field trip to art galleries in Seattle. I came around a corner to find two of Mark Tobey’s “white writing” style paintings. Thousands of tiny arcing lines layered over each other in great depths, vibrating in different spectrums of color. These pictures brought me to a standstill. The arcing lines described a core energy of the universe. I walked away, but that memory hummed inside of me, waiting until I found the same patterns in overlapping branch lines silhouetted against the sky. Now I live with Douglas fir needles all around me, and it is impossible not to feel that infinite energy humming, humming, humming…


Storyteller is ten feet tall and weighs 4500 pounds. Carved from a 5 million year old basalt column, it stands at an intersection between Earth’s volcanic past, and the city’s cement and steel present. It is pure stone in a world of composite. The passing pedestrian senses her part in Storyteller’s dialogue with the built, vertical environment. Storyteller interrupts her motion with a reminder of the passage of deep geologic time. She experiences a kind of ‘fast backward’, but as she steps closer, she perceives a fluid, future language. Storyteller invites her to read and touch its surface; it is, for her, map, braille, and subliminal text. In a few suspended seconds, Storyteller is reminder and guide, sundial and signpost, tattooed with a new, old, Rosetta Stone. It is also a mirror, the polished surfaces of which give back to the viewer fractured pieces of herself and the city.

The curl in a leaf, the bend of a branch, the bow of a salmon ribcage – all carry the same curve as the arc of a feather: is that unremarkable, or utterly remarkable? At the end of a day’s work in the studio, I walk a mile or two in the woods. One rainy evening I was coming home in the falling dark. A low, silver light pulsed from puddles in the trail. I filled my vision with just one puddle and watched. A fat drop rolled off an alder branch to hit the puddle dead center. A perfect circular wave spread from the impact, touched the edges, and bounced back inwards in overlapping arcs until there were countless lines. One puddle among many. Try to imagine the many, raindrops in each, waves in each.