READING ART

READING ART

A Continuing Discussion about the Seeds and Pods
of Sculptor TJ Mabrey

READING ART is simple, it’s free, and is meant to enlighten and entertain those who sign up to receive a once a month photo of one of my sculptures, accompanied by a text. This text is not to explain, define, nor defend the art, yet will have some relevance to it.

Reading art is like 'reading' the weather. You have to observe it for a long time, and over a long period of time, until you can predict its flavor, its attitude, its inevitability to stun, to surprise, to anger, to bring pleasure.

What I hope to achieve is for the viewer to "look", to “see”, to "read" the art in a new or meaningful way.

Start READING ART now!
Thank you,
TJ Mabrey

Check out the new project, called READING THE PAPER. Unlike READING ART, which concentrates on stone sculpture, this addition will feature Mabrey’s work with paper.

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TJ Mabrey     THREE SISTERS
Pink marble 14 x 14 x 8.25 inches

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

THREE SISTERS, a sculpture by TJ Mabrey, was purchased by the City of Albuquerque Public Art Program in March 2021, and recently installed in the City Hall of Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Carved in the shape of a squash, the bumpy top center of the sculpture gives the impression of three heads bent close together. This image is further strengthened by the incised design of three sets of arms and loving hands, intertwined around the top of the squash, and the imagined figures.

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TJ Mabrey BARGE WITH OLIVE LEAF
white Italian marble 3 X 19.5 X 6.5

EPIPHANY

On this DAY of EPIPHANY, I send forth a barge on which lies an olive branch - a sign to all that war must end.

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TJMabrey     A NEW WORLD COMING
white Italian marble 25 x 22 x 8 inches

WE ARE THE WORLD THIS YEAR 2024

In A NEW WORLD COMING, above, two figures intertwine. One appears to be dying, with eyes closed. The other holds the main tool for building, the plumb bob. Calipers and square are ready to be passed to the builder. The new world is represented in this sculpture as a tree...

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TJ Mabrey       CROSS CURRENT
white Italian marble       39.5 x 17 x 3 inches

CROSS CURRENT

CROSS CURRENT represents the accelerated cultural evolution we are now experiencing.

TJ Mabrey       CROSS CURRENT
white Italian marble       39.5 x 17 x 3 inches
Photos: Kathleen Brennan

The main wave in the sculpture represents values being challenged, such as patriarchy, racial inequality, inevitability of war, exploitation of nature, and materialism.

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TJ Mabrey       BANANA
white Italian marble       8.5 x 19 x 6 inches
TJ Mabrey       BANANA
white Italian marble       8.5 x 19 x 6 inches (side 2)
Photos: Kathleen Brennan

BANANA

This healthy, sweet, product of nature belies another story of its production and delivery to the United States. Bananas in their current form were consciously created out of greed by those who controlled the land on which bananas were grown, to those who grew the fruit, and the countries whose officials were bribed into relinquishing control of their country.

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TJ Mabrey      WATERGATE
Italian marble      13 x 10 x 6.5 inches

WATERGATE

In Washington D.C. there is a set of grand steps rising up from the waters of the Potomac River to the Lincoln Memorial. They were designed in 1902 and built in 1930. The steps were originally intended for ceremonious arrivals of dignitaries and heads of States coming to the Capitol by boat or barge, to ascend from the river to the land above, to a new democracy.

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TJ Mabrey      RIDGEBACK MOUNTAIN
black Egyptian marble     5 x 20 x 6 inches

Influence of Penjing on the Imagination

Dating back to at least the 1st Century AD, practitioners of Daoist mysticism have endeavored to create landscape scenes in miniature. People see it as a means to focus on and increase the properties we might experience at full-size sights.

While related to bonsai, penjing are noticeably different. They are often more natural or “wild” looking, and they often depict landscapes rather than single trees.

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TJ Mabrey ISHMAEL AND THE RISING TIDE OF MEMORIES
French red marble, grey marble base, glass tiles, plastic lenses etched with a poem.
53 x 10.25 x 22 inches (marble sculpture only)

Ishmael and the Rising Tide of Memories

The title,” Ishmael”, was suggested by Texas poet and teacher at the University of California at Berkeley, John Campion. The name “Ishmael” was chosen for it reflected my interest in nature and concern for the environment.

The sculpture is a very long fish, perhaps a whale, with a male figure clinging to its back. Is the figure climbing on, hanging on, falling off or letting go? Who will be the victor?

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TJ Mabrey      Clockwise from top right:, Rice, Wheat, Olive, Corn, Grape. Center: Human.
white marble      approximately 2" x 1.5" x 2.5"

6 Poeti Crepuscolari

Seed

It’s a shell, a foregone conclusion
waiting its chance to be shattered, perhaps,
by something as graceless as luck.
It lands softly and with little fanfare,
a goddess with her apple inside.
Fecund, maybe. Encircled by pulp.

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TJ Mabrey     CACTUS POD
One of four sculptures in the Seeds of War Series
black Belgium marble      iron element
12 x 12 x 17 inches with iron base

CACTUS POD

The War in Iraq was a dark thing. Yet there it was, happening in the fertile crescent of ancient Mesopotamia. In what was The Garden of Eden, where life began between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, the cities, the towns, the villages, were rendered dark by bombs and bullets; as black as the dirt hurriedly thrown over the bodies of the dead.

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TJ Mabrey     WOMB
Pink Portuguese marble 9 x 12 x 6 inches (without base)

WOMB

The National Women's Month Celebration has its roots in the recognition of International Women's Day (IWD) on March 8th, an historical event stemming from the organizing efforts of women in the early 20th Century, but they started 200 million years ago.

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TJ Mabrey       RICE BARGE / WHEAT BARGE
each: white Italian marble       9.5 x 6.5 x 2.5 inches
TJ Mabrey       BOUND GRASS
Italian white marble       13 x 14 x 15 inches
Photos: Kathleen Brennan

RICE BARGE / WHEAT BARGE

Rice and Wheat (both are considered grasses) are the two most important staple foods in the world. Rice feeds more than 3.5 billion people of the world's 8 billion population. About 95 percent of the global output of rice is produced and consumed in developing countries. Many of these countries are in violent political conflict and also in areas of extreme climate change lessening their ability to grow crops. Hunger and malnutrition are prevalent and the paradigm worsens with the reduced staples to feed the planet.

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TJ Mabrey      THOUGHT and MEMORY
black marble      60 x 24 x 18 cm

THOUGHT and MEMORY

Huginn and Muninn
fly every day
over the vast earth.
I fear for Hugin
that he won’t return,
though I fear more for Munin.

The Lay of Grimnir. 20

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TJ Mabrey      EYE OF THE STORM
bronze      26 x 49.5 x 2 inches

a point in time

DEFINITION
A particular moment, as in 'At no point in time had they decided to leave the country', or 'The exact point in time when he died has not been determined.' Critics say this usage is wordy, since in most cases either point or time, along a continuum will suffice.

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TJ Mabrey      OGO'S BASKET
white Italian marble     18 x 18 x 10.5 inches

OGO'S BASKET

"Says Chicken Little:
The Sky is Falling
The Sky is Falling
and a piece of it
just hit me on the head."
Above excerpt from "Squaring the Circle" by poet, John Campion

This sculpture is titled OGO'S BASKET. The inscription circling it reads, "Squaring the Circle, Ogotemmeli's Plaited Basket Unwinds." Like a fortune teller, the person looking at the way the contents have fallen, might possibly conjure up a future, or explain the present.

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TJ Mabrey       WATER WORLD
white Italian marble      15 x 16 x 16 inches

WATER WORLD

"...nothing is fixed, forever and forever and forever
...the sea does not cease to
grind down rock."
- James Baldwin

In the near beginning of time, after things settled down on Earth, our planet was completely covered in water. Then volcanic lava and ash exploded from the center of the earth, creating land. After billions of years, life appeared.

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TJ Mabrey      THREE SISTERS
Pink Marble       14 x 14 x 8.25 inches
Photo by Kathleen Brennan

THREE SISTERS

The story behind TJ Mabrey’s sculpture THREE SISTERS is complicated as it relates to agriculture.

The human story is complicated. The history of agriculture is equally complex. Once our ancestors organized agriculture; they wanted to feed the world. With advances in science, chemical fertilizers became possible. Industrialization moved "forward."

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TJ Mabrey     POPPY POD
One of four sculptures in the Seeds of War Series
white Italian marble, iron element      16 x 6.25 x 6.25 inches

POPPY POD

Poppies are some of nature’s premier beauties. But that beauty belies the black nature of humans who put the pod of the poppy to malevolent use.

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TJ Mabrey     DOUBLE CONSCIOUSNESS
white Italian marble, 12 x 12 x 4 inches

DOUBLE CONSCIOUSNESS

The theory of a division of consciousness was touched upon by Carl Jung in 1935 when he stated, "The so-called unity of consciousness is an illusion... we like to think that we are one but we are not."

~~~~~~~

In the late 1800s, W.E.B. DuBois, described double consciousness as a peculiar sensation, a sense of always looking at one's self through the eyes of others, of measuring one's soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity; a feeling of "two-ness."

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TJ Mabrey     1-2-3 (Language)
yellow marble     20 x 6 x 10 inches

1-2-3 (Language)

Three pods loosely perched upon a pedestal, as in a Shell Game, with engravings of I's and 0's ordered in a particular configuration.A Mathematical Revelation?

A mathematician might examine the sequence as a number in the binary number system, (base 2), where there are only two numbers 0 and 1. To convert the entire sequence of 1's and 0's to a decimal number, the one we humans commonly use, you start from the far right. Each placeholder represents 2 raised to the power of the placeholder's position.

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TJ Mabrey      Brain Pod
white marble      13.75 x 9.5 x 7.5 inches

BRAIN POD

Ekphrastic
by Sawnie Morris

i.
Given an image that privileges the ear
over all else — a marble ear emerging
from an otherwise smooth marble head ––
the illusion of hearing as passive
is subsumed by an implied listening radiance.

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TJ Mabrey     STANDING MOUNTAINS with TEMPLE
Egyptian onyx, brick, mortar     11 H x 18 x 7.5 inches

Influence of Penjing on the Imagination

Dating back to at least the 1st Century AD, practitioners of Daoist mysticism endeavored to create landscape scenes in miniature - as when seeing human forms in mountains, as in these two pieces.

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TJ Mabrey      MEN ARE GRASS detail
glass, etched crystal, grass      approx. 45 x 34 x 60 inches
Photo: Kathleen Brennan

IT'S ENVIRONMENTAL, MY DEAR WATSON...

The syllogism of the form

Men die.
Grass dies.
Men are grass.

should not be dismissed as illogical or invalid.

To destroy one is to destroy the other.

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TJ Mabrey       BOUND BUD
white marble     13" x 7" x 7"
Left, front, Right, back.

BOUND BUD

bound and gagged
[ bound n gagd ]

WHAT DOES BOUND AND GAGGED MEAN?

Bound is a word we immediately recognize to describe things that are tied up, like the pages of a book, or being linked to other things or people by common values, such as 'we are bound together.' But it is also referred to in police reports to indicate a person that has been restrained...

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TJ Mabrey      WINTER LEMON
One of four sculptures in the Seeds of War Series
yellow sienna marble      8.25 x 6.25 x 10.25 inches

WINTER LEMON

DOES WINTER LEMON MEET THE ACID TEST?

If you've ever bitten into a lemon, or that slice of a lemon stuck on the side of your ice tea glass, you've experienced citric acid - a naturally occurring, weak acid, found in citrus fruit. Citric acid is used in a variety of products from household cleaners to disinfectants. It is used in personal care products, yet it can safely remove toxins from polluted soil and yes, even clean up nuclear waste.

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TJ Mabrey      Sprout DOA Patent Pending
yellow Egyptian marble 11 x 7 x 16 inches

DOA
Patent Pending

"We got along without seeds until about 350 million years ago when evolution finally produced one. Now, with few exceptions, we can’t get along without them.

During the decade I have been creating sculptural seeds and pods in marble and bronze, the impetus behind them has changed, but the fascination endures."

–TJ Mabrey

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