THESIS STATEMENT THESIS STATEMENT
SUSAN R. ROBINSON

April, 1994

"To see a world in a grain of sand
and a heaven in a wildflower
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
and eternity in an hour?"

William Blake


(It's been 15 years since I graduated. After all this time, I've decided to pick out a few things of interest to me and dump the rest...)


SANCTUARY. . .

Human beings have a long and rich history of creating sacred places. From Anasazi kivas to Gothic cathedrals,. . . man has built an environment to suit his spiritual needs. For a lot of people, the ancient traditions are still a powerful source of inspiration, but for some, although still valuable, they lack a modern perspective. As Joseph Campbell said, "We in the West have named out God; or rather, we have had the godhead named for us in a book from a time and place that are not our own". In my sanctuary I am attempting to create a space for our own time, based on what I perceive our needs to be.

In this sanctuary, the accent is on interactive experience gained through exploration of the space. Joseph Campbell, an expert on mythology, said people need to seek out "one's own experience: not [have] faith in someone else's". This sanctuary requires the participant to physically search the space with a small flashlight for objects, textures and images that allude to the mystery of life on earth, and beyond. The limited length of the flashlight beam demands a closer scrutiny of the space and increases the intimacy within the structure. One can not merely shuffle along a traditional museum wall and view the area. Our culture has transformed us into passive viewers and insatiable consumers. We watch TV, listen to the radio, watch sports with religious devotion, and passively glide through galleries and museums, consuming information, but gaining no experience. However, in this installation, the idea of the traditional viewer is obsolete.

It is difficult to talk about specific areas or images since the environment will not be completed until I actually install it. This is the riskiest project I have ever undertaken. There were three main stages in the construction phase. Each phase took on its own personality throughout the process, and I was worried about unifying all three stages. This attempt to totally unify all three stages was
severely limiting the possibilities of new ideas finding their way into the piece. This created a wide range of emotions which included frustration and fear, punctuated by
feelings of anger, entrapment, and futility. Unless I wanted to feel like this for the whole year, I had to surrender some control of the outcome to chance and trust the process of art and my intuition. Therefore, the outcome will very likely be a mixed bag of successes and failures.

Texture is of utmost concern. That is why I choose to keep the natural achromatic quality of the clay and paper mixture. The small amount of color that is present will be a surprise, since in the
muted light of the space the color cannot be seen until a beam of light directly hits the object.

The traditional materials for sculpture are stone, wood, clay and metal. I'm using all of those materials in this structure. Wood and metal provide the structural support and integrity, but their presence is not hidden. Stone is present in small amounts, both in its natural state and also transformed by human machines. The use of clay was the most challenging aspect in this project. The problem was how to manipulate the media of choice to do what I wanted it to do. Mixing paper pulp with the clay was the answer. This provided me with an extremely versatile medium. I could build small or large, fire it or not, and with the added help of muslin, create large, sturdy sheets of clay.

Clay is an inorganic substance, but to me, it brings everything to life. Man attempts to answer the fundamental questions "Who am I?", "Where did I come from?" and "Where am I going?" through religion, art, and science. It is my belief that in order to survive we must find a way to integrate religion, art and science into a new set of beliefs which will guide us through the twenty first century and beyond. Albert Einstein believed God "to be essentially the sum total of the physical laws which describe the universe" (Broca's Brain, p. 330). The physical laws of the universe created us from the atoms of dead stars. New scientific evidence suggests clay may have acted as a catalyst to form RNA (Ribonucleic Acid), a molecule that controls chemical activity within cells. Thus began our creation myth. What a rich history all living things share in this evolutionary journey! This sanctuary is a repository for my interpretaion of the basic building blocks of life that are present on earth, and are abundant in the universe as well.


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Last update: November 2009- Milwaukee, WI