I sketched in clay a family member for the first time--my Great Grandma Helen Akfakorak Konig. With a project in mind to cross my sculpting of ceramic masks and bronze figures, I'm building the sketch into a mask that will be cast in bronze. It is inspired by this fuzzy photo detail of Great Grandma.
To me the sketch resembled Great Grandma only loosely so I was surprised when my mom responded to it with excitement. "You are finally looking to the faces of our family in your sculpting!” She said she could see "lovely Auntie Helen" somewhere in the sketch.
As I have sculpted out Great Grandma’s face, I've had remarkable experiences. I have discovered with my hands some humor in her eyes that I missed viewing photos. I've smiled and laughed spontaneously with her while working clay. Seeing and feeling her visage emerge in three dimensions here in my studio, has for brief moments merged past with present, abstraction with substance, my conception of culture lost with the truth of my culture-bearers living still in the meat of me and in what I make of this life.
I have experienced connection when a curve of clay here shaped memory in my heart of the gentle features of Aunt Patty who passed so harshly and young; or a carve away there focused my mind’s eye on my namesake, Aunt Theresa, who is likely in her barn along the river today, brushing horses or tending to cows and chickens in the day’s snow.
I aspire to make proud my relatives past, present, and future as I continue to work on this mask. I hope it carries their way a smile and a glimpse of our enduring connection.
My progress on the mask to date...