Marble. 1983. 5″ high plus base. Private Collection.
For years, I carried small sculptures and simple carving and surfacing tools with me wherever I went in the university. In meetings, PhD exams, and other events where it was important for me to listen well and speak only when I had something to say, I would spread a towel and quietly sand while we did our thing…
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I completed Defiance that way, as I completed many others – – meeting by meeting and especially in office hours. I remember how it felt to slide my thumb along the forming concavity of this piece, building its shape into and out of my body, modifying it by my movements. Stroke by quiet, easy stroke, pushing sandpaper, slow avalanches of dust tumbled to the towel. Paradoxically, occupying my body in carving helped me listen better and made me better able to know when to say things and much more effective when I did.
Magic! What’s most magic for me in this is that forms like Defiance can emerge from such a process.
Twenty years later, the Vice President of my university and I laughed about this. I sanded rocks in meetings and she painted beautiful watercolour pictures. We thought that was wonderful! For how I got started carving sculptures while teaching and more about Maria Klawe, the mathematician–painter–administrator, now university president who paints, see Secrets of Silence in the Classroom.