M.L. SNOWDEN SCULPTURE
THE TERRESTRIAL FORUM
Rhexodus is a complex sculpture that dynamically projects multiple layers of meaning and message to create a significant statement for the art of bronze. Within its metal which is composed of smelted copper, silicon, tin, iron, lead, aluminum and manganese mixed with traces of gold, platinum and silver ores, lies a deep sense of power that is communicated through every frisson of detail that burgeons outward into an arresting visual impression. Within the sculptor’s larger body of bronzes, Rhexodus can be seen as charting a significant exploration of energy that establishes a new horizon for Snowden’s work. Within Rhexodus’s metal, the sculptor has enlarged the art of sculpture into new levels of creativity.
RHEXODUS: SCUPTURE AT THE MILLENNIUM
Because Fine Art is a product of man and is born within a period of time, it is an expression of its humanity in a historic context. Art is the visual record of its age. Begun in the fall of 2005, the completion of Rhexodus in 2006 marks it as a millennial work. Art in any period may be informative and attractive, but it requires a very special artistic command to imbue inert metal with a sense of spirit that elevates it beyond an object. And, likewise, it is a great work of sculpture that can transcend the overt intended message of the sculptor and touch upon a sense of universal truth. One may feel mountains moved or private thoughts realigned without probing how Snowden accomplishes gaining our attention in a work that is after all, almost of ton of bronze. One does not have to know the story or creative plot of Rhexodus to feel its energy. Yet, looking at Rhexodus for the first time, on discovering something of the essence of grandeur captured in metal, the viewer will no doubt feel inclined to enquire about the sculpture’s artistic inspiration.
RHEXODUS: A NOTE ON PLACEMENT
Over time, much has been written on the impact and influence collectors have over the final perception of a sculpture - where a work of art comes to be placed in relationship to furnishings, collectables and lighting, Indeed, the placement of a sculpture with other objects often influences the work in ways a sculptor never himself perceived. Whether illuminated by natural daylight, under halogen lamps or lit by other light sources, Rhexodus’s myriad planes viewed from different angles will reveal new aspects of the work. It is one of central perceptions of M.L. Snowden that sculpture, in being the most physical of all the arts, is also the most immaterial - for the perception of sculpture depends on the vagaries of atmosphere to reveal or conceal its mysteries. In Snowden’s view, sculpture is that great art that can house an indefinable ethos that stands radiant at the core of bronze.
Despite however many discussions may exist on the best way to display sculpture, in an overwhelmingly titanic work such as Rhexodus, there can be no doubt that this sculpture rests outside of time and space wherever it is destined to be placed. For it is not the actual impression of Rhexodus’s size, which is approximately three-quarter life scale, but rather, it is the nature of the artist’s intention and vision within the work that radiates the sculpture’s larger-than -life aura. Rhexodus creates its own existential time warp. Indeed, the emotion this sculpture evokes in us may very well come to exist apart from all that we come to learn about its rational program, its rational space and its rational scale. Within this context, Rhexodus is a bronze destined to reach out and engage people far into future times wherever the sculpture may come to be discovered.
RHEXODUS: THE VISUAL IMPRESSION
Rhexodus is an unabashedly gorgeous work. It is by turns enveloping, dramatic, profound and deeply moving as a physical statement apart from its program. Coming upon the sculpture for the first time, Rhexodus explodes with the optical impression of innumerable surfaces. The eye is arrested in capturing sculptural complexities radiated in nuances that seem to condense and refract light. In an organic sense, Rhexodus is like growing layers of diamond crystal that have abandoned their geometrical planes to warp into earthly elements of rock, water, fire and light itself. Snowden achieves a brilliant pearl nacre with the historic Fournier patina in Rhexodus as the eye immediately responds to the depth of the platinum which seems as energized and as silky as river rock. There is an almost electrical charge radiating from the sculpture through its smooth skin. In viewing Rhexodus, we are beckoned forward to stand at the threshold of an intense, tactile work filled with the prints of the sculptor’s living touches - impressions that invite the viewer to place their hands upon the sculpture just as the sculptor did in forming the work and by doing so, retrace something of its actual manual creation.
RHEXODUS: AN EXPRESSION OF GEOLOGICAL RHEXISTASY
The various contemplative layers of Rhexodus reflect the developing stages of meditation experienced by the sculptor in shaping the work. In touring the sculpture, the meanings and intentions of the artist may be intuited and creatively built upon by the viewer, adding additional perspectives to the bronze. Yet at its primary level, it is interesting to contemplate Rhexodus’s power through the window of its geological inspiration. At the outset, Rhexodus was formed around Snowden’s grasp of the concept of Rhexistasy - the mechanical disintegration of outgoing old soils and other surface materials which give rise to new formations of surface terrain. Within this concept of geological deformation, the sculpture is an imaginative exodus of bronze, generating four magnetic surges of break-up that explode across the face of the compass defining the north, east, west and southern polarities relative to however the sculpture is placed. Within this detonation, arenas of figuration radiate energy states that for the sculptor, define universal cyclical growth patterns. The four figures which can be seen as the four directions of the compass, while appearing as separate depictions, express related stages of development and emerge in the mind of the sculptor as one in the same entity.
RHEXODUS: AN EXPRESSION OF CYCLICAL GROWTH PATTERNS
As suggested on its most primary level, Snowden imaginatively reflects upon universal growth patterns. The sculptor establishes within the tall figure rising at the Northern end of the bronze, a summary of energy that describes an inception and a beginning of all that lies ahead. The expression of this pivotal first figure contains an unguarded stance that characterizes it as an offering or supplicant at the first stage of growth.
Turning to the left, a figure charged with self absorbed force expressed as a supreme motion of inner lassitude commands the western quadrant. Within this figure, Snowden is able to communicate a deep sense of inner preoccupation threaded through the extended arm and hand seemingly drawn from the depths of the bronze. Within this almost downcast figure is written the pause that often comes before momentous growth and action.
Touring to the opposing side, the sculpture has evolved into a moment of supreme activity wiring through the dynamic engine of the hand and the action of the figure. Here a portrait of intense growth is cast by the sculptor whose artistic intention is deeply felt in every muscle and sinew of this striving figure.
Revolving around the sculpture, we come upon the final Southern perspective of Rhexodus; an ultimate burst of acceptance; an image of destruction in radiance; a point of transformation; an end born of a beginning that is eternally set within the bronze. Here in this final figure, the aged husk or seed is portrayed as never quite before in all the works of Snowden. Indeed, Rhexodus is the first sculpture in Snowden’s oeuvre to depict the markings of ageing and the turnings of the seasons that mark much of created substance in the physical universe.
RHEXODUS: THE CONCEPTUAL DESIGN
Here in this Southern quadrant, the aged figure reasserts the alpha-omega polarization for each side of the sculpture. Within this reading of the sculpture that considers opposite side to opposite side, the abstract artistic composition of Rhexodus is able to be analyzed. The plan view of the composition of the sculpture forms a quincunx that appears as a nexus or equidistant cross expressed as a “+.” Within this metaphysical diagram, the four energy summaries expressed as figures in Rhexodus - the North ( Inception) ; the West ( Condensing of Force) ; The East ( Actualization); The South (Seed) - are positioned at the outermost points of the compass, with a magnetic conceptual heart forming the fifth point hidden in the depths of the central sculptural mass, taking on the five point quincunx which appears as “:•:” For the sculptor, the five pointed quincunx forms the most powerful of all constructs and was the underlying theoretical basis of Snowden’s Main Altar of the $200 million Los Angeles Cathedral. In Rhexodus, while the mass of the sculpture is not overtly formalized appearing almost gestural and explosive, in Snowden’s words, “the sculpture contains the tremendous positive power of the quincunx nexus that seems to breath energy in and out of itself expressing the creative breath of life.”
RHEXODUS: A TRANSFORMATION TOWARD ENLIGHTENMENT
In the conceptual eyes of the sculptor, Rhexodus describes the journey of the soul into stages of overcoming grief - the rising of humankind into the light. The sculpture forms a vehicle for personal expression and release and quickly moves to an initial state of awareness within the frontal figure, advancing to an internalized state of inner realization on the left; to an outward expression of action on the right; and finally, to an acceptance. Rhexodus can be seen to house stages of burden toward enlightenment. Whatever personal meaning Rhexodus may communicate, there can be no doubt of the cycle of energy that comes full circle within the sculpture that resonates with the artist’s mantra for this bronze: “the moment of destruction births the seeds of renewal.”
RHEXODUS: DELINEATING ASPECTS OF THE LIFE OF MOSES
As Snowden evolved the concept of the sculpture, the geological concept of Rhexistasy - the breakup of the foundations of the earth that form new earthly structures- began to suggest for the sculptor, an exodus of larger proportions in terms of substance and meaning filled with biblical grandeur and pathos. In Snowden’s design, the exodus of tons of earth became redefined as Rhexodus; an inspiration that the four stages of explosive energy sequences described within the sculpture were most deeply connected to defining the life of Moses described in the book of Exodus.
As Rhexodus, the sculpture began to take on an even greater sense of kaleidoscopic unity. All four figure energy summaries seemed to coalesce into unified portraits of Moses through the notable stages of his life and seemed to enlarge the calling of the sculpture to embody stages of growth and enlightenment. In the topmost figure, the highest in the group, Moses, in the eyes of the sculptor, has become “ Prince.” For the artist, this quadrant has become “The Anointed One;” filled with the knowledge of birthright and the appointment Moses is called to undertake in order to bring his people out of bondage. Not enough can be said for the shouldering of this destiny seen in the tension of the disbalanced shoulders and the offering stance of the figure. The hands of “The Prince-The Anointed One” are in a subtle mudra, as if Moses had just awakened from a dream of innocence into the magnitude and burden of his calling.
Evolving from this vision, Snowden has formed the rended portrait of “Moses in the Desert” - a figural summary of inner contemplation and even pain. Yet even within this self consumed rending of spirit is a graceful sense of innate nobility; that the best of mankind lies dormant and wilted as it collects itself toward a renewed state of vigor. If this stage has become guarded and hoarded as a response to trauma, the opposing bay of “Moses as Lawgiver” is robustly drawn in action. Here, every tendon delivers the Decalogue with surety of purpose and commitment, radiating vibrant strength. Moses within this evocation is not a staid pillar but rather comes forward alive with the majesty of his appointment.
Coming upon the final figure, Snowden has shaped “Moses As Vessel of God.” The shell-like characteristics of old age are set within this figure that sinks back as a beacon within a throne of final power. Indeed, Moses is seen within this quadrant imbued with the force to part the Red Sea; or possessed of the power that explodes a nimbus elevating the structure of the bronze.
RHEXODUS: A PHYSICAL EXPRESSION OF KEPLER’S LAW
Within Rhexodus, Snowden has gone further to shape profound meditations on the gestural nature of sculptural formation as it relates to the harmonics of soil and rock disintegration. Rhexodus as a sculptural meditation, expresses M.L. Snowden’s central idea that the very substance of humankind, stars, planetary masses and bronze are created of the same interrelated yet differently arranged elements. But for Snowden, these concepts extend out, expressing within Rhexodus not only an interrelation of materials but also interrelated harmonics: every bronze undulation of Rhexodus shares the same numeric mathematical ratios as ocean waves, rose petals; the spacing of leaf systems of plants; the spacing of the planets; the human arterial system; the spacing of the notes on the musical diatonic scale - and the spacing of the strokes of the sculptor’s fingers upon the work. Within the context of the structural program of Rhexodus, it is possible to come to the realization that the sculpture of M.L. Snowden is the physical house of the numeric ratios of Kepler’s Law and Rhexodus is its mansion.
RHEXODUS: A SCULPTURAL CONSTRUCT OF “YOD”
Within deeply applied gestures of the sculptor’s hands upon the work, mathematical harmonics naturally arise and it is only in retrospect in looking over the work, that profound formations can be seen to have been created. One of the most significant is Snowden’s appraisal that formations within the work relate to the basic gestural sequences shaping the earliest biblical Rabbinical texts. In examining this idea, it is possible to consider the abstract jets of bronze that curve out as “,” from each side of the hands of “Moses As Law Giver” as well as from the hands of “ Moses As Vessel of God.” For the artist in retrospect, these two figures are advanced in the calendar of Moses’s spirituality and they contain special markings. Neither “Moses As Prince- The Anointed One” nor “Moses In The Desert” have these formations yet when we consider “Moses As Lawgiver” extending his hand - we can see that each cordon of bronze molded in the shape of an “,” seems to underscore the energetic action of the figure. (As an aside, it is noteworthy that in Snowden’s Rhexodus, Moses delivers his action forward with just one hand - not with both - which has great scriptural and metaphysical significance in the delivery of the Commandments which the onlooker may be inspired to further explore in his own biblical researches.)
Here in Rhexodus, Moses appears not with the sapphire Tablets of the Decalogue in both hands but rather with one extended hand and this proferred hand along with his opposing fist is marked with a “,” - a sculptural depiction of “Yod” - the first most holy calligraphic mark underlying all the characters of the Hebrew language from the VAV marking to the TSADEH and PEH. When we consider that all Hebrew characters that put flesh to the Ten Commandments in the Book of Exodus and all the books of the Bible - are built upon the essential “,” or “Yod,” its underlying presence in Rhexodus becomes more apparent. Indeed, Rhexodus has come into creation along a natural intuition of the artist to express in three dimensional sculptural formation, the two dimensional calligraphic “Yod.” According to Snowden, she created the “,” as a gestural emphasis but then was able to stand back and realize its presence and significance after completion of the work.
RHEXODUS AND THE ESSENCE OF “YOD”
The “Yod” mark, the smallest of the Hebrew letters, is considered in the Jewish mystical tradition to be the “atom” of consonants. It is first shaped in the cursive version by a single dot or pointil expressed as “.” that drops to create a hook or VAV “,” finishing with its curved underscore. The first mark a Rabbinical scribe makes when he puts ink to paper forming the “Yod” is a dot and this point stands for the moment of universal creation or the starting point of the presence of God in all creation; the “Spark” of the spirit in everything. In fact, the literal translation of the “Yod” means “the spirit of God in all creation.”
Once the “Yod” is found within the hands of Moses, it is possible to see all the innumerable “Yod’s” large and small that make up the surfaces of Rhexodus, just as all the letters of the Hebrew alphabet are composed of the“Yod.” “Yod” formations curve in energy arcs that form the “esplendor” or nimbus of the elderly “Moses As A Vessel of God;” striations which rise up to depict the parting of the Red Sea. In this explosion, energy is expressed as the pointil detonation embedded in the bronze behind Moses’s head and the exploding rays express energy release not as straight tangential lines but as curved arcs much as Einstein expressed the curved nature of space, or the curved nature of energy expressed as light. Indeed, as we consider and tour the work, it is possible to see that all the grand energy releases and sequences in Rhexodus are curved “Yod” cords of energized bronze. Even the musculature of the physical expression of this work is composed of “Yods” that have been fused to the point it is impossible to tell where they begin and end. Indeed, for the sculptor, the “Yod” is the structural schema underlying every detail of human anatomy expressed within Rhexodus. And, such is the beauty of the chasing of Rhexodus that all the dot points of the thousands of welds embedded in their vaporized energy trails looking like “,’s” have become invisible yet essential to the larger structure.
RHEXODUS: SPANNING THE BRIDGE OF HISTORY
Rhexodus has been sculpted by Snowden into new levels of metallurgical virtuosity The hands alone, exhibit dramatic energy sequences in extending the route of energy patterns emanating from abstract coronas within the bronze. Rhexodus’s tremendous centralized weight is offset by delicate balances of foliate layers that describe harmonic ratios yet also at the same time promote the overall structural integrity of the sculptural mass. M.L. Snowden invented the protocols and specific foundry wax that makes the casting of Rhexodus possible. The deep complexity and undercuts of the bronze mark it as a unique original hand welded and chased casting. From important roots in the Paris studios of Rodin and Antonin Mercié, Snowden brings to Rhexodus the touch of the historic Rodin tools that were used to shape the dynamic, immortal planes of the sculpture. In particular, Snowden used the #9 loop tool to inscribe the delicate details of the facial features and the interstices of the fingers.
In the hands of M.L. Snowden, Rhexodus is a sculpture of technical brilliance and depth that even with a philosophical and compositional explanation, retains its larger mystery as an art work. Over time, Rhexodus’s meaning and message will continue to unfold, revealing the power of bronze to form an unfading bridge into time. It is heir to the great bronzes of history that speak through millennia, transcending the era in which they were created to communicate a universal language across time.