Wabi-Sabi Sculpture

Art is basic and unique to the human experience.  Creating Art is inherently something humans must do.  All cultures have art in one form or another.  Art is a reflection of culture.  All cultures have their own aesthetics.  The world is dominated by Western Culture so we are mostly aware of the Western aesthetic of the perfection of beauty.  But there are other ways of seeing beauty just as valid.

Wabi-Sabi is an ancient Japanese aesthetic and way of living that focuses on finding beauty in the imperfections of life and accepting peacefully the impermanence of things.  It is the beauty of things modest and humble and the beauty of things unconventional.

Wabi-Sabi written in Japanese

“Wabi-Sabi nurtures all that is authentic by acknowledging three simple realities: nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect”

The Way of Tea

The tea ceremony even in its preciseness allows and celebrates the beauty of imperfection.  Sen no Rikyu (16th century) was a tea master who is considered to have had the most profound influence on the tea ceremony or ‘Way of Tea’.  Here is a story about a lesson he gave one of his students.

In one of Kyoto’s majestic gardens, Rikyu asked his disciple to prepare for tea ceremony. The young man trimmed the hedges, raked the gravel, picked the dried leaves from the stones, cleared the moss path of twigs. The garden looked immaculate: not a blade of grass out of place. The master inspected the garden quietly. Then, he reached at a branch of a maple tree and shook it, watching the auburn leaves fall with haphazard grace on tidied earth. There it was now, the magic of imperfection. There it was, the order of nature. There it was, Wabi-Sabi.

 Aesthetics and Art that 'Speak' to You

It's really interesting when you survey all the various forms of art; sculpture, painting, ceramics, performing arts, literature, etc., to have the experience of feeling like individual pieces ‘speak’ to you.  You feel a certain affinity towards them.  This of course not only happens with individual pieces but also with whole artistic aesthetics.   

Personally, I have found myself drawn to the Japanese aesthetic of Wabi-Sabi for quite some time, long before I became aware of it as an actual philosophy or discipline to be practiced and appreciated.  I can remember in my teens thinking about the beauty of rustic images and the appreciation of aged found objects.  A few years later in my early 20’s I began to make kinetic art pieces, mobiles from driftwood and broken shells I would find at the beach (I live near the Gulf of Mexico).  I gave them away as gifts.  I got some interesting looks I have to say. 

kinetic art with found objects

 

art mobile made with found objects

 

art mobile created with found objects

 

I believe it was this affinity towards the Wabi-Sabi aesthetic that lead me to my appreciation of the beauty in aged artifacts, which in turn led me to the study of Anthropology.  During my art career, I have always wanted to bring my love of Anthropology into my passion for creating artwork.  I had a few ideas but nothing really excited me until I started to make those found object mobiles again about 5 years ago. 

kinetic art created with found objects

 

art mobile created with found objects

 

art mobile created with found objects

 

kinetic art created with found objects

 

art mobile created with found objects

 

art mobile created with found objects

 

The Wabi-Sabi inspired Sculptures

Then I began to make sculptures from found objects and everyday construction materials. I have enjoyed the whole process of developing this line of work.  Once I had ‘discovered’ the Wabi-Sabi philosophy and began to study it, I realized I had been aligned with it my whole life.  At that point my work took on a new and deeper meaning for me.

I would say that the works are not strictly total Wabi-Sabi from a Japanese perspective but rather heavily inspired by the Wabi-Sabi aesthetic.  And I couldn’t be happier about the whole thing.

 The Wabi-Sabi Collection 

This first piece is titled ‘Brake’.  Including the base, it measures 44 inches high, 16 inches wide and 7 inches deep.  Made from found objects and construction materials.

Wabi-Sabi sculpture created with construction materials and found objects

 

Wabi-Sabi sculpture created with construction materials and found objects

A closer look...

Wabi-Sabi sculpture created with construction materials and found objects

 

Wabi-Sabi sculpture created with construction materials and found objects

 

This next piece is called ‘Chain’.  Including the base, it measures 49 inches high, 7.5 inches wide and 12 inches deep.  Made from found objects and construction materials.

 

Wabi-Sabi art created with construction materials and found objects

 

Wabi-Sabi art created with construction materials and found objects

 

Wabi-Sabi artwork created with construction materials and found objects

Wabi-Sabi artwork created with construction materials and found objects

 

Wabi-Sabi artwork created with construction materials and found objects

 

A challenge in creating these freestanding sculptures is to make them so each side is equally engaging.  They are designed to be viewed in the round as opposed to wall sculptures. 

Speaking of which, here is a recent wall sculpture.  Titled ‘Nailed’, it measures 19.5 inches high, 3.5 inches wide and 1.5 inches deep.  It’s made from construction materials and found objects.

 

Wabi-Sabi wall sculpture created with construction materials and found objects

Wabi-Sabi wall sculpture created with construction materials and found objects

Wabi-Sabi wall sculpture created with construction materials and found objects

 

I recently completed a series of small desktop sculptures.  This first one is called ‘Could be a Bone’.  It measures 10 inches high, 9.5 inches wide and .75 inches deep.  The piece sits on a marble base.

Wabi-Sabi desktop sculpture created with construction materials and found objects

 

Wabi- Sabi desktop sculpture created with construction materials and found objects

 

This next one is titled ‘Three Things’.  It measures 6 inches high, 5 inches wide and 1.75 inches deep.  It is made from construction materials and found objects.  It sits on a marble base.

Wabi-Sabi desktop sculpture  created with construction materials and found objects

 

Wabi-Sabi desktop sculpture created with construction materials and found objects

 

Wabi-Sabi sculpture created with construction materials and found objects

 

The last small one I would like to show you is titled ‘Plaster’.  It measures 3.75 inches high, 3.25 inches wide and 1.5 inches deep, this sits on a marble base.  On this piece the front and back are basically the same.

Wabi-Sabi desktop sculpture created with construction materials and found objects

 

Wabi-Sabi sculpture created with construction materials and found objects

I love, love, love these small Wabi-Sabi sculptures.  They are like precious jewels to me.

I also have created several pieces between the small ones and larger ones.  This next piece is an example of that titled ‘Remember’.  Including the base, it measures 25.5 inches high, 8 inches wide and 5.25 inches deep.  It is made from construction materials and found objects.

Wabi-Sabi sculpture created with construction materials and found objects

 

Wabi-Sabi sculpture created with construction materials and found objects

 

This next photo shows a detail.  It’s not unusual to find pieces of shark’s teeth, manatee or turtle bone while walking the beach.  This is a piece of turtle bone I found.

 

Wabi-Sabi sculpture

 

I like finding small stones also.  The top two are from North Carolina which I found on a hike, the third one is from the beach.

 

Wabi-Sabi sculpture

 

I hope you have enjoyed seeing the Wabi-Sabi sculptures I have created.  I will be showing them more and more going forward.

 

See the current Wabi-Sabi sculpture collection here.

2 comments

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Robert Schott

Thanks Jay. There is definitely a strong appeal to the Wabi-Sabi aesthetic, I am glad you liked the new work.

Jay Boyle

Thank you for the explanation of the Wabi-Sabi art form. I find many of these works of art attractive and “handsome” in a way that is difficult to describe. Keep up the good work Robert Schott!

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