Collection: Transcend

New works by Wendy Mike

Transcend is also the title of my installation for the new Colorado Springs orthopedic hospital, St Francis Interquest. This commission, featuring five life-sized rock-climbing figures, has dominated my life for some time. Finding the word overused and perhaps trite, I resisted it at first. Yet the more I thought about it, the more accurate it seemed. When I found that” transcend” has at its root the meaning “climb,” I gave in. Plus “send” happens to be how climbers refer to completing a route!

Lately it is as if I have been living in the eye of a hurricane: move too far out of the center and get blown away. My art and yoga practices have kept me grounded. Maintaining an absolute and exact presence; being truly “present,” has been both exhausting and exhilarating. As heartbreak, chaos, rage, mounting seen and unforeseen responsibilities swirl around me, I must focus, center, carry on. Transcend.

Compositionally, working on the installation Transcend has caused me to explore the boundaries of the human form, my materials and my craft. Rock climbing demands some pretty gnarly postures from the body, requiring great strength, concentration and discipline. Preparing for the installation by creating the two maquettes and the final figures themselves has been a task I might not have attempted had it not been for this commission. As ever devoted to the human form, the challenge to further crack the code of anatomy: how it all works and fits together in some intense, dynamic postures, has been a wild ride!

These figures are not, for me, “idealized.” Actually they are quite generic – the same body over and over again. I’m not commenting on body image; but seeking a possibility, a human potentiality. How far can I push the body? How compelling can it be without crossing the line into being either grotesque or innocuous? The skeleton is, after all, decisive. It dictates the finished form. No matter the body type. These works are not individuals, likeness or portrait. They are what is underneath/within all people: bone and muscle stripped down to their essence.

Working largely intuitively, I rarely understand the art I make until after it is finished or at least underway. Inevitably it involves risk, curiosity, wonder, challenge, pushing the limits, stumbling into whatever stretches and grows my work, and me. I have found that having something other than my thoughts to obsess over has been key to well-being. What’s given me perspective on the contents of my head is getting outside of it.

Ultimately I create art because the experience makes me come alive. Howard Thurman said, “Ask not what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive. And then do it. For what the world needs is people who have come alive.” Attending to this then, if one is privileged to do so, becomes a kind of responsible political act, a sociological imperative, a sacred task.