unfired terracotta sculpture 35 cm tall, by Chris Wayan, 2006
I meet a lot of winged cat-people in my dreams.
This woman, though, isn't a sketch of a dream-meeting. She illustrates a sort of waking dream--a planet I imagined where lightly built feline fliers like my dream-friends might plausibly evolve. The planet's named Lyr; the species, lebbirds. Lyr's huge, with seven Earth-masses, like an Earth-Neptune hybrid! The gravity turns out to be quite tolerable, about 1.2 G; you could walk on it. If you found any land to walk on, that is; Lyr's 95% sea! (Big worlds are likely to be water-rich. Air-rich, too; the surface pressure is 6 atmospheres! So flight is easy with modest-sized wings.) It's mostly a vast ocean, but Lyr's so big there's as much arable land as Earth--just widely scattered. Isolation's caused a lot of parallel evolution; this could almost be a portrait of a sphinx, a similar but totally unrelated species from islands 30,000 km away.
Now wait, I can't lie. Lyr's the only planet I've built exploring lebbird evolution and culture--but it wasn't the direct inspiration for this statue. I found a second scenario that might evolve lebbirds. It's just not on a planet, but a mere moon only a fourth the mass of Earth, orbiting a super-Jupiter (call it Zeus). Tidal stress has creased little Tharn with deep trenches; frequent impacts have punched deep craters. Such low-low-lowlands have dense air but weak gravity--ideal for large fliers, even better than Lyr!
So this sculpture's a portrait of a native of Mrr Trench, done with local culture in mind: their not-quite-worship of the not-quite-moon! It's hot down in these dense-aired trenches; but the nights are mild, and very bright--Zeus is a huge lamp in the sky (20 times wider than our moon, and over 1000 times brighter!). Earth primitives were all terracentric; but on Tharn, various tribes had three models: terracentrism, heliocentrism, or Zeusocentrism (it looks much bigger than the sun, after all!) Yes, modern lebbirds know they orbit their sun and don't worship Zeus as a goddess anymore, they can't help feeling awe and a very sensual delight at this gorgeous paisley lantern in their night sky, so bright you can see full color, so big it radiates palpable warmth. On Tharn you can close your eyes and feel the embrace of the Goddess--subtler than sunlight, and you certainly can't get a moon-tan, but this woman's enjoying being "tongue-washed by the Goddess" as her people say.
Sensual and spiritual both; and I hope it shows.
In both my scenarios, Lyr and Tharn, there are numerous intelligent species forming a worldwide civilization, not just one. The result is a mixture of what a cynical, warlike, go-it-alone species like humans might see as big-city sophistication and innocence. For example, neither society has any memory of war. It's not the result of saintliness, just one consequence of a multispecific culture. Perhaps warlike species lived in prehistoric times, but species that cooperated advanced faster; either victims eventually allied to drive the warriors into marginal lands, or pacifist minorities from species practicing war joined the worldwide civilization and outbred the warriors. Either way, warlike societies eventually went extinct--if any even existed. Fliers' bones are fragile; the fossil record is thin.
The sculpture itself? It's plain terracotta clay, unfired (so far; I hope to change that, for it's quite fragile as is; but I don't have easy access to a kiln right now). The figure's 35 cm tall (almost 14").
There's no armature (a skeleton of sticks or straws that'll burn off in a kiln)--it's pure clay. Probably the figure would be lighter and airier if I'd made an armature--unsupported, this is as thin as I could safely get. Too thin, really--the legs, tail and wings broke repeatedly and had to be redone.
The trouble was, I knew I'd change the proportions substantially as I worked, and didn't want to cut through an armature to do it. Pure clay left me free to add and cut anywhere... and I did. Still, next time I'll try an armature--rolled-up paper, though, not sticks. Easier to cut through if you must.
Much of the detail wasn't molded but carved away when the clay was leathery-dry--some when it was bone-dry.
Sorry the background is so busy; I couldn't find a plain dark cloth big enough. It'd have become busy anyway, pretty fast; the soft raw clay left dust and crumbling bits all over.
So fragile! When I photographed her, I lost a kilo in nervous sweat alone, waiting for her to break... Nope.
She stands today in a glass case, still unfired--I haven't yet found a kiln. Though in the long run my real ambition is to cast her in bronze.
LISTS AND LINKS: Two related sculptures: Vixentaur - Sphinx in Heat - two lebbird societies: Lyr and Tharn - animal people - sexy creatures - big cats - more flying cats? sphinxes! - flying dreams - a related sculpture group: Unicorn Orgy - dream sculpture in general -
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