|Business end of Karamojong
spear (about 6 inches)
The combination of dark steel head and tail (glinting with silver highlights where worn and polished), with amber wooden shaft and hard rawhide edge sheath is a study in contrasting materials. The tapering steel tail is perfectly balanced visually with the curving razor edges of the point. And the art to be appreciated in this spear is not visual only.
|Joinery of hand-forged steel
socket and wooden shaft, secured
with hot-melt animal glue
The heft of the spear's mass is satisfying but surprisingly light. The balance is exceptional as gripping the wooden shaft in its center so verifies. The feel of the wooden shaft is incredibly smooth, yet it is hard to imagine it slipping out of the hand, as the diameter perfectly suits the encircling fingers and palm. Shaking the spear activates the weapon system's substantial flexibility and toughness. This is a sculptural work of the highest order. And it can defend and disseminate justice to boot.
|North American scraping knife
and simple arrow point,
(circa 18-19th century?)
A gentleman was holding up a large (10-12 inches long) stone object that apparently had been recently made by himself. As I looked at it closely, it was clear that the object had been made by some flint-knapping technique. But, Oh, WHAT technique! <<Note: I have searched for a photo of this creation but come up empty, so it is not represented here.>>
|"Tiny" piece of the Mandlebrot
Some years after seeing this astounding piece of art, I came across what was probably the inspiration for such a work. There are many (dozens, maybe hundreds) of examples of Mayan archeological artifacts that have been referred to as "eccentric flints." These objects are knife-like flint-knapped ornaments (I hesitate to call them tools) that almost defie description. Many of them possess the same doubly (or even triply) detailed edges like a fractal pattern. One of the most interesting I have come across is in the possession of the Dallas Museum of Art.
|CROCODILE CANOE WITH PASSENGERS, eccentric flint
© Dallas Museum of Art
This kind of art has totally transcended any notion of functionalism. These flints were most probably prized by kings and priests as representative and declarative of their positions of power. These were treasures no longer useful for the practical purpose of cutting something, but instead, were so highly valued simply because they were so rare, so beautiful, and so improbable. The extraordinary difficulty of making such a piece guaranteed that it possessed some power of its own, and perhaps could even bestow some of that power upon its owner.
This brings us back to a central question of "why art?" Perhaps part of our appreciation of and desire to own art is that we, too, desire to somehow have "rub off" on us the power of the art that we so admire– that somehow the beauty and attraction of art can become our own personal attributes as well.