Timothy R Poe Studio

Art courts the physic, we respond to color emotionally and intellectually. Color, form and symbols, natural or man made are interpreted by way of our particular culture, we all feel and reason by way of subjective and objective experience. Visual reflection carries one to the reflection of the conscience and sub conscience mind, a multi layered experience of thought and feeling. These windows of abstract color, form and reflection employed in my current primary medium of Abstract Eglomise’ with reflective elements, are something of a behind the looking glass experience, a photo-intrinsic mosaic, where neuroscience and imagination create opportunity for personal introspection, consideration of other dimensional planes just out side of our present existence.  Our physical form, a composite of all known elements of our universe and while looking through the glass, one might consider the origin of our existence, we notice ourselves, in the art, a reflection of creation.

A experiential transition to my current style of Abstract Eglomise’ with Reflective Elements / reverse painting on plate glass mirror began in 1994 when the Birmingham Museum of Art sponsored an exhibition of the Pilchuck Glass School Artists featuring Dale Chihuly. The summer of the same year I attended a session at the Pilchuck Glass School in Seattle to study lead crystal casting techniques. Two years later, after completing a B.A. in Art Studio at the University of Alabama in Birmingham, I began my tenure as fine artist.  June of 1996 I established a hot glass / multi media studio in two spaces’ of the former Republic Steel facility in the confines of Wade Sand & Gravel here in Birmingham.  Robin and Caroline Wade provided the space where today I continue my work. In 2005 my primary medium was cast and blown glass, it was my ninth year at the Republic Steel Works Studio, pondering the what next, what would be the next style and or medium to explore? In the spring of 2005, a local interior designer contacted me to ask if I could antique a large mirror for her home? “ I have never done this Betty but, will give it a try… just for you”! Through experimentation and a few serendipitous experiences, I discovered a unique way to tarnish the reflective coating on plate glass mirror, I developed an alkaline gel that allowed the reflective coating to tarnish / etch without using acid.  This was the initial introduction of my efforts to create the look of an aged / distressed mirrored surface using new plate glass mirror, making a positive impact on the world of design and the lives of those who have adopted the techniques to produce unique objects that reflect light, project light and color, the reflective coating of the mirror became an element of design, perhaps an 8th element… My current style of Abstract Eglomise’ with Reflective Elements / reverse painting on plate glass mirror came out of this antique mirror experience, incorporating experience of previous years of decorative and  abstract painting and sculpture into a unique proprietary style of art.

I continue to find opportunity to work in various mediums, and hope to discover additional new techniques with, cast glass, metal, wood, multi-media compositions, painting and photography.

My Tenure as a resident artist at Wade Sane & Gravel

During my youth, a desire to live my life as an artist was ever-present.  To create never before seen objects with paint and canvas, bronze and glass, the expression of the idea, not completely understood but realized?  Finding this ideal place, this state of mind took time and desire! The opportunity presented itself just after completing a BA in Art Studio at the University of Alabama in Birmingham, I was 40. While a student there I had heard of the former Republic Steel facility in the confines of Wade Sand and Gravel here in Birmingham and that the owners, Robin & Caroline Wade were offering spaces in the facility for use as artists’ studios. June 6, 1996, I met Robin Wade for the first time and we toured the Republic Steel facility founded May 18, 1888, during the height of the industrial revolution, although more than a century later, a dormant icon of steel and fire brick. Most of the network of building waste was intact, deteriorating although restoration was possible for some that could be used as studio spaces. One of the last buildings we inspected on that day was the former coal testing lab with an adjacent shed, C. 1895. The 40 x 80 ft. shed was a cover for the coal cars that deposited loads of coal for testing and then processed to produce Coke, a pure form of carbon when ignited and stoked with forced air could burn at temps over 3000 degrees F drawing iron from ore!

These two buildings would become my studio spaces, I restored the 16’ x 60’ brick building built by Italian brick masons and then constructed my equipment incorporating implements found in and around the facility, it took a little over six months. From this time and forward for nine years I produced sculpture, multi-media compositions, my primary mediums were cast glass combined with bronze and wood. The metaphorical connections and symbolism for most of these compositions referenced the past, present, and future manufacturing processes. How our lives are affected by these processes and the environmental impact of the materials used to produce the finished products. During my tenure as the first resident artist to establish a studio in the coal testing lab buildings of the Republic Steel facility, Robin Wade asked if I would be the liaison between himself and other artists whom I might find to restore other buildings to be used as studio spaces. I maintained this position for 24 years. And after then I…? Well,  life is after all about change…

During the summer of 2005, I changed course and developed new techniques for tarnishing the reflective surface of plate glass mirrors, including the discovery of a process to convert dry sulfurated potash into a stable gel form.  This discovery created a niche small business, “Mirrortique” and I was involved with the production of antique mirror objects until 2013. My occupancy at the Republic Steel Studio remained intact although with infrequent visits during this time.  My current primary medium, Eglomise’ with Reflective Elements / reverse painting on plate glass mirror was initiated and then developed during this time with ‘Mirrortique’. I am albeit unsure if other artists have been influenced/inspired by my work with reflective elements of plate glass mirrors although, I had no prior knowledge of other artists working in this medium until after I had introduced these techniques and compositions from 2006.  If other artists were inspired by my work then, I would be very happy to know this!  In 2013 I reestablished my efforts at the Republic Steel facility and continue to produce two-dimensional art with plate glass mirrors, multimedia sculptures, and then a recent entrepreneurial project developing a new design of a one-piece wood baseball bat, phibats.com. Maintaining my presence at the coal testing lab facility in the confines of Wade Sand & Gravel, I continue to produce objects of art from plate glass mirror / Eglomise’ w Reflective Elements.

8th Element of Design

 Early in 2013, I began to advocate for the reflective surface as an 8th element of design for interior and exterior spaces.  Where the reflective surface, a mirror, polished metal, clear glass, or water should be inclusive as an 8th element; co-joining the 7 established elements of design, line, shape, space, value, form , texture, and color; accepting the reflective surface as a standard design tool for utilizing function and form in an interior and or exterior living space. Please see here my petition for an additional archetypal element of design…an 8th element, the reflective surface.  

    Reflection is an inherent / integral element of design woven into the balance of nature itself. How does the human eye perceive the world, how we feel and experience the natural world inclusive of the reflective surface?  Sight, the first of the five senses allows perception by way of a ray of light / electrons reflecting from an object, back onto the retina of the eye and further back onto the occipital lobe of the brain where the object is  processed into shape and form.  Most humans perceive the world with five senses although, proportional relationships of organic & inorganic things are innately and most often understood by sight. We recognize objects and associate this recognition with reason, recognizing an object or thing by way of its form and function, our human form for instance has a reciprocal mathematical balance of all organic & inorganic things on earth.   Physical matter joined in a cohesive bond of dinergy, an across, through and opposing composition of shape and form, each object held together by the physical forces of our universe. Energy from our nearest galaxy, our solar system, our sun, earth, fuels and bonds this dinergy, the motion of life.  Our human physic responds and connects with this natural balance of the “golden mean” or pi / 2.236.  Humans have emulated this balance of the natural world in their lives from the beginning of time, the choice, arrangement and design of the landscape and objects we live with, we want form and function to agree with the natural world and its mathematical balance.

 We have an innate need for order and organization of these objects, understanding their purpose or utility by arranging them in a way that reflects the natural world.  

We utilize objects of utility for practical and also aesthetic purposes’.  Line and curved shape, depth or space, value, form, texture, and color are primary elements in nature and we feel comfortable and safe living in an environment where these natural primary elements are present.  From the time of Galileo, our ability to reason and discover new methods of living evolved, humanity advanced through several periods of innovative discovery since the renaissance.  Moving forward we referenced the past,  a guidepost to navigate the future, new aesthetic models of formal design were developed in the late 19th century where this new philosophy of design drew influence from ancient designs.  The Celts incorporated nature into the design of jewelry and objects of utility and Art Nouveau nurtured these new ideas to the forefront of art and design based on the natural world. Balanced synergetic formation of all organic and inorganic matter born and nurtured by way of the electron. During the late 19th century inclusive of these new ideas of “natures way”, the world of art and design included the reflective surface, a plate glass panel coated on one side with silver and when viewing the glass from the front or, the opposite side of the silvered glass we could see our reflection. This reflective surface is a plate glass mirror, we are able to see our own image in highly polished metal or, a still pool of water. Humans have long since known the reflective surface of mirror emulates reflection in water, still pools of dark water. Seeing our image and considering the reflection of ones’ self, or an adjacent landscape in natures own design, allowed for a deeper connection to the environment and perhaps a consciousness of “self-reflection”. 

The placement of glass and or a reflective surface in a modern design scheme for interior or exterior spaces expands and opens the space. The reflective surface allows the interior space to appear larger and reflect objects in the space. The exterior of a building sheathed in window panes of glass also allows for the building to appear larger as the reflected light enhances other objects or natural phenomena in the surface of the glass.  Personal and private revelations are found in a mirrored surface, when our physical appearance is presented, we make adjustments of apparel, hair or skin and are allowed to feel or experience the past, present and future about ourselves and the world around us. A mirrored glass surface provides a sort of “through the looking glass” experience, inner reflection and emotion by way of ones’ physical reflection produced by a reflective surface. 

So, we now come to beg the question…. If a plate glass reflects both physical form and the minds eye, is a mirror only an object of physical reflection?  Not to consider the aesthetics of what is reflected, although only used for various convenience and purpose, function and form?  The question for any formal design where an object of utility incorporated into a design plan might be answered; is this reflective object an essential element of the plan?  The effect in the case of a reflective surface should be the cause, where a singular object although may have some if not most of the 7 elements of design and considered complete in itself and in most cases art, an interior or exterior space and generally require each of the 7 elements composed of several parts to be considered complete, a working functional nature influenced composition. Good design must have a cohesive function and should possess the 7 elements of design, although where compositions of interior or exterior design include various materials, shapes and functions, inclusive should be an 8th element, an element of reflection. 

My work with plate glass mirror / Eglomise’ with Reflective Elements is often mentioned as “a mirror”. I consider the glass as a canvas and the silver reflective coating color. Utilizing the reflective coating as a material  element within the composition, the final outcome rarely resembles only a mirror as we understand it, the reflective surface of the mirror becomes something else! My process of “adjusting” the reflective silver coating leaves a much smaller percentage of the silver remaining relative to the overall size of the plate glass composition. An accent of the reflective silver-color, where the total area ceases to become a mirrored surface, the mirror becomes an object of art.  A portal to a physical and etherial world behind the looking glass and the presence of this idea has been in our minds for a very long time: Proverbs 27:19 “As water reflects the face, so ones life reflects the heart.”

Note: Additional ideas “reflecting” and expanding the idea of the reflective surface as an 8th element of design will post on my website / blog monthly.

Mirrors as Art

When considering Timothy Poe’s work in the medium of mirrored glass we are confronted with a variety of stimulating challenges that range from the historical to the philosophical and which include the ever present question, “is it art or is it decorative?” This abstract, conceptual work demands a high degree of participation from the viewer and requires consideration of the viewer’s life experiences in order to fully appreciate the finished subject. Gazing upon one’s own reflection doubtless began in the mists of time with humans viewing their reflections in water. The deeper meaning of reflection generally would have occurred early as well when a human would see an entire landscape reflected in a lake. From a philosophical perspective, considering the meaning of reflection is a provocative pursuit that offers more questions than answers. What is real? Is something real just because I can see it – or do I need to be able to touch it as well. The mountain is real because I can climb it but its reflection is a perfect replica – yet I cannot climb the reflection. Does this mean the reflection is not real? The desire for a portable reflecting device – what we call a mirror – began early and consisted largely of highly polished metals. The ability to produce glass was quickly followed by attempts to coat the backs of pieces of glass with various materials in order to create a clear reflection. How successful these sorts of early mirrors actually were in creating a perfect, stilllake type reflection may be judged by the early 17th century King James Version of I Corinthians 13:12 where the translators chose to use the phrase “For now we see through a glass (a mirror) darkly; but then face to face” thereby suggesting that a mirror image – in the 17th century at least – is a compromised view when compared to the real thing. In each of the works, a ghostly image of the viewer is incorporated in the abstract patterns created by Poe on the glass. The viewer’s image is very much of the “through a glass darkly” variety, however, and here begins the first question: who among us can really see himself or herself clearly? Are we just shadows in the large landscape? Due to the reflective nature of mirrors, the positioning of a Timothy Poe mirror piece has an enormous impact on the work. Having had the opportunity to view a piece installed in a ninth floor suite with glass walls on three sides of the room, the installation was capturing muted and altered reflections of the farther landscape and also included the movement of a flock of geese flying by. In the midst of this was the subdued silhouette of the viewer – me – as a part of the scene but not a dominant part – simply one part of a larger whole. One may in infer from this that, in viewing a Poe piece in place, one is actually reflecting on the meaning of reflection itself. Then the omnipresent question: is this art, or fine art, or decorative art? It has always been my contention that this question is answered daily by the viewers of objects all around the world. It is a question that is answered without much input from the artist or the artist’s original intent. If a viewer considers Botticelli’s representational The Birth of Venus or Pollack’s abstract Number 7, 1951 and begins to consider how well those colors or patterns would fill a wall, the work has just become decorative. Conversely, if a viewer considers either of these works and finds that he or she is being challenged or uplifted in a way that transcends notions of the effect of the piece in a given space, the miracle of art is occurring. The artistic merit of a piece truly lies in the mind of a viewer and whether or not he or she chooses to – or is even equipped to — participate. Having said that, the mirrored works by Timothy Poe possess a living quality due to their ability to incorporate the surrounding environment into the work. They can be forced into
serving a decorative function by emphasizing the dimensions and by using them as an alternative to a conventional mirror of similar dimensions in a setting where a conventional mirror might be expected in a décor. In this instance, notions of “au courant” or “edgy” come to mind. While there is certainly nothing inherently wrong in using these works – or any works of art – as contributing components of a decorative scheme, the emphasis of the decorative placement certain dilutes, and sadly so, the artistic side of these pieces. And yet, the compositions are so strong that they can overcome a decorative placement and still give pause to an intelligent viewer who looks beyond the idea of whether the colors in the glass are complimenting the color scheme of the setting. A Poe piece provides an opportunity to grapple for a moment with questions that have arisen since the earliest humans saw themselves and a mountain reflecting in a lake and wondered – is it real? Is that me? Who and what am I? And this is a very marvelous challenge.