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Saturday, October 14, 2017

Amazing Maze Art

The world's largest snow maze at Zakopane, Poland, under the ski-lift.
Snow is fun. Just ask any avid skier. Everyone else--those who find themselves trying to drive in the stuff--hate it. For kids, on the other hand, every blessed one of'em are unanimous in their love for God's winter adornment, if for no other reason than what's come to be known as "snow days," when school is cancelled. There's sledding, snowball fights, snowman (or snowwoman) building, and one of my favorites as a child, maze building. Mine were never very neat or artistic (like the one above), but nonetheless, lots of fun (as seen below).
The maze comprises more than a mile of paths with
 12 gates, illustrating the 12 days of Christmas.
Many years ago when I taught art (shortly after some stone-age kindergartener first splattered God knows what on a cave wall), one of the activities I urged upon my seventh-graders was that they create (on posterboard) an artistic maze designed to reflect some theme in which they were interested. Naturally, I got a lot of sports mazes, skulls, and comic book characters (and that was just from the girls). I posted them on the walls of the art room and just outside in the hall. The young artists and I all got a kick out of watching the older kids passing by as they tried to find their way to the end.
Maze by Pannekaka, one of the most complex, and thus, most difficult "pencil" mazes I've ever encountered. Entrance is at the lower left corner, exit at the upper right corner. Good luck!
Regardless of their size and sophistication, all mazes have five commonalities--a beginning, an end, walls, halls, and dead ends. Quite apart from any artistic attributes, mazes are basically tests of intelligence--how quickly you can get to the end. the Pannekaka Maze (above) is mindboggling. (Hint: print the damned thing out, don't even try to work it on the screen.)
The Maze at Glendurgan Garden, Cornwall, England.
Although garden mazes have been popular since at least the 17th-century (above), similar mazes have seen a resurgence in popularity during the past decade or two among rural communities in the form of cornfield mazes (below). Such works of art are usually computer-designed using an enlargeable grid, then hand "carved" from large fields of cornstalks, often specifically planted for such autumn entertainment, augmented by hayrides, live country music, square dancing, campfires, pumpkin carving, and fall snack food offerings.
Cornfield mazes are often quite beautiful (from the air) and reach surprising degrees of sophistication and difficulty.
Even highly complex mazes can be created from virtually any "coloring book" type image. All that's needed is a pencil with a healthy eraser, a black ballpoint pen, and a bottle of "White Out." You simply choose an entry and an exit point then draw in with pencil a convoluted path from one to the other (to make sure the maze is actually workable). From that point on, the effort is mostly an act of cruelly, artistic, deviant behavior as you begin complicating your design to make it ever more difficult. When finished, go over the pencil line with a ballpoint pen using the White Out fluid to correct mistakes of make changed as you near the end. The storybook maze below was created in such a manner.
Be careful not to destroy the original image as you draw your maze. A ruler helps a lot. Try not to draw passages that are obviously irrelevant.
When human-scale mazes move inside, they are often the effort of artists in which the overall effect is of equal or greater importance than the maze itself, as seen in Bjarke Ingels' BIG Maze created for Washington's National Building Museum. The whole maze takes on a concave shape helping to lead the user to the center by the relative height of the walls.
Bjarke Ingels unveils BIG Maze for Washington's National Building Museum
Ingels' BIG Maze if pretty conventional for a gallery setting. However, artist have been known to really play games with visitors' minds when they begin to employ unusual materials such as glass (and even more disconcerting) mirrors, in their creations.
Seeing ones way clear.
Some maze art is meant to be seen from above. Other works from eye-level. and some from the inside as experienced by anyone having visited a small carnival "funhouse" featuring a mirror maze (even a small one). Usually cramped and based upon a triangular grid, imagine how disturbing it would to round each corner only to meet your own reflected image most of the time. Such mazes, despite their often modest-size layouts, can prove to be amongf the most difficult maze art.

Mirror Maze, Es Devlin. this maze has something that sets it apart from any other...a specially-designed scent. Maybe it should get stronger as one nears the end.
Although the inclusion of mazes in paintings is a relatively new, adventure for artists such as Pat Presley with her 3-D, sci-fi inspired "Death Star" cube (below), it's not without precedent.

Concept Art Maze, Pat Presley
About 1953, Canadian artist, William Kurelek, produced The Maze while a patient at Maudsley Hospital in London. Kurelek was born in 1927 into a Ukrainian immigrant family in Alberta, Canada. He suffered all through childhood and the Great Depression from the oppression of his farmer father, to the point he became extremely withdrawn. Eventually he retired to a private world of his own weird fantasies in which he cut away the flesh of his arm. Fortunately, Kurelek was shocked back to reality when he actually made some cuts to his arm. At the age of twenty-six, Kurelek was admitted for psychiatric treatment and given a makeshift studio where his doctors felt that "painting therapy" was helpful. It was during this period he painted The Maze (below).

The Maze, 1953, William Kurelek
A "comforting" maze.


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