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Art Show: Tangible: Art as Object

Saint Patrick's Bane

by Dawn Howard White

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Art: Saint Patrick's Bane by Artist Dawn Howard White
This was my first real venture into carving wood. I was stupidly ambitious. I had *no idea* how difficult it would be to remove material from the middle of a piece of wood, especially when there was no easy ingress from either the top or sides. By dint of a little over 200 hours of scraping, chiselling, and drilling, I arrived at what was essentially this shape. I did the final sanding and smoothing (hiring the hands of my children to do the work when I was otherwise occupied) over several more days, then finished the entire piece with a danish resin stain. The hue of the wood is darkened as a result, but not changed. It's impossible for me to describe what happens visually when the sunlight plays across this piece.. but it appears that there are veins of gold running throughout it, and playing over all the surface. The wood is warm and silky to the touch, smoother and finer than the skin of a baby. She glows, and invites touching.

The Story: I did this carving as an attempt to illustrate what was *really* going on in the 5th century ACE on the island of Eire. Saint Patrick is (falsely) famed for driving all the snakes out of Ireland. There are no snakes in Ireland. There haven't been snakes in Ireland since the last ice age, which ended around ten thousand years ago...LONG before anything resembling a saint was born to human animals. The general consensus amongst geeky scientific types these days is that the snake tale is an apocryphal story designed to instruct and justify the conversion of Irish natives to Christianity. He *is* responsible for the Celtic Cross, and kudos for that, but there were no snakes in Ireland. Patrick was tasked with and succeeded in offering support to the Christians then living on the island, and converting what pagans were left. Unfortunately, the style of worship in Ireland before mass conversions took place gave a lot of reverence to the Female Principle...which, actually, is the oldest 'god' known to mankind. I consider that suppression a loss. Perhaps, being female, I dislike being suborned to a patriarchal religion, and living in an androcracy.

At any rate, I may have failed at getting my point across, but I obviously succeeded at creating a beautiful sculpture. "Saint Patrick's Bane" won three different awards at the 2002 Northwest Wood Carver's Association show in Puyallup, Washington. The three awards were First Place in its category (figure, in the round), Best of Division (Beginner), and Best of Show (Beginner).


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