Bobbi Mastrangelo, The “Grate Artist”, is internationally known for her unique creations based on the theme of manhole covers. Deeply embossed prints on her hand-made paper transform the mundane iron covers into jewel like mandelas. Her tromp ‘l oeil sculpture relief works artistically capture the essence of utility covers in urban settings. Their appearance is so realistic that viewers wonder how she managed to put all that “weight “ up on the wall.
Published in multiples and based upon the collection and storage of manhole covers through miles of walking around Canada, Scotland and the USA. The complete set has 7 volumes, 3 of Ottawa and 1 Toronto Ontario; 2 of Hull, Québec; and 1 of Scotland. Future volumes expected to be issued of anywhere Levergneux's feet will walk
When I visited our local library I picked up a book off their new book stand entitled Manhole Covers. Manhole Covers is a photographic collection of the beautifully crafted manhole covers of Los Angeles.
Manhole covers were designed to provide access to underground utilities such as power, sewerage, gas, telephone etc. Beneath them lies a surface tunnel, with labyrinthine corridors connected. Personally I have never been in the massive tunnels that thread their way beneath the streets of Melbourne so when I sought some out I realized that I am only dimly aware of the myriad of functions they perform.
As a writer I am fascinated by the concept of egress - the capacity to exit, to go out, to enter the subterranean world below. Years of teaching the craft of writing has demonstrated that when writers' are willing to make the journey within their writing and creativity accelerates. I never did tell my students that the guided imagery that we did in class was a form of meditation, a means of contacting inner knowledge, but they responded enthusiastically, telling me that the experience was very 'trippy' and that this kind of writing enhanced their sense of being able to write.
Persephone was the name of the wife of Hades, the King of the Underworld. The story of how Hades surprised Persephone while she was gathering poppies in a field and how he carried her away in his chariot and plunged into the depths of the earth is legendary. After doing a guided imagery a fourteen year old, year nine student, who came from a dysfunctional family, wrote, little realizing that she was re-expressing the Demeter myth and Persephone's joyous homecoming. Anna came from a background which had not given her access to Greek Mythology, yet she expressed a similar reunion.
"The field that I am in is very hot. The grass is lush and cool as if I am in a swimming pool. So I'm not hot, but cool and calm. I do not know where I am but there is a path and it is very rocky. The rocks are hurting my feet. There is no shade and all of a sudden there is a hill in front of me. It is very steep and I am now climbing it. My legs feel like jelly and I don't think I can go on but I have to. I do not know where I am but I know that I will soon be there. There is no pollution. All of a sudden my the rocks are getting sharper and my feet are getting cut on them. Strangely it does not hurt. There are a few blue birds around and they are chirping merrily. I notice something in the distance. There is a little puppy. I do not know where it has come from. Now I can see a castle. It looks beautiful. I figure that this is where the puppy came from. There is a lady with a gown on. She is radiant. There are bushes around the castle but the path is getting smoother. There is a big garden with lots of flowers and I feel safe. The lady comes over and says that she has been waiting for me to come. Then she shouts out to one of her servants to get some cold drinks and she shows me the garden. She is the Princess. She tells her servant that the 'Queen has arrived' and asks her to 'please show her to her throne."
Doing this inner work had a profound effect on Anna. She had never felt that she could write yet she had written a piece that has so much potential. Anna was happy to leave this piece in its existing form and proudly displayed it in the Album of Memories that we made that year. When she was in Year 12 she pulled out the album to remind herself that she could write. By doing that she lifted the heavy manhole and was courageous enough to go back down into the labyrinthine corridors.
Many of us are prevented from doing this because the manhole cover is so tightly fitted, so heavy, that we quite simply cannot go within.
What is impeding your inner work? What does your manhole cover look like? What is behind your manhole cover? How does the symbol of a manhole cover resonate for you? How does it help you understand your writing life? How can it help you contain your inner work? Draw the manhole that shields your inner world in your visual journal and write about it.
1. Take a camera and go on an excursion in the Central Business district or around town. Photograph as many manholes as possible and make a collage. Bobbi Mastrangelo has lots of idea for artistic creations in her galleries at Grateworks.
2. Try the following Guided Imagery and when you have completed it write an extended piece.
It is raining heavily but, tired of being indoors, you decide to go out for a walk. As you walk you hear the sound of a solitary raven calling. The cars spray water and you can see the drains filling. Water is gurgling and splashing like mini rivers along the curb into the drains.
Under the shelter of your umbrella you keep your eyes down and suddenly you see a manhole cover that you have never noticed before. (pause)
It is ajar and you can see that there is a ladder leading below. (pause)
The urge to explore is great. (pause)
Suddenly you are aware that you have company. The raven has landed at your feet.
The two of you decide to check out the world beyond the manhole. (pause)
As you clamber below you are greeted by... see, hear, smell, taste, feel...
You might begin by drawing the world below the manhole cover and then write.