A gourds-ous display of art

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Inspiration lurks around every corner and emits throughout each interaction and conversation Michael Logan has with family and friends.

 

The gourd artist draws on this motivation to turn gourds — grown in his backyard in Los Chavez — into pieces of art.

Before a gourd has finished growing in Logan’s small garden, he can tell you what he envisions the piece to be.

“The gourd tells you what it wants to be,” Logan said. “It really does.”

From bottle gourds to club gourds to dipper gourds, Logan grows every type of gourd he can find, including Mexican gourds about two-inches tall. The garden, lined with fences for the gourds to grow down from, stands next to Logan’s work shed.

Logan relies on nature for the gourd’s flat bottoms or irregular structures.

“It’s a trick of nature when the bottom is flat,” he said. “If I have one that fits, I’ll use it, but I have others that wobble.”

For gourds with imperfections, Logan places them into a scraps bucket to be used as parts in larger projects.

He plants his gourds indoors in March before transplanting them to the outdoor garden. The gourds are fully grown within six months and takes another three to four months to dry out.

To avoid mildew or mold from growing on the gourds, Logan scrapes off the flesh to reveal a sturdy, cream-colored skin. Depending on the piece Logan wants to create, he will either extract the gourd’s seeds or dry the gourd with its seeds.

Logan was searching for a method to teach sixth-grade students geometrical tesselations when he stumbled upon gourds.

He picked up the idea from a science methods teacher, who used gourds to change geometrical designs on flat surfaces by wrapping them around spheres or triangles.

Another social studies teacher utilized gourds as bowls in a traditional manner to store seeds and water.

“If you wanted to store piñons, for example, you can put a stopper on (the gourd) and the mice can’t get it,” he said.

The two ideas came together to teach students paleolithic designs when learning about math, social studies and science in Logan’s class.

Logan said he’s taught more than 500 students how to work on gourds during his 10 years teaching in the Los Lunas School District.

Logan gathers inspiration from the world around him, including conversations with friends where projects stem from.

For example, a gourd Buddha head was created from a replica he saw in a Denver shop he visited with his friend.

“I saw the Buddha head as a gourd,” he said.

Logan created a water lily out of about six gourds from a trip he took to the Denver Botanical Gardens. The green leaves surrounding the water lily were created from discarded gourd parts that Logan thought he was going to throw away.

“You start off with a basic structure and go from there,” he said.

A piece of drift wood laying in front of Logan’s yard was envisioned as an ear. Logan said he was going to call the piece, “La Oreja,” but after speaking with his father-in-law his interpretation of the piece changed.

“My father-in-law said, ‘You know, that looks like a Madonna would fit right in there,’ and (I said,) ‘Well, I guess so,’” he said.

The cultural influence Mexicans have left on New Mexico is another source of inspiration for Logan, including celebrations around Dia de Los Muertos and Christmas.

Included in his pieces are depictions of saints, from information Logan has read or seen, and Dia de Los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, masks.

After Logan retired from teaching eight years ago, his free-style work took on a mind of its own.

As time passed and Logan mastered more complex pieces, his techniques improved, he said.

“I’m getting really sophisticated and faster in what I’m doing, because I know what the gourd will withstand — how much pressure it will take if you’re cutting it, and if you’re gluing it if it’s going to stick,” he said.

The gourds are either painted with several coats of acrylic paint, burned with pyrography or cut into with a dremel. With complex pieces, Logan uses a match sticks with glue to hinge together two or more gourds.

Logan doesn’t usually sell his creations, instead he gives them away to family and friends. In the past eight years, Logan estimates he’s given away close to 400 pieces.

“I don’t usually sell it because I don’t have as much inventory. I give it away as soon as I finish,” he said.

The retired teacher said he’s building his collection of pieces to sell them.

“I’m like Van Gogh. I’m desperate to sell my work,” he said laughing.

In hopes of putting on a Dia de Los Muertos show in the Denver Latino Museum, the Museo de Las Americas, Logan sent a portfolio to directors full of pictures of his gourd art.

The show would cater to the four-day celebration with saints, an ofrenda (offering alter), and Dia de Los Muertos masks.

“It’s more beautiful culturally for me then Halloween,” he said. “(Halloween’s) just gotten so commercial.”

 


Contact Abigail R. Ortiz