Ailene Fields believes that if magic rules the universe at its most basic, then perhaps the rulers, the laws of physics, are elves and fairies. Perhaps, those we call magicians have learned to tap into the most basic forces of nature and apply them to every day life. While the 'laws' of physics are unforgiving, Magic allows for second chances. Maybe, a kinder, gentler universe.
It is easy to see why Ailene was commissioned to do a St. Francis sculpture as a gift from parishioners to their church.
Ailene Fields charms with her deliciously whimsical creatures. Her bronze and alabaster sculptures of real and imaginary animals impart a wonderful sense of playfulness and tongue-in-cheek humor. She creates a lighthearted satirical mood in her choice of titles, such as the bronze dragon with bones called "Home is where the horde is" or the alabaster dragon titled "Do you mind if I smoke" - defying us to restrict his rights of fire-breathing dragonhood. The bronze and alabaster "Cheshire Cat" slyly eyes us as it emerges (or disappears into) a rough stone base, displaying only a tantalizing grin and a flash of tail. "The Frog Prince", complete with crown, invites a kiss - who knows what may happen?
Fields' approach to these animal forms is unique. She transcends the literal reality of each piece by selecting and registering only those aspects of personality that intrigue her. She presents this essence in a form that captures the viewer's imagination. Her intent is not to precisely replicate nature as she says "one simply cannot compete with God", but rather to freeze-frame the creature's uniqueness.
Referring to her alabaster sculptures, Fields maintains that each stone evokes nature in a different way. She respects the hard physical work that is a necessary part of the process and half-jokingly suggests that:
"It is good for New Yorkers to bang on stone, it releases tension. More seriously, I find it truly exhilarating to peel away the layers and uncover the creature waiting within. I am always trying to determine how a piece will shift and change in the process of formation. I find this extremely challenging. Alabaster also affords me more time to change my direction and that lends itself to the greater spontaneity which I have always strived for in my work. You don't have to rework every line as you do with clay. It's an immediate process. You just know where to go and have to let this part of you take over. It's not an intellectual process; in many ways it is as if you are not in control.
When Fields first began working with stone she carved by hand, completing only two sculptures a year. Using the compressor, she is now able to convert her thoughts into pieces more rapidly and fluently. The artist's dedication to the process is beyond question. Working from ten to six every day and sometimes on weekends at her city and country studios, Ailene Fields pays careful attention to every step of the process.
She roughens each sculpture until no bruises appear in the stone; refining each piece with sandpaper ranging in degrees of coarseness from 60 to 600 and, finally, polishing each piece for many days in order to achieve the desired effect. Fields enjoys working simultaneously on many different pieces at different stages so as not to waste time.
Ailene was an English major at Lehman College in the early 70's, intending to become a writer. However, she then enrolled in a pottery class at Earthworks in New York City and fell in love with clay as a medium. She pursued this experience at Teacher's College at Columbia in 1978-79, and soon thereafter began exploring other media. Her formal training in sculpture began in the New School under the tutelage of Bruno Lucchesi. Since 1985 Fields has taught numerous sculpture classes at the Sculpture Center for both children and adults.
Possessing that wonderful knack of appreciating and capturing the humor and tenderness in nature's creatures filtered through the light of her soul, she presents us with the gift of laughter and delight.