The Umbiliform, one of my three main allies, is a formal visual relationship which for some strange reason seized my consciousness during the last week of June, 1982. As with another ally, Flaws, I was obsessed with the Umbiliform for several years. Once I perceived the configuration of visual elements that comprises the Umbiliform, I began to see the same formal relationship wherever I looked. For two years and three months, every drawing, painting or sculpture I made was not complete until I had umbiliformized it.
Discovery of the UmbiliformIt was June, 1982. I had just entered a new phase of my life. After nine years in community college administration, my request for reassignment to full-time teaching had been granted. To commemorate and better understand what was happening to me, I had started a low-relief wood and concrete sculpture titled "The Administrator Removes His Tie." One afternoon I hung it outside on the East wall of the NFMOA Workshop and sat down in a chaise longue to study it. From where I was sitting, I had a direct view of another wall that had some antique farm implements hanging on it. They were a heavy chain, a yoke and a scythe blade that we had found at our homestead in the woods. I had rather casually hung them up on the wall when we first moved into town in 1978 and had not really given them much attention since.
But now as I viewed the arrangement of antiques and the unfinished concrete sculpture almost side-by-side, I suddenly SAW the relationship of parts that would soon be named "umbiliform!"
The Umbiliform RelationshipThe Umbiliform Relationship consists of a concentration of form, mass, weight, activity, intent or content which is accompanied by a less intense trailing, curving away below. Numerous examples are provided below.
The Umbiliform appears in countless manifestations throughout the natural world and can be seen in a great variety of human artifacts, instruments, tools and implements. It is inherent in many human ideas and feelings.
Origin of the word: "Umbiliform"When I first discovered the Umbiliform Relationship and was swept away by it, I kept trying to understand what was the underlying source of its power, what archetypal reference was at its root.
I set out to list every instance and example of the Umbiliform Relationship that I could find, remember or imagine. I created a chart with several categories including: plant forms, cellular structure, weather, nature, tools, etc.
The list got very big. When asked what it was that I was so involved with, I would have to say something like this: "Well, you see it looks like a tornado or a flower or a sperm cell or a hand mirror or a sword or a tree or a jellyfish or a mushroom or a mushroom cloud..." In other words, it was difficult and tiresome to have to say all this everytime someone asked me what it was that I was so caught up in. I wanted a concise, descriptive and inclusive explanation that would be easy to use.
Then I came to an entry in my chart of categories that seemed to say it all. It was an example of the Umbiliform Relationship with which all human beings and all mammals are intimately familiar. I thought that perhaps it might even be the very reason that this formal relationship had such power. The entry that had caught my attention was: "the placenta with umbilicus" ...a concentration of form and mass, with a less intense element that was trailing and curving away below. I ran this through Bob's Motto Factory and up came "The Umbiliform!" I liked it immediately and have used it ever since.
A Collection of Found Umbiliforms
The Umbiliform in Nature