"Viol-in-Denial" was Deborah's creation for the St. Cecilia's "Art Strings" Project, during the 2003-2004 performance seasons. Thanks to Middleton's Music, a local music store, St. Cecilia's gathered an assortment of violins and cellos that were no longer playable, then asked various area artists, musical celebrities, organizations and public officials to transform the defunct instruments into pieces of art for auction. The finished works are auctioned off at varioius events throughout the season to raise money for the St. Cecilia Music Society. Below is Deborah's description of the piece. For a photo essay of the project, scroll down.

When St. Cecilia's asked me to create a work of art out of a defunct violin, I naturally jumped at the chance. At first I meant to dismantle it, create a diarama inside, then glue it back together, but the violin-maker I wrote to asking for directions on taking it apart discouraged me. Strongly.

"Well, what the heck am I going to DO with it," I agonized! And that's when it hit me: I'm a storyteller and each instrument is a story ... or a thousand stories! So all I had to do was figure out the story of THIS violin. And so little by little the violin became a book, and that book tells the story of the instrument it's written on. And a tragic tale it is:

"Viol-in-Denial" is the story of a violin who thinks it's a harp. Traumatized by years as a school rental instrument, over the past decade Viol-in-Denial has slowly cracked - psychologically.

It's now convinced that it has 47 strings and seven pedals, that its grandmother starred in countless Marx Brothers movies and that its great-great-great-great-great-aunt Sheba-Louise performed concerts with King David.

Viol-in-Denial stands upright with the use of one gilded clawfoot, multicolored harp strings spring from its head and you can read its pathology like a book. That's because its body is pasted with gilded scraps of paper that spell it out in countless variations on a single theme: I am NOT a violin. I am a harp.

Viol in Denial (in Progress)

The text on the violin will ultimately be printed on gold or wood-grain paper, then glued and shellacked. The clawfoot in the front will be painted gold. [Photo:Viol_with_notes1]

Viol in Denial (Viol work for Deborah, as Ben looks on)

Here I am painting the detailing on the violin while Ben looks on. [Photo: Viol_DHC_paint1]

Viol in Denial (Funny Footwork)

Ben and I laugh while I do some last-minute work etching "fur" into the clawfoot. [Photo: Viol_BenDHC_laugh1]

Viol in Denial (Clawfoot up close)

A closeup of the clawfoot (which will ultimately be painted gold), and some of the text (which will be printed on gold paper and glued to the body of the violin).[Photo: Viol_foot1]

Viol in Denial (Ben Wyner, artist's assistant)

Ben does touch-up on the side of the violin with gold paint. [Photo: Viol_Ben_Paint]

Viol in Denial (Leah Wyner, artist's assistant)

Leah helps with some touchup. You can see her earlier handiwork, where she painted one side of the harp gold. (Actually, this is a re-enactment -- she's not really painting right now -- but it looks good doesn't it?) [Photo:viol_leah_paint1]

Viol in Denial (Clawfeet are a Delicate Business)

Here I am working on the clay clawfoot which also serves as a stand to keep the violin upright. [Photo:Viol_DHC_foot1]

Viol in Denial (Scratching at the Clawfoot)

Closeup of me working on the foot. You can also see the post from the violin which will act as an anchor to the hold the violin into the foot-stand and keep the violin upright. [Photo:Viol_DHC_footcloseup1]

Viol in Denial (Take a Stand)

Here I'm showing Ben how the violin fits onto clawfoot stand. See previous picture to see a closeup of how I've embedded the violin's soundpost (I think that's what it's called!) into the clay, so I can fit the harp back on the post and the post will stabilize the violin in the clawfoot base.In this picture I'm fitting the violin back onto the soundpost. [Photo: Viol_foot_goes_on1]

Viol in Denial (A Balanced Work of Art)

Et voila!! The foot-stand works! The violin stands up straight without falling over! [Photo:Viol_balance1]

Phase II - Painting the clawfoot, printing the text on gold paper
and fitting it onto the violin (oops, I mean harp)

Viol in Denial (Clawfoot turns gold!)

Clawfoot is now spraypainted gold! [Photo:viol2_goldfoot1]

Viol in Denial (Drawing the Soundholes)

To more easily measure the space available for text on the curved belly of the violin, I made a kind of diagram by putting a pieced of paper over the violin, then doing a pencil "rubbing" to create a paper version of the front of the violin. You can also see some of the text pages in the background. [Photo:viol2_draw1]

Viol in Denial (Getting the text in place)

In this photo, I'm starting to fit the text into place on the violin and testing out different colors of gold paper. [Photo:viol2_violtext1]

Viol in Denial (Text Mess)

These are some of the text "outtakes" from the project, parts of text that didn't fit, or didn't look right, or had typos. They all collected on the floor in one big pile. [Photo:viol2_textmess1]

Viol in Denial (Placing the "sidebar" text)

I put the longest text, actual stories, on the sides of the violin. Here I am working to fit one of the "sidebar" stories into place. [Photo: viol2_sidetext1]

Viol in Denial (The tools of the trade)

Some of the text is now on the paper I want and placed basically where I want. You can see the ruler, the scissors and just the tip of the x-acto blade, the tools of the trade! [Photo:viol2_flatout1]

Viol in Denial (Leah proofs the violin)

I asked Leah to read the text on the violin to find out where the typos and inconsistencies were and to mark them with a green highlighter. [Photo: viol2_leahproof1]

Viol in Denial (Leah marking mistakes in the text)

Here you can see Leah highlighting one of the many mistakes she found in the text so that I can fix them. [Photo:viol2_leahproof2]

Phase III - almost done!

Viol in Denial (Proudly Awaiting the Crown)

Much of the text is now printed on the gold paper and affixed to the violin. The Kolacny Music Store in Denver, CO provided a box-full of old harp strings which I fit in where the tuning pegs originally were. There's still more to do, but the piece is taking shape! [Photo: viol3_fulltop1]

Viol in Denial (Foot Closeup)


Viol in Denial (A Stradivarius!?!?!)

The flash from the camera illuminated the inside of the the violin. For the first time I saw what was printed on the inside of the belly: Antonius Stradivarius! Funny, I never heard he built harps. [Photo: viol3_lower1]


(I'm running out the door to get this baby to Grand Rapids in time for the Auction, so I gotta stop with the fancy download links from here on. If you click on the images below, you'll get a larger image -- sometimes twice as big, sometimes bigger. To tell you the truth, I haven't slept all night, so I'm not really sure how big they are. But if you click on them you'll find out.)

Viol in Denial (Filing the Clawfoot)

Turns out either the clay shrinks when it dries, or someone inadvertently sat on the clawfoot. In any case, the violin didn't fit inside it's clawfoot-stand anymore, so I had to file it down. [Photo:viol4_filefoot]


Viol in Denial (Poor Gal's Gilding)

In this photo I'm "gilding" what used to be the violin's pegs, but which will now be part of its crown. The other thing (looks kind of like a bird) was an early attempt at creating an angel-thingy to hold the sign that says "Viol-in-Denial." Later I rejected it and built something else (you'll see it below) [Photo:Viol4_poorgild]

Viol in Denial (The Crowning Bridge)

This is a picture of the crown. It's hard to see it because the "gilding" is so bright it's glaring into the flash. [Photo:Viol4_crown]

Viol in Denial (Shellac in the Sun)

This photo's from the back porch where I took the violin to give it a few layers of shellac, which made some of the gold handwriting run. That upset me at first, and then I realized it was totally in character -- much better that way! [Photo:Viol4_shellac]

Viol in Denial (Viol-in-Denial Signpost)

My final choice for the "Viol-in-Denial sign-holder was this charming ... uh ... well, violinists will know what it is. For me it was just a part that had come off the violin early in the project, but looked perfect for this part. [Photo:Viol4_sign3]

[Final photo: viol4_finis]

Viol in Denial (Back in the box)

I forgot I had to put it back in the box to ship it off to Grand Rapids. See below: I had to cut the case up to get the violin back in. [Photo:Viol4_incase]

Et Voila! Viol-in-Denial et finis!

Now I've fallen in love with this piece and I can't help but think the above photo doesn't do it justice.
But, then I've always been a sucker for unruly multicolor hair and clawfeet.

Viol-in-Denial brought in $1500 for the art-strings project. But during the process, something else happened to Deborah: "I fell in love with one of the other violins, the Vio-Lion!! I had to have it. And on the night of the final auction, I got it! Now Vio-Lion lives on my music room wall, along with its leopard-skin case, a masterpiece by Grand Rapids Mayor's Wife!