Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Ark of Combustion

When the anthropologist of the future, 10,000 years from now, digs us up along with the remnants of our society, what will he think of us?  That’s what these altar pieces contemplate.  My rendering of these combustion engines is evidence of a mysteriously widespread activity that, for the anthropologist of the future looking at our past, would have no explanation for except religious.  Looking at our material culture out of context, separated from their uses in our everyday lives, the anthropologist of the future can only speculate that these machines were a part of spiritual quest.  This is a religious ark to combustion—a celebration of the many holy ways in which we burn fuel.  To people of the future, we will be known as “The Fuel Burning People.”

The front of the altar is a barbeque that burns propane.  We use propane instead of charcoal because it burns fuel quicker.  The two front panel doors are gold-leafed.  The image of the barbeque is carved into the gold-leaf and then washed with red ink.  The ink is absorbed into the wood and then wiped off the gold-leaf. When you open the ark you see 6 carved and painted small side panels.  They depict the different ways in which we burn fuel—on snow, in water, in the desert, on mountain roads, and even in our kitchens. A domestic stove is not holy enough for the “Fuel Burners.”  Only an industrial Viking Range stove will do justice to the ritual. 

The center piece is the F1 rocket engine that powered the Apollo missions.  That engine has become a source of wonder for me because it’s in Woodland Hills, near where I used to live, in a parking lot of what used to be a Rockedyne factory. 

It’s unusual to just see the rocket engine alone, because it is usually accompanied by its huge fuel tanks.   The rocket idealizes the vast consumption of fuel within the shortest span of time.  The anthropologist of the future will see these as sacraments that denoted one’s status to God, according to how much and how fast the fuel was burned up.   

Thursday, August 11, 2011

World Trade Center

Plaster Relief, 24"x24"
Plaster Relief, 24"x24"

This is a wood sculptural cabinet titled "9:03 AM", 16"x16"x14", 
that has a woodblock impression that makes a print.  
The prints fit in the top drawer and the tools and inks to print the block are in the second drawer.

Ceramic bowl, 9"x9"x12"
Ceramic bowl, 10"x10"x7"

The World Trade Center Attack (9/11) was a spectacular visual historic event.  It was one of the most important things that happened in our lifetime—it changed history, changed everyday life; it changed everything.  Being an artist, I feel it’s my responsibility to record these extraordinary events in permanent material so people can always remember it, in the same way that Greek artists recorded the Trojan War.  This legacy still continues to be a necessary element of artistic expression in an age of visual immediacy that lacks the permanency of physical material.  That was one particular day that was so clear, the sky so blue, so devastating, and so many people around the world watched it as it happened.     

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Earth From Space

I’m a representational artist.  What should I represent?  I look for the most important things that happened in our lifetimes.  Getting off the earth, escaping the pull of gravity and venturing into space is one of the most significant developments in human history.  Looking back at the sphere of the “Earth” changed everything.  I fell in love with this idea.  From the years 1985 to about ’93, the earth from space was my landscape.  I made many drawings and sculptures.  I liked using traditional materials, carved wood and cast bronze.  It’s funny to me, an image only possible to see in postmodern time rendered in techniques originating in ancient time.   

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Masks are a "Switch"

As one artist, I’m a group show.  There are many facets to my work because I work in many mediums.  Each facet is like another artist altogether.  They are all me, but they take on separate entities and each concentrates on their own ideas and projects.  One of these artists I work with makes masks. We have been working together for about 15 years.  He was curious about the significance of masks throughout human evolution.  Is there a culture that does not use masks?  The answer is no—every culture uses masks. Then why is the mask so ubiquitous in all cultures?
Masks are ubiquitous because they are the switch—the space between life and art—which evokes the imagination.  We use the on-off switch on the TV.   In the same way, buying a ticket to the theater and sitting quietly in a big dark cavern is the switch that fosters the imagination and allows us to enter into an intimate communion with the artistic world.  Entering the cinema turns the art switch on, while everything outside this dark cave—in the real world on the street—that switch is turned off.  If a character in the movie gets shot, sit tight—this event exists in an alternate reality, where we are merely observers and our reactions don’t effect what’s happening on the screen.  If a character on the street gets shot, on the other hand, we call the cops, because our reactions do have an effect on the event that has taken place in the real world. We have a completely different set of behaviors and expectations depending on if this switch is on or off.   Conceptional art of the past 4 decades is all about the “switch” that separates our normal, everyday existence from an entry into an imaginary world.
People didn’t always have TV, movies, or theaters.  However, the “switch” has been present as an element of human consciousness.  The most primordial form that engages the switch is masks.  Masks, for the masked and the spectator, are the switch the takes us into the world of art.

 This is an African Mask made by the "Dan" people

The masks that my artist makes are inspired by tribal art. But, they’re made for a different reason and in a different way. They are fabricated from flat materials, such as foam core, rather than carved from solid wood.  This puts them in a contemporary context.  They are inspired by tribal art, but they do not imitate it.  They are white with black piping to simulate a drawing.  They are something between a drawing and a sculpture.