While I was digging around in the piles of stuff we surround ourselves with, I was very pleased to find some forgotten photos and rediscover some more pieces of my sculpture, which I’ve just added to the gallery. Check it out.
Since I’m now in a leisurely mood, I think I’ll run off at the keyboard about the newly remembered pieces with attempts at artist statements. In case they’re helpful in inspiring your aesthetic appreciation.
Boy on a Dolphin: This is the first piece I ever sold—at my first show. It’s composed of two pieces of old iron (like plow-points or teeth of some kind) on a micaceous stone wave. The upright boy was found in the DC area in the 70’s, the dolphin was found in New Mexico in the 80’s. When I put the two pieces together, they echoed that prehistoric/modern Cycladic art of the Minoan era from around the Aegean Sea. Though at the time I didn’t know from Cycladic, I heard the Art loud and clear.
Dark of the Moon: The most complex of all my assemblages, this shrine includes wood, stone, metal, glass, magnets, ceramics, lava, white sand, and (apparently) rubber, all on a slate panel. It’s one of my favorite pieces, but it sold in my second show and moved to California. Zoom in on the surreal details, like the ball-bearing stars. There are even piston rings. The true enigma is the figure on the altar with the dark visage (rubber?). I once found a similar piece, but less detailed, and the “head” was empty. The centered “dark moon” globe on the “sky” backdrop is a spherical lava geode, and the 13 irregular porcelain “white moons” are for the visible stages.
What does the dark of the moon mean to you? To me it’s connected with a verse of Robert Herrick’s poem “The Night Piece, to Julia” that I’ve quoted elsewhere. Starting, “Let not the darke thee cumber, / What though the Moon do’s slumber?” the verse embodies my refusal to live in fear, which I mentioned emphatically in a recent blog on fear and violence.
Cipactli: Being an inveterate curiosity collector, one of my stash piles was of interesting weathered wood. Over the years I’d walk by and occasionally add another piece as inspiration seized me to the plank lying on the ground, and either the pile or the sandy New Mexico dirt (spontaneously?) spawned this Earth Monster of Aztec cosmology, cipactli, the first day of the month. The primordial one that ate Tezcatlipoca’s left footwhen the Black God defeated it and created the First Sun (world) on its back. I like its mythic animistic Art. The Monster went from my first show to a friend of my Farmers Market days.
Tepeyollotl: Another Aztec shrine, this is the Heart of the Mountain. I can’t resist listing the components on the board: two axe-heads, one broken; broken hammer-head, fragment of gear-wheel, sheet-iron triangle, and multiple piston rings and pieces. In the foreground stands a heavily rusted chisel-pointed spike on a magnet with fallen rust flakes clinging to it, and the base is a grindstone from an electric drill. It went to another Farmers Market friend.
(Forgive me for this for parenthetical sentimentalism: I gave that (Sears) drill to my late father for his birthday when I was 10. You do the math. Then, believe it or not, that drill in its little red box became my only legacy from him. And then in the late 80’s, when I had some workers doing something around the house, the heirloom drill disappeared, less its battered red box and accessory bits, which I still have hanging about somewhere.)
Signifires: Regrettably the clumsy photo shows only two of the three installations on weathered wooden posts mounted on a long, narrow board, another of my favorite early pieces. On a much shorter piece of wood and at a greater distance, the missing third is an identical rusty nail with identically twisted wire around it with loop and free ends waving like flames or smoke in the wind, signal fires. At least that’s my artist’s rationale for the feeble neologistic title. But of course they might also be misspelled signifiers. But then what might they signify?
I find the back-story on this one astounding. Over the course of many (20?) years, I found and kept each of the (identical) flaming/smoking nails singly in open/wild places in far-flung locales I’ve now forgotten. Probably one here in NM. Maybe Florida? But identical! Same gauge nail and wire, same wire-end and loop length and orientation.
(Twice being coincidence, what’s thrice? Magic? Spontaneously Generated Art (SGA)? Otherwise, what arcane rural or ritual need might give rise to identical artifacts in such widely disparate locations? I’m talking identical! In my book, finding those three nails bearing aloft their signifires like torches amounted to a minor miracle, or at least a miraculous event.)
Nevertheless, someone bought the tri-incidental (or is that transcendental?) Signifires from my first show. I treasure the poor photo for the messages its two fires still convey.
Strident: Here’s another piece of SGA, more proof that Art, like Beauty, is in the seeing. What I see in this inscrutably functional found object, in helpful combination with its multi-layered title of course, is Art on a par with that of Giacometti. I can justifiably claim such excellence because I didn’t make it. I merely came serendipitously along, saw its Art lying in the weeds, and called its name. That late world-famous sculptor probably wouldn’t have minded the impertinent comparison. A discerning Santa Fe collector bought it from my second show.
While we’re on the topic of SGA (Spontaneously Generated Art), I want to pull a couple pieces out of the gallery to show what I mean about seeing the Art in things you find by the roadside of life. In both bent and mutilated found objects I saw their inherent Art, a transformation they had spontaneously achieved through an unknown, but clearly violent, history. SGA, if I may presume to define it, is initially a creation of human hands, but then it is transformed by time and elements, i.e., by cause and effect, or more crassly chance, into something that somebody, often me, sees as SGA. Remember, Art’s in the eye of the beholder, and seeing it creates it.
Rainbow Man: Lying in the dust of a path, the Rainbow Man waved to me, and I instantly recognized his Zuni attitude. His curly head now bows over a clump of cactus on my balcony. I don’t know what to make of him. Do you?
Predator: I’ll try and sneak this into SGA, since I only added that tiny prey dangling from its beak. It’s meant merely as a grace note on the Art espied in this metal something mangled by mysterious forces, which I found rusting in the middle of a field. The avian predator is visible from several angles and is particularly effective perched on a rock. As one of the more primordial elements of reality, predation still has terrible meaning in our dog-eat-dog world. It’s both inevitable and inescapable, the process by which all life lives. On permanent loan, that’s how this raptor is installed in the backyard of a neighborly friend.
That was rather fun rummaging through my amazing sightings of Spontaneously Generated Art. Maybe I’ll devote another blog to it sometime when I feel like blathering again.