Monday, July 25, 2011

Productive Daze

Yes, we all know those days when you - or outside powers - miraculously make things happen in spite of yourself. Or perhaps serendipitous and harmonious moments make the day seem to pass effortlessly. Today was one of those days. But I'll get to that later when the veil can be lifted on what came about.

Continuing on with the theme of collaboration and the making of "The American Beast", I should mention that every artist should experience at least once a collaboration. And if you find someone with whom you gel and you can look at your finished work together and recognize that neither of you could have created just such a work of art without the other, then you can call yourselves fortunate.

Working with someone other than yourself is a matter of chemistry, forthrightness, clarity, shared vision and perhaps the special art of allowing yourself to speak up and knowing when to acquiesce.

When Michael and I began working on the piece we knew there was going to be a short time-frame so there wasn't a lot of time to plan a strategy and come up with CAD files or even develop a maquette (note: I did however make handy use of a 7-11 coffee cup folded in such a way to show how we could lower the piece down from the skyward rafters down to the terra firma. Oh Thank Heaven™.)

No, we just had to start. And so where we left off last, there was now structure - a wire frame ready to be "skinned".

We were ready to determine how the surface material would go in place. Either by plane (Taking a stained glass approach of one polygon at a time) or by "skinning" it - much like one would stretch fabric over an airplane wing. In the end, we did both - reserving one face of the piece to the polygonal approach and the other as a skinning.
Both had beautiful characteristics and personalities. One took longer to execute while the other was relatively easy and faster. We decided to bifurcate the piece wherein one side was going to be the skinned side and the other, the pieced side.

It is on this "pieced" side that much of the textural beauty can be seen after you assimilate the side (skinned) that exudes the light.

There were visions of Jasper Johns' "4th The News" painting I kept seeing in the textural work which somehow made it into our "Art Talk" at the gallery a few weeks after the piece was unveiled.

Next time I will write about the final moments leading up to the installation and unveiling of "The American Beast".

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Beast Within

There's a reason I have been remiss in posting a recent blog. A very good one. Sometime around mid-may, when I first began this blog, I got a message from fellow artist Michael Christopher who was asked by gallerist Kirk Hopper of Kirk Hopper Fine Art to make a "light" sculpture for his sculpture courtyard.  Michael needed a hand and needed space with which begin construction. He had a vision!

I share an 8,000 sq ft warehouse studio in West Dallas with 4 other artists and we have at our disposal, a 3,600 sq ft of indoor/outdoor common space where we store steel, reclaimed tree wood, billboard vinyl, hydraulic lifts, reclaimed metal and various other future objet d'art.

With roughly a 3-week turnaround, we began welding the first steel rods to reflect the footprint, which at this time was roughly 13' by 3' in a somewhat paramecium-like shape (thank you high school biology class). The silhouette of the piece we knew was going to be similar to Michael's past pieces, inspired by Mesmamerican steles.

As the rods were bent, cut and welded, the shape took form and the "fin" silhouette became apparent and we playfully assigned the notion that this began to look like the Egyptian pyramid on the back of the US dollar bill with the Latin inscription "Novus ordo seclorum" - or "New World Order" - on the verso. Though we didn't want to be too literal in its narrative, it was a precursor to its title as well as helped us to filter through a lens with which to accept happy accidents.

If you know Texas weather, you're aware that our summers are brutal. Add a long-sleeved shirt, leather gloves, jeans, steel-toed boots, a welding helmet and a white hot welding arc, and you have perfect impetus to buy stock in Gatorade. But we persevered and built what became the skeletal structure of "The American Beast".

The next blog will be my reflections on the process, followed by mid-construction photos. Stay tuned.