Friday, November 22, 2013

Gene Pool

I like the idea of the gene pool, where bodies meet, greet, play together, and create new human beings with new looks and capacities. It's like making art! It's also both humbling and exciting to think that each of us is a special new work that resulted from dipping into the Gene Pool, picking through all the bits and pieces and possibilities, and coming up with something altogether new.

I made a piece called Gene Pool in 2007 for an exhibit at 215 in Burlington, Vermont, in which buttons in a wooden bowl stood in for the colors of humans in the world, so this is the second iteration of the idea.

I made one commitment to producing artwork while I was in Australia this year, and that was to make a piece for Tarpspace, a project that called on artists to use a tarp as part of an installation or performance piece. As I walked through the piles of material behind the workshed at Zia Park, my sister Gail's equestrian center in Gidgegannup, my eye was caught by all the things that were tarp blue -- plastic tubs, old toys, and five fabulous tall chairs that might have been used for judging stands, or maybe for lifeguards at a pool. Zia Park has a wonderful cross-country course with all kinds of interesting jumps that are fun, colorful, and creative, so they accept materials that might turn into jumps somewhere down the line, and I expect that these chairs came to Zia Park in that way.

Here I was with my sister, on the other side of the planet, with my strong and enthusiastic nephew Rembert Yarrick to help, and the memory of my daughter Berrian's months-long involvement in reconstruction after Hurricaine Katrina in Louisiana in which blue tarps became icons of both effort and inaction. On the ground, the tarp looked like a pool -- a gene pool.

I started by gathering brush from one of the piles saved for a projected new jump, and binding them with wire to create bodies for five figures.

We gathered sticks for limbs and wired them to the bodies, then I screwed the figures securely to the chairs.

It took several days of work (as the temperature climbed and the flies swarmed), but we were all pleased with the final piece.

Each of the figures had a different head -- wood, stone, metal, and a piece of broken brick from Rottnest Island -- where I imagined it was one of the leftovers from the work of almost 4000 Aboriginal prisoners who did forced labor for a century (between 1838 and 1931)

Here's the Gene Pool, showing the dis-articulated figures in the pool. To tell the truth, I actually removed this part of the piece before I left, because I preferred looking at the ground. There is an end to how much bright blue plastic one can enjoy...

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Back from Australia

It was so wonderful to be in Australia for five weeks! My sister and I traveled many miles (her Isuzu pulling a pop-up trailer), from Perth up the Northwest Coastal Highway to Karratha, then to Karijini National Park, and back down the Great Northern Highway. In between we had tire blowouts, a bush fire, and 100+ degree heat. We both saw the amazing similarity of the landscape to that of New Mexico, where we grew up, except that, in many cases, the Indian Ocean was just over a hill -- and the plants were spinifex and acacia rather than sagebrush and piƱon.

One of the things I love about Australia is that people save stuff in case they need to use it later, so there are "tips" and storage areas everywhere. At Yardie Homestead Caravan Park at the top of the Ningaloo reef near Exmouth, they had three dump areas. I would love to get a grant to go back and make much more out of the goodies there.

We were only there two days (and we had to spend some time kayaking up Yardie Creek and watching green turtles mate), but I made several things. I loved all the old bedframes, and think it would be cool to do a whole series of figures reclining on them. This was a quick sketch of the idea from bits that I found nearby. 

And another sketch of a standing figure:

Both of the above pieces were left where they were constructed, but I made one more substantial piece that I left with the owners. Here it is with my sister, Gail Simms (for scale):

When we got back to my sister's place after our 19-day trip, I made an angel for her out of materials we had collected on our trip:

I also did a large installation that I will write about in a subsequent post.