Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Think and Re-Think

I was delighted to be invited to make work for an exhibit in Indiana, and thought it would be a perfect time to use some of the antique 4 x 3.25" glass slides I got in two metal boxes at a yard sale many years ago. I believe these slides must have been the property of a physician who used them for professional lectures on the topics of his specialization. They mostly consisted of x-rays and histological slides. I have used some of the x-rays in several projects, including the piece at left that is an homage to my late friend, Margaret Trautz. It is a box with layers of bones and gauze, through which light shines from below.

There were five slides I found in the metal boxes that were more disturbing than the others, as they contained images not of body parts, but of whole persons -- photographs of naked young men in wheelchairs. They seemed to have some kind of foot deformity. But there was something about the vulnerable bodies photographed frontally (with uncovered genitals, which didn't seem  to be related to the foot problems...) that made me want to do a piece about "wheeled" chairs. But the images were so disrespectful, so insensitive about the human dignity of the subject, so problematic with respect to disability issues, that I have not known whether it was acceptable to use them. And I have still not come to terms with that. Does one need to have a thing one is trying to "say" in using such images, or does the potency, mystery, and transgressivity of the content just hang out there and let all the possibilities and responses interact?

I have been interested in questions of medical ethics (for example, the piece at right, Homage to Henrietta Lacks) and have been doing work for many years using bones, so I plunged in with the idea of Wheeled Chairs.

The first piece is 21 3/8 x 18 1/8 x 14 3/4". It used a child's white wicker chair, and has a pile of bones on the seat, a backbone on the reverse, and a bandage over a "wound" (dye, not blood on the gauze...).

The "wound" was actually a break in the fabric of the chair, stitched with steel wire. Somebody (I don't know who it was) left a box of bones in my studio about a year ago. This vertebral column was among those, but I had to boil and scrape it to get rid of the connective tissue. It is now held together with a piece of steel wire in place of the spinal cord. All the bones in this piece are sealed with a clear sealant that also acts as a glue that keeps them in place. You can turn the piece upside down and nothing moves...

The second piece I made is 22 x 13 3/4 x 17". It uses a modified doll carriage, and contains one of the antique slides I wrote about above, affixed to the top of a wooden box that acts as a sort of light table. A piece of white paper at the bottom of the box reflects light up through the image.

I covered the young man's face and genitals with black tape. I needed to do at least that to respect his body...

OK, so here's the kicker: Now that I have completed two pieces in this series, I realize that neither of them really stands alone successfully. I think they would work if combined with 2-3 other similarly-sized pieces, configured together as an installation, and perhaps I will move in that direction at some point.

But for now, I think it's important to "sell no wine before its time".

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Time Flies

This piece was commissioned by someone who inherited a grandfather clock from his grandmother. He wanted the clock to run and operate as before, but asked me to change the case in my fashion...

I had only done a few commissions before, so this was a challenge, and it went through many different concepts and materials before it came to its current and final form.  It's called Time Flies, after the small winged creatures flying up through the case and out the top. I carved the wooden bodies, and the wings are made of mica. These photographs show the case without all the interior clockworks -- the pendulum, weights, and chimes. I hope I will get photographs of the clock after it is installed in its owner's home, and the clock is actually working!

Each side has a small door on the top that I covered with a quote stamped into brass foil sheets. This is the left side, with a quote from Albert Einstein: The only reason for time is so that everything doesn't happen at once.

The photographs here of the right and left sides show the clock without the Time Flies coming out the top. Sorry about that! I had just had an accident with the clock face, and I was a bit freaked out.

There are three groupings of the numbers 1 - 12 on each side, made from found objects, old and new building numbers, and stick-on vinyl digits. Here is a high resolution image of the first sequence on the left side.

And here are the next two sequences:

And on to the right side!

The quote on this side is from Bil Keane (the cartoonist who created the Family Circus): Yesterday's the past, tomorrow's the future, but today is a gift. That's why it's called the present.