I wrote earlier about the online edition of Rachel Haynie's piece about my artwork. The print edition is now out, and I just got a copy (thanks, Rachel!). I think this may be my first time in a magazine that is actually delivered to people in the mail.
I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw the main photo that they chose to use -- one of me with "Beauty and Grace" in progress where I think I don't look like an idiot. The photo doesn't appear in the online version of the article, but is a full page in the magazine.
I like it. I think I'll frame a copy.
I haven't had a whole lot of time for art this semester. I've had some, obviously (I finished "Beauty and Grace" and "My Father's Hammer"), but not as much as I would like. It's been a busy fall. The fever pace is starting to break, though, with just one week of classes left, SEAC over, and my wife's shop open (more on that later). So I've been able to get back to my workshop this weekend and last weekend. I need to spend more time out there to dissuade the Carolina wrens from building nests in things -- such as dinosaurs -- that I'm going to need to move. They've even been probing inside the garage when it's open. Love is in the air.
Last May after my Afterburner show originally opened at Tapp's, I had the time and energy to make several more pieces and get them into the "extended" show in June. One of the things I sent was an unfinished piece called "Sun Gun." It was a cawing crow perched on the tail fins of a rocket. I knew it wasn't done but I wasn't sure why. So it's been sitting my garage since the summer.
I made the original piece quickly, shortly after the death of Chris Cornell. Few celebrity deaths hit me like his did (I wrote a bit about it here). Anyway, his death was on my mind and his music was in my ears while I was working on "Sun Gun." The body of the crow is built to show a forward-facing gear under the neck that reminded me of the cover of Badmotorfinger.
The short version of the story is that I meant for the piece to be about fearlessness, arrogance, exploration, and vulnerability. No good fighter gets into the ring thinking there is a snowball's chance he'll lose. Neil Armstrong and Alan Shepard played golf on the moon. I've always been fascinated by that scene in 1902's A Trip to the Moon where the rocket hits the moon in the eye: the Victorians don't just land on the moon, they shoot themselves into it. The first line of "Nearly Forgot My Broken Heart" is "Every time I stare into the sun" but it also sounds like "stab into the sun." It's about again and again taking steps into the unknown that you already know is dangerous.
Anyway, the crow of the unfinished version of "Sun Gun" had the right posture but was entirely too flimsy. In a race to keep moving, I used thin sheet metal and not much of it. I only just figured out that it was the crow itself that bothered me. Up until two days ago I was still thinking about how to change the base to make it more attractive. At one point I had even concocted plans for an elaborate mechanical contraption to rotate the base through a path mimicking the total eclipse we experienced here in August. I wasn't excited about any of those ideas (which I now understand was because they were wrong), so "Sun Gun" sat in the back of the garage.
My unhappiness with it finally turned into action when I realized it was the crow that needed work, not the base. I had all the materials I needed to puff it up the way it should be: more grit, more bulk, more moxy. Saw blades, rusty rods, a carving knife, old hinges . . . I used cut nails and pieces of a drain snake from the same stock as I used on "My Father's Hammer," which I like because it adds some resonance between them.
Finishing this feels like putting a piece into a puzzle that you couldn't place before because you were holding it upside down: fitting that piece in not only takes care of that piece, but opens the way for what's next.
Here are some pictures. There are a few more on this page.
This article about me and my artwork came out a couple of days ago in the online version of Columbia Living Magazine. The author -- Rachel Haynie -- visited me several times while I was working on "Beauty and Grace" and also accompanied me on the scrap junket I wrote about here. It has been a pleasure to get to know Rachel, and I think the article turned out well. Enjoy!
I'm finally done with "Beauty and Grace." It has taken me about eight months of intermittent weekend work, from when the idea first ossified in my head during that Against Me! concert last March until I submitted it as my entry for ArtFields 2018 this evening. I finished "Grace" in time to put her into the second part of my Afterburner show at Tapp's in June, and I have mentioned the combined piece in passing a few times and posted a few photos on the Zero Point Mechanic page on Facebook. But other than I haven't talked about it too much.
That's because I was too busy struggling with it to spend energy talking about it. The beaten and bloodied boxer sitting on the stool between rounds doesn't want to chit chat.
Someone will probably accuse me of making up some art weirdo nonsense for saying this, but trust me when I tell you that sometimes you really don't know what a piece is about as you're making it. You think you know, but you don't. You're looking and seeing and doing, but meaning is percolating on some other level.
I always knew this piece was about the tension/opposition/inter-connectedness of transformation ("Grace") and acceptance ("Beauty"). It was only during another musical experience -- the Foo Fighters concert in Columbia last October -- that I understood the feeling I was going for. It's been a long week and it's beyond me right now to try to articulate it. That experience of hearing (and seeing, and feeling) live the music that connects together so many parts, people, places of my adult life was like pulling on a loose thread and seeing that what looks like a tangled mess is actually a beautifully complex, inter-connected structure. I understood then what “Beauty” and “Grace” represent to me and how they connect, relate, and depend on one another for balance. I can't explain it. But it's art, so I don't really have to.
I'll write more about making this piece at some point. For now, here are some more images from my "four king sheets and a bunch of safety pins" hillbilly photo studio in my driveway:
As I knew would happen, I've had relatively little time for art since the semester started. It has been a busy (and productive) fall so far in terms of academics and research. My creative ideas and materials have been piling up, though. I could go into high gear at any time, but the problem is I don't have any time.
I'm almost done with my entry for ArtFields (the deadline is November 9th), so I've been using what time I have to push "Beauty and Grace" toward the finish line. I just have some grinding/polishing/cleaning to do, and then I have to figure out a way to take some decent photos. That has to happen before I leave for SEAC. I also need to finish a luna moth that will grace the sign for my wife's shop (Luna Lola) that she'll open soon on Rosewood. More on that later. Follow the ZeroPointMechanic page on Facebook for updates.
I wanted to share a few photos of a nearly complete sculpture that I more-or-less finished last weekend: "My Father's Hammer." It is a sentimental piece, so it's not for sale. It came together quickly -- I thought of it as a sketch trying to capture the energy and motion of a crow coming in for a landing. It's a freeze frame about adaptability, which is one of the main gifts my father gave me. The head is made from the head of his old hammer, complete with the nails hammered in to shim it onto the shaft. Lots of other odds and ends are pieces of old tools that he let me pick out of his garage over the summer. I'm going to have to secure the piece to a larger metal base to make it stable. Other than that, though, it's done as is.
I happy to announce that my first owl sculpture (now named "The First Owl") received first place in the professional sculpture division at the 2017 South Carolina State Fair. The prize money will make a nice addition to my art war chest. I've got big plans.
This is the last weekend of the fair. My wife and I have been virus-ridden zombies all week, but we managed to rally and get the kids out there this morning (we live just a short distance to the fairgrounds). I can report that the baby ducks are still being tricked into going down the water slide, the roosters are still cool, and AC/DC is still the soundtrack to the Matterhorn ride.
I can also report that, though a five minute conversation with a representative from the Libertarian Party, I have definitively demonstrated to myself that I am not a Libertarian. I do not believe a "de-centralized, community-based" to hurricane relief in Puerto Rico would be more effective than what the federal government is capable of doing. I also do not believe all state and local governments have done a super great job of protecting the fundamental rights of their citizens. Or educating them. Or providing them with basic services.
Also: the kids each came home with an inflatable rainbow poop emoji. I have refused to participate in blowing them up. That's today's report from paradise.
This is just a quick post to update some recent goings on in my art world. I've been busy at work and home the past couple of weeks, so I've had little time to do much new except collect materials and make some minor progress on "Beauty and Grace" (my entry into this year's ArtFields competition, pending completion). But here's what else has been going on:
"Old Ben" at the Zoo Auction
The winning bid on "Old Ben" at ZooFari was $325. I have no idea who walked away with it (I've met or know every other person that owns one of my sculptures). I estimated the piece would go for around $300, so I got that part right. I wish I knew who bought it.
"Call It In" at Rosewood
I'm happy to announce that my entry into the Rosewood Art & Music Festival won first place in the three-dimensional category. I entered "Call It In," my first attempt at a Mississippi Kite. There was a lot of great artwork at the festival, and it was an honor to win a prize.
I didn't know these birds before I moved to Columbia -- they migrate into the area in the summer from South America to breed and feast on cicadas, circling over our neighborhoods in June, July, and August.
I put a price tag on "Call It In" but it didn't sell at the festival. If you're interested, it's now listed on my Etsy site.
It doesn't make sense to beat up on my own artwork when it's for sale, but there are a few things about this piece that bother me. The wings are too short, and I'm not satisfied with some aspects of the posture and body covering. I'll probably attempt another kite at some point for that reason. I've done three owls now and I still haven't made the owl I really want. I'm working on my fourth ceratopsian and my third crow. We'll see.
I'd like to thank my neighbors for their interest and support. Columbia is a good art town.
As always, I invite you to follow the Zero Point Mechanic page on Facebook to keep up with what's going on in my garage.
I often get asked what if any connection there is between my art and my archaeology. It's a good question, the answer to which I both think I know and have a difficult time clearly articulating. I've found myself thinking about it more since I was invited to participate in the Theoretical Archaeology Group's 2018 meeting at the University of Florida. The theme is "Matter Matters." Since the invitation, I've been taking mental notes while I work in my garage, especially about how and why materials "jump dimensions" and are transformed from simple utilitarian objects into symbolic ones. That's probably what I'll talk about.
This morning I had the opportunity to pick through an old garage that was about to be demolished. I don't know the full history of the property, but it was clear that the immediately former owner had used the building to "collect" all sorts of things. Material was piled head high in some places, a massive jumble of plastic, metal, wood, glass bottles, paper, styrofoam, etc. It had clearly been a habitat for rats for a long time.
I had to work fast because the goal was to get the building down today or tomorrow. When I'm looking for sculpture materials, I'm usually looking for ferrous metal in interesting shapes and colors. I'm also on the lookout for "unknowns" that might spark an idea or solve a problem now or in the future.
The archaeologist in me found it really difficult to keep up the pace. As I started to remove and toss aside things I wasn't interested in, it became clear this wasn't just a random jumble of junk. There was information in both the kinds of things that were present (e.g., many old ax handles, lots of wire flower racks from funeral displays) and in their order. It was stratified both horizontally and vertically, which is easy to understand if you think about the process of gradually accumulating material in the room. There were postmarked envelopes here and there. If I had had a month to excavate carefully, I would have been able to tell a really interesting story.
Embedded within the stratified deposits, I found three toolboxes. The metal one was in the debris above the floor. The long wooden one was sitting on the original floor (with nothing underneath it). And the short wooden one was tucked back in the far corner, leaning against the wall as if it is had fallen behind something.
These are the equivalent of discrete archaeological features, and I am interested in them both for their archaeology and for their potential as art.
Archaeology comes first, though. Each of the toolboxes is full of tools - a time capsule from when it was deposited in the deposit. I haven't gone through the contents in detail yet, but I will. I'm going to do it carefully. I did open all three, however, so I can give you some idea what's in them.
The long wooden toolbox (the one that was sitting on the original floor) contains woodworking tools and wood shavings. It has clearly not been opened since it was covered with debris. As a rough guess, I would say it could date to the 1930's or earlier. The tools inside may help with that.
The short wooden toolbox has cobblers tools. It could also be early 20th century. Again . . . wait for the analysis.
The metal toolbox (the one within the debris) is interesting because it can be linked to a specific individual: it has a guy's name on it, as well as other identifying information. Here is a photo of the top:
The top reads
On the front of the box it says "Slim."
My first guess is that this used to be the toolbox of someone in the 564th squadron (or some other organizational unit) of the U.S. military. The box has some odds and ends that appear at first glance to be mostly related to auto repair. I think the box saw secondary re-use after it's original military service: those probably aren't Slim's tools in Slim's old box.
Here's the challenge to the internet. Figure out who this guy is. Figure out if he's still alive. Figure out if he has family that are still alive. I'd like to give this box back to him or them if they want it. You know why? Because if it used to mine, or my dad's, or my grandpa's . . . I'd want it back.
I know this because every time I'm in my garage making something new out of something old, I think about how much matter actually can matter. One of the sculptures I'm working on now is called "My Father's Hammer." It's a crow made from my father's old hammer. It matters to me even if it matters to no-one else.
I'd like to give Slim's toolbox to someone that will treasure it. I'll send the person who finds him a signed print and some stickers for his or her trouble.
Just because I haven't been writing much about my art doesn't mean I haven't been busy. With the academic semester is in full swing, it's an evening and weekend pursuit. I've been working on a few different things but most of my energy has been going toward finishing up the piece I plan to enter in ArtFields (entries are due in early November). Here are some highlights of what I've got coming up.
"Old Ben," Going Once . . .
As I mentioned earlier, I contributed a sculpture for the Columbia zoo's annual "ZooFari" fundraiser. I don't really know how this sort of combination live/online auctions work, but there has already been at least one bid even through the live auction isn't until tomorrow evening.
You can bid on "Old Ben" here and I encourage you to do so. If the bid stays below $100, I'm going to buy it myself and he's going right back on my mantle.
Rosewood Art Festival Mystery Sculpture
My entry into the juried show at the Rosewood Art & Music Festival was accepted. The show itself is a one-day event on September 30th, so I'll drop the sculpture off in the morning, it will get judged, and then I'll pick it back up at 5:00. If it sells, I'll pick up a check that will go into the Zero Point Mechanic World Domination Fund.
For some reason I can't claim to understand, participants are not supposed to identify their entries online. So I'm not telling you what I entered. I'll just say I like it, but I'm putting a price tag on it.
If you're in the Columbia area, come and see some art and listen to some music on Rosewood.
Stickers: An Indoor Activity
I can't always work in my garage when I want to, so I stay busy indoors sometimes. I'm not doing much at these days that doesn't produce heat, sparks, and fumes, but I have taken to playing with sticker designs. You can see/purchase what I've come up with so far at my Etsy shop.
The tri-lobed rooster design is one I've been working on for a long time.
The yin-yang "dark-bright" Triceratops heads are something I worked on while we were cooped up inside getting lashed by the outer bands of Hurricane Irma. I couldn't decide on which color combinations and configurations I like the most, so I had a batch of 1" ones printed as a experiment.
South Carolina State Fair: A Pair of Birds
Next week I'll drop off my two entries for the South Carolina State Fair. I decided to go with two pieces from this year that I love and don't ever plan on selling. I'm not sure they're my best work, but they're a good pair.
After everyone submits what they're going to submit, there is a process where they "jury out" things that aren't judged to be suitable for whatever reason. Everything that's left is judged, prizes are awarded, etc. Awards are announced in early October.
Last year, my crow sculpture won "Best of Show" in the amateur division. That was a real confidence booster, and it was a rare treat to get to take my kids to see my work literally in the spotlight with a big ass ribbon on it. I don't expect I'll be able to pull that off again, but I still love fairs and I'm looking forward to seeing all of this year's entries and seeing how mine do.
ArtFields: Go Big or Go Home
ArtFields is a big deal: it's billed as one of the largest professional art shows in the Southeast. You can only enter one thing, and it's reportedly very difficult to get in. I missed the deadline last year but have been planning for this year ever since.
Originally I was planning on entering "Grace," but as the fall started I began thinking/imagining that I'd have enough time to also finish "Beauty" and produce the "Beauty and Grace" pairing I've been envisioning since I started on "Grace" last spring.
The deadline is November 9, so I've got a month and half left. Wish me luck: it's going to be a push to get it done.
Summer is almost over, and the beginning of the academic part of my year looms in the near future. I was able to spend quite a bit of time on my art hobby this summer, beginning with stocking up for my May/June show at Tapp's and continuing to make stuff at a pretty rapid clip up until our family vacation. I won't be putting my workshop into mothballs, but archaeology will put the brakes on the art until the spring.
I've spent some time at the end of the summer taking photographs and creating a store on Etsy for the items that are for sale. I've also entered some pieces in upcoming shows and contributed one piece to a nonprofit auction. The "Art" section of my website is reorganized (and still under construction). Here's the rundown:
And now you are up-to-date. As always, you can follow work in progress on the Zero Point Mechanic page on Facebook.
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