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.