(Edited transcript of presentation. Images will be added when they become available)
I’ve put those in there because that’s what I’m doing now actually, so here’s my studio, in Seattle and this big space where you see some sculptures, I also have this little room where I do some drawing and sit and smoke cigarettes and wear my beret. We all need that.
I’ve been doing these paintings, actually finding these paintings. I’m not going to talk much about these, I just wanted to see them projected, but I’ve been finding these paintings at Salvation Army and goods stores and yard sales and then going and painting into them, like this little girl was just a demure little girl standing there with a pink ribbon, and I painted that shotgun on her shoulder, and I painted that hairy beast that she’s just killed.
So here’s a, on the right is a poor slide of this painting that I got, I think in a garage sale and this is what I did to it on the left, so it’s really fun, it’s a good way to learn how to paint.
But I’m here to talk about this stuff, so this fairly new work, and you know, I thought about the theme of this conference and I guess it’s logical to have me included, I guess based on what I’ve done so, I don’t know that I’m going to talk too terribly formally about fragmentation but it is an issue of my work and it manifests itself in lots of different ways. Not necessarily physical ways but more psychological ways, it’ll sure become clear to you as I go on here. This piece is called Heirloom, and I don’t, it has a mould of my arm on it which gives you some idea of the scale of it, but for the most part I actually, exclusively don’t use moulds, all my work is hand built and coil built. I don’t use models and the drawing I do is just drawing for drawing, I never draw for sculpture, I never use anything it just comes right out of my head. This one’s called Cain and Abel.
So this is a, actually the most recent piece of sculpture made, it’s about this tall, and it’s called John Henry, I don’t know if you know the American legend of John Henry, raised with steam drill, but I’ve been wanting to make this figure for a really long time and he’s Down’s Syndrome, and this Down’s Syndrome for some reason just comes through my work every ten years or so, I have a slide of the first one, I don’t know what it is, but it’s a hulking figure that has no hands but also maybe has what people might consider a kind of like mental, or, deficiency in some way but I think sweet none the less.
I’ll talk more about this as I go on, I just wanted you to see it before I start showing these things, and talk a little about my process, I’m not hell bent on clay, or the orthodoxy of ceramics at all, to me it’s just a material that I make sculpture with, I’d go with what Christie said yesterday, it’s the first thing that I found and I just seem to have a way with it. I use lots of other materials too, I don’t glaze anything, I paint, but here’s some process shots that I think are important to mention, I think the one thing that I do like about clay and the one thing that keeps me in it, why I continue to use it, is that I build hollow. That’s no mystery to anybody in this room, how that happens, but here’s a slide of the figure on the left in process and what I like about the process of building is, you know, you go strip by strip and when you’re doing that you have one hand on the inside of this thing, and one hand on the outside, so it’s pressure from the inside that’s say making that belly there, and that stomach and that breasts. That’s happening in here, because it’s also tempering the patterns on the outside, so you’re basically building this wall, and there’s something symbolic to me that’s interesting, you know, it’s symbolic of the way that we’re constructed, you know, we have this inside pressure, this inside psyche or inertia and there’s also this outside pressure that we all face, you know, the world, so we have this and we have that, and so to work with clay in this way I think is really symbolic, to me in terms of the way that we are constructed. So process to me is kind of important, and I always look at things, I never really know exactly what it is I’m going to make, I have ideas, I have contextual ideas, good things, pedestals or plants or those kinds of environmental kind of formats, but what the figure’s actually going to look like and what it’s going to be is something that just comes through me, again I don’t draw or use models or anything, so I never know who is going to really show up, and at every stage of working before it goes in the kiln or after it’s out the kiln when I’m painting it, I’m always looking for a place where I either stop or keep going, so the process of working for me is a lot more sporadic and a lot more intuitive than this work would suggest. So here’s a crucifixion that I’ve made in progress and I’m not showing it to you as a technical explanation but to talk about the process for me is really to speak about, in some ways for fragmentation it might be reverse fragmentation because it’s additive, but it took me, it took me about two months to make this Christ figure, and you know you go up inch by inch by inch, a couple of inches a day building hollow and, you know, I wrap it up at the end of the day, come back to it, do some more work on it and it stays essentially the same, whilst it’s wrapped up in plastic but I come to it really as a really different person. I might be listening to something different in my studio I might not be listening to anything, I might be listening to the BBC which I do at night, or Brahms, or funk so all that stuff from day to day for me I’m like in a really bad mood, or a really great mood, or I might just have had sex or something and I think all that I think really gets into the piece and the piece really becomes a kind of container. I hate that metaphor, but the way that I change day to day really impacts the way that these things are and the way that they emerge.
The term ‘figure’ is the one that I’m going to use, but I actually like calling these things human objects, so figure is one thing, but human object is another. If you’re speaking at the figure, figure of speech, or you’re speaking figuratively you’re sometimes speaking away from a direct truth, so ‘human object’ I think is a more apt way to describe what I do. It’s a human object because it describes the thing but also it describes the human objective and that’s why things are made and that’s why we look at them, at least why I do. This is not using a mould or anything, and working the way that I do is very tedious and most of the time I really don’t like, if I could just go (finger click) and have my thing there then I would, or if I could let somebody else make it for me I would but I really start to have fun when I get to the torso and there’s a lot about the human object that I like, I think it carries for me a lot of personal stuff and certainly some conceptual ideas, but there’s a part of the body, my feeling about the body, that really is very simple and it’s an innate fascination, just like looking at a really old barn or something that’s a dilapidated old church or something and, you know, that it’s just a sensory attraction to it and the torso for me is really that.
I guess I do work fairly realistically and another thing that I enjoy about clay is that it’s pretty easy. This slide’s out of focus, so, it’s pretty easy because it’s like drawing, where I establish realism is through drawing, three dimensional drawing or three dimensional cross hatching. So I start out and most of the detail and that I do happens when the clay is just about dry so building when the clay is wet is one thing, it’s that critical thing, a morpheous adventure, but then going in and using dental tools and dull pencils. Most of the way that I establish realism, or at least, you know, some refinement in pursuing that happens to carving.
These two slides are taken about five minutes apart and, you know, I do a lot of things to the clay before it’s fired, that’s when the magic of it is for me because that’s when it’s behaving more like flesh and so I knew that blood was going to be a fairly important issue for this crucifixion so I used paint and body hair, so I put hair on things before they’re fired knowing that it’s going to burn out in the kiln but it just makes me feel good to do, and I paint on things and you know, do lots of stuff to them that aren’t necessarily going to be that evident when the thing’s done. I’ll talk more about that in a minute but, so it gets weird sometimes and I have to make myself laugh, but it’s a really long time I was telling somebody that’s why I don’t like to do demos or demonstrations because making a face is a, at least a two week adventure for me and I don’t know what it’s going to be, and it really does change a lot, I’ll work on a head for a week and it just is going nowhere and I’ll cut it off and start another one. This Jesus was especially difficult.
This is really early work that I made from about 1986, it’s my undergraduate or my Bachelor’s work and I really didn’t, I’ve never had figure modelling, I came from a music background and I just jumped into making art, with no foundation or anything. And, I never had a drawing class, I never had a figure modelling class, I had clay metal, glass, wood and fibres, you know, and I read a lot too. So this is the first kind of stuff, these are about eight feet tall, and I think I made probably about ten or twelve of these for my exit show. But I didn’t know anything about the figure. You can look this and say gee, I know a lot about the figure but not in an anatomical way, but, I was really just hashing it out and they look like primitive sculpture to me, although they don’t reference any specific group of sculpture but my primitivism.
This is my Master’s work from ‘89. I went to the Art Institute in Chicago for my Master’s degree and the place where I was making this stuff was in rural Tennessee, it’s the American South and I had a big studio, about as big as this room all to myself, unbelievable right, as an undergraduate student, nobody was at this place. So then I went to Chicago and I had a studio that was about as big as this table. And this was the work I made in graduate school and I made a deliberate decision at this point to work more realistically, that’s funny because that man on the left is kind of on the half way point between the older work, like his legs look like that, but then as you move up then it’s like as you get past the groin, it’s like maybe I could make this more real looking so I made a conscious decision to do that with this work, and they’re not, again, I’ll say this for the last time, they’re not based on anybody, there’s no, there are plenty of people in the world I guess who look like this or are convincing enough to make you think they’re from somewhere specific but they’re not they’re just out of my head and so because of that I call them self-portraits. It’s sounds like a stretch, but maybe not so much to consider that guy a self-portrait, but for her certainly. It’s lucky because they don’t look any thing like me and they are nobody else and so when I had got done painting their irises and their eyeballs and with one bristle brush and then barging over them and making them clear, and I would sit across from them and sort of gaze at them and have them gaze back at me. The only person I could see look at me was myself, I know that sounds strange but if there’s an implied psychology or an implied persona in these things they couldn’t be anybody else’s but mine so in that way they are a form of self portraiture for me, which is interesting because Chicago is a great big city and you can stand on an L train for forty five minutes hanging onto the rail and somebody’s face will be this far from me, it’ll be packed in but you won’t say a word to each other and in a kind of weird sociological distance was partly what made me want to work more realistically and part of making me want to do this, because making somebody like her or him or any of them was a way to sort of bridge that sort of distance with other people and there was no narrative, seems like a dirty word here so far, but there was no narrative scheme for this. I made one, I did, I only work on one thing at a time so I made one, and another, and then another, and I just knew that they were all going to end up in the same place together so there was a kind of gestalt that happens among them and of course and it’s always interesting to give people permission to invent their own, which is what I was hoping would have happened. So why is she there? Why is this Down’s Syndrome figure there? This is the first one, I have a good story about that, but I’m going to try and keep to schedule.
So those were all self-portraits, many of them working very widely, I created forms and objects that were working a little bit closer to what I was physically or visually which was, you know, a young man. I never really cared that much for the history of figurative sculpture. I wasn’t really that interested in it and certainly in 1989 the most dead thing you could do, that at least the answer to in Chicago was work with a figure, and then, to put it on a pedestal, man, I thought there was tremendous advantage in dealing with them and acting with them, so I started looking at this history and the reason I didn’t actually like it that much was because it’s full scheduling, as I call, it’s full, of guys like Apollo, we call Gipeto Sansodino(?) Apollo. Specifically images of heroes, especially men, male heroes, so there are far more arrogant Apollos than there are introspective figures like George Mingus, the fact that the year was here. So I thought pedestal and hero might be ways to subvert what might conventionally be considered heroic maleness. So I started using this tablet form so this piece is actually called Hero and it’s probably the first thing that I broke up and like what we would call fragmentation. And I’m interested in the line between the objectness of it, or the thingness of it, it is just a thing. It’s this (knocking on wood), it doesn’t key and it will never talk to you. So acknowledging the fact that it is an inanimate object which I think for me, fracturing these things, ironically makes what is perceptibly human about them come through I think more directly if that sounds strange. So it has some real hair on it, it’s half way in-between being a sculpture, being more of a person. I love his chest because I brushed porcelain slip on the clay when the clay was pretty dry so it crawled, with this beautiful sort of cracking thing that turns by default into this beautiful, wonderful hairy chest you know that’s just crawling porcelain. That was a really nice accident. Although I meant to do it.
This one’s called Vertical Object, and this figure that’s on a pedestal and, you know, own him. If I’m standing next to this thing, my eye is about where his lips are, so they’re not, so most of them, they start off life size, but they shrink of course in the kiln. So what I’m building them life size, well my size but we all know that it shrinks and so there’s a nice thing about that for me. Most people are frustrated by it but when they do shrink that’s just another way to sort of knock ‘em down from hero status. I made some older men too, and it’s called Mounting Measure and the pedestal is really, it’s a wonderful device for me because it’s not just the thing that puts the figure on, it keeps it from falling over but the seat bit that that man is on about this high, about four feet tall and he’s quite a large figure and an older man, it’s called Man Being Measured and so he’s at the height a judge would sit at, or a king, or a pope, somebody who would do the judging but he’s put on that thing not to do that, he’s put on there naked to be judged by whoever it is who’s looking at him. People have told me that he looks like Lyndon Johnson, which is great because that’s the kind of guy that I’m shooting at here. And some other ones, these are from around mid 90’s, something like that and this one on the right is called Man Learning Kneeling, if he stood up he’d be about six five, but he’s kneeling and he’s kneeling on a plinth that’s way to small for him to do it on. And you know kneeling is a gesture of humility, if you’re Catholic and genuflex, kneeling is that kind of a gesture and this guy doesn’t look as though he’s particularly comfortable or confident doing that. The one on the left is called Figure in Transition and at the far end of that pedestal that he’s sitting on is an indication that he once was upright, and he was standing on it, but it’s laid down like that and now he’s sitting on it so, is it a monument that was once erect or is it one that hasn’t been erected yet? That’s one of my favourite ones because, you know, the good thing that is truly heroic, for anyone, man or woman, is a sense of introspection and quietness more than it is bravado or arrogance and so I try to make work that addressed that.
This is my, I was going to say little, this is my younger brother Steve (laugh from audience) and I’ve never shown this slide in any place that a kilt would matter quite so much as here so (laugh from audience). No, my brother is a gladed shottler(?) he’s a professional Scottish highland games athlete and that’s him lifting the Inver stone in Scotland. He wrote a book on the subject. But he’s a brilliant man, he was a lurcher (?) major in college, and he’s actually trained as a writer, he’s a writer. He’s writing a book now on his experiences being a bouncer (laugh from audience). My brother never had to beat anybody up, never had to throw anybody out physically, he could just talk them out of it, he’s that kind of gentle man. It’s, you know, he’s a big guy, and just a, I’m closer to him than anybody in the world, but I’m showing it because it has some bearing on why I’ve centred pretty much exclusively on the male figure. It’s personal information but, you know, it has some bearing on my work, you know when we were boys our mother deserted us, she left us and we never heard from her again so we grew up with my Dad. So it was me and Steve and my Dad and so there’s always this thing, here’s what I mean about what the psychology of fragmentation could be. You always wonder to yourself what’s missing from me, if I never had that part of my life, and so he explored heroism and masculinity in this way, and so for me, making sculptures, non-heroes, was a way of sort of exploring and also a way that I can explain a degree of fragmentation to you. The other thing is that we also grew up really poor. We never had a car, we grew up in projects, in self Florida, we had a shelf here called cobs, every country probably has, it was, we lived in the kind of neighbourhood that had crack houses and stuff like that, and it was another kind of irony in terms of what I’d mean, because here, the title of this piece is Sculpture and it’s a, this is one of my favourite things of all time, and it’s, so it’s this anonymous boy who’s less than anonymous because he’s fictitious, but he’s put in this construct, you’re in sculpture convention, that’s reserved for Apollos or, you know, kings and stuff but he’s nobody, but I put him in a place that his nobodyness turns into something and then he goes to a museum or something like that which is really ironic to me, it’s just a clay, but one more thing though, ok, so I use clay but I put a lot of porcelain on the top of it and then I give it a really thin wash of acrylic paint, it’s not even paint, it’s like dirty water, and it’s a real critic wood that I stole out of Tony Hepburn’s barn so I’m not trying to make this look like it’s marble, I’m trying to make all sensitive porcelain, I’m trying to make it look like I’m doing a bad job of making it look like marble, you know, because that’s important to the democratic idea of what I’m talking about with clay because it’s junk you know, but it’s dressed up to look like marble which makes it, the anonymity of this figure, even more compelling for me. So yeh, the fragment, what I like that everybody knows that I trust in, everybody in this room will surely know that image, that, so I started looking at these things pretty seriously and what attracts me to them, is that Apollo over there, the terracotta and this Kouros figure, they were once, initially the contacts that everything that between, Apollo had nymphs around, architecture and they were part of a frieze or something that defined it. That defined that importance, now they don’t have that anymore, you know, so they’re relieved somehow of their propriety. So Apollo is just a guy with a fancy curly hair-do as a fragment, and so that makes them more human to me. When things are, you know for whatever, arrested, or removed from their context they float more in terms of what they present to us as human effigies to me, it’s easier to mess with something when it’s not attached to a piece of architecture for me, a figurative element, it’s easier for me to, first of all look at the thing and get that perceived psychology from it, but also it gets me closer to nature(?) somehow, because there they think, whoever made this thing, their thing broke as well.
So I made one this one’s called Ornament and it’s a boy, he’s seated about that tall. I like this line, is it archaic or is it broken, or, I made the back of it look like it was attached to something so, you know, again is it unfinished, or is it a relic and I love that, there’s a really famous Apollo, I wish I could remember the name of it, it might perhaps be a Setales(?) Apollo but he stands like this and there’s a tree over here that does his bar that comes up off his hip, you know this device in sculpture so I put that bar, his head. So he would have holed up a more important figure, and I like breaking things, a lot of the time I don’t do it on purpose, but this woman on the left is an older piece about 1990, it’s called Clotting Man, and I loved the logging figure, you know, we all know about that, Egyptians did them, to a great extent Giacometti did a walking man, Rodin did a walking man, so I love that structure. you’re walking, one foot behind you, and one foot in front of you, so where your body is, you could say that the foot behind you is in the past and the foot in front of you is in the future, so the status, the position of your body puts you in the present, so a wonderful system, so he’s called Plodding Man, which is a clumsy odd word, stupid way of walking, and I was making this thing and it fell over after it was fired and I was, I didn’t want it to break and it fell over and it broke into about fifteen pieces and then I fixed it, and I liked it better. That’s a horrible cliché, if it breaks it’s a happy accident, but I did like it better, and then it fell over again, and I had it standing up on its head and I was putting its feet on, and I was in the other room and I just heard this crash and it broke again, and it broke even worse and I fixed it and I liked it even better (laugh from audience) so that really happens a lot for me.
So this one was a really interesting piece, it’s called Spunk and when I was making, it was a full standing figure and had arms, and was all intact and everything and I was looking at it, and this was when I was teaching at Alfred and this was looking at it and it just looked so fussy it was dead and nothing, the nostrils were perfectly carved, less wrinkles on the lips and everything, it looked beautiful, but it was, I hated it, and so I sawed it in half and I broke the arms off and I just did a bunch of, I cut it apart, I threw stuff at it, I think this was after a particularly difficult critique with Wayne Higley (laugh from audience). I threw porcelain all over his genitals and I thought get that, but then I grabbed the upper torso and I just grabbed it, head down and I dipped it in my slop bucket and like I’m swirling and put in the kiln in a big pile and got it out and then put it together like this. I thought that the torso would still be upright, but I liked it like that, purely post and lintel stuff. And it was really confusing, it was the first time I had done anything that was that radical. It takes a long time to make this stuff you know, if you’re going to be articulate about it and I was talking to Stephen de Stabler, I taught with him there for the summer, and we were looking at this piece and I said, you know, I’ve got to get my head around why I’m doing this, and he said, very eloquently, which is not uncommon for him, because ‘well, it’s apparent that what you’re doing is trying to is stay off the oppressive effects of virtuosity’ (laughter from audience). You know and he was dead on, right, so, so that’s right you know, that’s why if I don’t do everything myself, if I don’t articulate the thing and refine it, this is why I can’t use moulds, because there is not that investment there, pushing it to the very destruction doesn’t matter that much, so there is a compromise, there’s a treacherous dance, I don’t want to screw the thing up too much but if I can do this to it, this is why I’ve called it Cheating Time but if I can do this to it, if I can do my own fragmentation, if I can make my own work into fragments, then I don’t have to wait for time to come along and do it for me. I don’t have to wait for a war to come and smash my stuff, I can do it myself and so I can kind of own something about it that’s timeless I suppose, so it’s a very different thing than trying to mimic antique sculpture the way that I go about it. I happen to think that if more is left off, or if a right arm is left off more than they are broken it really is my sort of fragmentation more than it is that I try to adopt it as a specific affect of aesthetic style. Even though I recognize and acknowledge that it does look like that and it is a part of it.
This one’s interesting – it’s called Rule and it’s terracotta with a light slip on it and this was really far out. That thing that’s on top of his neck that’s tied on with some rope is a bust. It’s a bust and I made it and I sawed it in half and I buried it in the ground for about a month and then I dug it back up and I was working on the body of it and the clay was sort of hard and stiff I grabbed that rope and I started whipping it on its back and whipped a lot, I mean thirty, forty times just like with my hand on its chest and I’d go whick, whick (hits something onto the table?) and I sat down in a chair and I laughed my head off, like crazy laughter, like really kind of scary laughter (laughter from audience) and yeh, and my friend said, oh yeh, yeh. I want other people to know more about what I do than I do, she told me so, you know, if you get acupuncture and it doesn’t rise, when you leave, you laugh (laughter from audience), and you’re giddy and you laugh a lot because there’s something that’s in you that’s gone, you know, something that acupuncture releases and so, I didn’t believe that there were lots of these things that were like that, and a lot of what happens in my studio is that kind of thing. It’s not all violent, sometimes it’s intimate, you know, so, it’s a playground, torture chamber, psychiatrists, self-imposed psychiatrist’s couch and so the, I’ve been making things that’s art, especially art that is physical and tactile inhabited. It’s a lot about that, it’s as much about that as the manufacture of sculpture for me. we’re lucky to be able to do that, if I didn’t do this, I’d be, I’d probably be in prison
So more things about, I’m going to fly here because I’m too . . .
You’ve got five, ten minutes
So yeh, there’s a really wonderful penis, there we go. Told ya, I did a show of figurines, and this is porcelain, it’s about this tall, it took as long to make that as it did to make a big one, just because it’s, you know, really clean and it’s like a little chair, or a putty, you know, a lot of artists love them, then I made that one, it was the first large piece that I made after I did the show of figurines and sculpture, and I made it thinking about this, what happens when these little angel putti things turn forty? You know, what will they look like? And (laughter from audience) so I made him, and you know, so, he’s obviously been impassioned by something and he actually had legs and genitals and everything but I forgot to poke holes in them when they went in the kiln and oh, his hands were, and it just totally blew off (laughter from audience). It just totally blew off everything, but his hands stayed like on the outside of his legs and his arm, that one followed this one. But it just blew off for hell, but you know, I could go back in and do things to it and again make it wear, if you close the door of the kiln, I was firing it at school, a couple of my students are walking by, I close the kiln and they were like were not listening to you anymore (laughter from audience). So anyway, I like him, he’s got an aging putti, his back has this kind of structure on it, where his wings used to be. This was an interesting project. It’s a site-specific piece in Portland, Oregan, and it was really fun to do. I’d never done anything outside before and I got this chance to work at this play, you know, on this site, and it’s really great because the red building and the green building, my piece is on the red building, right on the corner. But there are other artists who did things on that site too, and they’re apartment buildings. they’re rental units in a very low income part of Portland. That building across the street is a half way house for battered and abused women and children so it’s a nice neighbourhood. It’s not like some collector’s place or something like that. It’s like in a school, so red building, that’s where my piece is. And I didn’t know what I was going to do, they said well, you can have this corner and I said that’s perfect, what am I going to do with it, and so I tried to figure that. And I thought well, I’ll make a lawn ornament so I went to this place in Tennessee and I saw this big lawn ornament. Do you call those lawn ornaments over here? Yeh? So this slide shows you about one fifth of this place and they had everything there to concrete, every size Mary, every species of dog, gnomes, booters, and it was like, if I could go there and do a residence I could make a cathedral (laughter from audience). So I decided I would make a lawn ornament and it’s a fountain, this is me installing, so what kind of lawn ornament, its an Australopithecus it’s a hominid, like Lucy, and I wanted to make her, it was the first female figure I’d done in a while and the thing that’s beautiful now because I had to figure out how to do plants and how to make a trickling fountain. Right now the rocks that she’s sleeping on have moss all over them. That little tree that I planted really sort of shades the figure. I thought a lot about it, and the colour of that building was really deliberate and my choice of the colour of the flowers and the plant that surround it are meant to kind of mimic that so, it’s the only functional thing I’ve ever made because it has a planter built into her back and I found these ice plants that are exactly when they’re blooming which they do all year, they’re exactly the same colour as that apartment building so that’s like the early human, they wanted to make this place feel like a temporary shelter which is what an apartment building is, people live in an apartment building all their life as a temporary place to live. So I thought if I made a temporary shelter what would it look like? Nice little place to sort of rest that is surrounded. I like to think that she’s probably dreaming about the part of building that makes her more real than it.
So I love that thing, this is the only real thing that I’ve ever really had to lift, it’s called Weeping Lucy and I love the early hominids and so I had to do some research because I wanted it to be dead on, and I think Lucy was Australopithecus Robustus so I needed to make sure it was that. So I looked at some research in the National Geographic and stuff like that to get the face. But I didn’t know what the body looked liked, I didn’t want the body to look like something from the northern renaissance, you know, I didn’t want anything to do that. I have found some great statistics in the, well, its higher fossil record that you know Lucy, any things that were actually found, that evolution was sort of constructed around, would fit on like a wide dining table, the actual things, not the reproductions or anything. That was interesting to me because if there’s a, you know, because science always says to religion well show me, so when religion goes to science well show me, they go well, we got a table full of stuff (laughter from audience) so there’s faith in that. There’s faith in both things and so I wanted to make like a weeping Mary, you know, a weeping icon. I wanted to make a weeping anthropological icon. So it’s like a weeping Lucy. Almost done there.
So this a piece called Access and I did this actually for my tenure show, which was sort of appropriate. So I wanted it to be a crucifixion and it was coming for a long time because it’s, I don’t know if I can say that every sculpture, everybody’s got to deal with it. I don’t know the benefit. I did, I had to negotiate it, I was thinking about it for a long time and for me it was important because it was, again I told you that none of my work isn’t based on anyone in particular or specific until I learnt to make a human object that is arguably the most identifiable one you know in the history of time. It was a challenge but then you know, to try it, so, the human objects that I look at most that are contemporary, I like things that are really abstract and visceral like Kikki Smith’s man and woman here. And then I really think you know something that Charles Ray is doing. It represents both sides of that, the corporeal all she does is you know, come and she has no difference or presence. So that’s pretty much all we do on a corporeal level and then Ray is sort of represents the other thing that we can be which is really streamlined and immaculate. So contradictions happen in both ways. The sort of streamlined sixteenth-century carving, you know, that’s like exhibition and then there’s Grimwald. I tend to gravitate more towards the Grimwald and sort of here this piece we’re seeing is sort of narrow doorway there and when you first see it, you see it, that lantern frames it. So you see, so the doorway is now, and so you see through that V of that ladder first and I thought, the piece can be shown without the ladder but I wanted to experiment with it here and I was thinking about it. The ladder is very much like a ready made for me, one of Duchamp’s because that’s the ladder that I used to work on that.
It’s a conceptual art device that frames, initially frames, the view of the crucifixion and so when you walk into this room you see it through a readymade, initial frames through a readymade which is, you know, of course a contemporary art that lies within. You’d have to, you walk around a readymade You’d leave it behind you and then You’d go out, and you can actually stand on the base of the crucifixion. So the readymade is kind of like a temptation to me, because I guess we all fight with a conceptual side and our, you can call it your spiritual side, or whatever, but intuition versus conceptualism. I fight with it quite a bit.
So I want both of those, this is a wax museum Damon Allan, Satan Tempting Christ, so the shop is sort of like my Satan. So I wanted those two conventions in the same place at the same time and see if I could make them both.
Every account of the New Testament, the crucifixion in the New Testament, I did some historical research on how crucifixions happened and nothing that I’ve ever come across most of all the bible said that, told me anything, that he did just absolutely had the crap beaten out of him and then he was stripped naked, whipped with a flagel, which I made to get those marks, more whipping. But I actually made a tool to put those marks on him and so it was really hard this one. So when I was done and I looked at it, remember I look into the eyes of things and seeing myself. It was really, really curious to see what I’d encounter when I looked in the face of this thing when I was done. I thought you know, if I do this right, who’s going to be staring back at me, you know, God? I did think that would be possible. It didn’t happen. I was paralyzed after I made this piece I couldn’t do anything for a year.
My brother who I showed is a born again Christian so I think one reason I wanted to approach and, you know, that he’s a born again Christian and I think there was something about making this that I had to do to see if I could because I felt like I was losing him somehow to this, so I felt I had to approach this to see if I could understand.
This is I think my last slide. This is a performance piece that I did. It’s an installation, you can see what it is. That’s my head. It’s called Gipetto Stupor and I’m lying underneath that thing sticking my head up through it. It’s this little bug, and you can see this little study, you know Gipetto, who made Pinochio and so I wanted to, and I put grey in my hair and big bushy eyebrows and stuck my cheeks. And I had sound for this too. I was lying underneath, which I did for three hours at night and for three nights in a row. And I had a CD thing under, it had a looped at play, it was a loop of me tickling my two sons, I was tickling Henry and recorded and tickling William and recorded and looped them together and even if you’re not looking at this ridiculous thing and you hear that you just laugh like crazy. So I had that going in this room non-stop, and put my head down and had my eyes closed and people were coming and there were other installations and performances going on, I tried not to open my eyes the whole time. I tried to smile real big without showing my teeth for three hours a night and my students were on this gallery in Seattle, it’s an alternative space. They do really good things and they have a lot of students and they talk a lot about performance and installation and video and stuff so this is, you know, it’s like why don’t you party up and do a performance so I said ok, so I wanted to make this one, just to give them all chance to laugh at me and so I thought what am I to them. I’m probably this guy that makes, and they’re a lot hipper than I am, but they make, I’m this guy who makes sculptures and somehow insists that they live up to some big dream about them like Gipetto and I just wanted to give them a bit of a chance to laugh at me. Squat little stupid old man.
So these are my two sons, Henry and William, and that’s my studio and you have to show your kid and your dog in ceramics, that’s what Mike Burns said. But this one’s making a presentation thing and basically I’m down at my studio a lot and make things and sometimes, you know, say great things or, but they live in Tennessee now, they live with their Mom in Tennessee. So I don’t see them that much, and they go to a Catholic school, so Henry on the left he, you know, and they were talking about Jesus, he’s going to Catholic school and she told me that they said this, you know, they were talking about Jesus and he said ‘I know who Jesus is, my Dad made him’ (laughter from audience).
Woman from audience: I just have to ask you, what I want to say is, when you were talking about your childhood really early on in your talk, but when you showed your two sons at the end, it was just and you spoke about them, I just wanted to say I just thought it was amazing really and I loved to hear you speak about your installations. And that was basically what I wanted to say.
Thank you. That’s interesting because my son’s birthday was yesterday actually.
Woman from audience: Are they twins?
No they’re fifteen months apart, as my brother and I are fifteen months and my father and his brother are fifteen months apart (laughter from audience) and the oldest out of us is always a Cancer and the younger of us is always a Virgo. It’s a weird statistic impossibility and you know, my brother’s important to me and the thing that makes me feel really good, when I do get to see my sons which isn’t as often as I’d like, to know that they’re the best of friends too so.
Woman from audience: It’s interesting that the children, there were one or two photographs of them on one or two pieces in the studio.
Like that the two robbers on the other side of Christ?
Woman front of audience: I’m particularly interested Doug, because my brother has Down’s Syndrome, and I’m, I was really intrigued that you, in through your imagination brought out these Down’s figures every so often, and you know you don’t see this happening in the visual arts very often and I wondered if you had any idea, any connection why you should want to bring out that, the kind of personality?
That earlier piece, that was I think the most pure thing I’ve ever made and I say really quickly when I was in graduate school, this guy used to come down to the clay studio and potter, and he’d come down and play with clay and he’d stick his head in my studio, nobody liked this guy. So I’m walking down the hall one day and he goes like this, he says ‘hey, you want to see something really funny’ and I’m like ‘yeh, OK’ and I walk in his office and he shows me this picture of I of think probably about fifteen young adults with Down’s Syndrome and he had, you know those glasses with the nose and moustache on them you know? He had gotten a bunch of those, and put them on these kids and walked them down like this street in the town and he thought that that was hilarious and I thought it was one of the most hideous things, and it wasn’t Halloween either, but I thought it was one of the most degrading thoughts I’d ever seen. I just was like uhh (shiver) ‘hey that’s funny man, see ya’ and so, there was something about that umm, that had to be answered.
Woman front of audience: I see where you’re coming from, it brought out that reaction.
And I didn’t mean to do it, but again it came through.
Woman front of audience: I kind of think he’s done us all a big favour really (laugh).
But it was that thing, because it was that experience, you know, the John Henry piece I showed, there’s another one to that I don’t have a slide of, but I did not mean to make John Henry be Down’s Syndrome, it’s just, that just came in a day, which never happens with me
Woman front of audience: I hope you don’t stop doing that, because it’s really . . .
I try not to think too much like, which makes it sound like oh, neo-Platonism or something like that, I mean there’s two things. I think a lot about what I’m doing and I have my didactic impulse but when it stops feeling human to be, and when it stops feeling necessary then I don’t do it anymore.
|Cheating Time Issue 8|