Iron shapes suspended in mid (indoor) flight – no motor. Energy infused mass(s), caught in a moment of suspended transition – ascending, or descending ... soaring, or collapsing? Thrusting forms...truncated. Geometric voids incising into swelling, organic remnants of a larger whole. Vacant platforms and voids imply the removal or loss of what had been. Nearby buds seem to emerge from within, but in a manner that does not reveal their future mature state. Subtly complex, anthropomorphic forms coexist or morph into surfaces/materials associated with decay. Dust, rust and rot share an uncomfortable embrace with the sensual. Shapes that simultaneously reference human (usually hidden) forms with those of weaponry...all sheathed in satin...or is that a finely shaped metal. Intimacy (of a type) is fused with menace. By coming from combinations outside our usual comfort zones, these difficult stimuli catch the casual passerby's attention, making them a participant. A dialogue is begun. What initially seemed only a spectacle based hook-and-reel strategy, is revealed to be a complex, multi-layered visual encounter.
These varied states of transition are then combined with visual choices that reference the unconscious blurring of boundaries that should separate intimacy from the need to control (using the most complete definitions of both). A heightened degree of this need to control would be forcible acts of power; whether between individuals or more broadly societal. Details of war planes, architecture and the physically intimate are combined into singular forms. While the specific shapes are chosen for their visual interest, these selections are also rooted within the understanding that these particular subjects were used subliminally to project and justify power held by institutions or individuals. The architectural sources are Pre-World War II churches, government buildings and palaces. No subject, though, so embodies this nefarious fusing of sensual beauty with projections of aggressive, violent power like the lethal, swept wing grace of a soaring fighter plane.
My afore mentioned use of forms and materials that are seemingly in a state of flux reflects the life affirming ,life defining acts of the quest. The contradictory types of evolution that are the viscera of my sculpture parallels how there is a psychic conundrum created by what we need to pursue… primal goals that are inevitably in conflict with each other. At the beginning of our lives, and on a continuing basis thereafter; we have the need to affirm our existence by developing a sense of self...a sense of our uniqueness and of individual worth. But as we mature, the exigency to develop a sense of connection within this world as well as within the universe begins to arise. The first of these needs would be fulfilled by attaining true human intimacy (love) in its most complete spiritual, psychological, and physical sense. Gaining an inner ability to be spiritually at one with all else would satisfy the second. But fully devoting ourselves to these new goals requires acts that compromise, even threaten the sense of self that we have spent the entirety our lives developing. Becoming one both spiritually and with another individual requires a continuing series of selfless acts; acts given while withholding nothing. Selflessness + openness = vulnerability. The inevitable discomfort this produces, most times results in a long series of imperceptible, defensive acts. We learn that it is far easier to exert power over others than it is to risk the giving of one's hard won individuality. Having dominance over others can also validate our sense of uniqueness and importance. Likewise, it is far easier and much more tangible to accumulate possessions than it is to submit our total inner being (soul) to what is inevitably an abstraction. If the quest defines life, then the adult life is defined by sublimation…such is the receding passage of ideals.
I’ve been to Hawaii…but have never seen it.
My mother was a Big Band singn’, bomber fixn’(radios), movie star quality beauty; whose Aloha State residency was her first venture away from the sheltering farm country of Wisconsin. After a few months, nature took its course. The budding romance, though, was immediately ended by my Bio-Grand-Poppa. This man, who looked like he could be on Mt. Rushmore; was a Nazi escaping, world class mathematician whose entry into the U.S. was aided by a letter of support from Einstein. His son was a worldly 17 year old who was used to getting his way…she wasn’t and didn’t. Sailors sail…so did he, without ever knowing the part of him that was left behind. But for mom, my birth lasted a lifetime.
Years later, graduate studies at the Rhode Island School of Design were the gateway into the future. Simultaneously, and only three blocks up College Hill; the previously mentioned senior member of my bloodline was still a professor of engineering and applied math at Brown University. I did not know. When I interviewed for my first teaching job, this landmark experience took place in a building next to his. I did not know. Bio-dad was also a college professor…get this…at the University of Minnesota. In other words, only a few miles separated us for 18 years. I did not know. Getting even closer than that; each day, while driving to my first year of university classes, I passed close enough to his office to have thrown … Father’s Day chocolates...a hand grenade… through the good professor’s window. I did not know...because the way I came into this world was never to be spoken of.
These facts had always been like shadows that were longer than a decade, cast from an unknown source within an unreachable place. Recently, having become aware; I attempted to make contact. Contact denied. My efforts were intercepted by an insecure, childless wife (as it turns out, I am his only son) who coldly paid a lawyer to draft a two sentence “cease and desist” letter. All I wanted was to feel connected, to share the other half of my history. But fate…could it be anything less? … ordained that for decades, and against all odds; I should share proximity without consummation. Why so, fate; why so?
Back to the beginning… my first four years of life were spent on an isolated, subsistence farm: no electricity, no plumbing… no winter coat, no rubbers; no outside… starvation induced, distended stomach…frost on the inside of the windows…neighbor feuds…a baby goat as best friend… …singing Stephen Foster songs by kerosene light …”the devil hides in darkened corners”, she said…double pneumonia, compound fractures…an eagle flies into the dusk, the whippoorwill sings in staccato. More than most, there were many mysteries there. Within this serial darkness, the old…they had always been old, that is all life had ever allowed …did their best. But on the infrequent day, and lasting no more than that day; there would be red lipstick, brightly patterned blouses, and an energetic gait. She was vibrant, intelligent, young and beautiful. But most of all, she was Mom. Then…she was gone. My day-to-day guardians were a paranoid, schizophrenic Grandmother, along with her twin sister.
Later, the term “guardian” became severely tested. Convinced that we were being pursued by the police, Grandma guided me onto a pre- dawn Greyhound. Thus began a two year faux fugitive existence, moving from one short term “flop house” to another. Occasionally, when she was employed as a housekeeper for “gentleman farmers”, the suitcase was put away. This never lasted more than one page flip of the calendar.
Then, at age 7; along came Joe. He was just Joe…not Joseph, for that is the name given to kings and emperors …just Joe. This man; a very good man, an unassuming man; saved my life when he married my Mom. “Security: safety, refuge, sanctuary, haven, confidence, well-being, self-confidence, safety, protection” (Webster’s Collegiate Thesaurus)
A basement house in the suburbs; a good school system; eating dinner, EVERYDAY…with a mom and a dad. …Lordy!... my life had been transposed. Also, it was not an inconsequential fact that for the first time, I was able to interact with people…children… of my own age. Which brings us to Lois Erickson. Lois was a very cute, fastidious young lady who not only colored within the lines; but did so in ways that resulted in the smoothest surfaces the craft of the crayon can produce. Prior to meeting this little heart throb (latency!?…that’s for sissys), I was the ultimate pre-school expressionist; gripping the Crayola like a weapon as I slashed across the outlined forms below. But now here I was …for the first time…sitting next to all the wonders that are all things girly. And she didn’t even smell like a goat!...a considerable short- coming that I forgave. Proof no doubt of just how intoxicating this experience had been. Being so transported, I worked hard to change my feckless coloring book ways. It didn’t take long, though, before a basic strategic question came to mind: just how long will this Nordic lass remain impressed by mere mimicry? Clearly, more was needed. True inspiration came to my somewhat precocious grade school mind. What if I drew the pictures, and she then colored them in?
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how one becomes an artist.
So many more stories, so many more people, so many more places…and never just passing through. They were life changing, one and all. But for now, this will have to do. After all, the final Bio is the Obit, and I’m certainly not ready for that. So much more to do.
Maybe I’ll book a flight to Hawaii.
Grandmother, Aunt Olga
Lois & Krisjohn
Both this sculpture and the previous “Hitler/Clear Plates” share a shape vocabulary referenced from the same heavily stylized stiletto, high healed shoe. Dictating the action from this initial view is an erect, cast iron form thrusting into space to a point furthest from the wall. The force of gravity pulling on such a mass seems to be compressing its supporting appendage into a muscular, yet sweeping coil. What appear to be the remnants of a satin sheath, now only cover those shapes that appear to be swelling from within.
Jean Harlow had many talents, one of which appeared when she performed scenes braless while wearing white satin. Attired thus; whenever the cameras were turned on, her nipples would become erect as if on cue. Responding to this reoccurring phenomenon, the crew would say, “Yup, Jean has those two silver bullets again”. The on-set participants were not the only ones to be aware of this spectacle, as it became part of her notoriety amongst the general public. In other words, speaking in the most dry, utilitarian way, Jean Harlow used an essential part of the “maintenance of the species” process…as well as a focus of shared intimacies… to instead gain fame (power) and fortune.
This detail demonstrates that this particular sculpture has more varied surface treatments than any of my other work. The sensuality of the bursting satin form is in contrast to the varying forms of decay that surround it: seemingly heavily corroded cast iron; watery rust encroaching upon already stained, baby-pink surfaces, etc.
While the initial view of this sculpture emphasizes alternating compressed and released energy; to stand near the left side wall is to once again, as in the previous work, experience a sense of disorientation. Raw, rough cut iron brawn is projected tautly into space at the end of a narrow wall attachment. The resulting 14” gap seems to create an electric Gestalt force connecting the stability of the vertical wall to the facing, suspended sculptural plane. The surface treatments are more uniform in this view. A more varied exterior surface would detract from the sense of mass which is necessary to create these spatial incongruities.
Please refer to my “Artist Statement” for a detailed discussion concerning my use of conflicting visual realities (materials not being what they seem to be, how the work counters fundamental expectations like gravity etc) as an extension of my thematic base.
The truncation on right side of the wedge form reveals dust covered innards.