2009 - part 1
You may recall that in the fall of 2008, just prior to leaving for Texas, my lead assistant, Brian O'Neill and I had started a wind kinetic work, "Standing Wave". In fact, I left it dangling from one of the overhead cranes in order to get all my equipment in the studio for winter storage. We were not able to form the thin steel top and bottom sheets in the big press as I had hoped, as it kept distorting the surface unacceptably. So, I devised a way to bend rectangular tubing to the many proper curves without crimping it. With these tubes I made the interior ribs and then, with considerable finagling, we forced the bottom surface to the ribbed structure and welded it down. (photo 1) The whole process reminded me of building model airplane wings as a boy. Upon returning to Vermont this past spring we fabricated a sturdy center section to anchor the all-supporting axel, added appropriate counterbalance weights, and the top surface. We then moved the piece outside, in this condition, to wind test the whole structure and the three bearing support system before we proceeded with the final welding, grinding, sand blasting and painting. After observing it for a couple of weeks, I decided it was a "go" so we forged ahead to completion. I sited the piece at the brow of the hill above the house. Looking up it appears to fold and unfold as it rotates even in a slight wind. From uphill by the studio, it appears to float magically. Winter's ice, winds, and snows could change the whole weight distribution and wind loading on its quite sizable surface. Next spring will tell the story; keep your fingers crossed.
You may remember, too, the arching, gateway work, "Waltz" (photo 2) which was started in 2008 and is a sister work to "Tango" (photo 3). We talked of surface treatments and I related my idea to clad the surface with broken porcelain tiles. Well the sample test which I had prepared and left out last winter worked great. (photo 4) We even took sledge hammers to it and the epoxy held fast. But on further consideration, I decided that "Waltz" was not the best candidate. I felt that the patterning of the mixed colored tiles had the effect of breaking up and de-materializing the surface, almost like camouflage, rather than reinforcing the work's strong geometry. I liked the tile concept in the abstract but will wait for the right piece to come along.
So what to do with "Waltz"? I struggled to come up with the right paint colors and patterning for this work, traveling all the way from very contrasting primary colors to a much more subtle, tonally balanced palette. If you were to scrape at the model's surface, you would find at least ten layers of different colors. Instead of having the top element be lighter and brighter, I thought it would be fun and a bit paradoxical to have it darker. Satisfied with my choice of colors, I had to get them blended in the Dupont polyurethane coating that I use. Several cans had to be jettisoned by my jobber before we got them right. Though I suspect that these colors may not be everyone's cup of tea, as they are not punchy as some of my others, I am pleased with their unusual hues, even tonality, and the way each color in certain light appears to shift and become one of the others. (photo 5) Now that the piece has a temporary home in the meadows, I think it would be even more striking if sited on the crown of a gentle hill. (photo 6) The work's stately flow is strong and I am delighted by the cleanness of the hidden connections, which I modeled on a mortise and tenon concept. (photo 7)
In this new section, "Letters to Jules", I share my thoughts through discussion and evaluation of my artistic endeavors each fabrication season. I hope these words and images give you further insight into my working process and concerns.
Typically, I spend from late May through October at my VT studio where I fabricate large scale works with the help of assistants. From November to May in Austin TX, I explore different materials, write proposals and develop concepts and models for future pieces.
I welcome your input, comments, and communications.
My letters to Jules...