2009 - part 3
While all this was happing we started work on a large stainless piece, "Clean Sweep". This grew out of another idea I had last spring in Texas. The model which started as a quick sketch idea evolved considerably when I developed a 3-d model. That drove me a bit nuts as I went through at least six versions trying to get the line, mass, and visual balance just right. I finally arrived at a successful version literally the day before we left Austin! I decided against bending the curves in my hydraulic press as I was afraid of marking the surface. Instead, we formed each curve to the other using a lot of rigging equipment and tricky techniques. (photo 1) As you know, Jules, stainless is expensive, hard to grind, and considerably more difficult to work than mild steel. (photo 2) Of course I had to get the proper alloy welding wire, shielding gases, and respiratory protection. To polish the surface and give it the desired look, I sanded the surface with a rotary grinder using progressively finer abrasives. One problem was getting the work in a position where I could work on a given surface, sometimes from high ladders. (photo 3) Once sited, the piece will seem to float above the ground, supported by underground base units at either end which I designed to allow grass, gravel, or whatever surface finish to cover the concrete itself and hide the attaching bolts. (photo 4)
In the meantime the tiles for "Oop-pop-a-da" arrived about two weeks before I was to depart for Texas. (By the way, the title borrows from Dizzy Gillespie's very rhythmic scat song of the same name.) Anybody with more reason might have said "good job for next Spring" but instead we thrust ahead. I got buckets of the epoxy adhesive and epoxy grout like that which we had tested the winter before. The adhesive had a limited pot life even at 60 degrees, which was the lowest application temperature. We'd spread a section and then make the best fitting selection from the hundreds of possible pre-broken pieces, working as quickly as possible. It was a bit like the crazy 1960's game show, "Beat the Clock". Many days we took lunch on the fly and worked late into the evening. We rigged up a "flying carpet" steel plate where Brian perched himself, like a Budda in meditation staring at pieces on the surface. Meanwhile I ran up and down the ladder to a wet saw working edge areas. (photo 5) The work has different mottled colors: verde, azzurro, nero, and giallo on each of the four sides, and we threw in an occasional alternate tile just for interest, variety, and to encourage the viewer to move around the work. It was some of the most sustained mentally exhausting work I've ever experienced. For weeks after I got back to Texas, I had dreams of placing tile shards. But we got the tiles on and even managed to apply one coat of grout just hours before I had to catch the plane. (photo 6) We'll have to wait till next spring for the final coat of grout and siting.
Once here in Texas I had to catch my breath and basically catch up with my life. I am now building a 14' tall celery stalk in colored concrete with galvanized steel leaves (but that's another story). As well, I am starting to develop some concepts for next summer's madness on the hill.
On a personal note Sarah and I are going on a several week trip to Japan in April. We have never been to any part of Asia and are thrilled. I have always found such travel inspirational and usually affects my work in profound ways.
All the best for the year ahead, David
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...