One of the first artists work I recall becoming familiar with as a child is Pieter Bruegel the Elder. My mother had this coffee table type book of his work that I would skim through from time to time. I must have been about 9 the first time I saw “The Triumph of Death”.
For some reason, I found the piece to be erotic. Not that it turned me on or anything, but I associated the images of some of skeletons that seemed to still have penises, to sex.
I also remember Bruegel’s Towers of Babel. The stout tower,tiny houses in the landscape, with a clouds scraping the topside of it, very fantastic and eerie.
These images never left me.
For the past few years, I have delved deep into my obsession with the image of the tower. First, in 2005, I brought the idea to the table of my collaborative group, Goldmine Shithouse, to make a painting of the tower. It was totally inspired by the Bruegel piece and it was large.
I was thinking about doing a large-scale work of the tower for some time but for some reason I was afraid to do any large works that were not like the large photographic work I have been up to for over 15 years. I think I was locked into my habits and found it difficult to allow myself to explore. The GMSH has always been the best place to bring ideas to be hammered out. Working with Colin and Travis has really freed my inhibitions and taught me to open myself up to considering other media as a part of my processes.
Well the piece came out great and that just opened the floodgates for me to harp on the image and concept of the tower in different landscapes and forms. I can’t say exactly how many different types of cities or pieces of cities I have made since then, there are hundreds. Some are paintings, collages, silkscreen, drawings, and so on.
The cities I created began to consume the works and me. The portraits I photograph of people now seem to be residents of the cities and towns and the towers themselves are like maps or globes.
The latest project I am involved with is an installation to be presented in Cologne, Germany at the Art 21 fair this October. It is to be approximately 11 foot by 11 foot tower made of hand crafted, wooden houses.
It is to be like an extension of the works I have been making of these claustrophobic cities and looming towers. I am only one third into the construction and I am not totally sure how it will look but it is starting to take form at the base.
Some if the houses will be inserted in the roofs of others and it will stack up the ceiling of the foyer of the building that the fair is in.
This is the 2nd year in a row that I have been invited to do the foyer; last year I hung 1,111 black birds.
I was a bit shocked that I would be asked to do another piece but as soon as I was asked I said yes without thinking twice. I had no Idea what I would do when I agreed but it did not take more than a few hours to realize what to do. The 11-foot tower with 700 arrows in an inward moving spiral hanging around the tower.
Lets break down some of this number business. 11 is my favorite number and I thought 700 is better than 1,111 again (because that means over 2,000 squat thrusts in order to hang them). Plus I need to work with some new numbers here.
All the surfaces of the houses, inside and out, will be painted or silkscreened or layered with photographs. The pictures I am using are from the large collection of prints I have left over from the past 10 years or so. Some are images that never made it to apiece and some are extra work prints or bad exposures. The photos on the sides of the houses make me think of the possible lives lived in those houses, past and present.
The tower is starting to become a testament to my past accomplishments and folly. The weathered wood, scribbled on text, fragments of old photos, it is all starting to reveal its purpose for me to be making this huge sculpture. And for all I know, it will be installed once, shown for 5 days, and then either stored or broken apart, sold for scrap so to speak. Truth is I would not even mind if it were its only time to be seen. It wouldn’t be the first time I have gone through all the days of work and hundreds of dollars to make something to be destroyed. It is a release for me.
That is where the arrows come in. I now see them, hovering around the tower, threatening to hit, but not necessarily to destroy it, but to penetrate it and release the tension inside, all this history of images and work of my past. Kind of an erotic image, no? Not quite a sexy skeleton like but an erotic theme in an unexpected place.