on Getting Lost

25 years ago + I visited Venice, Italy. I was with my then-wife and she had to return to the US after a few days and I was left on my own. I loved the architecture, the views from the canals, and the immersion in history. Back then, there were no Google Maps, much less smart phones. I had a paper map. But I found during that time that I had an odd goal - to get lost each day. The water provided bumber curbs so it could never be that bad, but I worked hard at setting off in any unknown direction offered and taking any alley or street that offered itself. If something interesting popped up, that became the destination. I had a great time, and it became my model for foreign travel since then.

In art, I think the same principle is often at work. You train, you practice, you create a body of work, you build something… and then, for me, I do what I can to get lost. Most projects I enter into I might have 40% of the solution as to how to solve certain problems to make something look as I want. But I have found, too, that my original motivations for heading off in any particular direction are usually diluted somewhere in the process. In art, I think the most important thing is not the idea, but the feeling. Often, no matter what I’m working on, I might be as motivated by random things I have seen, or even passages of music. I’m not out to duplicate any of them, and also I don’t know why they might have snagged me, but I pay attention to the fact that they have presented themselves to me and not released.

I’m working on something now - a 1920’s west coast steam yacht. Although the few pictures of it are really nice, and I like the lines of the vessel, the real energy comes from these other random things. Being lost among these disjointed images and sounds are what proved the daily food for opening the door to the studio and moving forward. Here some of them below….

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Images

There is no shortage of image sites today, maybe starting with Pinterest. I get a lot of Pinterest pushed to me, and the wealth of images is exponentially amazing to me. In fact, it is so amazing it seems somehow un-useful. Flicker too. Instagram is image oriented but brings the social edge with it, and clearly they have more ambition that is transforming the output of those that essentially create what Instagram is. For the most part, I just keep collecting my own images without exactly knowing what to do with them. My folder for them just gets longer and longer, but I love each one for one reason or non-reason… FWIW, here are a few.

Galapagos story...

My father - a born and bred midwesterner - had come east via Chicago when the brokerage he traded for transferred him during WWII. In the next ten years he developed a personal trading system for understanding the next day movements of S&P futures. He left the brokerage to trade his own account. His system allowed him to place trades shortly before the close, and the next day they almost always opened directionally favourable to his positions, long or short. He was methodical but also creative, driven to discover and also to win. In these ways he was quite brilliant, but also an erratic and very unpredictable night owl.

Although I was small at the time, in the late 50's he offset his days on Wall Street with weekend family camping adventures. We would pile into the maroon and faux wood Falcon Ford station wagon from our woodsy Connecticut home and set out either for local destinations, or points in New York - places like Buttermilk, Carogo Lake, Chenango, Four Mile Creek, Glen Island. If the destination was upstate we would fly in a small plane from White Plains, NY.

He amassed significant amounts of money, using the market as if it were an ATM.

By 1959 he seems to have had his fill, and I heard the word "Galapagos" for the first time. One of his clients that he traded S&P's for was west-coast based. He had mentioned to my father that a colony was forming in the Galapagos islands, the place that Darwin made famous, and that he would be absent for some time. I recall my mother running me about town getting me fit with new rounds of outdoor clothes...something we had never done before. I'm not sure if this represented the ultimate escape to him or just a higher level of adventure. 

What I do know is that I was pulled out of school in the winter, and soon found myself on board a small cargo vessel - the Western Trader - and headed for the Galapagos to join the colony. The steamer was packed with small pleasure style craft stored on the upper deck, wooden crates of supplies, and 66 men, women, and children bound for near prehistoric bliss. As we passed under the Aurora Bridge leaving Seattle, the March air and mist never seemed so real, the grinding and creaking of bolted rusted metals and smell of oil and diesel never so intense. Journeying forth out of the dedicated commerce lining the river made me think that somehow this had become the transformed embodiment of my father, and the seeming conclusion of his piles of stock charts and books, numeric notations of opening and closing stock prices and moving averages, confused off-colour wires of various trading phone lines, and world maps, with Ecuador figuring prominently. He was nowhere to be found.

Templates

My roots are really in folk art.... added sophistication is part of the dark side. Yet... it happens. Unfortunately I get afflicted with "getting things right," and that cases the skill and execution level to rise. I guess I accept it... in the same way I accept I am not actually a folk artist (I think).

So, among the manifestations of elevating tasks upwards towards greater execution is the use I will make of templates. I have a huge stack of children's construction paper... maybe its 10 years old already... I may never run out of it. But the paper has a nice consistency and firmness... I also like the bright colors - my little templates don't get lost in all the mess I make. I mostly use them as a way to cut plastics - usually from laptop cases, but sometimes thicker things. I had to admit... in themselves they were interesting to look at after I had used them. And I liked the reminders of the specific ship elements they usually formed. I like also that I am not really the creator of these shapes... I'm just following in the footprints of some ships architect who was figuring out a deck.... 

Ode to the Heat Sink

An unspoken facet of my work is the fascination I have for the materials I use, much of it computer parts. Inside laptops, towers, servers and attached to circuit boards there are always Heat Sinks. A heat sink is a passive heat exchanger that cools a device by dissipating heat into that surrounding medium. In computers, heat sinks are used to cool central processing units or graphic processors..They're really beautiful architectural objects... I save them more often just to look at rather build them into the work.... So... behold the Heat Sink: