My first serious vault into the mind
that is mine was with
the installation "Transition".
It was 1977 and I was 29 years old!
.... a step of major proportions.
Some background is called for,,,
After under graduate school, in 1972,
with no desire for graduate studies, I went into an
arts related business. It was not my first commercial
art job. This time I was making, designing and selling
custom (hippy) leather work. Fortunately, I was somewhat
successful in the enterprise. It was primarily founded
on sweat equity and good timing; in the 'John Ashcroft'
portion of Missouri. From the outset I had hoped to
use the leather shop as a financial base to make art;
but that proved ludicrous. In my three active years
of running my shop I made, what I considered 2 pieces
of art. They were leather related, mixed media, semi
functional art pieces; also I did a smattering of drawings.
I was too busy with business!
I made the mental 'transition'
of becoming a 'full time artist' at the beginning of
the "Christmas Rush" of 1975. I closed
my store front operation a few months into 1976 and
opened a very small multi purpose home studio and shop.
I hadn't much idea about what the hell I would be doing;
except that I knew I must make art. For
almost two years after that I floundered about and survived
doing commercial art jobs, custom leather work, and
occasionally selling or trading a piece of art to friends.
One friend, Dave Bilyeau, recognized my sincerity and
commitment and took my situation on as a personal cause.
He gave me instruction and information in the use of
caste vinyl and various plastics. We had attended college
together and he was using these materials in his local
theme park job to create effects for thrill rides.
The installation "Transition"
was a product of this life changing period and these
It evolved, as most of my large pieces do, from one
broad concept image evolving into a series of images
culminating in a final composition. In university I
began experimenting with and conceptualizing environmental
installations. I was attempting to create a total sensation:
i.e. sight, sound, temperature, smell, lighting and
touch. They were as realistic, or surrealist, as I could
make them given my materials and constraints as a student.
With this piece I wanted to make the
ultimate (youthful arrogance) personal credo about life
and death; or an expression of reincarnation. Thus I
Central to the composition and initial
in the conception of the piece was the face of death,
the last earthly human transition. (I supposed)
-The chest and head of
a dying old man passing
from life to death. This section was made from cast vinyl,
which resembles human skin, reinforced and stretched over
fiber glass including glass eyes and implanted human hair!
The man, mouth agape, is descending reluctantly into the
vaginal opening of a cocoon like structure.
that held him in his final struggle was necessary to support
the bust and put the figure element in a metaphorically
recognizable vehicle of change. Initially, the
cocoon was made from stretched latex sheets over foam
rubber laminated to a fiber glass carcass. It had a certain
-The life cast of my own
29 year old arm (self portrait)
protruding, reaching from the lower orifice of the cocoon
into the reflecting pool of life and eternal possibility.
Originating from the old man; but youthfully transformed.
Also cast in vinyl, the arm like the head and chest had
my own hair (self portrait) implanted to add to
-The Muse faces
of cast aluminum form a retention structure or doorway
into the reflecting pool. The faces were originally modeled
in clay from a live model. They were duplicated in series
and attached one to the other around the reflecting pool.
-The reflecting pool
(originally a mirror) was a cosmic field of stars and
planets in a night sky. But the surface was reflective
and mirrored the surrounding environment, including muted
ghost images of viewers.
-A huge steal hook
(recycled from an earlier sculpture) protrudes from an
ambiguous sexual orifice. The organ symbolizes human birth.
While the ominous hook represents a formidable connection
to past life/lives. The hook suspends the whole cocoon/figure
structure from the ceiling. The entire piece is approximately
eleven feet six inches floor to ceiling. The fingers
of the arm almost touch the surface of the reflecting
pool/passageway on the floor indicating a passive resolve
to begin the next existence or reality.
From the fingers to the top of the cocoon
the piece was tactile and mobile. My original intent
was to let the viewers touch the piece for a through
experience. Kids loved it. But, the touching
caused wear and tear on the installation and I had to
cover the cocoon with fiber glass a few years later
to insure durability.
The cast vinyl sections also require constant maintenance
and have proven problematic long term.
As mentioned I had been working in leather for several
years at that point. The idea of skin, hair , bone and
all the materials I was using in the leather pieces
influenced my work with these synthetic materials
is visceral and was startling to the first audience
that viewed the piece at the Park Central Gallery during
its premiere in March of 1977, in Springfield Missouri.
It was a group exhibit and other works included a quilt,
decorative paintings and weavings.
Now almost three decades later with
an art world that offers us a steady diet of shocking
images and concepts; the installation "Transition"
may not seem so out of the ordinary. But then, and there,
it was an eye opening experience for the audience; causing
shock, disdain, amazement, ridicule, admiration, nervousness,
jokes, snickers, and it moved one woman to tears.
got attention locally stimulating commercial work that
gave me the financial backing to leave Missouri the
By that time I was thirty years old and just beginning
a long series of transitions on my artist's path.