Monday, September 29, 2008

Freight Bearing Clocks

The clocks are pure genius to me.

The dichotomy just smacks you across the head. Wall clocks are generally made out of fragile, cheap materials that are light and finished in a way that makes them appear opulent and heavy. Faux metal; Faux finished; Faux. Paula's clocks are anti-faux. Everything that looks heavy, worn, rusted, sharp or dangerous is exactly that. That's why her art makes me giddy. In an age of digital trickery, giclees, photos, painted still-life's, Paula gives you the thing itself in all of it's impractical glory. There is a distinct, subtly powerful beauty to objects that are presented directly without being filtered. Painting, drawing, photography, printmaking, and most sculpting are subjective interpretations manufactured by the artist. Found objects have lived their own life. They survive a life of purpose before they're appropriated. An object brings an entire story with it, often ingrained in it's surface. You're forced to study something that you would choose to ignore in a different context. Hey, I like, even love work in all of the mediums I've mentioned (I live with a 90 inch oil painting hanging 1 foot above my bed . . . unframed so it won't crush me.) I'm just obsessed with the entropy that the physical universe imposes on man made objects.

Working with found materials does have it's drawbacks. If you want to add a tree to a nature scene in a painting you pick up a brush, mix a few colors and paint it (uh, yes I've worked color and I am aware of how much I'm minimizing the process here). Say you want put a clockworks into a piece of found metal. Just drill a hole. What if it doesn't like being drilled? What if you start drilling and your drill bit melts. Off you go to the internets to find out what you're doing wrong. The first thing that you discover is that whatever kind of metal you got, you need a drill bit made out of something harder than that metal to get through it. So you have to know what you're drilling through. There are basic metals - aluminum, copper, iron. Then there's steel. It's got a bunch of different metals in it (mostly iron). In fact there are like 7384 different types of steel when you take into account how it's processed and made. So what metal is harder than most steel? And more importantly how much does it cost (my brain could only throw pictures of diamond tipped bits at me) There are a few options. Titanium, cobalt, tungsten . . . cobalt - sounds like something that would power a Star Trek phazer. I don't know, maybe this isn't all that exotic, but it hits my surrealistic funny bone.

The first assembly step for Paula's clocks is to bore a hole into 1/2 inch thick cast steel with a cobalt drill bit (we still don't know it's composition and the hardness varies drastically from plate to plate. I think the foundries just used whatever was cheap and available). Horrible screeching noises and a wave of vibrations push the smell of burnt industrial cutting oil out the basement and up stairs. The first time I hear this my limbic system sounds the alarm bells of impending mechanical death. My higher brain functions frantically flash scenes of heavy machining tools hungry for human bones to rip into and pulverize. Icy sweat springs from my pores. Once I'm able to fight off the paralysis I sprint downstairs and push open the door to the workshop. My freaked-out stare is met with an annoyed glance from Pnut. I creep back upstairs.

Now, 2+ years later and I'm peacefully surfing the web amidst the odd screech, thump or curse. The building process continues - patina, texture, color, positive and negative shape all meld together when a piece is completed. Sometimes it seems obvious once it's done. Most of the time my brain gets poked in its sensibilities. Paula has become a reluctant fabricator. I have become the occasional research assistant and frequent prodder. The RR plates have opened up an entirely new universe of possibilities to me.

3 comments:

self taught artist said...

I just have to say how much I appreciate your sensibilities. As an artist, having even just ONE person really get and understand what I am doing makes a huge difference.

I automatically make this stuff, you are the one who seems to teach me about the piece after it is made, pointing out nuances and cool things I never gave thought to. It is truly as if you are interpreting for me the music I just wrote but cannot play (does that sound too convoluted?)

sarala said...

Great description of the process. I can hear and smell it as I read.

Tod said...

I know it took me a long time (a year or more) to finally understand that a lot of what I read into your work was not done with conscious intent when you made it. That's true with most art in my experience. It's amazing to me because I'm focused on design and physical content elements, not intellectual, emotional or existential meaning.