Above is a group photo of some of my “artistic” creations – at least those that survived several horrendous relocations over the past 40 years. The earliest works date back to the 1960s – can you tell which? – while the latest originated in the 1990s, when I reluctantly gave up this pastime (having run out of space to display my efforts). From left to right across the top are “Jupiter and Io” (after Correggio), “Moonrise” (collage landscape), and “Theoretician” (acrylic on canvas). The next row of five hangings contains “Glass Sarcophagus for Robot Hero,” “ADC-R20,” “Are Artists ‘Insane’?,” “Jupiter,” and “Braquish Things.” Finally, the bottom row has “Eternal Internal Mobile,” “ObObOb (Obdurate Obfuscating Obscurator),” “Vibrator,” and “National Park” (political commentary) all on the shelf and “Collections (First Draft)” again hanging on the wall. Now for a few words about some of the more representative pieces.
The work on the right really has no name. Its title “Are Artist’s ‘Insane’?” comes after the headline from a newspaper clipping contained within the box in the upper right (sorry for the glare). The 3-dimensional collage represents a kind of shrine consisting of small found objects rich in associations of diverse kinds. You could say that it reflects the influence of Joseph Cornell – except that I discovered that artist’s remarkable “boxes” after I began conceiving my own. Otherwise I’d call this an “homage to Cornell.” In any case, the creation would prove that artists are indeed insane if and only if it can be classified as a work of art. If not, then an artist didn’t create it, and therefore the work’s insanity proves nothing.
The piece on the left is somewhat in the same vein, but again appearing before I first learned of Cornell’s work. It, too, consists of miscellaneous items that appear to have only one thing in common – they represent interesting, even fascinating shapes (to me, at least). The name “Braquish Things” partly echoes the character of the objects that define the upper and lower boundaries. Yet the title also refers to one of my favorite artists – for reasons more autistic than artistic.
I lied. The framed work on the right is a work-in-progress, albeit I believe that it may be finished. I’ve been adding tidbits from time to time over the past decade. That’s why it’s called “Collections (First Draft).” When I’m sure that the creative synthesis of mix-and-match is complete, the work’s name will change to “… (Last Draft).” By the way, it’s actually very three dimensional – with cones, hemispheres, and other curious shapes – a feature that doesn’t come out in the photo. As a consequence, it changes appearance as you walk by it. In addition, various parts of the sculpture catch the light differentially – as revealed here by the hot action of the reflector strip from an old bicycle.
On the left is another shrine-like composition that gets its title – “Jupiter” – from the box that inspired the work in the first place. The box contained a watch called by that name. So in 1979 I assembled a little figure of the great Greek god Zeus with all due religious paraphernalia. No, I’m not a pagan, nor do I make burnt offerings before this deity each morning. It just makes me happy.
Another example of one of my smaller creations is seen to the right. This is the famed “ObObOb,” a.k.a. the “Obdurate Obfuscating Obscurator.” Actually, this may count more as an invention than a sculpture. It’s a precision instrument, as you can tell by looking at the highly-crafted components arrayed in the special carrying case. Using the latest advances in String Theory and Plate Tectonics, this contraption has been scientifically designed to take any idea that is satisfies the Cartesian touchstone of being “clear and distinct” and then transmogrifies it, by a series of transformational permutations and substitutions, into totally unintelligible but more profound sounding garbage. The instrument is very much in demand among certain of my colleagues in academe. A few couldn’t have gotten tenure without it. Patent pending.
For the finale, here’s the “Eternal Internal Mobile” – along with the “Glass Sarcophagus for Robot Hero” on the upper left and “ADC-R20” on the upper right. The central artwork doesn’t photograph very well. Besides having its own light, and a pane of glass in the front, it has a broken mirror in the back, yielding all sorts of reflections (including the cinematically commonplace “camera-crew goof”). Inside is the Deanesque assortment of random objects along with an actual mobile powered by old analogue electric clock innards (observable at the top of the box). Watching its movement is mesmerizing. Definitely one of my absolute favorite works. You have to experience it to believe (in) it.
Has this “art” ever been publicly exhibited? Just once: in 1981 at the annual convention of the American Psychological Association in Los Angeles, at a poster session on “The Art of Psychologists.” My “poster” had to be presented horizontally rather than vertically, unlike everybody else’s – convincing everyone that I’m more psycho than psychologist. So my collection disappeared into the dark, quiet recesses of my study, never to be revealed again until a quarter century later. Aren’t you lucky!