There is a beach about twenty miles south of San Francisco that I visit in order to collect driftwood. One time while walking on this beach I found a drift cell phone. Someone’s gadget had found its way into the ocean and had been tumbled and sanded into a gently rounded form. Though the plastic cover had come off and all of its electronic innards had rusted into a solid mass the touch pads and screen were still easy to see.
This drift cell phone, a technologically sophisticated artifact, had taken on the appearance of something both ancient and natural, and was part of the inspiration for this body of work.
I made a rock polisher out of a cement mixer filled with water and sand, and threw in cellphones and other newly out of date high-tech products. Things didn't work out so great, as these tended to disintegrated into the tiny components they were originally constructed from. 35mm cameras, a brand new form of pollution, succeeded best. In chemical photography the camera is basically a hollow void surrounded by a sturdy housing.
The cameras were put into the mixer and tumbled around for about a six-month period, slowly weathering down into their current state. About 15-20% of them turned into anything interesting. So, for every ten cameras I put in, two came out looking like anything good.
Afterwards, I cleaned them off and buffed them to a polish. During the show I had the cement mixer going, occasionally belching out a spray of sand and mud onto the floor of the museum.
On the other wall of the gallery were some works inspired by the folk tradition of setting a clock's face into a large chunk of wood, a practice that is common in the heavily forested towns and cities of Northern California. Often these are made from big pieces of redwood, a slice of burl, and sometimes even driftwood. They remind me of the highly artificed clocks that were created during the Rococo period. Artisans in that time would place their clockworks inside of irregularly shaped frames that had an exuberance of organic forms. Click MORE IMAGES above to see some examples.
For this show I made three of these devices, placing the clockworks on the backside of the wood with only a tiny part of the hidden mechanism peeking out from behind.
All of the pieces of wood are from local trees, and are about 4" thick.
- The top one is cottonwood, and is about 40" wide by 30" tall.
- The middle one is from the humongous redwoods we have around here, measureing 40" wide by 72" tall!!i!
- The bottom ones are cut from live oak burl. The dimensions are about 28" wide by 58" tall.