Friday, May 29, 2009

I am in a book! {or at least my sculptures are}

Last week I got home from a long day at work and I was surprised to find REAL MAIL in my
mail box! And it was the book Odyssey 1999-2009: Celebrating Ten Years of Sculpture Exhibits.

Now, I'm very new at being in books, so this is very cool for me, but what is cooler is that I am included with so many amazing sculptors! I feel like I am in the club! Thank you to everyone who contributed to the project.

Please contact Elizabeth Bernel if you would like to obtain a copy.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

some of what Position means to me

So people always ask, "What is that?"

"What's it supposed to be?"

or "Does it mean anything?"

Often times for my artwork the answer is as simple as the question.

"It's a sculpture."

"It's abstract."


I have a part of me that is drawn to making art out of steel. Maybe it is because Dad has the steel company and it worked its way into my subconscious. Maybe I like how incredibly strong the material is. Maybe its the raw textured surface or the beautiful oranges in the rust. Maybe it's a crutch since it is what I know. Whatever the case may be, it is my material of choice right now.

I have always enjoyed the process of making anything from cupcakes to sand castles to sculpture, I like to make things. I am an object maker.

When I was thinking about what this piece would be, I sat down on the floor with a bunch of pieces of steel in my studio (as I often do) and started to put the puzzle together. In my mind I had various things going on, but I had just gotten back from a nice visit home to see my family. Just like everyone, there is always something going on in my family – a holiday get together, someone's feelings are hurt, someone got a big order at work, someone didn't call enough, someone is having a birthday, someone is in the hospital, someone is getting married or someone is moving etc . . . etc. It affects me and it comes out in all different places.

Since then I've had a conversation with a dear friend about idealizing your family. I do this. Really, we are just like any other family, we go through the same struggles and love each other just as much, but it's different because they are my blood. Anyone that knows me knows I am a "Dad, Mom, Sister, or Brother" name dropper. I love their patience, spunky-ness, generosity, faith, unique talents and light they share with me and the world. We are family. I am who I am because of their nurturing, arguing, laughing, unconditional love, and calling me out on my bullshit.

I have thought a lot about birth order and how I fit in with being the second born of five kids: Dennis, Dustine, Dianna, Danielle and DeAnn. But as I get older and my siblings get older (the youngest turns 21 in few months), we are molding into something that is more adult somehow. The boundaries of what my parents can tell me to do or my other siblings is not black and white anymore. Our relationships are more transparent and we don't really have to "hide anything" from Mom & Dad anymore. They just have to hope that what they taught us gets us through whatever stage of life we are in. We, as siblings, are thinking more about taking care of our Mom & Dad as they get older. The roles haven't reversed, but we are thinking about when they might.
So this led me to think of my birth order as less relevant and that my position in my family as more relevant. I was fumbling around with seven steel rings and this (above) is the configuration I chose for reasons stated above and many more still in my head.

We are a family of seven welded together. I am in the middle.

Friday, May 15, 2009

– 5.6.2009 –

Position Installation Day

I went to bed feeling good about the piece and anxious to set it up. I woke early, not 100% sure where I was renting a trailer. I didn't know exactly what time I needed to be on the site...'in the late afternoon' was what I heard (which is cool, because it is hard to plan times when you are installing multiple pieces in one day, there are always things that you cannot plan for that come up and take time).

I was a tad uneasy about the new hammer drill I bought and the 9" anchor bolts I needed to drill 1" x 9" holes in the concrete with six times. I didn't know where the electricity would come from to run the drill either. I wanted to make sure the holes were drilled before the guys got there with the boom truck so I would be totally ready for them to move it onto the base.

A couple of days prior, Willy down the street from my studio said he or one of the other guys would move the piece into the trailer for me with the forklift. "Just stop by," he said, "we can help you out."

I knew Commercial Pallet (across the street from my studio) opened at 6:30am. I knew I would need a pallet to lift the piece onto so that the forklift could lift it on to the trailer.

I could tell you a bunch of other stuff I knew, but basically the point is that I woke up with a lot of loose details about how the day would go. When you are dealing with 800 lbs of steel, you don't like loose details.

At about 8am and introduced myself to Tim he gentleman in the office at Commercial Pallet. He was pretty confused about why I was asking to rent a pallet for the day, but humored me and ended up letting use his old mulch trailer to move my sculpture (it used to carry the dirt bikes his kids ride, but they got a new enclosed trailer for that. He showed me his kids pictures – very cute). Anyway he said the "kid" (Rick) would be back soon and he would help me hook it up to my explorer and then he would come over with the forklift and pallet and help me. All of this because we are neighbors! I was floored at their generosity! They didn't even want me to drive across the city with it by myself and offered to come with to make sure everything went ok.

And then I was packed and ready to 10:00am! I had nothing left to do because of the kindness of neighbors! I felt like I was really part of the neighborhood. The next morning I brought the trailer back to the guys complete with chocolate chip cupcakes and a case of beer. Tim's dad was bashful and grateful about accepting them. It was cute. He told me he spent an hour that morning looking for my sculpture, but he had the cross streets wrong. If the only reason I made this sculpture was to learn more about the kindness of strangers. It was more than worth it.

The five-ish miles trek through the potholes-the-size-of-Lake-Michigan ridden side streets took about 30 minutes, but was relatively uneventful. I had one moment of terror fill my veins when I had to go under the 90/94 overpass on North Ave. I realized that I didn't know how tall it was and what if the sculpture hit the top and caused a huge pile up and really I was worrying for no reason. I was fine.

When I got to the site I waited there for about an hour for the guys to show up with the boom truck to help with the install.

The photographer Eric Craig arrived first. I met him earlier in the week when he came to my studio to photograph me in action. He does great work and he took stills and videos of the install. I am really excited to see these.

Then Barb Guttman and Alderman Vi Daley entered the scene. A little bit of small talk later, we were moving! It was nice to talk with them and hear about all the other installations. The weather was holding out and there were no major surprises so the day was going great. I got a picture with Alderman Daley and the Position -- hopefully I don't end up in the calender.

Back to the install, I barely even said hello to the guys and they were already lowering the crane onto my piece. Terry Karpowicz, Ted Sitting Crow Garner and Ron Gard were there to help. They were amazing as I anticipated and got right to work on moving the piece from the trailer to the base.

But I still needed to drill those big holes in the concrete. Nimble Terry fired up the generator and then I got ready to start drilling and then they noticed the new hammer drill that I bought...and then they noticed the anchor bolts I bought...and then they laughed and asked me, "what bridge are you planning to hold down with those bolts?!" So needless to say, I used much smaller bolts and Ted was kind enough to give me some of his to get the piece in place before the rain. I took the bolts and the drill back. Thank you John at Fastenal for returning them!

My pattern worked and we placed the anchor bolts and then I had to got to the store to buy some washers and when I returned the rains came. Tightening bolts in the pouring down rain presents itself with some slippery challenges, but about a half an hour later all bolts were tightened and I could step back and see a fully installed sculpture. I was soaked to the bone but so happy with the day it didn't matter.

It was really cool for me to interact with the people interacting with my artwork. I always try to think of the "audience" when I make a piece and there I was talking to them. Being there watching peoples patterns change as they walked by and stopped to look at the piece just made me smile down deep! Elders, kids, and adults were asking questions about it. Many of them were thanking me for sharing my artwork. Really, they were thanking me? I was so grateful that it has a home for the next year and that they were interested and stopped to ask questions about it.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

the last few days before installation day

Here you can see the gantry at work. It still amazes me that all I have to do is pull on the chain with very little effort and the 400ish lbs of steel is lifted. Thanks to Adam for being my spotter/team player while I did this.

I was a bit hasty when I put the straps on the top piece before lifting it up. I learned that I should have made sure it would lift up the piece already centered to make the next step easier. I thought the weight of the top piece would make centering it easy, but I was wrong!

I think that this was the most testing part of the the sculpture. I kept thinking about why I didn't center the straps better. Eventually, hours of tinkering with more straps and the use of my car jack ended and the top was in place make for one piece, "Position." I immediately tack welded it in place and then made several more passes to ensure it would stay in one piece.

I was given a tip from my dad to make a pattern to put on the base from my anchor bolts. This is the stencil I used for pre-drilling the holes for the anchor bolts. Thanks Dad, it worked like a charm!

The picture to far left is of the piece after several cans of primer. Next step was to paint two coats of black and the I finished it with a dry brush application of paint with stainless steel in it. I wanted it to look like raw steel. The outside of this sculpture has a lot more paint that the inside, which goes a long with the meaning of the piece (that will come in the next blog entry).

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Putting pieces together

After a nice long holiday in London, Paris and Cardiff, I returned and went right to work KW-ing before settling into my studio to finish my piece for the LSE. This is the base it will go on at Wisconsin and Mohawk .

These last few days have kept me quite busy. Logistics, needing to be stronger, have more hands and needing more hours in the day all were opportunities I have encountered the last few days. In addition to the fact that flatbed trailers are hard to come by in this town.

Anyway, I put Position together in two main piece and then put those two pieces together. The picture above shows what I had completed before I left for London. And to the left shows the bottom, that I signed, just in case someone in the future wants to know my name, the date and the name of the piece.

I am supposed to install the piece 5.6.09 and I am nearly ready to rock, but Mother Nature may have something else in mind. I do a lot of stupid things, but hanging out with an 8' steel sculpture in a thunder and lightning storm hopefully isn't one of them.