Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Revenge of the Panda Slippers: Things I Made Edition

   I've mentioned before that I like miniature things, but I don't think I really expressed how much I like them.  I love them.  They inspire in me a warm sense of well-being that doesn't have any rational basis that I can think of.  It started to gel for me when I left architecture school.  In the aftermath of Hurricane Failure as I tried to make sense of just what in the Sam Hill happened, I realized that I loved building wee models, but once things started approaching a habitable size, I completely lost interest.

Since then, I've developed a sizable (har har) collection of tiny, cheap plastic whatnots from Happy Meals, Kindereggs and grocery store quarter machines.  Then I got all DIY on that business.

 Roughly five or six years ago, I started a series of figurines made in the likeness of the sorts of characters you might see on Congress Street on any given day: skateboarder, hippy, spaced out homeless dude.  I gave the homeless dude to my friend Crash Barry (have you read his books yet?) who "went undercover" to report on homelessness in the city and developed a real affection for some of the local characters.  The first two reside in the drawer of a little Sterilite cabinet (so little! so cute!) in my work space along with some tchotchke and some thirty or forty legs I made of polymer clay with the intention of creating the coolest coffee table ever.  Also in the picture at right is a self portrait while swimming fully clothed, which was part of the recreating-dreams-in-polymer-clay-and-casting-them-in-resin phase that never quite materialized.

I later made another, weirder self-portrait in the same material, wearing the same clothes that was part of an installation at the Sacred and Profane on Peaks Island. It's broken and still I keep it.

Around the same time I began work on a series of puppet heads of City Councilors, and started to explore dioramas.  Then there were the very tiny girls, would-be ornaments of Grunden's-clad fishermen and children bundled in snowsuits.  Also, miniscule bees with wings made of wax.

Eventually I pulled it together enough to complete a series of sculptures, dioramas set in translucent spray-painted plexiglas boxes framed in bass wood.  The contents were, as usual, polymer clay, occasionally with sand or reindeer moss or the like for atmosphere.

I can say with some certainty that the only reason these pieces actually materialized, unlike, say, the dreams-in-resin stuff, was that the aforementioned Crash Barry and his impossibly sweet wife, Shana (have you checked out her traveling children's program?) were, at the time, opening a gallery in Eastport and invited me to be part of the inaugural group show.  I was still struggling with the technical aspects of the resin-dreams, so put together a series of these slightly bizarre dioramas.  To my continuing bemusement, I sold quite a few.  The couple that remain are still beloved, but their continued existence in my life is becoming just a smidge albatrossian, particularly as I'm trying to thin the herd and appropriately prepare what remains for storage.

Naturally, when you a million projects loitering about half-finished, the best thing to do is to invest yourself in a new, much more complicated medium.  Enter animation.

So excited was I by the preliminary results that I began dreaming big.  Like, crazy big.  Like, Brothers Quay big.  At the same time, some turnips in my fridge had shriveled into strikingly head-like shapes, so I carved them out and put teddy bear eyes in them.

I still have hope for this one, but the technical aspects are still kicking my ass and the moths that invaded my apartment invaded the heads, setting me back a bit while I coaxed them out and sealed the heads.

It would be discouraging that so many projects that were incredibly exciting at their inception have fallen by the wayside, but I recognize that they usually fell prey to the same fits of hopelessness that kept me hampered in a lot of other ways, too.  That I decided to shelve them instead of chucking them in the trash in this or that squall of despair is enormously encouraging, since it means they're still in progress, even if they're about to go into the deep freeze of self-storage, temporarily.

In addition to falling in love with my life so far through the magic of artifacts, I've been really inspired to look back at my work (some things more than others) and realize that there's a pretty rich vein waiting to be mined.  I'll venture that another stumbling block in my quest to really find my passion, or at least try to translate on of them into a professional endeavor is exactly the kind of intense enthusiasm for a little of almost everything that makes me such a pack rat.

The plan at this moment is to put things in storage now that I've taken inventory and spend some time with the ideas, see what still resonates.  I think my tendency to be impatient has played a supporting role in the untimely death of some of this stuff and going forward I'd like to try a slightly more balanced approach, keeping a couple of irons in the fire at a time so I don't end up burnt out after a few weeks obsessing about one.

Now that I've solved the question of how to figure out what I'm going to be when I grow up, let's take a quick stroll down keep-or-chuck-it lane:

Bag of gorgeous red human hair, my payment for giving the redhead in question a haircut.  Obviously, I kept it.  Obviously.
New Kids On the Block Action Marbles.  Seriously, do you even have to ask?  I saw them when I was 7 and they OPENED for Tiffany.  I was so annoyed that they wouldn't come onstage until the teenagers stopped crushing each other against the fence up front.  I mean, for fuck's sake, let's get these guys in and out so I can see Tiffany, right?

I also saw them at the Civic Center a couple of years ago on the reunion tour.  What?
In a bold decision, I threw this out.  It's a miniature solar-cell controlled theremin in a cottage cheese container, my first foray into circuit building since the ol' lightbulb & switch back in science class.
The flip side of that coin is this one, possibly my favorite foray into circuit building.  Remember Bill Cosby's Picture Pages and the pen that made bloops and bleeps as he drew?  Yeah, this is a theremin pencil and it does that and I'm keeping it, which is stupid because I never use it, but it's just really cool. Since you've probably noticed the theremin theme developing, I also built a full-on theremin in a little wooden box. It's a little wonky, but it mostly works. I am chucking it.  How's that for merciless culling??

Both of these are being recycled.  I am never going to send them to Found Magazine, if I'm really honest about it.  I do like the Holy Trinity soup, the unsavory excitement about the crucifixion, and the idea that brunch is clearly winning over Bible studies in Sunday morning popularity.

 Kept it.  Also kept the block of chipboard visible to the top right, "A Children's Guide to Postcritical Theory," which was an illustrated response to a lecture series in college.

Box of letters?  Kept it.  Remember this if you ever write to me.

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