Monday, August 31, 2015

The Wonderful Wizard of Odd

The Wonderful Wizard of Odd is my latest installation of sculptures for the final NEPO 5k 2015 an event on Saturday August 29th from 12 to 5 pm that stretches from Hing Hay Park in the International District to the NEPO house on Beacon Hill.  Fortunately, for the second year running I was able to install my art in the forest at Lewis Park.   Despite intermittent rain showers and violent gusts of wind which included the felling of a large tree at just around 12, the show seemed quite successful as over 300 people trudged through the forest to see the art. My wife Kate Murray and I passed out over 120 maps that detailed the exhibition with many reused and shared by other patrons. We heard  lots of great commentary and met many friendly people as we pick-nicked next to the main trail.
      My installation, the Wonderful Wizard of Odd is loosely based on the book and movie The Wizard of Oz, pop culture, banking, and wizardry. I came up with the idea immediately after the last NEPO in 2014. For this exhibit I created over 200 objects, mostly out of ceramic materials, and used unfired, low fire, mid range and high fire, and Raku methods to finish the work. I also used found materials including stone, bamboo, paper, plastic and metal wire. I  made most of the work in 2 months, with one reused from a previous exhibition (burning bank). 

Trash Pile, ceramic can, bottle. Chip bag, and hot dog carrier. Plastic bag and fork, crumpled paper pastry bag. The can features the Tin man and is an energy drink, the beer bottle has the lion and liquid courage, the chip bag is called Munchkins Tasty Treats, and the hot dog carrier has a gingham design in blue, reminiscent of Dorothys dress.
Tornado, spool of wire, ceramic witch and condominium. Despite the blurry photo, the tornado was not spinning. 
Tornado detail, if you look closely inside the tornado you will find a flattened witch, with a small condominium building on her stomach. The witches toes have red glitter sprinkled on them.
There's no place like home, cast porcelain, hand pinched figurines, metallic luster coins with cement slab and bamboo.
This sculpture features Dorothy, tin man, lion, and scarecrow depicted as sheep. Dorothy is holding her dog Toto. They are visiting a woman holding a lamb with an owl on her shoulder. She appears to have metallic coins (plates?) placed around her.The bamboo is arranged like a cage. As an artist one of the things I like to do is evoke mystery. This is one of those pieces that is open to interpretation. 
On the trail you can "follow the yellow brick road" . My wife Kate Murray made 120 feet of gold brick garlands for the exhibition to help with the route through the forest. 
Dice and Cubes, hollow slab built ceramic cubes. The dice are odd numbered, and represent the major political parties in the USA. The other cubes are for thinking outside the box.
The Wicked Witch, unfired clay , with bisque fired cap. The idea behind this piece was that people could poor water on it and eventually it would dissolve much like the wicked witch in the Wizard of Oz. Since it was supposed to rain all day, I figured it would happen naturally. It didn't.  I should have at least given her a better hat and painted her face green!
Biography ,black manganese clay, bisque  fired. Stamped in a language created specifically for this exhibition are the words roughly translated as....Aaron Murray is the Wizard of Odd.  This sculpture is placed to resemble a grave marker of sorts. The cryptic language on the tablet is used to make one feel like they are in an unfamiliar culture.
Geodes, hollow pinched formed clay with sea glass and various found objects inside. The idea was to give the geodes to kids so they could Crack them open to see the inside. I ended up busting open a couple, and gave one to a boy that was curious about them. 
The Wizard of Odd, hollow basalt pumice boulder with walkie-talkie placed inside, and wedged between 2 tree trunks.  This piece was meant to embody the wizards head in the movie about oz. I placed a walkie-talkie inside of the boulder so that I could speak as the wizard from a distance. I would say something like "I am the wizard of odd...ha ha ha" .The boulder, found near a river by Mt. Baker also looks like a baby's head being born between 2 legs.
I made a series of oddjects, objects that have no meaning or reference. As the Wizard of Odd, I felt that somehow there had to be some magic involved. The oddjects are magical in that there were created out of thin air with clay, in other words they magically appeared from my imagination through my hands.
...lions, and Tigers, but no bears ...oh my!
More strange oddjects,  made from extruded forms.

Bank of America,  this sculpture had dried red cedar incense burning between the ceramic flames, which I re-lit throughout the day. It made it look like it was actually burning. The bank is functional, coins can be deposited in the slot on the roof. 

Coinage, ceramic coins made from various clays stamped with custom designs.Glazed with metallic glaze and lusters. These coins are arranged in a 2d pyramid, similar to mosaics.
The stamps used for the coins varied from using found objects to using common symbols. Many had stamping created from chipped stones and pebbles found at Alki Beach and elsewhere. The stone printed stamps were also used to create an alphabet for printing onto thick slabs of clay to create a tablet (see Biography above). While creating the coins I thought a lot about language, and how art is language. That led me to create symbols that I could derive easily from pressing the stones into the surface of the clay, that I could then fire to create a stamp. The stamp could then be used to create a reverse image on a "coin".

The Emerald City. Since the Emerald City is also a name for Seattle I made a representation of it from a waterfront view. I wanted to also make the ferris wheel but I ran out of time.
Emerald City detail, earthenware and porcelain with low fire glaze. The cityscape is made of slabs, extrusions, and carved clays. 
Witch's Castle, Vashon white clay, blue grey mottled glaze. I mounted this castle on a found piece of cement that wedged between two tree boughs. The flying monkeys (below) were positioned at the base of the tree. 
Flying Monkeys, slip cast evil pawns with wings added. Glazed with various low fire glazes. I made these from a mold that was labeled evil pawns that I got out of Charles Krafft's mold shed. I added wings to the back that I either pinched or cut from slabs. The clays used were white low fire casting slip, laguna porcelain,  and an orange earthenware that I collected at a road cut near Vantage, WA. Some of the flying monkeys have metallic glazes and a few were Raku fired. There are over 20 in all.
The Human Race, ceramic 4 wheeled cars, with different flag nationalities and their respective generals painted. Pictured left to right are the General Rommel,  General Napoleon, General Zhukov, General Grant,  General Lee,  General Santa Ana, and  General Tzu.
Here the General Tzu (China) is out pacing the General Powell (USA) with the General Zhukov in the distance
General Colors is the name I derived for the rainbow flag.
The General Zhukov,  USSR'S most famous general
The General Santa Ana,  of Mexico
The General Grant, cutting off the General Lee. I recently watched the Dukes of Hazzard again and realized that the message of the show is honesty and standing up to corrupt officials. 
Pyramids, 7 total, representing banking schemes, commodities and civilizations. Arranged in a Hexagram. The center pyramid is made from ceramic shavings and dust.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Found Object Art: Assemblages and 3-d Collage

These are some sculptures I made out of found objects.  A found object assemblage is made of various objects that are placed together to create a visual composition.   My first attempt at making sculptures like this happened when I was about 14 years old.  I had been to a gallery gift shop at the Maryhill Museum in Goldendale, WA and seen figurative sculptures constructed of nuts and bolts and wanted to make something similar.  My grandfather's garage in Pasco, had boxes and crates containing random nuts, bolts, and screws of every type.  Unfortunately I figured out that elmers and super glue wasn't up to the task. Nevertheless I collected numerous found objects for my own amusement which later became the foundation for dozens of sculptures.  Part of the process involves looking for interesting objects to use in compositions.  Streets and alleyways in industrial areas provide an excellent resource in the city.  Rivers, creeks, and beaches of all sort can provide a wealth of materials.  Abandoned and demolished buildings, empty lots also can reveals useful treasures.  Though some of these places may project an element of danger I have yet to be harmed or discouraged.

Seed Pod, Found Objects: Steel and sandstone on found wood pedestal. 1995

The Seed Pod is actually an old bucket that was used for containing railroad spikes.  When I found it, it was stuck in the sand beside some railroad tracks on the outskirts of Denton, TX .  The bucket  was also filled with sand and several small sandstone rocks were shattered inside.  Nearby were the remnants of other  buckets that were crumpled, torn, and shattered.  After studying the buckets I determined that they had been filled with sand and rocks and placed on the tracks by someone.  A train had obviously come along at a high rate of speed and pulverized the buckets.  This one remained somewhat intact and also happened to become a rounded object resembling a seed pod of sorts.  I've been dragging this thing around with me ever since.  A strange sort of forces and tools were made to create this piece of art

Untitled, Found objects earthenware brick, steel, copper, glazed earthenware

The objects here are assembled to make a totem of sort that could also loosely resemble a woman's breast.  It is made from worn brick, found in a creek, a rusted sey of ball bearings, and an old ceramic marble, found near a demolished house.

Funometer found objects 1998, when I made this piece I was struggling with bouts of depression.  The ring at the top was made of terra cotta and fired in a kiln I made out of found bricks, the turquoise disc is plastic and came from my job at the Alaska Airlines warehouse. The metal pieces were found in an abandoned lot.

This was one of the very first pieces I made right after I moved to Washington from Texas.   I stayed in Tacoma for my first  six months, living with my mother.  I used to frequent the old Tacoma waterfront in Old Town searching for bricks and other artifacts from the abandoned mills, which there were many. This is made of found objects: terra cotta, obsidian slag, rusted steel, iron, copper , nickel, cardboard, wood.  This sculpture used slag from the Asarco Mill in Ruston, WA.  Asarco was known for leaving behind a superfund cleanup site that polluted Commencement Bay and parts of Vashon Island with arsenic.  I'm not sure if the black slag is toxic, but it is glasslike, almost like obsidian.  I also used terra cotta in this piece and a  quarter dollar coin that somehow got trapped and re-milled in a dryer.  

Untitled, Wood, sandstone, limestone 1995.  This sculpture was made when I still lived in Texas.  I used limestone found in a creek, creosote coated wood found near train tracks, and a sandstone "eye" from Lake Ray Roberts

Untitled Found objects,  2003 Metal road debris, brass cutting, driftwood, plastic case

This "bird-head" object is really just a piece of driftwood, found in the Puget Sound.

Sunspot Found objects, 1996  metal, felt, rubber, and an old token
I used to spend a lot of time wandering near train tracks.  It was always a good way to find stuff and it reminded me of my dad, grandfather, and uncles.  Tressles where often the only way to cross creeks despite their obvious danger.  One time while crossing we almost watched a friend of mine get run over by a train.  While crossing a bridge in cowboy boots and not wearing his contact lenses, my friend was unable to rapidly put his feet forward to get off the bridge.  Hobbled by these factors the train bore down upon him and he narrowly escaped death by wrapping his entire body around a tressel girder.  He didn't even make it off the bridge.  The train which had been cruising at a speed of about fifty miles an hour barely was able to slow down, and blared it's horn all the while as it zoomed past. My friend, terrified was only able to peel himself off the girder after the train had passed.

In North Texas all the farms and ranches are becoming parking lots, warehouses, and shopping malls.  Often while driving around in the countryside you'd see land offered for development with usually an old barn or farm house still standing.  Sometimes, I used to enter these sites looking for objects.  Horse shoes, boot heels, and rusty metal was common.

Horsey detail , found objects 1996

Flower,  1997 found metal, wood,  canvas, mud, burlap. Found frame.  Acrylic paint, and epoxy

Untitled, Limestone, glass marbles, wasp nest 1994

Ghost Town Found Objects 1991
When you are an artist sometimes it is easy to incorporate things that are nearby and familiar.  When I was in college at the University of North Texas I had a job at an art and crafts store similar to Michaels. I used to take home the mat board scraps and old frames from the framing department to mount my objects.
Trans Am, Found Objects , Mat Board frame, 1995 

One of the best ways to search for found objects these days is to ride a bicycle around town.  Bicycles give you a closer glimpse of the world by enabling the rider to traverse alleyways, lots, trails, roads, and sidewalks with ease.  Often while riding I 'll see something on the ground that I have to circle back for because I was unable to catch it upon first approach.  Also the objects found are also road worn,  similar to the affects that one would get from something tossed about in a fast moving river.   

Sun,  Found Objects 2008  Plastic, wood, metal

Ocean View, found wood assemblage.  2014  
Bird,  1998 found copper and ceramic, wood fired terra cotta , thrift store frame
Most recently, I have using them to make things that are also assembled from new materials.  At Pratt Fine Arts Center, I welded together this obelisk from new steel.  Then I welded some found objects to add texture to the piece.