The Collector is a perfect example of a piece emerging from just playing around with parts. I had no vision at all of what I wanted to build when I started. In fact, I didn’t even have a robot in mind. His hands are the play and rewind buttons from a lovely vintage German-made reel-to-reel audio tape recorder. They reminded me of gorilla-like hands. So the bulky body, long arms, and short legs seemed like an appropriate choice. The face was a complete mystery until I found the little brassy buckle. I’m not sure where that came from.
I knew I wanted to have it holding something in those grasping hands and the tiny wrench was a lucky find. Because of its adjustable arms and head, it was possible to pose it with a quizzical aspect. Suddenly I imagined it sorting through junk (much like I do) looking for something. That was when I knew it needed something in which to carry more items. I searched for parts to make a little cart, but decided a sort of backpack would be more compact.
The Collector is still available for sale at Argyle Fine Art in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Kyocera gets its name from the little metal badge on its chest which I removed from a vintage film camera. I like the idea that these robots have specialized appendages for very specific jobs, although I t’s rarely clear exactly what those jobs might be. My favourite aspect of Kyocera is its glass-domed head. It magnifies and refracts the light in a very pleasing way.
This is V.I.N.C.E. So called because the disc on top was spring loaded, so when you pushed it down and let it go, it would spring back up. This action was reminiscent of a kitchen appliance that was advertised by an overly-energetic pitchman named Vince. Anyway the Robot’s name was also an acronym for Very Intelligent something something, I forget now.
Constructing found object robots is very fun, but they seem to be less appreciated by others than my ray guns. Perhaps it’s because most of my robots are not so friendly looking. To my eye they seem quite goofy, but perhaps the claw hands and staring eyes are not endearing them to my audience. V.I.N.C.E. hung around Argyle Fine Art for ages and now he’s staring at me from a shelf as I write this.
I have always liked the way rockets in classic sci-fi movies used vertical takeoff and landing. When I constructed these found object rockets I would never have guessed that we would see vertical landings in real life thanks to the efforts of SpaceX.
These rockets are both accompanied by a tiny “maintenance robot”. My vision was that of a rocket landing on some distant outpost in the galaxy and a robot quickly rolling out to perform any required repairs or refuelling.
In 2015 I built this Flying Saucer. I like everything about it and it became one of my all-time favourite pieces. My memory on this might be wrong, but I think this may be the only junk sculpture that I started and finished on the same day.
I was so certain it would be sold quickly and I would not see it again. But it seems I was almost alone in my appreciation for this little saucer. It sat on display at Argyle Fine Art for ages. They really gave it every chance but it was just hanging around, going nowhere.
Eventually the saucer moved on to a group show in another town that I mentioned in an earlier post. I thought surely now after being seen by a new group of people it would finally find a home. I sold a ray gun at that show, but the little saucer came back.
I was now resigned to the idea that the saucer would just stay with me and it would be a mystery to me why no one wanted it. And that is when it sold. Apparently my brother-in-law saw it at that group show in Annapolis Royal and expressed interest in it. When I mentioned to my sister that the flying saucer had not sold, she said she wanted to buy it for her husband. Now, selling art to family members seems like… cheating… or something. But technically it was finally sold and I still get to see it when I visit them.
Is the point of this story that you should not give up on a piece that has not sold for years? Sure, keep trying. Maybe the point is you should be careful about your reactions to art at art shows. Someone might decide to surprise you with it as a gift later. The lesson for me was something like “make art that you like yourself. It might be yours forever. If a friend or relative gets it you don’t want to be embarrassed every time you see it”. It’s not a pithy moral, but I’m no writer.
To The Moon and Back will be showing from June 23 to July 21, 2019, at ARTsPLACE in Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia. This is a group show featuring myself along with artists Rhonda Barret, Ted Lind, Geoff Butler, Don Pentz, Rion Microys, Martha Little, Sharon Kennedy, Bonnie Baker, Ray Mackie, Julia Redgrave, Lauren Soloy, Eva McCauley, Amy Rubin Flett, and Sally O’Grady. There will also be space memorabilia on display.
I’ll be showing a few pieces along with a new found object ray gun, TS-8445, a.k.a “SIOUX”. This piece was a long time in the making, but I finally found the right parts to finish it. I was especially surprised how quickly I found parts to make the perfect disply stand for this piece!
Not every piece is a hit or finds a home. This was the (perhaps predictable) case with “KA-74 Stand Mounted Ray Gun Canon”. It’s not that people didn’t like it, but this thing was big and ugly and few people would have a place to put it. I built it for my first show of rockets, robots, and ray guns and never really expected it would be sold. In fact there was a tag on it that read, “No returns due to spousal disapproval.”
So what to do with a beast like this? Well, as it had so many parts that are still useful I eventually dismantled it. It’s been re-rejunkenated. Some of the parts have already been used in other creations. In truth many pieces meet this fate, but luckily most of them never left the shop.
In 2015 I made a series of insects using old spoons, forks, and other small parts. Working at a this smaller scale was a very different experience as every tiny part has such a big impact on the over-all piece. A single screw or bolt on a ray gun can almost disappear, but on a small beetle it becomes a major feature. I know one day I will be moved to make more pieces inspired by insects.
I’m not exactly sure which ones were sold. Perhaps there are still some available from Argyle Fine Art.
This Ray Gun almost didn’t get made. The first attempt had a smaller glass dome that turned very cloudy inside as the epoxy I used to secure it off-gassed inside. It was very difficult to get the dome off, but after a long and frustrating struggle I did managed to remove and clean the glass.
Then I dropped it and the dome was broken. I was tempted to give up on the piece, but soon I found another glass dome that was a few inches longer. I rebuilt the emitter assembly to better fit the longer glass and this time I used a different epoxy that I tested under glass first. In the end it turned out better than the original design. I built a simple wooden stand and the piece sold almost immediately. I’m glad I stuck with it!