are life’s university. Without these experiences we could not learn and gain the abilities to function in life.
Foam Bolt circa 1971 © 1995 Ed Zerne
I had just completed a series of small pieces, poured urethane foam & a steel bolt. I also had just purchased a Nikon F (35mm)… and wanted to photograph the pieces on the beach.
After taking a roll of the pieces on the beach I got the bright idea that I wanted to photograph the pieces with the surf swirling around and over them.
It was then that I discovered that the pieces had a neutral or slightly positive buoyancy. The sea was eating my work ! ! I tried to retrieve the pieces while trying to protect my new camera. In the end I chose the camera over the small works. (I could make them again.)
However I was dejected at the loss. . . in a few minutes I looked down the beach to my left and saw the sea regurgitating the pieces about every 20-30 yards.
The sea gods said, “The Art had a bad taste!”
You can steal a man’s bolts, but you can’t steal his thunder
David’s lightening bolt at Jack Rasmussen Gallery
I was visiting David Staton and he had just completed a work that was based on lightening. The tree outside his house had been struck during a storm and it split the trunk.
David took a sheet of plywood, cut out a stylized lightening bolt, painted it yellow and stuck it in the split tree. I liked the idea of this wood lightening bolt so shortly after that I made a lightening bolt of my own, but I couldn’t really come up with a suitable resolution for my own lightening bolt.
I went to the beach for the summer to work on my father’s beachhouse and used the garage as a studio when I wasn’t working.
David and his wife, Pat came for a weekend. They were out in the studio and I heard them laughing. They had found my lightening bolt. I had forgotten about it. David repeated the artist quote, “great artists steal, lesser artists borrow.”
Sometime later we were discussing doing an exhibition at Jack Rasmussen Gallery. The plan was to do some co-operatively made work and each of us would also have some of our own work. I wanted to make sure that David would include his lightening bolt in the exhibition.
David said, “I will include my lightening bolt… if you finish and include yours.”
So I did and named it, “You can steal a man’s bolts but you can’t steal his thunder !”
Ed Kienholz [1927-1994] & The Birthday
The Birthday, 1964, Tableau: manequin with electrically lighted lucite, gynecologist’s examination table, suitcase, cothing, paper, flock, fiberglass, paint, and polyester resin. 84 X 120 X 60 inches [213.4 X 304.8 X 152.4 cm] Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, Germany
The Birthday was stored in the sub-basement of the Corcoran. The faculty parking lot did not drain properly and the sub-basement flooded. As the water subsided the Director, Walter Hopps and others examined the works that had been stored there only to discover that Kienholz’ work was not only damaged by the flood. It had also been vandalized by art students.
I had seen The Birthday in a Kienholz exhibition at the Washington Gallery of Modern Art. Hopps had been the director of that institution before the Corcoran absorbed it. Under the gown there was a mirror. If one had the courage to look under the gown one would see one’s own face being “born”, reflected back from the strategically placed mirror. The art students added some grafitti to the work and then constructed a large penis and placed it near the mirror.
When I expressed interest in the work and said that I had seen the show… Hopps asked if I would be interested in assisting Ed in the restoration of this work. Obviously I was interested in meeting Ed and assisting him in the project. The work had some urgency in that Ed was going to have an exhibition in Europe and this was one of the works that was to make the trip.
Ed was quite philosophical about the whole thing. He commented, “It is the duty of younger artists to destroy the work of established, older artists.”
Deceit will find you out
My drawing instructor my first year of art school was a printmaker; both intaglio & lithography with an MFA from Pratt in printmaking…
He spoke with another instructor, “J” who taught printmaking… and asked what black ink he used… “J” said, “I bought a supply of black ink years ago… not sure what the brand is…”
My drawing instructor found a company that made custom inks… he described what type of black ink he wanted…
The person behind the counter replied, “Oh you want the same ink that “J” gets.”
So much for keeping secrets !
The following year I took a course from “J” and purchased my ink at the same place “J” did ! ! !
Everyone is a Critic
During art school I spent many hours in the studio drawing and painting from life models. I decided I needed to spend a little time at the zoo drawing animals and acquiring an additional vocabulary to what I had learned in the studio.
I came upon a building that housed primates, including a couple of young chimps, a male and a female… I think that they may have been siblings. The room they were housed in had two walls of glass facing the public and two walls of cement block. There were some tree trunks with limbs for the chimps to play on. The chimps were playing as I came up to the glass.
I sat on a low kneewall that supported the glass, took out my sketchbook and began to draw. The chimps became curious and eased their way over to the other side of the glass from where I was sitting.
They pressed their noses against the glass, straining to see what I was doing. As I glanced up they were looking intently at my drawing. Then they looked at each other and shook their heads as if to say, “Not so good buddy !”
I took their criticism to heart and went home for the rest of the day.