No Monument to Us vs Them is on view at the Museum of Wisconsin Art in West Bend as part of the 2018 Biennial until April 8.

                For What It’s Worth

Our best work is meaningless and sure of itself. It's not literally about something. Our only excuse for making a monument is that we try to let things happen.

It seems that we have all become so divided that we spend more time encouraging our own side than arguing and reasoning with the other side. Issues have come to be seen as so clearcut or so muddled, for and against, that dialog is hard to reestablish.

Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong . . .
Singing songs and carrying signs
Mostly saying, “hooray for our side” 
   Buffalo Springfield

 

OK, back to the meaningless and sure. Sculpture 101 says if we want to make sculpture in the round, we wear out a path around the piece that people will want to blaze as their own.

 


 

No Monument is made up of many different pieces of handmade paper hung onto a wonky structure of 2" x 2"s a bit like a clothes horse. None of the pieces were made for this sculpture. The challenge was to make something vigorous and gestural and visually magnetic from a riot of paper shapes, textures and colors. Some of the paper pieces act like cladding for the structure while others seem to hang off it like ornaments. Some pieces that seem like armored plate from one viewpoint seem dangerously unbalanced or askew as we walk a few steps further around. While bringing together pieces that appear downright visually uncooperative was exciting, just as interesting was beginning to notice how parts began to speak to one another. For example, the red windows broadly echo the openings in the wood base that are again echoed more closely by the cast lime green and light blue dowels.

During the viewer's traveling around, we want the sculpture to evolve from a dense, roiling mass into a structure opening up, breaking up, its parts readying for flight. And then, back into a compact piece with all parts secured and battened down.

We built No Monument by growing another piece that we made during the 2016 presidential campaign. We started that piece with this angular, willowy, paper wrapped foam piece. We tried him every which way including some unfortunate ways. He didn’t seem complete by himself. (He’s nicknamed “pretty boy.”) A pedestal needed to be part of the final work. We made one in tune. What we ended up with is called, How to speak reassuringly in always uncertain times. We may be abstract, but we're not numb.

Though we try to remain non-objective as much as is humanly possible, we saw the 2016 piece as a willowy, shifty speaker up on his soapbox. We made the piece for a tall open space at the Overture Center in Madison. The viewer could see it straight on in the Playhouse gallery or look down on it from the first floor. When we brought the piece back to the studio, the colorful part got put on a shelf and the pedestal part became a studio clothes horse. Certain pieces placed on it would catch our eye. Inevitably, we'd use the piece again in a new way.

February 4, 2018 - We had a great time at the opening in West Bend yesterday. The museum did a great job welcoming the artists and visitors alike. One question we got about the work surprised us. Doesn't it look so different every time we set it up? Nope, each piece is secured with wire or hidden velcro strips. And the 2" x 2"s framework is rigid. Other than the several dozen tweaks and changes we made since the piece was accepted, the piece in West Bend looks pretty spot on to the one we photographed in September for jurying.