thinking about things to put in my big backyard

by sheltech on July 7, 2010

Is this thing on? … testing… uno dos three four…

er… so it’s a blog , I can do what I want . it’s the world according to Dar; it’s my party and I can spell if I want to , capitalize it or not !. Capital idea , old chaps and chappettes , and young ones too ; it’s the wild west internet(s) show, where anything goes , so here we go again. alternate streams of  consciousness flowing ; where do they come from and where do they go? . don’t ask me but here’s a little bit about what they’re doing now (now that I’ve  escaped Facebook and other boards, it’s time to write about the real stuff, I imagine). It’s not about jewelry , so if you’re looking for that, look away now. It’s about thinking about some of the things that artists sometimes think of, and about finding something that you just have to do , something you couldn’t possibly not do. for years , I couldn’t possibly articulate my thoughts coherently; maybe because there weren’t many coherent thoughts to articulate, but that time has passed , and it’s a nice balance , doing, thinking, ariculating . I think, therefore I blog …

They’re (those alternate streams) sending me strange transmissions full of dangerous advice (and I reply “well thank you, God , but I think I’ll keep those thoughts on ice” , borrowing from my man Bill Nelson (no, not the senator!) . it’s a field of dreams out back ;  dreamtime in the outback , if you will, and it wants me to build big things and put them  there. Big metal sculptures , things that look big compared to the house from the road a hundred meters ,or two yards away, or from the ditch roads that skirt the Rio Grande; things  for the land , that has been waiting millions of years for them; timing is everything, they say. Geometric jewels, but not necessarily art, because  to me, the  context is broader and somewhat other than art; these  things that speak to me inside and shape themselves with(in) my mind and according to my abilities to bring them into being , but mostly according to what they already are, because I did not invent  the ways that space divides with symmetry, or how nature operates the functions of geometry. Or, perhaps, my definition of art is broader than some , with nature  being the ultimate artist. nature that not only somehow , mysteriously, uses mathematics and physics and chemistry – oh, and geometry !- to build, but even more mysteriously, invented those rules. I don’t do any of that ; I just poke around and see what I can find .

 Anyhoo, what much of this obsession boils down to is a compulsion to experiment with relatively basic polyhedral geometry , and this began decades ago and has always been a smoldering force , usually overshadowed by ‘regular’ work , and life. Now, though, there is  room in the yard  for big ideas , big dreams , and the issue becomes  what to put there, and the obsession has room to grow. back in the city , in the small place we lived in for 19 years, there was no room for anything big, and almost all of my wire sculptures had to be small . The biggest one is about  5 feet tall, and had to go on the roof , where it stood out largely. Now it’s hanging from a cottonwood tree right outside the house and it’s all but disappeared ; you literally have to know it’s there to see it.  The  Big One I’m working on now is (so far) made from one inch eletrical conduit (EMT, galvanized steel tubing : cheap, strong for it’s weight, and weather -resistant , a perfect structural material ) and it’s  sort of like a giant cube  9 feet on a side, but is actually two tetrahedra (look up merkabah for some googly new age fun) .  it will have hubs attached to it’s tips, and curved 5/16″ aluminum rods connected to the hubs, surrounding it  like a giant tinkertoy set (with curved pieces) sphere . There will be a platform and hinged sides for privacy , and it will become a place to watch the stars , and something more perhaps, or just a yard sculpture .

  What I’m especially tickled about is how this  approach, of affixing the hubs onto the outer points or vertices of a large , rigid skeleton , is that it facilitates building my curved -wire sculptures on a grander scale. Long story shortened: taking straight-edged polyhedra and turning them into spherical , curved edge  ones is asking an awful lot of straight-edged, flat-faced polyhedral geometry. There is  tension in all directions that holds the figures together , but only if it’s balanced , and wrestling spherical balance into a set of tinkertoy hubs and straight wires is  no mean feat even on a small scale. On a large, yard scale , it quickly becomes impossible and dangerous … unless (now that it occured to me, after 15 years) the hubs can be fixed in their final positions in space first . The unwieldiness of  many unfixed  hubs , many big rods in unbalanced tension , and the impossibility of assembling them all , large, by myself , was what kept the sculptures small . 

  One man’s dream is slowly taking shape, rising foot by foot into the clear sky …  and now it’s back to dreaming for the sake of dreaming , about finding certain shapes that resonate –oh yes, some will even sing when struck– the right way and giving them form in the world. This is different … you can call it art but it’s more and less than art ; the geometry isn’t even very complex — relatively basic shapes  are very powerful, while complex ones can get way too cluttered — and the motivation isn’t for anything  but the results .much more attractive things  are done with geometry by more dedicated  artists and sculptors , so I am more like a  (mad) scientist , an emprical  technician , discovering what  spatial gems are hidden within the obvious , not necessarily concerned with creating objects for others  to find beauty in but always looking for what is beautiful to me.  it’s probably always going to be a side interest anyway , for practical reasons, and there are reasons why I like  it that way. There is no pressure , no reason to make anything other than exactly what I want to make, and going all the way into that and out the other side, allowing myself to make only what wants to be made through me , if I choose to look at it that way, and there are reasons I like looking at it that way.

  Expansion … I love it… finding new space to grow into , new ideas from all the way out there,  coming back full-circle  and  seeing the same everything from a new perspective, and finding new things in familiar places . how can I not love that, and how can I not love living long enough to see that things work that way?. This started in 8th grade , with the toothpick bridge contest, which I won by cheating (adding extra glue after my bridge was weighed) (or would it have won anyway ?) . What I liked was how pyramids and tetrahedrons were relatively easy to make and looked cool. Later , along with an early interest  and budding career as a silversmith, I experimented with carboard models of various polyhedra , and made a few  slick , hollow sheet metal ones .(hey, there’s a little “two tetrahedra” on the right!). Quite a bit later , around 1993 , I stumbled upon the basic concept that is  polyhedra turned into shperes (and stars ), and that whole development has been more  a part of my personal spiritual journey than it has been about ‘art’.  It is also art , if you want it to be , but like I said, it’s less , and more, than art in some ways. Whatever …  the  whole thing has come  back around again to basic shapes -I don’t need to reinvent the geodesic dome – approached in new ways , and also it’s evolved into new shapes – some  archetypal forms that haven’t seen the light of this world before they found me – facilitated by  basic skills and methods I  learned very early in my metalworking life .  Some of these ideas mutate very slowly , over years , before  something exactly perfect  percolates out in the end , and this is maybe because of only working on them once in a while , or because I keep changing myself ,over the years, and what seems perfect also mutates ; some of both, no doubt, and maybe, just maybe , because I like to think about them almost as much as I like to make them.

to be continued…

Dar Shelton





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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Pam Chott July 11, 2010 at 12:50 am

So here you go. Probably will be better here than trying to fit into Facebook remark boxes with Farmville distractions all over the place.

Happy pondering and thanks for sharing.

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