This series of work has evolved from using stacked gum balls to using glass marbles and has depicted several well known persons or characters over the years. Boris Karloff, John Glenn, Leonard Nemoy, Lady Liberty, and Jean Baudrillard. Although the work changes in meaning with the depiction of different people, it still stands as a cohesive series. The work is always piled using no adhesive or other means of securing the components, so it is always precarious. That's the point.
Boris Karloff and Spock
This piece is a continuation of a series of work which started with a postage stamp. The USPS issued a stamp series honouring movie monster actors including Boris Karloff. I was struck by the image of Boris as "The Mummy". I thought it curious that this image had come so far through time, space and culture. It had traversed meanings and purposes originating in ancient Egypt and survived the irreverent mutations of early Hollywood to earn a place in the pantheon of 20th century pop culture.
Now in its American circumstance, this image of the mummy ventured back to meet the original intent of mummification: to preserve and honour the dead. But what sort of monumental tomb might house the preserved bodies of our postmodern experience? There is a great legend about Walt Disney and his cryogenic preservation. I was reminded of something that Jean Baudrillard said about Disneyland: that it is a simulation of America that is more real than the original. It is a hyper-concentrated version that makes the real America seem like a pale impotent ghost in comparison.
The series has now evolved to encompass other personages that warrant a proper homage. In this case, the familiar visage of Leonard Nimoy as Mr. Spock. A hyper-saturated pixelboard-inspired monument that speaks of glossy perfect bubbly excess is required for our big-screen heros. -and it's got to be fun for the whole family.
Liberty and Jean Baudrillard
Baudrillard was a french cultural theorist/critic that wrote a book entitled "America" in which he described a phenomenon in America (and elsewhere) he called "simulacrum", the simulation, or emulation of reality or an unsatisfactory imitation or substitute. He used this theory to show how the hyper-fake places in the United States (he used the examples of Las Vegas and Disneyland where everything is artifice, a false front, and a kitschy rip-off of something found elsewhere) were in fact the real America and not fake at all. He argued that these places were a sort of super-concentrated America that makes the rest of the country seem like a pale and incorporeal ghost in comparison, and that, therefore, the real America is the fake one and Disneyland and Las Vegas were more substantial and "real" than the country itself. With this and other theories of his, he made substantial contributions to the study of postmodernism and post-colonialism.
Anyway, I've always loved these ideas of his and when I read a while back about the US post office accidentally choosing a photo of the "fake" Statue of Liberty from the strip in Las Vegas when they wanted to issue a new postage stamp with her likeness, I thought this was a perfect confirmation of his ideas. Since I build these pyramid structures partially for their reference to monument, part to memorial, I have always placed the image of someone that I thought deserves to be perpetuated or memorialized on its surface. I also love the fact that they seem bubbly and fake in themselves, making the work recursive.
Overall the piece acts as a metaphor for America as well. Most glass artists are interested in working with this medium because of its transparency and shine. For me, glass is about its contradictory dual nature of being both extremely fragile and possessing extreme compressive strength. Like America: America can show its strength at times like 9/11, but then show its fragility such as during the Rodney King incident and the resulting riots. So America is a lot like glass.
But there is a darker side to this too (one that I didn't tell the media about). One interpretation is that America is actually a house of cards ready to fall at any moment. Or that America is already dead and entombed in its own fantasy of the past. We are all just parasites feeding on its corpse, unaware that it has even expired.