Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Art for Water: At the Mill

Have just spent three days at the Cheshire Mill studio space where 13,699 is being constructed, rehanging lines of bottle caps. Originally, I had hoped that the bottle caps on monofilament could be hung on a metal grid that would suspend from the ceiling. However, the exhibition venue for the fall required a free-standing frame. I had gotten an estimate from a metal fabricator to make the frame of my dreams, (sleek, anodized white . . .) but the price was way out of my range at $3000. So, galvanized steel pipe with fence fittings at the corners that I bought from FarmTek (a very cool catalog) will have to do. This is my first three-dimensional project, so thinking in volume and depth is more challenging than I had imagined. The frame that I ordered was ten feet high and ten feet square and I intended to put a twelve by twelve foot grid on the top. Once that was erected, however, I realized the scale was way off and it was just too big. So, with the help of some friends who happen to be sculptors, Kim and Scott Cunningham, my husband and I took the frame apart and Scott and Noel cut down the pipes with a chop saw and then we put the frame all together again. Jeremy from Bevara suggested grid wall, which is typically used in retail shops, for the top grid and I found some at two by five foot rectangles. Noel and I assembled them and secured them with hose clamps. The grids hang over the frame by about one foot all the way around.

Last August Noel and I had suspended some metal shelving from the ceiling with chains, so there were about 250 lines hanging that had to be taken down when I got the steel frame. Each line had to be wrapped around a scrap of foam core or hung from poles on the studio walls. I had been collecting more strung lines from my work with students. Over the past three days I hung or rehung about 350 lines, trying to figure out how to space them. Currently there are more than 7,000 bottle caps hanging and only about 25% of the grid is filled. My math skills are proving to be less impressive than I feared because according to my earlier calculations, 7,000 bottle caps should have taken up about 50% of the space. Fearing a shortage yesterday I counted how many caps I have waiting to be drilled and strung and I think I have plenty to complete the project. Although, the installation title refers to how many people die every day from lack of access to clean water, the actual number of bottle caps in the installation will exceed 13,699.

With painting and print making I'm accustomed to a more experimental approach. At the outset of a new body of work, I have an idea of what I want to make, and then work towards that general direction. Along the way there are always happy accidents, especially in print making, and the work evolves as a result. With this installation project I've had to try to think it all the way through on paper and even though I sought out the advice of architect friend, Rick Monahon, the way it looks and they way I thought it would look are different. This was especially shocking with the original ten foot frame. There has been a happy accident, however, and that is that the bottle caps look like a heavy rain falling or the bubbles from a scuba tank or in a water cooler. In spite of being plastic trash, they are beautiful.

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