Music, Writing……and Mobiles

aaa katieA few days ago I wandered into a You Tube video that utterly blew me away.  What initially hooked me to watch it, was the gal on the cover, though as you watch, it turns out to be the entire band that steals the show.

The song is:  I Put a Spell on You. Here’s the link and watch every musician very closely!  Merry Christmas!

Okay Henry, I watched it and yeah, Katie Melua and the band are WILD, but the question is:  Where are you going with this? 

I have a modus in my operandi:  Two things a writer is expected to do well if they’re any good at all: (1) Write knock-your-socks-off dialogue.  (2) Create metaphors and similes that take you to a new place or way of thinking that you never thought to explore.  Recent one from Pamela:  Going out to dinner with the Malloys is like watching fire ants on a dead pig.  You sorta don’t know what that looks like……but then… sorta do.

Ready for a challenge and possibly a different way of thinking about music as well as sculpture?  Pour a cup of coffee and let’s see how we do.  It may annoy you, but in the process you might come up with a counter-simile that teaches both of us something.

aaaaa pollock

Jackson Pollock’s paint spatter artwork

In virtually every lecture I’ve given on art, two questions always pop up:  (1)What is Art? Easier to answer than you’d think and (2) How do you rank the arts?  Is taking a selfie at a restaurant in the same league as writing a symphony?  Is painting a Jackson Pollock knock-off the same as sculpting a human body from stone?  Is writing a 1000-page novel of equal value as a three-line poem?  I’d tend to think not.

Once again, these sorts of questions are ripe for arm-wrestling and that’s part of the fun.  But having created sculptures since 1973 and being a writer for about as long, a novel gives you the challenge of showing life changing.

At this point in life, I know I can complete a sculpture that I begin.  Going back to the similes, someone once said that writing a novel is like sitting down at a desk and opening up a vein onto the page.  Sometimes that’s pretty close…and every book you write is a totally new challenge.


Commission: Holocaust Memorial

When I create a sculpture, whether it’s heavy with emotion and symbolism such as a Holocaust Memorial I’ve been commissioned to create, or a whimsical sculpture for a private collector, what they both have in common with all sculpture is this:  They capture a single frozen moment in time.  Period.  That’s more or less definitional, though more about that later.

No matter how great the sculptor, let’s take Michelangelo’s David as an example or the Pieta; what you are observing is one frozen second in time.  Consequently, in the real world, you will probably examine and appreciate it for some handful of minutes, at which point you look to the next sculpture.

By its very nature, one moment in time does not have the tension of something that takes place over time…such as music,  movie, or a novel.  A writer may take a hundred pages to endear you to a character before pulling the rug out from under.  The little girl is hit by a bus or stray bullet and because you’ve been with her over time, your engagement will be deeper, more powerful.


Some of the books and novels I’ve written over the years

So for me, I have always put the difficulty and potential of a novel, ahead of a sculpture no matter how well it is executed.   Time is just a huge factor in creating tension and caring.  For the record, I’d tend to put a good symphony or a good novel at the very top.  Either one can change your life.  I’d tend to put the pressing of a button on a cell phone toward the bottom.  Sure, you might one day capture something historic or poignant, but that’s luck.  Symphonies and novels never arrive from a lucky novelist or composer.

Having said all this and having made my own frozen moments in time for close to 50 years, I’ve begun experimenting with a sculptural art form that breaks these rules.

aaa mobile

Calder design mobile

Mobiles:  Though most folks think Alexander (Sandy) Calder created the first mobile, it was actually Marcel Duchamp in 1931.  And yes, the two of them created a new kinetic art form, one that takes place over time and motion.  They’ve always fascinated me and I’ve made a few in my time…very respectful of Duchamp’s “rules.”

And this is where we come full-circle to the video you watched up above , the 7 talented musicians continually change and broaden a song over the course of 8 minutes.  By the end, your head is spinning.  The piano player at first appears nearly insane.  The guitarist, Jeff Cregan, is the human manifestation of cool.  The keyboardist: playing insane chords I’ve never heard before….and then Katie Melua comes out and blows your mind.  Seven totally diverse talents coming together for an insane performance.

mobile MAX

Visual Addiction III

Experimenting with a new type, or new age of mobiles, I’m learning that there’s a complexity possible and new tricks that these mobiles can perform that utterly surprised me, blew me away in a manner similar to that performance.  Some of it was accidental, which was mind-blowing to witness, and some of it was playing out theories.  The latest one: Visual Addiction III.  I still don’t fully understand…and don’t have a video on it yet, so you are stuck with that frozen moment concept…for now.


Argus is the first iteration of some of the new techniques

For the artists or the genuinely curious, here’s what’s different when you watch it in action:  Somewhat like Katie Melua’s band, this is a gathering of eight separate, discreet entities that are performing as a group.  They’re made of optical polycarbonate and as such, have special qualities.  polycarbonate is also known as bulletproof glass, yet if you look at the center pieces, they bend like pretzels.  


Through the Wormhole (2)

Through the Wormhole was the first abstract to begin exploring some of the bizarre capabilities of polycarbonate (bulletproof glass). If you look closely, you can see that with all the dimentionality, it’s created from one piece of poly.

When I first watched this one in a wind, I had taken 20 shots and it was bitterly cold.  But something happened…mesmerized seems to be the best word.  I became fascinated watching a physical sculpture break out of the frozen moment concept…and then proceed to dazzle me for 20 minutes.  That’s how much time had gone by, watching this new “creature” continually surprise me.  And I’m just getting my feet wet.

I hope this little art trip I’ve taken you on hasn’t given you a headache!

Hope Santa gives you what you’ve dreamed of.  He’s already given me my present.  Pam is healing and getting stronger every single day.  Life is GOOD

Update on Visual Addiction III:  I went out this morning to see what this new gaggle of beasties was doing.  It’s a little windy now, but not terrible.  I watched for ten minutes and then….one part of the mobile began to attack another one, rather viciously.  I watched, having no idea what would happen. Finally, one slightly insane piece cut the cord (200- lb test Nylon parachute cord) and took it out.  Today I have to switch certain cords to stainless steel cable.  It’s weird.

HenryB&W Henry flipped  copy

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