J'ai dit TOUCHE PAS A MON POTE!

Act of vandalism number #2 was a little more involved. I'm not totally sure what happened. From what I've pieced together of different accounts is that some folks came and messed the park up a bit, threw some garbage cans over the pier and knocked the sculpture over, though the the thumb fell off so I'm not sure if there was some extra prying that took place. Photo below. Surprisingly, I was able to get thumb back on, heading over there at 7am with my repair knapsack prepped. I'm look positively on the vandalism for two reasons. 1) The initial anchors I had brought were plastic and not good enough, so I learned my lesson bought some metal L brackets and some 10in lag screws and wound those down with wrenches. 2) With each bit of destruction comes the chance to recreate. 

With that said, a portion that I recreated looks like shit. It looks like water from the channel (buttermilk / red hook) or the bay (Upper New York) stumbled ashore, found it's way to the back side of the thumb of the sculpture, saw a hole and proceeded to vomit drift wood and some kind of adhesive into the whole... But anyway, it makes me smile. That's kind of what it's all about. 

I put it in a park to see how people would interact with it, to see what discussions would surface. So I've seen one person photographing shoes on it, I've spied on one guy gushing about how cool it was, looking at and touching each piece of wood that piqued his interest, I had a little girl tell me it was like her bedroom, the palm the bed and the thumb the chair... she used to have a couch, but now that's in her brother's room... I've had people tell me it's simply nice to have it there, and I have people actively stomping on it.

I was curious to see how the weather would effect the sculpture. Now I'm more aware of and curious about how the public will effect the sculpture and how I'll fix Rene. Fortunately, there's a load of beautiful drift wood on the rocks and the beach. Mmmmmm. 

In the fourth picture in the slideshow below you can see the do not climb the sculpture sign that I placed in front of the sculpture. Please do not climb Rene, for your own safety, but please do touch and interact with it!

Touche pas a mon pote!

It's not too easy to see, but if you look below you'll see the middle finger is at the same height as the index finger, which should not be. This is the first record / sign I have of vandalism. I went in to Steve's Authentic Key Lime Pies after seeing and fixing this (as best I could on site) to introduce myself and ask if they could keep an eye on the sculpture for me in the future. I was a little embarrassed when Mike asked if it was the middle finger that was forced up, because I think my eyes went a little wide as if to say "how'd you knooow!"... but yeah... middle finger. Fortunately they didn't break the finger off, so I could fix it at the moment until I had more time. 

 

Fatigué mais pas crevé

What I've really grown to love about this sculpture is how it makes me think continuously about the message that I am trying to convey. The conversation I want to start relates to sustainability and usefulness, environmentally and personally, but lately it's made me think about sustainability as it relates to communities, specifically Gowanus.

Artists are being pushed out of their studios on 9th street in Gowanus, and right around the corner at 112 2nd avenue, where I have my studio. Walking to my studio a couple of weeks back I saw the word forget tagged on the side of one of the buildings housing artists on 9th street. I have no context for it, but it made me think immediately that it was a message to the artists to forget. To move on. 

Obviously, Artists aren't the only one's that struggle as a neighborhood becomes more popular, as developers become interested. Original residents, small business, industry and more get price / pushed out.

People are obviously talking about this, there are community groups all over, and in Gowanus specifically the community got together to form a planning framework (www.bridginggowanus.com) in essence to discuss sustainability of the neighborhood going forward. 

The pieces of wood of which René is comprised were and will be pieces found in Gowanus. As such the sculpture speaks to the community, a reminder of what we need to take into consideration as we move forward, that we are a community, that we can come together, that we are strong. I'd like for that to be one of the messages at least. Thus I'm looking to exhibit it in an industrial lot / space in Gowanus so that people will see it and think about the issues. That it will serve as a reminder. 

Hopefully it sparks other thoughts and conversations as well. These are just my thoughts as I build the sculpture.

Materials

I would still be love to hear others' views on the sculpture, the idea of me misappropriating my re-appropriation of the wood I have collected, but after a week or so of mulling it over and bothering friends I realized rationalized that these materials would end up rotting somewhere most likely (the one's I found) and apart from that, this is my idea and these are my materials. I have a vision that I believe in and I plan to see it through. If the piece sparks some kind of discourse I'll be happy. But regardless I truly believe that placed in the right environment the sculpture can make an impact and be an aesthetic piece. 

Frustration

A plan is one thing, I'm used to making plans, intricate plans mapping out the smallest details, making numerous calculations to come up with the right designs... but I've never actually built something on this scale, So that in and of itself was difficult. As the wood was all scrap wood, some pieces did not fit together perfectly and so plans were thrown off and I was forced to adjust time after time. 

The biggest wall I hit was at the time when the base was finished. I didn't know how to proceed, and that was frustrating, but what really impeded my progress was a sudden thought: I just used a lot of very solid pieces of wood to make a sculpture that represents rebirth, reuse, finding function in a different form. Given all the wood I've used and have been using was being trashed, was in the studio trash, the street, dumpsters, etc, but they are almost all still very strong pieces. I stopped for days. At the end of August I wrote the following: 

"I am having trouble with the fact that the message I want to convey through this sculpture is reuse and the beauty of not only the sculpture but of that feeling of again finding use, that enormous rush that comes with it. El Anatsui used some wood but mostly trash... bottle caps, can caps, wrappers... These things are harder to upcycle / reuse and more often than not end up in trash piles, but wood, these beautiful pieces of wood... Though everything I'm finding so far has been laying in the streets or about to be thrown away, even if no one else would use the pieces, am I using them well? These scraps could be reworked into beautiful FUNCTIONAL furniture for sure. The hand would represent the ultimate use and a higher and broad function where as a table would be just that and that specific function, but would actually BE USED. This sculpture would only represent use, remind us of utility, make us MAYBE think of all we waste otherwise and MAYBE be a message to reuse what resources we have in some way... If my message was not usefulnesss and a 'rebirth' then it would be easy to build. This would be my idea and these would be my materials. But with the message the idea seems silly and contradictory."

atelier

I found the studio space and had the idea, essentially, to look at the relationship between an environment and its waste. There aren't many forests in Brooklyn, so I decided to start with the detritus of the city. I intended to take wood strewn around or discarded-- pieces that seemingly would not be recycled or reused any time soon if ever-- and re-purpose them to make them useful again. The hand, for me, is one of the most useful natural tools, so I decided the sculpture should take the form of an unfurling hand. Upon completion, I want to place it in a gritty area, ideally on the streets and lots where I found the wood, back in its original environment.

As dirty as these pieces are sometimes, I get goosebumps when I cut through a solid board. The fresh smell of wood sends chills down my spine, and when I open my eyes and look at the grain, I melt a little bit. On the other hand, I've also cut into wood, for example old flooring, and been accosted by the smell of rotten fish and guts. Still used the wood... the smell dissipates with time. 

Without the tools it was slow going at first, I really didn't have a concrete plan on how to take huge chunks of wood and make a 6ft sculpture resembling a hand. So I started with a bunch of clamps and some wood glue and set out to make a base. I then made plans based around this base. 

rené - Le début

My idea for René started with a sketch at 1am followed by a journal entry that I can no longer find. One subsequent evening I was making a list of projects to follow up on, journeys to take, etc. The idea for this sculpture was 7th or 8th on the page. I became really excited and started dreaming about it. At first it started out just as a desire to build a solid sculpture, (I have always had a love and appreciation for hands, their dynamic form and use) something like a hand rising out of the earth somewhere in a forest, made from fallen trees. As I spent time wandering in search of an affordable studio, the idea developed and I found I wanted to turn it into a series. 

Before I go any further, I think it's worth saying that the reason I feel that the progress of this project is worth sharing is that it actually happened. Thanks to a close friend of mine who invested in me, I was able to seriously start looking for a studio space to start on this project. Whether René has an impact on those who interact with it is one thing, but it will always be one of the most important projects in my life, as it marks my rebirth as an individual.