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Hearing Voices at Mt. Princeton Hot Springs



Mid December, Maria and I are celebrating our tenth anniversary on the eastern slope of the continental divide. I am floating in the big hot springs pool covered by a large inflatable nylon tent sheltered from the snow outside. I hear voices; looking around through the fog in the near empty pool I see only two couples, one at the other end, one close by, and a single person on the deck. I think the guy on the deck must be on his cell phone, not. Hearing voices reminding me of an art exhibit at the School of Visual Arts and the opportunity to show my new, polyester and fiberglass work. The exhibit curated by Ivan Karp introduced many in his new stable of artists from his recently opened OK Harris Gallery on West Broadway. I first met Ivan when I’d gone to the Leo Castelli’s gallery on east 77th street to show slides of my new work, instead of Leo, Ivan appeared, He looked at my slides and said he would be down to my studio and set a date in two weeks. The hour of our appointment I thought I’d heard someone on the stairs, my studio on the ground floor I went to the door and looked up the stairs, I did not immediately recognize the person but called out, “Ivan?” At first disturbed I had not recognized him he quickly calmed down after seeing my work, He said he was opening a new gallery downtown and wanted to include me. As a way to introduce his new stable of artists, he arranged a show at the newly created School of Visual Arts Gallery. I was excited to show my work there, I had taught as a substitute in the foundation dept. many times my first year in NY and had signed a one year contract to teach printmaking. I liked the gallery association with Ivan, a sort of acceptance in the New York art world, in fact I was pleased when Ivan showed up at the opening with his protégé, pop artist, Roy Lichtenstein. I had four large concaved relief sculptures in the show, one on each wall. This work expressed my interest in geodesic and parabolic structures. 5 ft dia. polyester parabolic curves set in sixteen-inch relief like large wheels. Created in my basement on Broome Street using a 16 in. x 60 in. parabolic template bolted to a framework and turned in circles as I built up the mold out of plaster. The finished form resembled a large bowl like disk I used as a template to create 15 large disk- structures, both concaved and convex. Each piece I worked quite different ranging from opacity to translucency. I would begin with a layer of fiberglass directly on the mold building up the surface with liquid polyester and initially thinking the parabolic curve would offer enough structural integrity to complete the form. I realized that this application was not strong enough, so, like ribs in a boat I started adding found elements from the neighborhood streets and since I lived in a defunct garment district (SOHO) cardboard tubes were readily available along with used rope. I now created a surface of compound curves and being translucent seeing through the surface to the nature of the interior structure. When illuminated with a spotlight, the artwork revealed in depth the process of building the structure, like inside/outside. I also learned I could apply the liquid plastic without the catalyst dramatically increasing the working time and when I wanted to set the action I would apply a heavily catalyzed layer that would chemically bond the uncatalyzed under layer. People gathered for the art opening quickly the room to capacity. I noticed something quite strange, people looking up as though hearing voices then looking around the room trying to locate the source of the intimate sounds. Hearing the voices myself I realized they were real voices being reflected off the surface of the parabolic concaved disks to unexpected and opposite distances. It was quite disconcerting seeing people looking around the room hearing snatches of intimate conversation and not knowing the source often from the far side of the room. While this phenomena was happening something else equally disturbing was taking place, the parabolic surface of each piece acted like a camera lens reversing images so beyond a distance of 3 feet, your reflected image was upside down, righting itself as you approached the center. The crazy part happened as your image reversed, at the point of transition your image flattened out giving the illusion of no depth perception, when this happened people extended their arms and hands out of fear they were walking into the surface. I suspect the voices I heard in the pool today came from the couple most distant and the overhead tent reflected their intimacy to my very spot.

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