Art I Made in Q1–2021

The dark days of COVID winter were not my most productive period, but I think I was busier than usual with work (product launch time) and did a good job developing some old patterns into high form.

Swings

In Q4–2020 we stumbled across a broken swing, which Renee and Lydia fixed up. I heard later about a kid who had been hanging swings across Oakland parks during the pandemic.

So I decided to start making my own swings! This is my initial crop of 4 pink swings.

They went up a lot of places, but I only have a couple photos. Here, Renee and I hang swings at Albany Bulb! These we left, but mostly I pack the thing up and bike away with it to install it at some other thing!

The swing formula has been really fun because it’s a real design challenge how to cut the wood, position the rope, and close the knots. What makes it fun is that most solutions work pretty fine, but you can make definite improvements!

You can see my technique is a bowline through one side, then toss the swing over the branch with rope attached, then position and tie a bowline on the other side. You can use a trucker’s hitch too, but it’s harder to untie later. One downside of my approach is that you get a lot of abrasion on the line where it swings. And it can walk a bit. It’d be great to attach at two single points, without looping over the top, but I have yet to come up with a practical way to do this. (I’d have to climb up to the mount point, near as I can tell, or cut a lot of rope.)

Lighting

After months of messing around with LEDs, I found a formula I like: the candelabra chandelier.

Here I started with cardboard candles, then added LED candles. It’s like too many teeth in the mouth, but cool first draft!
This is better. I built two more in the same style, then, later, one with wood.

The point of the lighting project was always: I need light I can carry on my bike, deploy in about 5 minutes, that is visible for 100 feet and provides enough light to help you rummage through your backpack or see the person you are talking to. COVID times have meant social life happens outdoors without the usual infrastructures like, uh, lights.

Bike Helmet

Slam dunk project, as it was my third rodeo.

Fenner encouraged stickers and tape, which do a lot. But I still love my foam spikes.

The bike helmet is a good example of combining art and function or even art and exhibition space. This piece gets a much bigger audience than almost anything else I do, simply because I bike around town and people see it.

I should point out that the main reason to decorate a bike helmet is to make it more appealing to wear. You know you should wear one, and it’s reasonable to think it’s a bummer when you’re excited to ride off into the sunset and are like “oh I should put on this big ugly safety gear thing.” At that moment, I can look at the helmet and think, “Oh this is really cool looking, I want to put it on!”

The Street

The free box is a marvel, certainly one of the best pieces of my lifetime. We put stuff out here that we don’t want any more. Other people pick the stuff up. Work branded hoodies, old ice cube trays, mugs, empty jars, towels…almost everything moves.

In this project, I simply added a cool graphic to decorate the box.

Mod Podge ultra is weather proof for outdoor use! I sometimes think I should have used wheat paste. I also think a clear coat might help with UV resistance to preserve the pigment, as this very lovely page of Dr. Seuss was not printed for outdoor display!
In context with these random shoes.

I threw together this scrapwood bird.

Note the mount. Basically a bracket of wood that sits over a 14" wide concrete wall.

I put it out on the edge of the freeway onramp where it remains.

Later, I took it in for some touchups and repainting. I also added two more little birdlings to follow behind it!

Snack Roulette

This was a zoom party invention. I figured people were in bad shape, could hardly enjoy each other, and were really doing their best just to show up at a zoom party. Asking them to crawl under the table, speak in sounds, or pretend to be olympic competitors had been too big an ask. I needed something easier and more motivating. I needed snacks.

Snack Roulette used the roulette wheel I painstakingly created the previous quarter, but actually ran in Q1–2021. I think it ran three times on zoom (and then in person in May!).

Players arrive and watch the wheel spin. When they are ready to place a bet of intention, the lands become a vague recipe for their snack, like “salty, fruity, and cheesy.” Players then go to their own kitchen or snack-heap, do their best to make a good snack, then bring it back to present it to the group. When they bite into their snack, they can decide for themselves if they have won the bet or lost.

The parties where we played had no recording rules, so all I’ve got is this photo from setup, wherein I position the kitchen camera for our Snack Lab and Renee does something important I’m not sure what.

Snack Roulette was a huge win and actually works much better on Zoom than in person. I’ve kept the wheel for now and know we’ll turn to it if we have to shelter in place again.

Overall, it’s my deepest exploration of snack art and I learned that about 20% of my audience is ready to explore. Most people don’t like to work in the kitchen and only want boring snacks. That is ok, but our stars are psychos in the kitchen, gobbling stuffed fruits and chutneyed fish. It blows the mind.

Wall Decor

For about ten years, wall decor was my idea of art. You work for a long time exploring a canvas, filling it with life and motion and concepts and line and color and connotations, then mount it flat on a wall where I guess people sometimes look at it? I think the idea is that they sometimes ponder it deeply or really appreciate it?

I was tearing apart this box for recycling, and discovered this incredibly beautiful squiggle of glue (that used to hold down foam).

I put it up in my room, where it doubles as a lightweight shelf, thanks to the fantastic cardboard framing. What a lovely wall decor!

Reflections

Reviewing this, the lack of audience is palpable! COVID winter was very isolating and events were at an all-time minimum. I think it’s fortunate that work was demanding more of my time, as it gave me something to do. Also they fired my boss, so I took over his job and eventually turned it into a promotion.

I usually imagine that whatever art I’m working on is going to be the best. But the truth is that unknown unknowns determine what is really great. By doing more projects, I give the world more chances to tell me it’s a good project. Then I can iterate on it, make more, and incorporate it into the next thing.

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