Art I Made in Q4 2020

Staying at home so much is difficult in many ways. For me, it is quite sad to have no audience for whom I might produce art. Earlier in quarantine times, I have made art for events, for the street, and for my home. By the fourth quarter of this long year, there is hardly anyone to make art for at all. My ties to aesthetic concepts or artistic purpose have become very weak. Why make art? Why do anything?

I feel like some scribbler trapped in the spire of a sound castle, occupying his time with this and that endeavor of little consequence or meaning.

Cardboard and Things

Using this model, we planned a new layout of the living room more appropriate to sheltering in place. (The table is marble and gold, so we often joke that Hitler would have liked it; we are not Nazis we just have a marble table and a sense of humor.)
As with my last cardboard castle, it’s hard to show in photos how awesome this fort is.
Below one crenulated tower, I added this circle as an architectural feature, and then drew this dinosaur/dragon. Is it art?
Someone who used to throw really nice art festivals went ahead and threw a multi-day Zoom party. I jumped at the opportunity to make art, doing most of this assembly work alone.
The fidget spinner is how the wheel turns. Sadly, this means the assembly rotates on a single point, like a top, and is top-heavy (thanks to that nice Hot faucet handle), so precesses and travels slightly.
Of course the hardest part of this piece was the scaffolding and structure. I created this appropriately dimensioned enclosing bowl with cardboard, which required very large sheets cut with huge templates to make the frustum of a cone. The ball needs to spin in the opposite direction as the central wheel. There must be just enough clearance that the main assembly doesn’t touch the bowl, even during regular precession.
Ultimately, I spent dozens of hours on this project to make something fun for a Zoom party. The aesthetic standards are entirely different and it’s quite nice not to need to worry about scale or drunk people molesting my structures.
I ran a game called “Snack Roulette” with Renee and everyone had fun. We were going to run it for three 1 hour slots, but it went on for about 4 hours two of those slots, so we ran it again independent of all other plans two weeks later.

Working with Wood

This is the “playa tech” design for tables and while there are many negatives to this design, my brother made two of them ten years ago and I still use both. So they’re actually pretty good. I decided to make some new ones and give some to my friends. Obviously my new ones had to be better than the old ones, so I focused on easy wins.

Three tables cut from a single sheet of plywood. Here is one table, receiving multiple coats of a blue wash.
A blue stain/finish as well as a watered down green. Far left see some orange spray on the underside of the table lid, so the user can more easily learn which side is up.
Oh I also made a small-size one of these that I can fit on the back of my bike. It’s great to bring out to things during quarantine life.
I kept thinking about how to make a bubbler with materials I already had and became convinced I could do it with a 2x4 and a stick. This almost worked, except wood is too absorbent to hold water reliably. In particular, a micro-fissure in the wood let all the water leak out over a few minutes.
A few weeks later, I realized how to make a bubbler out of a mason jar. The key here is the stem, which comes from a local pipe shop for a few dollars, the silicone straw (which we have for bubble tea I guess?), and Sugru for the o-rings sealing the stem and straw to the lid. If your head is in the game, you’ll also notice the water level must be above the stem’s end but below the straw’s. Others have noticed that this design is very easy to clean and principally requires just two holes made by drill in a thin metal lid (aka a slam dunk).

The cubes I made in the summer were great fun because I learned a very easy way to build frames, working almost entirely with 1x4 boards. I wanted to explore this kind of framing to make hanging lights or a kind of chandelier, specifically hoping it might work near the stairs in the front of our house.

This exploration looks like a cube, and has most of the rigidity of a cube, but actually never follows the exact pattern of a cube. I added four small cubes on it to change the balance slightly and as accents. They are brighter color and they are solid rather than empty.
Moved this to front of house, where it remains. It handles wind very well, which is reassuring.
I tried more complex approaches to painting these chandeliers, but it was not very rewarding
This blue model is quite nice, though I am not ultimately impressed with my “no fits are exact” approach here, where I forced the geometry to consistently create a skew at every join. There’s really no benefit to this and I think this chandelier would look better with square fits, pointless as that is.
This is a nice design, though really requires more space to set off the stark nude, blonde wood. I wanted to make it a lantern by adding a string light in a fabric tube but that did not look very good.
We needed a new stool, as the free one I found on the corner in downtown Oakland was declared unsuitable by my roommates. (They used it with no complaints for the first two years, but I was happy to take on the project.)
Building a stool was ridiculously easy and the cost in wood is very low. These legs are 2x2 and the top framing 2x4. The dowels I had to buy and I’ve reused the “2 in 1” stain/finish seen above on a camping table.
To better conform to user expectations of comfort and poofiness, I bought a pillow at Goodwill, gutted it, and repurposed some of its stuffing here under some scrap fabric I’ve stapled on. You can also see here the addition of molding on the legs, which is surely the most expensive part of the stool, and the savage addition of gold spray paint wherein an egg crate was used to mask.

Lights

I have never cared for light-up art, in any venue, but recently learned the value of having lights outdoors to make a space more hospitable and signal to others at a distance that the space is hospitable. Outdoor events during COVID have much less infrastructure and if you want to do anything you’d better bring your own light. Thus I began exploring lanterns.

On of my more successful LED installations, this is simply a bottle with label removed, spray-on glass glazing, and a whole bunch of LED strand stuffed in it. This actually draws power from the wall, which is well hidden, and it is a bottle amongst bottles. So the project has virtues. Blue is a good color, but more often I pick orange.

Not pictured here are a stuffed fish and a stuffed Christmas tree I made with simple sewing technique and filled with LED strand to produce crude holiday lights.

Sewed this pyramid, stuffed it, and added light. (Renee points out that it is technically a tetrahedron; indded she thinks I am way wrong to call it a pyramid.)
This laser-cut thin sheet of plywood already had the name and logo from a project I worked on a couple years earlier, so I was game. Here, I’ve used the original diffuser (wax paper?) and built a box around it, as well as added this maroon molding and the LEDs. This is a cute little sign and I can imagine using this technique again in the future.
In practice, this sign sits in my bedroom where I rarely use it. It takes power via USB, so can be plugged into a wall or just a battery. Here, it’s a battery. While this is practical for an art project with a proper audience, at home it’s much less ideal. Also the LED is enough to make the sign easy to read in the dark at some distance, but does not provide illumination. It ain’t no lantern.
A prototype for a possible lantern, this bit of hot glue and riff-raff shows the strength of the cuboid style and suggests the value of print graphics in the context of sculpture. It’s such a nice surface, regardless of the details on it.

Drawing & Painting

Though I used to hold these arts in high esteem, to me this kind of craft is almost always just a detail in a larger work.

I just copied a picture in a children’s book, making 2 drawings on loose leaf, then heading into this final version. Sharpie the whole way, no erasing possible. Put this in the cardboard castle shown above.
This piece is growing very slowly, with washable markers.
My first foray into dishwasher safe Mod Podge, I aimed for a mug to suit my mood upon waking and hunting for coffee. I have since learned that some people like mornings.
This mug of despair is also very pleasing to me.

Minor Arcana and Miscellaneous Techniques

We found this swing broken at the park with a sign about how sad the original installation crew was to see the swing broken. After some exploration, Renee decided it could be fixed if we just accepted that it was 7' off the ground.
This was hard work but has the very odd payoff of fixing a stranger’s swing in a way that makes it very difficult to get on.
An EZ-Up started living at my house a while ago and no one knows where it came from. Its bag was busted on the zipper and after trying to fix it twice, I decided to make a new bag for it. This nylon ripstop and belting from a previous project went together into a bag with plenty of velcro. This project was ridiculously easy, once I had all the materials together. Great to know I can make bags for camping equipment as easily as any other bag.
Inside, dry rice. We use these for to put in sugar and things. It really helps absorb any moisture and is a cute find once you have dug through enough sugar.

Bags for Plants

Made this during Q2. It was cute and the plant grew a lot.
In Q4 it burst. Not even on the seams! Just the fabric here tore, kind of all at once. Catastrophic failure. Took about ten minutes to clean and about an hour to make a new hanging pot along the same lines.
Added some brown spots to orange felt. Then orange spots to the brown ones. I’m hopeful that felt will resist tearing better than the previous textile, but gosh textiles matter don’t they?
In the process of covering the pallet rack so we can store things there without them getting rained upon, I added two walls, a crossbeam, and a tarp. But it was very boring to look at, and immediately outside the kitchen window. Here I’ve added two bird sculptures from the hardware store and a beautiful metallic branch piece I found on the street years ago. This is very nice to have outside and the real secret is rubber coated wire, which is just as strong as wire but much nicer to work with. It also costs much more, but I probably paid $10 for 30 feet, which means I spent about $2 on wire for this project. The neighbors can see this from their kitchen windows also and told me they love it.
I made all kinds of weird food, but this one has such a nice photo.

Conclusion

I think I did a good job. Not sure what the job is exactly, though.

Reviewing my work for the quarter, it seems I took advantage of the copious time available for iteration, experimentation, and inefficient proposals. One clear benefit of this work is that other people find it intriguing and want to grace me with their presence or contribute to artistic efforts in some way, which is fun. I also see that the work of making this art is important to my own physical and mental well being.

At the level of aesthetics and meaning, it seems I am becoming more of a designer in my artwork, fulfilling expectations and making things that are easy and elegant for others to use. In part, I am short on burning needs or explosive inspiration and long on care, craft, and time. So the production value on most things is up, even as the meaning and basic power is declining.

Still, given contemporary conditions, I’m pleased with my work and look forward to a fruitful Q1. It’s much better for me to stay productive in this area of my life than to let it slip.

--

--

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store