About the work
How would you explain your topic to someone who is unfamiliar with planning?
I constructed three pieces, each based on a different aspect of habitat sustainability.
<Environmentally Interactive Artwork: Scale Model>
I built an 18” scale model to represent a future architectural artwork which will be
approx. 300ʼ high.
The artwork is interactive, activated by wind and sunlight. The stronger the wind, the
more varied the wind speeds, the more the work responds. The stronger the sun, the
longer its sensors are exposed to sunlight, the more the work responds.
The carbon fiber/nanotube sail is made to give off light it collected during the day. As it flutters during the night in the wind, each wave of the sail emits light, giving off different colors, but always in the cool (e.g., blue, aqua, green) range.
This completes my commitment to an art project as promised.
Once I completed the scale model to conform to the group’s guidelines, I was free to
move into other directions while still remaining true to the concept of urban sustainability.
For this artwork, I took an idea that I have been toying with for a long time, years: The
human in a closed ecosystem. If the ecosystem is closed, and the production of waste is more than the environment can recycle, then the environment becomes polluted. If consumers of natural resources consume more than the environment can replenish in a stress less way, then the quality of the resources degrades or the amt. of consumable resources is reduced.
So far in human habitation, humans have not been willing or have been unable to
improve on the quality and quantity of gifts which Mother Nature has already provided
for humanity in the original garden. Human improvements on the original have fallen short.
I employed the hand again, but this time to represent the hand of man as a tool that
exerts pressure on the environment. Artwork III consists of five plaques:
The Plaque is plain with no artwork on it. It represents raw land.
A hand is drawn on the plaque, representing the idea for a city in the minds of the city
mothers. Its fingers and palm are cut all the way through the material.
The fingers of the hand pop out, representing an imbalance in the general plan,
indicating incipient unsustainability.
A carpenter’s triangle is added at the fingers. It represents a corrective, symbolizing the city manager’s attempt to address the imbalance, but only by indirect or cosmetic
means; Vested interests would be reluctant to negate years of established precedents with a root-based remedy.
From here on I will discuss only Artwork I
Discuss how the art piece interprets the planning concept.
The General Plan calls for ways and means to achieve sustainability. The process of
sustainability to be maintained at peak performance, it must have continual
maintenance. Without maintenance, the process as well as any project based on the
principles of sustainability degrades.
After the initial unsustained fabrication and erection of the structure is complete, and is up and running, it fully sustains itself, hence its claim to environmental sustainability, by means of hinges that move and are perpetually greased, with the whole rig’s mechanisms and properties powered by wind and sun, needing no maintenance for approx. 200 years.
Because some of the parts reflect unproven technology, these parts may lose their
effectiveness, oxidize, wear, crack, or break. Parts made of proven technology also
degrade. As the degradation process continues, the explanatory text on the entrance
plaque would remind visitors to the rusticating hulk that human life itself is not immune, experiencing its own decay. In this way, the artwork is a monument to the life and death process.
What was the thinking behind the creation of the piece?
Two inspirations: The shape of a hand has been a long term interest. I recently made an 8ʼ high, two-sided hand titled, Sex is to Bowling as Violence is to Parachuting. One side is completely covered by fish scales showing to women making love. Laid over the fish scales are five parachutists descending toward the wrist at the base of the sculpture.
The other side of the gigantic hand is completely covered by newspaper headlines
spotlighting violence of all kinds: Bush’s illegal invasion of Iraq, his violent passage of
the US Patriot Act which we patriots call the US Fascist Act, murderers, corrupt
legislators, economic violence perpetrated by Wall Street, violent criminals and law
enforcement, torture, shootings, robberies, rapes, rapine, etc. Laid over the headlines is a man who is in a posture that has just released a bowl ball, with bowling pins below at the wrist. His own hand is ten times larger than his face because the arm is
foreshortened. Secondly, planner Mario Suarez arranged for a tour of the Riverside Water Treatment Plant. The interactive piece is an interpretation in symbolic form of the three stages of the water treatment process employed by the City.
What do you want people to get out of your piece?
I hope that they can gently grab the top of the sail and carefully move it back and forth
to play the role of the absent wind.
They would see the sophistication and the creativity in the way it was conceived and its disparate elements were put together in a Zen-like way with minimal means. The hand moves as an independent object but is also born out of the vault:
• The wind operates the sail.
• The sail activates the vault.
• The vault pushes the hand back and forth.
• The hand moves the fingers across three tubes, the tubes representing the three
stages of the water treatment process.
The three lights on top of the lintel and the six lights under the clear floor are turned on and off or, when on, their intensity is regulated by the amount of the sway of the sail.
The more the wind pushes the sail back and forth, the greater the effect. I combined materials and techniques that would work together to prevent structural collapse.
•The five flexible stays act as springs to keep the post and lintel system in the upright position.
•The two custom hinges that anchor the posts to the base are designed to prevent
the posts from angling more than 15 degrees back and forth.
•The horizontal bar that keeps the vault centered also prevents the vault from collapsing.
•The hand and the vault are made out of one object, but each has a different function.
As you can see, no part is purely decorative; All of the apparently disparate parts making up the object work in tandem toward a common goal. All are structurally supportive.
What information or idea do you want them to walk away with after viewing it?
That art is not simply a watercolor of the Mission Inn expertly painted with bright colors.
How did the collaboration affect the outcome?
Without planner Mario Suarezʼs arranging for the tour, the project would have been
different in unknown ways.
Did the planner influence the artist, and/or did the artist influence the planner?
How would the process have been different if there had only been planner/
planner or artist/artist teams?
I would have continued to make fine art works for sale at galleries.
What did you personally get out of the experience?
How to think about public art works projects which reach toward the sky.