Reliquery

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Reliquary: Acrylic on sheet metal, 32"x96"  2019 

Being highly connected to the environment and outdoors, I purchased 33 acres of land in 1975 bordering a federal wilderness forest. The property was part of a 1,400 acre tract being sold in parcels. A friend and I combined our meager discretionary money to buy a parcel on an installment program. The area had been logged in early 1900's. After that, farmers moved in building homesteads growing dryland wheat. By the 50's the Grand Coulee Dam project brought irrigation to the Columbia Basin and the homesteads were abandon. 

After purchasing the land, my land partner and I would spend weekends walking the property trying to get an idea of the property lines while exploring nearby abandon homesteads. While poking around, I stumbled across a piece of sheet mettle sticking out of the ground on the northwest corner of the property. After some effort, I realized that this was the folding hood of a very old model A car or truck. It was later identified as an old truck hood because of its size and shape. It was the first "thing" I put into my inventory.

While working on "No Collusion", in the shop cutting the tree bark into rectangles with a band saw, I glimpsed the truck hood laying under the work table covered with sawdust. I retrieved it and laid it on top of the workbench recalling how it was found years ago. It was in bad condition. The hinges were rusted and the panels were folded and wouldn't open. There was something about the age and shape of the hood that spoke out. The decision was made to clean it up. It was a slow and often frustrating restoration to get it back to its designed function. Since "No Collusion" was taking up most of the studio time, the hood restoration was very slow and spotty. Getting the panels to open and close was the first step. The next step was rust removal and straightening essential bent parts in the sheet mettle. I began by using a wire brush on and grinder to deal with the rust and to my surprise, under the rust was the original black paint. Overcome with a strange kind of reverence for the hood, I was energized to bring it to life as a work.

 

 

 

After getting the inside of the hood cleaned and the panel hinges working, it was stood up with the side panels open. It began to have the look of an early religious artifact that I remember seeing when I was a teen living in Greece. 

 

Our Athens suburb home was at the base of Mt. Panteli in a very small village called Ekali. I could literally walk out of my home, cross a highway, and be climbing the western slopes of the mountain which I periodically did for fun. If one climbed high enough, there were meadows and gentle slopes were sheep herders would tend their flocks as they roamed freely grazing off the land. I occasionally would come across a man made hallowed out pile rocks and boulders held together with cement. Inside the hallowed area would be found a hinged old wood three paneled box. Opening it would reveal sacred spiritual artifacts of personal nature. I later discovered that the box was created by shepherds on the mountain who shared the slopes with other herds. Each flock herder would place personal icons in the box for safe keeping. They would access the reliquary and worship while attending to the sheep. The box was used to protect the personal items from the harsh elements of the environment.

 

The truck hood served a similar function. The sheet metal hood protected the engine. It being the essential function of a truck.  just like a reliquary box protects spirituality. I began to think of the Truck hood as a reliquary. At the time "No Collusion" was the creative focus so there was no plan to transform the truck hood even though it was in the stream of conscious while working in the studio.

 

After completing "No Collusion", work had begun on "Top 10 %". Occasionally I would be in the shop working on the truck hood trying to figure out what to do with it but, at the time, nothing was coming through. When "Top 10%" was completed, the media had been busy evaluating the relationship between Donald Trump's continuous stream of disinformation and the Christian right. There was one week were radical elements of the Christian right were trying to proclaim Donald Trump as the "chosen one" of the second coming. I was absolutely floored by the assertion that a billionaire fraud (in my opinion) was being given spiritual adulation by the keepers of the Christian faith. This was the moment were the function of the truck hood's mission took form. I now had both a form and a function for making a creative statement using the truck hood.

As work progressed on the truck hood, there was a need to learn something about automotive restoration. I had contacted my old land partner who was in the process of restoring a 1938 panel truck. He invited me to come over and help in the process. I spent two weekends as an apprentice on how to straighten, sand, patch, prime and paint automotive sheet metal. 

Restoration of the truck hood began with a much higher level of skill, understanding and focus. I decided to keep the interior surfaces of the hood raw and unchanged other than removing the rust. I liked how it showed its age with its scratches, marks, and old black paint as a mark of how truth is timeless despite its aging. Based upon the apprenticeship, it was necessary to removed the hinge pins holding the four panels together and work each panel separately. After a series of 3 wet sanding and 3 separate coats of filler primer were applied getting rust pits and scratches removed, the application of cosmetic putty was applied with more wet sanding followed by two more coats of primer and more wet sanding. Eventually the outer surfaces of the four hood pieces had been restored and were ready for painting. I purchased an automotive spray gun and practiced using it.  With that and my apprenticeship, I felt skilled enough to spray the 4 panels of the hood. The exterior was sprayed with a black acrylic gloss enamel with a clear gloss overcoat for the interior surfaces. Three spray coats were needed followed by an light wet sand between each spray coat in order to achieve right look. Using clear acrylic on the interior made it possible to brighten the surface yet allowing its age to visually remain.

Once that hood was fitted with new hinge pins and assembled back into its folding panels, it was ready for refinements.  The visual function was exterior becoming a protective shield to its interior. It was covered with "Lies" written across it as if "lies" was a virus trying to penetrate the shield to destroy the interior. The inside  was to symbolize the human eternal of truth. In spite of its aged, is the foundation to a universal dialogue between beings, places, and things. On an existential level, truth is the only form and function of time that has no past nor future. It simply "is".  In keeping it simple, I wrote in big blue letters', "Thou Shalt Not Lie", across all four interior panels. As a total visual experience, the panels can be opened and closed independently to reveal four different aspects of a truth/lie dialogue symbolizing choices to communication as a civil concept.

1. With all panels open, "Thou Shalt Not Lie" appears.  

     Is an existential absolute 

2. With the right panel closed, "Thou Shalt"/ "Lies" appears.

     An interpretation that rationalizes one will lie.

3. With the left panel closed, "Lies"/"Shalt Not" appears.

     A lie upends the purity of the existential principle

4. With left and right panels closed, "Lies" appears.

    "Lies", can overwhelm and obscure the existential absolute.  

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