In 1965 I bought a sketchbook, 14” x 11”. It had a black fabric cover. It had 200 pages. Both sides were available.
I liked its heft.
As time passed, I bought another one and then another and then another one…
I’m now into my 18th book. Some a year in the making. Others 4-5 years.
They reflect, among many responses, my engagement with issues that resonate with me, personal reflections and the question that is central to the work…”what does IT look like?”
The only order to the sketchbooks is that of time passing and my engagements and my continual darting about.
The sketchbooks are my practice. A way of being in the world.
Or “…to leave a stain upon the silence..” Samuel Beckett.
The early books look at visionary architecture. How we might organize ourselves into more sustainable communities.
What did it look like? I looked at the work of Paolo Soleri, Buckminister Fuller, Frederick Kiesler.
Thoughts about an installation on the Holocaust and a letter to my father four and a half years after his death.
I go to the desert.
I go to Alaska.
I become an artist-in-residence in prisons and jails and I spend years doing a range of work on this.
I believe that the artist should “be at the table” and I do Seeing Peace and Seeing Peace/the Billboard.
The books are about making a mark!
Materials thought about, represented and manifested in the sketchbooks.
They are sketchbooks so that “everything” is possible! All materials available.
There is no order to the use of materials as you might come across them in the
sketchbooks. My imagination was completely uncensored. All was/is possible.
After all, it is “just” on paper.
No boundaries on the imagination.
I would work with and try “everything!”
In the 70’s I spent time in slaughter houses. Collecting bones, skulls of dead
animals. Understanding the decay of flesh. And in the Holocaust installation, 1976
at the Magnes Museum, I set up a “assembly line” in my studio of 4, 55gal. drums
One filled with water, the next with water and salt and the next with water and
salt and brine and the 4 th with water and salt and brine and alcohol. I would dip
the bones into each one, trying to “kill” the bones, but they kept working,.
producing their oily seepage (I even dipped them into a plastic paint to try and
stop this life force, but was not successful. They kept dripping their fluid even in
the installation in the museum.
In the early Maximum Security pieces I was using lamb carcasses to suggest the
decay of flesh that happens in prisons. I placed the lamb carcasses in plastic bags.
The flesh was alive so maggots appeared to eat the dead flesh and then flies
hatched and the bags would buzz with the flies activity. The gallery was very
In the visionary architectural sketchbooks, the material were architectural.
Re-enforced concrete, tensile wires, mud and dust. I was very taken by Paolo
Soleri’s use of silt casting and how that might work on an urban scale.
And through all the sketchbooks, charcoal, pen and ink, markers, collages, like
newspaper clippings cut and re-assembled, bloody old bandages, fabric.
In the mid-80’s I began to introduce the notion of alchemy and the alchemical materials of lead
and gold. The idea of transformation. And how these materials visually manifested
themselves and how we might think about the issues I was representing. Lead and
gold leaf became an on-going metaphor for for much of the work.
Transforming and Engaging. And part of the attraction to this material, lead, was
the notion of toxicity. Many of the pieces in which lead/gold leaf was used were
“toxic;” prisons, last meals, expulsion of jews from their homelands, partition of
countries, the last supper.
Plywood and paint. 100 plywood cutouts of Bisons.
Audio: the Sound of Lions Roaring, bison stampedes, keys jangling in prison doors,
Tower of Babel.
Seeing Peace: billboards, photographs,
The babbling of tongues
Chess pieces, papier mache.
Final thought on “materials:’ Many artists spend their entire career painting or
printing or being a stone sculptor or a metal sculptor or a photographer or…I work
conceptually so that any material that will help to realize an idea is acceptable.
Mounds of sand in bags as in ”A Line in the Sand” or no tactile material, but
“sound.” As I come from an idea, a conceptual frame, I am open to any material.