A note about the sculptures. Feb. 1, 2012
I started making the sculptures this way... I found a large, old wooden board off Noble St. in my first studio at 46 Noble St., Toronto, just out of O.C.A. in 1981. At first this board became a large wall piece (“Stickleback”). This work was later destroyed but I kept the board. Later while at my 2154 Dundas West studio - (I seem to remember everything by where I was living. Or what I was doing (playing a lot of tennis in High Park with the lovely Maggie). Or what music I was listening to… or where I was working (midnight shift, Loblaws, 555 Sherbourne St.) – anyway I cut a zig-zag shape in one edge of the board and realized it looked like a stair part from the side. I am a little fuzzy at this point how this board ended up being untitled staircase #2… how did it manage to be the second staircase sculpture? Anyway, it was not the first sculpture. In about 1984, I was making some scraps into a free-standing, rough ladder... some of these pieces ended up being used in Untitled (struts) later. See Artwork/Older tab. The thought was about reaching upward, aspirations… things like that. This work never made it but led to the staircase sculptures.
The other thing that really led to the first staircase was some drawings/collages that ended up looking like or reminding me of 3D shapes – pyramids, ziggurats, and so on. I started sketching those and it led to the first sculpture – untitled pyramid # 1. This was made from wood scraps with encaustic dribbled all over. I had started to use encaustic while working on some black and white paintings 1982, 1983 or so. In some cases I guess I can admit I used paraffin and pigment… paraffin was cheaper than beeswax and I was very poor. I had to use real beeswax later as the paraffin was way too brittle. I also tried microcrystalline wax, on a green staircase that was later destroyed. I even used silver tempera poster pigment from Zellers on untitled staircase #1 (when I got my act together later it was beeswax and Stevenson’s artist pigments from Spadina Ave.).
A note about stairs and ziggurats… about this time I went to my brother’s graduation from military college in Kingston… I remember Maggie was a bit scandalous in her men’s tuxedo jacket from a thrift shop… no evening gown for her… that night I had a dream where my brother and I started up the stairs of a ziggurat but ended up in two different places. I suppose it had to do with our paths diverging…
…where did the speaker idea come from? I really can’t think except there was a little Radio Shack down the street… I had made my own book-shelf stereo speakers in high school… for the first staircase I was going to loop that little piano bit from the very end of the song “The Eternal” by Joy Division, where it fades out and into track four of that vinyl LP side. I never did do that but then ended up liking that the speaker made no sound… there was an air of expectancy with no sound, I thought. I ended up making two sculptures with speakers in them and later some paintings; in fact I still use speakers in my work to this day.
More on the sculptures… the later ones (the last three) had much scraping away with knives in the wax and then more wax over-layering and more scraping. Four were shown at the Isaacs Gallery on Yonge Street in 1986 – three staircases and “sloping cone (nomad)”. Two were included in the Art Gallery of Ontario scene in David Cronenberg’s film “The Fly” later that year (“untitled pyramid” and the sliver/blue/copper staircase). Two were included in the show “The Interpretation of Architecture” organized by some folks with YYZ (Andy Patton, Janice Gurney, Alan Tregebov). The work is mentioned in the catalogue to that show, and also in a review of the show in Parachute Magazine #45.
Only two of these works survive for sure to this day, I am afraid. None were sold from the Isaacs show, or other shows. A couple were recycled into other works. A couple were destroyed. Untitled pyramid #1 met an untimely death when I left it near a window facing the summer morning sun (never use paraffin for art-making). Upon moving to Ottawa in November 1991, I abandoned a couple of them behind an artists’ loft building on Sorauren Ave where I was living, hoping they would be picked up and find good homes. I should have offered them to friends I suppose but they were too large… I suppose this is a bit like a parent who abandons a child?