Monday, April 15, 2013

How to Tie a Knot in Joshua Tree

When I invited Steed Taylor to submit a proposal for a project in Joshua Tree, I knew it would have a tribal bent and be community oriented. What I didn't know is that it would be 29 feet long, 5 feet wide and comprise of many tons of concrete.

Steed brought his idea of the Celtic Knot to me in the Fall of 2012. A large sculpture in the shape of a Celtic Knot to signify continuity and momentum. The sculpture would contain the Joshua Tree community's aspirations for its future in the form of objects contributed and then mixed into the concrete. To round out this ambitious agenda, Steed also proposed creating a series of demon bowls which would depict my anxieties for the development of the residency program as a proxy for the community's anxieties for its future development. These bowls would be buried around the perimeter of my property by community members, thus trapping the demons contained therein.

When we met to discuss the project, there were two main challenges at hand - funding and fabrication. Steed is well known for his Road Tattoos, large scale projects that involve painting tattoo designs on roads in places like Chicago, Washington DC and Hartford, CT. This was to be his first large scale concrete work however. After several discussions, Steed took on finding funding for the sculpture itself and I went looking for a concrete fabricator in the Joshua Tree area.

On returning from NYC on New Year's eve, I jumped into hosting the two residencies immediately at hand (David Goodman and William Lamson) and contracting the conversion of the garage to a studio. I put Steed in touch with a local concrete fabricator and got on with the busy-ness that was January. Some time in early February, I got a call from the fabricator saying he needed to come by, see the site and get going on site prep. I called Steed and found out that he had launched a wonderful USA Projects campaign and we were moving forward. Surprise!

Things then went into fast motion - Steed's campaign powered through to its goal and I took on coordinating the fabricator to prep for Steed's arrival. We created a production schedule, with Steed arriving in the second week of March and the dedication ceremony and open house to be held on Easter Sunday, March 31. The site prep was running quite behind when I decided to continue with my plans and head to NYC for Armory week. Steed and I had lunch at Pier 94 and compared notes on mica, diamond dust, phosphofluorescents and other such esoteric subjects. The trip was a great lesson in getting out of the way  - I got back to find the site fully prepped, two days ahead of Steed's arrival.

On my return, I put out the word for Joshua Tree community members to provide objects for the concrete and a steady stream of contributions were received. Once Steed arrived, the site work went back into full swing to prepare for the concrete pour. The forms themselves drew the curious and some wanted to be around for the big moment itself. We were lucky to have Susan Jordan and David Zimmerman come by to help set the energy of the community's aspirational objects and to witness the process.


A steady stream of visitors came by to see the piece in it's various stages of development including an economic development group from the Coachella Valley, Cathedral City Public Arts Commission members, arts festival producers and friends passing through over Easter break. Steed also worked in earnest on the demon bowls, interviewing me regarding my anxieties regarding the development of the residency program and synthesizing them as a proxy for those of the local community at large. He also attended local arts group meetings, my Transition Joshua Tree working group meeting and explored the local area some.


Suddenly, the Easter weekend was upon us. We finalized the clean up of sculpture site, sanded down some corners again and dug 16 holes for the demon bowls to be buried in. Steed also prepared material to show the process of the fabrication and explanations of the various demon bowls for the maiden use of the studio as exhibition space. In true desert style, we had guests on site at 1pm for a 2pm event. This is a regular occurrence I still have not completely come to understand. That said, I'm always grateful for those who come to BoxoHOUSE events, so bring it on - water will always be available one hour before show time.

The 1pm guests were up from Palm Springs and they heralded a good showing from the "low desert". Many more folks turned up - the local community, artists, art academics, art critics, curators, a gallery director and friends from as far away as LA. Steed led a dedication ceremony at 3pm and then every half hour a set of four demon bowls was buried at each corner of the property. Each time, guests were invited to carry the bowls down and assist in burying them, thus both doing the job at hand and witnessing the suppression of anxieties. I knew I would sleep better that evening.


I am very grateful for Steed's time here and for his huge success in bringing this project to fruition. I am also grateful for the community participation which informed and enlivens the work. The Knot remains now as a permanent installation at BoxoHOUSE, a symbol of continuity and progress as well as a wonderful place to sit or lie and contemplate the rocks, the valley or the very large sky.

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