Sunday, November 30, 2008

Work in Progress: Money Earth

11/11/2008 11:11 pm
I begin a new project.
Continuing with my explorations of mosaics from chopped coins, I choose a metaphor inspired by the global financial crisis and the subsequent banking bailouts.
I decide to create the whole planet from sliced pocket change.
First I sketch out the continents, freehand.
Next I make lines to denote the equator, the tropics of Capricorn and Cancer, and also the arctic circles. Arrows establish a flow for the tiny pieces, tracing the actual ocean currents.
Beginning with a line at the equator, I lay out these currents first then spiral inwards and outwards simultaneously.
Tiny, fingernail-clipping shaped crescents are laid meticulously end to end.
Thousands will be necessary to cover the entire field.
Obsessed with completion, I work on nothing else for 2 weeks.
Each piece has to be placed using tweezers, and special care is necessary at all times to avoid disturbing the other pieces, which will not be glued down until the entire image has been laid out.
For the continents, a more linear approach seems appropriate.Pieces of cut dimes, nickels, and quarters add contrast with silver.
Meticulous effort goes into keeping the gaps between pieces small.
The distribution of coins varies by geographic location.
Continents like Africa have a slightly lower number of silver coins.
Australia is more or less balanced, 50/50.In addition to simply depicting things metaphorically, I wanted to add an additional element to describe the current financial emergency.
Therefore, like a surgical suture, a gash runs horizontally across the entire planet, stretching from Wall Street to the Bank of England.

America, nearly silver save for some spots, looks like a cadaver after an autopsy.
The arctics are assembled from nickel slivers, chopped into tiny triangles.
Hundreds of hours later, the layout was complete. Like a Navajo sand painting, gravity alone was the glue. In one sweep of ANYTHING, the entire image could vanish. A great power lies in this potential danger, like standing at the edge of a cliff.
Somehow I managed to keep the cats away and my elbows off the table for the entire time. A week and a half in, I began to hallucinate swimming pieces of coins, yet I pressed on, aware that if I stopped for a day I'd risk losing the momentum to finish. One accidental tossing of my keys or hat onto the surface would have killed me. Two weeks to the hour from the start, neck sore, eyes strained, and wrist stiff, I prepared for the next stage.

Here, hundreds of hours depended on 15 crucial minutes. Once I began to lay the adhesive, there would be no undoing. I began by carefully taping the front surface, after which the entire image was flipped over.
Silver silicone went down first, behind the continents only, followed dark brown silicone behind the oceans.
Four tubes were necessary to cover the entire surface.

After letting it cure, I peeled off the tape....

Wednesday, November 5, 2008



This victory for intelligence represents the beginning of a new era in the direction of my art. Whereas most work I've made in the last 8 years has reflected frustrations I've felt towards my country and its actions, now the doorway is open to make triumphant, hopeful images instead. I am excited for the world. What a relief.

Two other artists came to my attention during the promotion of my own work, both extremely different, but of the same vein, using actual money to depict the President. Perhaps a new genre has been birthed. History being made...

"Change" by Andy Magee

"Barack" by Jim Kelly

Saturday, November 1, 2008

the making of "OBAMA vs. McCAIN"

With only a few days to go before the election, I find myself in a scramble to promote my new work, which metaphorically describes the candidates in terms of their funding and voter bases.

The artwork is unique, in that the process was developed in conjunction with the creation of the piece itself.I started with a Google-image search. I found a picture I liked and made a pencil sketch.
Changing the contrast and saturation, I was able to break the image into patches of lights and darks.
The next step required a visit to the metal shop.
My raw material was change. Actual money.
Hours and hours of chopping ensued.
The work became a mosaic.
I devised a technique using masking tape and silicone.
Each section could be captured in layers and set aside.
Working this way, the surface contains a certain element of relief.
Numerous finishes and different colors of silicone help to add contrast.
Some areas were polished, others left with their natural, circulated finish.
Finally, nickels and acid let me add bright and dark highlights.
Finished with Obama, I moved onto his opponent.
His sketch was much smaller, tighter, placed in the lower right-hand corner.
His eyes and mouth were made from gold dollar coins.
Quarters and dimes filled in the rest, and black enamel paint brings out the details.
Next came the background. I decided to hammer out a geometric pattern of coins.
Holes were punched in the center of each coin first.
In the upper left hand corner, I used a patina to create flag pattern behind Obama's head.
One more step, and it was complete. Obama Vs. McCain!