Visiting King Tutankhamun’s tomb and seeing some of the intricate, beautiful objects left there for his use in the underworld was an impressive experience; but, it was the small personal note pinned on his mummy that became the inspiration for Enclosure XVIII, a tomb for contemporary man.
Stepping into the trapezoidal enclosure, the viewer feels suspended in space as blue light from neon tubes reflects in the smoky Plexiglas–from under the floor, across the ceiling, and up the sides. Inside, small objects left by viewers and myself lie in a gilded rib cage that rests on a bier covered by fertile soil. Children left drawings, a woman whose father was in the hospital left a poignant note, and others left flowers and much more. This modern tomb holds the feelings of many.
I gave a lot of thought to tar and asphalt when I lived in downtown Los Angeles. I did several experiments using it as an art material, which culminated in the minimalist installation, the Priapic Cube.
Instead of the hopeful yellow brick road from the Wizard of Oz, this path of kiln bricks emerges from the wall like a felled priapic and ends in the interior of a shimmering glass cube. The barren, black interior with asphalt dripping from walls and ceiling absorbs the light of a single, bare bulb. On the outside, however, its seductive sheen reflects the yellow bricks and is activated by the reflection of viewers as they examine the soft luster of its hard, smooth surface.
Compartmentalizing our feelings is a survival tool used by many, and it has helped me through many crises. These compartments in my mind are like a neighborhood of separate houses, each connected by the ground beneath them.
The green, neon outline of a fireplace and chimney comes into view as the viewer walks along a yellow brick path to enter the full-scale frame of a house. This symbol of hearth and home is replicated inside the house with eight small, black Plexiglas shaft houses with green chimneys that emerge from rich soil. One house has a nest of eggs nestled on its hearth, one has butterflies held airborne by hatpins, and another has closed windows that allow only a trace of green glow to escape.
I recorded them with a scanner, placed them in sealed specimen jars, and faxed the images into the museum gallery–one each minute of the exhibit. The rolls and rolls of fax paper filled the gallery and each day, the images faded more, until by the end of the exhibit, many were gone, completely.