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Monthly Archives: October 2011


I just went to the calendar and counted off the days until December 15 and I think it is 50 days.  Fifty days seems like a lot more time than 7 weeks, therefore, that is why I feel better.  Time is clicking by awfully fast lately.  Taking out the garbage tells me so.  Our garbage goes out once a week, on Tuesday morning.  It is about 100 yards from our front door to the street where I put out the garbage.   It is usually three for four trips down there every Tuesday morning… a couple trash bags, a trip with something odd  like some old carpet, a trip with the recycle and one run from the studio, so it is a weekly workout.  Yes, I could put it in the truck and drive it down there, but  what fun is that.  Yes, there is a point to this and I will tell you later.  Just kidding. . . Garbage day is like a time marker to me.  I make my trips every Tuesday morning and say to myself, “myself, how can it already be Tuesday morning again.  It’s like Groundhog Day (as in the Movie).  It seems like every day is garbage day.  So, time seems to go way to quickly.   But now I have fifty full cool days to finish my year end list.


I am fortunate to have several projects to finish up the year.  Number one is an eighteen foot suspended sculpture for the stairway of the Museum of Florida Art in DeLand.  It will be a long crescent shaped sculpture, swooping down through a fairly complex staircase.  This commission presents some interesting challenges because of the space, but so far it looks like the project is under control.  Next, I am making a 6×6 foot sculpture for a residential client in Central Florida.  It will be installed poolside by mid December.  I will get some photos up as I make progress on that.  I have two mobiles to complete —  one for a Chicago residence and one for a North Florida corporate client.  I am in the middle of making a “Tropical Tree” sculpture for a sculpture show at the McKee Botanical Gardens in Vero Beach, Florida. This piece is coming along and needs to be delivered by the first week in December.  I am making a series of award “trophies” for a builders association that need to be delivered the first week of November at the same time I am delivering the “Post-Surrealists in Paradise” show (Wilton and Wolfe) to go on display in Jacksonville for November and December.  Then finally, I have a show at the Laughing Dog Gallery in Vero Beach, opening January 20.  So that’s it.  And I have fifty days… a piece of cake.


If you didn’t make it to the show in DeBary, the Gateway Center for the Arts posted some nice photos.  This is the link to view them.  (I don’t know if it will work if you click on it or if you need to copy and paste it)  Also, at the end of this post I will attach a critical review of the show written by Dr. James Murphy.


DeLand "Windvane" installed

14 foot tall "Windvane" installed in front of DeLand City Hall

12 foot Tropical Tree base

This is the base of the 12 foot "Tropical Tree" sculpture that I am making for the McKee Botanical Gardens Show

DeLand Sculpture Walk "Windvane"

DeLand City employees help install 14 foot "Windvane" in front of DeLand City Hall



It is ironic to realize that Surrealism still continues to inspire and inform the work of contemporary artists. In the mixed-media paintings of John Wilton and the mobiles and stabiles of John Wolfe, two DeLand artists, we see the lingering influence of two pioneering American artists of the early Modernist period: Joseph Cornell and Alexander Calder. Both Wilton and Wolfe engage in a discourse with their artistic forebears, while responding to the actualities of 21st-century life in the Sunshine State.

 Like many artists of his generation, John Wilton uncovers the poetry and myth behind the contradictory messages of Florida’s popular culture. His paintings and mixed-media assemblages recycle ordinary images from the mass media, causing us to reconsider their possibly extraordinary status. His work generally layers references to Pop artists such as Andy Warhol and James Rosenquist, while paying homage to the kinky flora and fauna (human, bovine, and avian) of his home state.

 His current series deals with an image that we all accept as a colorful symbol of our tropical environment: the parrot. We can almost hear the strains of the Parrot Head national anthem Margaritaville in the background, as we live out the vicarious lifestyle of the Parrot Head nation – everyone’s favorite fantasy of Florida. But the fact is that the parrot is no more indigenous to this state than Walt Disney or the Space Shuttle, just another visitor who migrated from somewhere else to take up residence in the Florida popular imagination. Wilton underscores the creature’s seamless transition from seasonal visitor to cultural and commercial commodity, an appropriation that happens every day, all around us.

 This is not a new idea. An ancient theory held that a person’s personality and ailments were determined by his or her predominant humor. In the Renaissance, it was believed that each human possessed all four humors, and various animals symbolized their effects. Thus, a parrot can be found in Albrecht Dürer’s 1504 engraving The Fall of Man, where it represents salvation, the antidote to the nearby serpent in the garden.

In the 1930s Joseph Cornell began his assemblage constructions depicting Surrealist imagery quite unlike that of any other artist here or abroad. Some of his boxes contain cutout references to parrots, especially the flock in Habitat Group for a Shooting Gallery (1943) whose glass case is pierced with an actual bullet hole. Compare this with Wilton’s Tony’s Nightmare, which depicts an apocalyptic showdown between the grim reaper on a bulldozer and the parrot’s tropical paradise. In Cornell’s The Hotel Eden, c. 1945, as in similar works, the caged parrot is an emblem of mystery and sublimation, evoking some faraway European locale. Or, like the older Renaissance symbol, it may suggest Paradise after the Fall, an ironically apt reading of Florida itself.

By his own admission, John Wolfe has been “following in the footsteps of Alexander Calder,” whose large-scale kinetic sculptures of the 1930s (dubbed “mobiles” by Marcel Duchamp) were among the earliest modern works to incorporate the elements of time and movement. Constructed of colorful abstract shapes hung on slender strands of wire, they responded to air currents and the movement of viewers.

Calder’s constructions were partly inspired by his artistic colleagues and contemporary trends: Mondrian’s clarity and simplicity, Dada’s fascination with play and chance, and the Surrealist fantasies of Miro. In one sense these mobiles extended the idea of objects in space into a celestial, even cosmic, analogy. We see in Wolfe’s mobiles a carefully balanced planetary system, all units gracefully pivoting around centers of gravity and equilibrium.

Like Calder’s, Wolfe’s mobiles let us reflect on the precise balance of weight versus counterweight, line versus plane, the constantly-changing versus always-implied picture surface. Calder also created works he called “stabiles” – which stood on the ground like everyone else’s – but he often combined the stabile with mobile elements. In a similar way Wolfe’s stabile-mobiles give viewers an experience of walking around (and under) a stationary armature, while glimpsing the erratic and unpredictable angles of pendant forms.

And Wolfe’s forms are as often as not botanical and floral. Some works suggest the presence of a living tree, whose trunk is the stable support and whose leaves sway in the breeze. Like the work of the Art Nouveau designers of a century ago, the structural-symbolic forms emulate a living force in nature, surging up through its roots, and animating the sculpture even more.

Both artists are aware of their common artistic heritage, yet each manages to distinguish himself from earlier antecedents. They have preserved the experimental, the accidental, and the incongruous that once characterized Surrealism. What is new is the cutting edge (literally) technology each has used to generate his work. Wilton’s mastery of digital imaging and inkjet printing technology, combined with traditional painting media, allows him to push the boundaries of collage and assemblage. Wolfe’s technical innovations depend on a computer-guided plasma cutter that allows him to fashion perfectly-detailed replicas of his imagined forms. Each artist thus advances the discourse on, and creates new responses to, the dramatically different imperatives of our Post-Surrealist Paradise.

James Murphy

New Smyrna Beach


It has been great visiting with you this afternoon. Tonight I better get out my calendar and start to schedule the next 50 days.  Talk to you again soon.