Come visit me!
Saturday and Sunday, May third and fourth, noon to six. 75 Bartlett Street, Somerville, MA. Many exciting new works.
My Holliston High School teacher and great mentor of mine, Marjorie Picchi, once told me “once you think a piece is done, it is halfway done.” For me this fact has been a great measuring stick for my works. However, completion of the piece is merely the first of three hurdles every artist has to clear–the second and third being documentation and reflection.
It took several years for the loathing I had for shooting my own work to transform to a passion for photography. Improvements in technology was a great help in getting better images with less cost. Yet the real joy came from when I stopped taking static neutral shots of sculpture and started to take portraits.
If I had to choose a single element that makes Astrobots unique, I’d say it was their ability to emote: the personality that beams from big chunks of bicycle parts is what drives me to weld these things together to begin with. Originally I was trying to photograph them as if I was documenting a crime scene: neutral and unbiased. I used to take great care to eliminate backgrounds involving an elaborate setup of pristine white studio paper and strobes. Many hours were spent removing backgrounds in order to separate art from environment. Looking back I see these photographs more in the style of a crime scene–neutral and unbiased, than an honest and real representation of my work in an everyday environment. Away went the cumbersome studio apparatus, and out came the incandescent lights and the portrait lens.
Currently I’ve been shooting under flood lights in my home studio. My desk is a big table my brother made, replica from the television series, Firefly. The background is a curtain I made from some discount material. Sometimes I experiment with some incandescent lights.
I try to learn something every time I pick up my camera. Karla was a real leap. She’s got tons of charisma, and I was excited to show off her charms. When shooting Karla I realized I could use my computer monitor as a backlight.
It may or may not be obvious that when I create an Astrobot, I’m acting more on instinct than purpose, which I think adds to the whim and the human quality of a robot: in other words, I try not to overthink things when I make stuff. However, I like to spend some time after a piece is made, in order to reflect on the qualities that I’d like to pursue in the next piece. Nothing hones your thoughts quicker than trying squeezing them out the tip of a pen.
I need to keep good records of these critters. While the larger class robots tend to stick around for a while, the smaller Mercury and Castillo class Astrobots can leave the nest as soon as the clear-coat dries–particularly the special requests. Sometimes it’s hard to get it all documented before they’re gone. Seeing my work enter into another’s life is one of the joys of being an artist: sometimes you have to write in shorthand and set your shutter speed high as they whisk off to their new lives.
Related Links: Karla
Working in raw steel is pretty monochromatic. I love going big with color whenever I get the chance.
Today was the Seven Cycles Holiday party: Bowling, pizza, and local brews in Somerville. It also happened to be our fearless leader’s birthday.
I discovered this unusual birthmark on roof of the mouth of my cat, Bootsy Tiberius Khan, only two days after I put him in the basket of my trusty bicycle pickup-truck (aka the Skunkamobile) to take him home from the shelter: yet this is the first time I’ve managed to be lucky to be holding the camera set up correctly in order to catch him at just the right moment.
I’ve been designing and producing SCUL calendars annually since 1998, the first of which was inspired from a calendar I saw when I worked as a finisher at Merlin Metalworks in Cambridge, MA. This inspiring tapestry was a promotional calendar produced by President Titanium, which featured glorious images of a single fighter jets in the air, some of which may have even been firing missiles. Each month included some tech specs for captions: something along the lines of ‘The Bobcat-F19 sports a four-by-four por-favor with an output of 6.1 floozeljets, and is capable of trans-sonic loop the loops’. At least it may have well read that—it was gobbledygook to a newly-recruited Herrell’s ice cream-slinger such as myself. At the time SCUL had more ships than pilots, so the plane motif was a perfect fit.
When I first started making things out of junk metal for fun, I thought it’d be only natural to work on a human-sized scale. Over several years, I created three Titan-Class Astrobots. As long as you have never been seriously injured making art, you can say it’s fun making art that could fall on top of you. Just moving the ones I have (which I do as little as possible) can be a monumental pain. Continue reading
I haven’t owned a car since before Skunkadelia, sometime around late 1999. While almost all of my transportation is me-powered, my art is really heavy, so I’ve had to rent a car for larger shows. For many of the smaller shows I’m proud to say I’ve hauled several hundred pounds in a steamer trunk; sometimes in snow. The Skunkamobile is the latest of several heavyweight cruisers turned pickup-truck. I’d lay the steamer trunk across my full (but not overfull) Wald 157 Giant Delivery Front Handlebar Bike Basket. Continue reading
For several years I have had the honor of making the trophies for the winners of the Independent Film Festival. While I doubt anyone is shooting with film cameras anymore, I find that style of movie camera so iconic that I went with it anyway.
Almost all of the pieces in these works happen to be from bicycles: three axles with axle nuts for the legs, a clutch (base) and a driver (lens) from a coaster brake, and the head of a quick release axle for the eyepiece. The other three parts are a spend CO2 cartridge and a couple of hole saws that Seven Cycles wears out by coping titanium tubing. The plaques are hung by a couple of stainless steel bicycle spokes.
Engraving on my own brass plaques used for SCUL insignia were custom ole-school engraved by Joseph at Mission Trophy in Arlington.
In 2010 I made a Career Achievement Award for Kevin Kline: a talented actor with a sharp wit and a kind heart. I wanted to tell him about all the other crazy parts of my life, but I tend to keep my mouth shut around celebrities, since I’m guessing they have their share of fans blabbering about their bicycle chopper gangs and outrageous adventures and costimes.
Here are the award winners for the 2013 edition:
Grand Jury Prize Narrative Feature:
THIS IS MARTIN BONNER
Directed by Chad Hartigan
Grand Jury Prize Documentary Feature:
Directed by Richard Rowley
Grand Jury Prize Short Film:
THE LAST ICE MERCHANT
Directed by Sandy Patch
Karen Schmeer Award for Excellence in Documentary Editing:
Edited by Francisco Bello