“When I came to this country it was in a balloon. You also came through the air, being carried by a cyclone. So I believe the best way to get across the desert will be through the air. Now, it is quite beyond my powers to make a cyclone; but I’ve been thinking the matter over, and I believe I can make a balloon.”
“How?” asked Dorothy.
“A balloon,” said Oz, “is made of silk, which is coated with glue to keep the gas in it. I have plenty of silk in the Palace, so it will be no trouble to make the balloon. But in all this country there is no gas to fill the balloon with, to make it float.”
L. Frank Baum, 1900
On the face of it, there’s no connection between Claude Monet’s waterlilies and the aerial photographs of the battle of Manassas. But I propose a new work for this residency that attempts to spin a narrative between these two unlikely subjects, using American painter Abbott Thayer and Norman Wilkinson’s dazzle camouflage as a route. By experimenting with concealing and revealing; employing the strategies of bedazzlement and refraction to investigate camouflage; and using historical and current ‘stealth’ technologies, I propose to make an invisible balloon and hide it in plain sight. I will test my hunch that the investigation will show me something about how Wilkinson decentres the body/eye, and how Monet might experience the body/eye now, enabling me to develop a strategy for in/visibility. The Wizard of Oz is a delicious red herring, but my works always begin like this- with a fool’s errand, an absurd seed around which a ‘romantic conceptualism’ can coalesce. For this experiment, I’d like to give it full rein. Here, my work flirts with the border territories of art and science, examines the concept of the future anterior, the verbal form that names “what will have been”, and admits us to futures that never happened. I’d like to conjure up what might have been seen if Monet had met with optical scientists and been the key to development of the ‘invisibility cloak’.
From June-August 2011, I was a Summer Fellow at the Terra Foundation for American Art. This residency allowed me to further develop my work The Old Razzle Dazzle which will be previewed in 2012. Senior fellows and mentors included: Professor Michael Hatt, Professor Jennifer Roberts, Jorge Ribalta, Nancy Shaver, Arden Reed and Jochen Wierich. Junior fellows included: Sarah Archino, Kirsty Breedon, Wendy Asquith, Nenette Luarca-Shoaf, Jessica Horton, Siofra McSherry (art & cultural historians), and Anna Plesset, David Prince and Anne-Lise Seusse (artists).