For the past two weeks I have been working on figuring out the piston section of the bank vault. There are 24 pistons which have a toothed bar at the tapered end. This toothed bar connects to a series of gears, which are turned by the door opening mechanism. When the door turns, the giant gear turns, turning the small gears, pulling the pistons in and thus unlocking the door. Needless to say it has been incredibly slow to make sure that everything is absolutely perfect.
24 pistons aka PVC pipe at 3.5″ by 24″ each
One section of the bank vault door. There are 8
Sections will be lined with masonite so that it appears solid.
Foam ends of each piston. These will be sanded to a taper.
Tapered piston rods. These were cut with a hot wire and just need to be sanded.
Have almost finished the structure for the door. Made a cutting error which meant I had to go back and trim a tiny bit off of every piece but in the end it worked out great. Have some new ideas for the diptych paintings I have been working on. I lost interest in them but am re-inspired. Also redesigning the website, which I hope will be more appealing and easier to use.
These images are the back of the vault. Extra wood was removed to make it lighter, but each section still weighs about 20-30 pounds!
Cleveland State Community College assistant art instructor Mark McLeod was recently awarded a grant through MakeWork, part of the CreateHere initiative in Chattanooga. McLeod will receive funding over the course of a year to develop an entirely new body of work. MakeWork is an arts grant program open to emerging and established artists and artisans within a 50-mile radius of Chattanooga. The core mission of the program is to stimulate Chattanooga’s creative economy and empower artists and artisans with the tools to succeed and grow. Rising and established artists alike are eligible for assistance for studio rental, tools, workshops, and those “someday-I’d-love-to” projects. MakeWork debuted in January 2008. Since that time, the program has awarded $450,000 to 55 artists and artisans, an investment in Chattanooga’s creative community that has stimulated cultural and economic development. MakeWork recipients include cheese makers, portrait artists, musicians, cutting-edge graphic designers, and performing artists. Along with sharing their work with the community, MakeWork artists commit to attend sustainability sessions through SpringBoard and participate in a showcase of their work. “I submitted a proposal that included five or six projects that all dealt with the current state of the economy,” stated McLeod. “I’m working on a major body of work that deals with systems and symbols of power within the financial sector.” According to McLeod, these works include a life-size bank vault, six large diptych paintings that illustrate the major financial holdings in the U.S., an alchemy table used for the creation of gold bricks, screen prints of various money routes, and an interactive board game in which viewers will be able to slide armored cars across the board, create tunnels, and man defenses in an effort to stage their own bank heist in which they can either take or defend what is theirs. “In this body of work, I am interested in how symbols such as currency are created and regulated; how they impact everything that we do from buying groceries to planning for retirement. I am also interested in possible alternatives to this system, particularly a re-examination of the practice of barter and trade and/or a reduction of financial giants. This body of work seeks to examine how these systems work through artistic and investigative means.” McLeod said his work combines a variety of different media and methods that challenge preconceived ideas of art. “I believe that the work can take on a life outside of itself, through word-of-mouth, stories, interactions, performances, theater, and/or dialogue. I am interested in creating an experience for the viewer and not just static objects to be experienced. My passion for these experiences can be found in my teaching, my art, and my community-based artist residency, Accessibility. I believe being able to give viewers something different contributes greatly to the cultural capital both in Chattanooga and the surrounding area.” “CreateHere and MakeWork are both amazing programs as far as supporting local artists,” said McLeod. “Because of this program, I am able to realize an entire new body of work that I would otherwise not be able to do.” McLeod heavily involves his art students and community members in the creation of his work, as well as the research and planning. “I think these experiences give students and future artists a better understanding of the process of making art as a working artist. By focusing on issues such as the current state of our economy and the financial means that led us here, I hope that at the very least a dialogue is generated.”
Over the past two weeks I have made considerable progress on the bank vault. I spent a fair amount of time designing the piece in Google Sketchup and it paid off. I was able to use Sketchup to figure out measurements down to the 1/32″ of an inch, transfer those measurements to a template and use the template to make the shapes.
The first saw I purchased was off an 1/8″ which may not seem like much, but when you need to make 16 cuts, it adds up to being 2″ short! After returning the first saw and buying another one everything has been going very smooth.
I made an octagon with 8 pieces that would be easy to carry. I knew that the piece had to be able to be carried by me and then bolted together to create the finished work. I cut out the pieces, aligned them on the floor and used a laser to find center. I used this center mark to create a giant compass and drew and inside and outside circle. Once the first one was cut and sanded I used it as a template for the rest. I used a router with a trimming bit to “trace” the template. This gave me 8 identical pieces.
The holes are there to provide access to the nuts and bolts when it’s all assembled.
The past couple of weeks have been extremely hectic. School has started back and with the addition of a new course (Art Theory and Criticism) and the accompanying text along with an unexpected update to an older text for Art Appreciation, time in the studio has been limited.
I have been working extensively with Google Sketchup to make sure all the angles are just right for the construction of the bank vault. The vault has been reduced to 9′ tall by 18′ wide because of height restrictions in most local and regional exhibition spaces. Because of the scale of this piece I am using Sketchup to help create a mockup. The entire sculpture will be able to be broken down into 16 manageable “chunks”. Manageable means roughly 3′ long by 10″ wide sections for the entryway and larger pie shaped pieces for the door. Other parts such as gears and pistons will be added after the main pieces are assembled on site. The main pieces will consist of a large 9′ circle (the vault entrance) and a 9′ door. The easiest way to make a circle this large is to actually start with an octagon. Most radial arm saws have a preset stop for the angle that’s required to build an octagon (22.5 degrees). Cut 8 pieces at 22.5 degrees on each end. Assemble them together to form a large octagon. Use a large board as a makeshift compass and you have a circle. This was the exact same technique I used to create my Superpowers Chamber. It’s also the same technique used to create a gazebo. My first purchase with the MakeWork grant was a sliding radial arm saw. This has allowed me to quickly and accurately cut the needed pieces. In all there will be 32 sections that will be pieced together. I have created several templates to help this piece move as fast and as accurately as possible. If a cut is off even an 1/8 of inch…multiplied by 8 pieces…I am left with a 1 inch gap. Needless to say I am taking my time to make sure the cuts are as accurate as possible.
Along with working on the vault I have also patched and sanded some of the diptych paintings. I have been struggling with exactly how these paintings should work but think I have settled on a combination of overlapping imagery across two panels instead of my original idea of two different, yet complementary works.
Google Sketchup print out of the various angles and cuts I will need to make
New radial arm saw that can cut 22.5 angles for the octagon
1/2″ MDF cut to length. The top piece is the template for the other 15 pieces underneath. This will form the individual pieces that will make up the vault entryway.
Also bought a 6 gallon Porter Cable air compressor and 3 nailer combo pack. The regular price was $299 but I got a refurbished unit for $189 with free shipping. Same warranty as a brand new one.
This question was posed at the recent MakeWork Sustainability session last Saturday. It’s one of those questions that as an educator I should have a pocket answer for, but in reality is much more difficult to answer. The questions is really about justifying arts existence. Why, particularly in the visual arts, is time and money spent on something that few will see and even fewer will understand?
Art is difficult to define. It’s this other thing, it’s intangible, or as Cai Guo-Qiang put it in the video series Art21, “it’s the things we don’t see.” On a personal level, the visual arts have become an act of expression that for me have moved past the traditional boundaries of media such as painting or sculpture. It’s become this mix of media that allow artists, both visual and performing, to move effortlessly between various media. This freedom in an artists choice of media also exists in an artists choice of message. This unrestrcited freedom is why I am personally drawn to create. Through art I am allowed to express ideas and create works that could not exist elsewhere. I think most people have a desire to create, but it’s through art that this freedom is cultured. Art allows us to express ideas and emotions that cannot be expressed through other means. Art has the unique ability to on one hand inspire and on the other outrage it’s audience.
Why does art matter? It matters because we need it. It exists as a snapshot of the cultural, religious, secular, political, social, moral, sexual bents that define us at a particular moment in time. Creative expression is the foundation and very essence of a diverse cultural experience.
I spent the day looking at air compressors and staple guns to use in my F.A.M.P. project which is funded by a MakeWork grant. The best deal seemed to be a 6 gallon Porter Cable with 2 nail guns and a staple gun for $299. I also managed to find a 10% off coupon online to save a little extra money. I am hoping it will go on sale tomorrow to save even a little more.
I am still debating on whether to use blue insulating foam to build up the thickness of the bank vault walls or to create it entirely out of wood. The foam will be much easier to cut and assemble, but also easier to damage. The wood will take a lot more work creating templates and making sure all the measurements are just right. The foam will also require a different painting approach because it tends to absorb the paint more than wood. I ran some tests last week on the foam and will check those out on Monday.