Sunday, January 2, 2011

Hidden Agenda Series

It is long overdue but I have decided that one goal for 2011is to write a blog about my more traditional art. For this purpose I am going to hijack my Dolmen Project site for the winter. It is easy for me to make excuses to not write about my art so the first excuse to overcome is “where to start”. I have decided that since I will never resolve that issue I am going to do what I do best and just ramble.

In the spirit of the New Years I have decided to start with the “Rattletraps” or “Hidden Agenda Series”. My wife, Eileen, showed me an article on the cathartic nature of putting a decorated bottle by your bed with a note pad to write down anything that may be bothering you and lock it away in the bottle before going to bed. It reminded me of my rattletraps.

The “Rattletrap” or “Hidden Agenda” series, a succession of art pieces that rattle when you shake them, started as the result of two separate influences involving unusual ways of recording an event. The evidence of the event is later disguised so that it cannot be discovered without the destruction of the art object containing it.

The first influence was a ceramic student whom I had met in college. I have forgotten his name but I will never forget his art work. His work was the result of his traumatic experiences in Viet Nam. For him his art was therapy. He would craft slab boxes in which he would write his experiences and thoughts on the insides of the slabs. He would then seal them up, fire them and his secrets would be sealed inside. It was his way of expressing his feelings without letting them become public knowledge.

You'll Never Know

On a less serious note, an artist friend of mine, Bruce Harstad, after writing a short story, inserted the ending in an amulet made of decorated burlap, bound in leather and then sealed by dipping in beeswax. The joke was that if anybody asked about it you could say “It was none of their beeswax”. Beyond this he placed a curse on the object so that anyone who opened the amulet to read the ending would have bad luck. It was all done in fun but the idea of not ever being able to read the ending without destroying the amulet intrigued me.

These artists were the inspiration for the hidden agenda series. Without handling these pieces you would never know that anything was hidden within. But as soon as you start moving them you are troubled by the sound of objects rattling within. Again the mystery and irony of never being able to know what is hidden inside without destruction is the impetus behind these pieces (destruction is the means to knowledge).

Wine & Song

Finally the series becomes a sort of time capsule. In this light, I have decided to try to make at least one addition to the series every year. Although I will be the only one to know what is in them it is a way to record a segment of my life.

 Before the Fall

Closed Circut


  1. I have a small piece of ceramic art with a rattle. How intriging. Have fun with your project.