Thursday, August 30, 2012

Painting Patents on Panels

US Patent No. 163,422, Life-Preserver.
During the summer I worked on a collaborative project entitled "The Shrine of the American Dream".  The project, conceived by artist Edgar Endress, takes a critical approach to narratives of prosperity for all, the so-called "American dream".  Schematic diagrams culled from U.S. patent files are painted on wood panels extracted from demolished, repaired, or abandoned houses.  The patent images and the wood from old houses are seen as visual manifestations of failed attempts at individual success and self-sufficiency, in other words, failures of the American dream.

Panels ready for installation.

At the beginning of the summer, Edgar invited painter Brooke Marcy and I to help complete the 200 panel pantings needed for the project. Sculptor Marco Moreno Navarro was also invited by Edgar to participate in the project, contributing two exquisitely detailed sculptures inspired by patent designs for protective suits.

The patents were chosen for their ability to protect the body or to extend the body's ability to endure dangerous environments. Many of the images are designs (or re-designs) for fire-protection suits or underwater suits. We also looked for patents intended to re-shape the human body--often taking the form of women's undergarments resembling medieval torture devices.   Overall, the patents chosen present attempts to increase self-sufficiency and to re-invent the self.

Panels clamped, waiting for glue to dry.

"The Shrine of the American Dream" will be installed at the Maier Museum of Art as part of their annual exhibition of contemporary art. This year, the show is entitled "Bridges Not Walls" and is open August, 31 to December 7, 2012. 

Panel painted and ready for pen.

This life preserver from 1883 (US Patent No. 281,824) might have worked better as a "CamelBak" for coffee.