James Croak interview, Barbara Bloemink, Curatorial Director, National Design Museum, Smithsonian
James Croak was born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1951 where he lived until
the age of eleven then with his family moved to Louisiana where
he attended public schools. About this time he became interested
in the classical guitar, his first artistic endeavor , and he proved
to be a musical prodigy, studying with Andrés Segovia at
the age of fifteen. The following year he gave a series of concerts
in Mexico City as part of the ‘68 Olympic Summer Games. Croak
then spent five years at the Ecumenical Institute in Chicago, concurrently
studying sculpture at the University of Illinois, where he graduated
in 1974. Similar to most sculptors from Chicago at that time his
own work took the form of massive, abstract, metal sculpture. Receiving
an artist in residence grant from the National Endowment for the
Arts in 1976, Croak worked in Wichita, Kansas, speaking to the public
about issues concerning contemporary art. Also he learned specialized
techniques for fabricating with aluminum from the airplane factories
in there. From 1970 to 1978 Croak made over seventy works in aluminum
which he painted in bright, neon-type colors and with titles such
as Modern Emotion, a harbinger of the work to come. In 1976 Croak
moved into an old 14,000 square foot fire station in downtown Los
Angeles. There he quickly abandoned the abstract impulse he was
taught in Chicago and returned to figural work. Croak's California
work received a great deal of attention, even celebrity. In 1984
he left the West Coast for Brooklyn, New York where he began creating
his "dirt" sculpture made with a combination of dirt and
binder that he invented in 1985. Croak began exhibiting widely in
the United States and Europe. Recently the artist moved to Manhattan
and has had his work included in exhibitions in Spain, Italy, The
Netherlands and Germany. The following interview took place over
Barbara Bloemink: Thomas McEvilley originally
titled his essay for this book, Generations of Monsters: The Sculpture
of James Croak. Who and what are your personal monsters?
James Croak: I either don't have any or I have all of them: it is
the world in general. I had a bad start: my mother died when I was
only two, I was passed around relatives for the next four years,
typically living in one place during the week and another during
the weekends. Hence my sense of the world is that it is a very unstable
and scary place. I knew a mathematician who feared that all of his
atomic particles would line up and he would fall through the floor.
Similarly, because of my past, I am always falling through the psyches
of anyone in front of me, no matter how rational they wish to appear,
and I perceive a seething unknown in them. Kazantzakis had a great
line: "Life startles us at first, it seems somewhat beyond
the law." I think the monsters are less in my life than when
I was younger ironically because death seems more imminent. Perhaps
this is the reason. In The Sibyl, Par Lagerkvis describes the most
severe punishment as having to live forever.
BB: Why was your first sculptural impulse
abstract, since subsequently your work has been largely figural?
JC: I was living in Chicago and the academic program that I was
in at the University of Illinois was anti-figurative. I don't mean
"non," I mean "ANTI!" Painting was dead and
embalmed and the only "authentic" course of action was
abstract sculpture. The larger the better, the less reworked the
better. Read: Judd, Serra, Rossati. I made work similar to this
but simultaneously I had a baroque itch to scratch. I photographed
graffiti from the walls of buildings in the area and projected the
images onto large sheets of aluminum. Then I fabricated the metal
into large-scale sculpture that were essentially three-dimensional
graffiti. Frank Stella began making work nearly identical to this
around 1974, five years after I initiated my series. Hence I rarely
show or discuss my aluminum series, it appears derivative although
I initiated it many years earlier. Its just as well because I think
naturally I am a figurative sculptor and this first impulse was
beat out of me in school. It was this gestural baroque aluminum
work that led me back into figuration.
BB: That is a long route to get back to
what you wanted to do to begin with. Do you see that this work influenced
other artists? Do you see your ideas appearing in the work of others?
JC Many times. A drawing of the Amarillo Ramp found in Robert Smithson's
effects after he died was drawn on top of the first page of a lecture
that I gave while at the Ecumenical Institute titled "Resurgence,"
describing history as a spiral. An idea outlined in the epic poem
Saviors of God by Nikos Kazantzakis. This drawing-on-my-lecture
turned up in Artforum in 1973 in "Site Works" by Lawrence
Alloway about earthworks. I was twenty-one when I wrote that.
BB: Let's go back to your work in Los Angeles
for a moment. Living in a terrible neighborhood, you radically changed
your style and media from abstract aluminum sculpture to the series
of taxidermed mythic beasts you titled "New Myths and Heroic
Allegories." Why did this change come about?
JC: When I moved to Los Angeles in 1976 I rented an old fire station
as both my home and studio that was in a rundown section of Los
Angeles. It was right on fifth street, and living there was similar
to being on the Bowery in New York City, but there it was called
"being on the nickel." Someone was killing homeless people
in the area and became known as the "skid row slasher."
After killing people, he parked their bodies against the wall, propping
them up as though they were sleeping. I personally found two of
the bodies, one leaning up against the door of the firehouse and
it shook me up. Ultimately they found the killer, in his apartment
he had a collection of water glasses holding the blood of his victims.
Around the same time, some slick-looking evangelists held a religious
revival outside my door, complete with bleachers, blaring music
and the like. These events occurred during the general parade of
broken souls moving about the streets. There was this bizarre emotional
circus going on outside the walls of my studio and I kept looking
at the abstract art that I was making and became increasingly aware
of a schism between the world outside and the world inside, my studio
that is. I was reminded of Francis Bacon's conclusion that the truly
powerful emotions in life can be expressed only through figurative
BB: Your "New Myths" series garnered
a great deal of media attention, including many who were shocked
at the total reversal of style and medium. Since few of the works
survive today, describe some of them in terms of the motifs used
and the ideas/impetus behind them.
JC: The "New Myths" was the title Al Nodal gave the series
for a show in Los Angeles. My working title was "Extant Cultures"
and was to consist of pieces made in the genres of various cultures
and sub-cultures: Evangelical Christianity, biker tattoo art, Klingit
tribe totem poles, low riders, etc. This was not meant to be imitative
but rather I immersed myself within each genre, studied it and then
make a piece as a trained professional artist but within that genre.
Obviously I was moving as far as possible away from notions of "International
Style" and the like. For evangelical Christianity, I associated
this scene going on outside my doors with a Las Vegas casino show
—their dress, manner and music, is very similar— I made
Vegas Jesus. I made a twelve foot high crucifix with a taxidermed
sheep dressed in a tuxedo with an American flag and tons of colored
feathers rimming edge. The work must have hit them between the eyes
because there was almost a riot at the opening at the University
of San Diego and much bashing in the press. A few years later I
won the Award in the Visual Arts from SECCA in which one’s
work is sent to various museums on a tour. They declined to take
the Vegas Jesus piece, claiming the participating museums were worried
about the reaction it would cause. Humorously, three years later
Andre Serrano won the same award and toured his Piss Christ which
they guessed safe enough.
BB: In Truth, Justice, Mercy you cast your
own torso and head and attached them to the horse's body. In one
hand you are strangling a snake, in the other you hold a pennant
bearing the title of the work. The centaur is set against a desert
scene that depicts a brutal image of survival: A coyote eats a bobcat
which is eating a snake which is eating a lizard. What brought about
this juxtaposition both of yourself with the notion of a centaur,
this mythic animal, next to imagery charting the chain of life in
JC: This was the biker tattoo culture I mentioned. I remember thinking
to myself that this piece was 'after-the-bomb' art. It is quite
easy living in Los Angeles on the rim of the Mojave desert to imagine
that you are nearing the end of civilization. And recent events
there have confirmed my conclusion. In the first instance, the piece
is a desert image rendered in tattoo art... mad-cap violence culture.
Bikers seem to favor the desert and it is common to see Harleys
blasting through these small towns in this barren scenery. I befriended
a tattoo artist and biker named Sullivan and learned much about
this culture of heroic tattoos. Again an "extant culture".
I did a self-portrait as a centaur, waving a banner reading "truth,
justice, mercy," racing through a desert of immorality. I became
It was a lengthy project and I worked closely with two taxidermists
to build the piece. You have not lived until you’ve skinned
a horse. The appaloosa we used dropped dead at Santa Anita raceway
and one of taxidermists was in the stands. He knew that I was looking
for an appaloosa because the skin would match the coyote and lynx
that we already had mounted. He climbed down and bought it for $40.
They used a crane to get it into his pick-up truck, however when
he got back to the shop we had no way to lift it out. So we skinned
it still in the truck on a public street in Los Angles until 3:00
in the morning when the police came. We were covered with the mess
and the cops thought they had discovered an animal sacrifice group...it
took much explaining. It took months to build the piece and after
we finished Sullivan painted the tattoos on it.
BB: In Greek mythology, Pegasus, the flying
horse of the Muses was ridden by the warrior Bellerophon to conquer
the monstrous Chimera and the Amazons. Bellerophon was later punished
by the gods for his excessive arrogance and pride. Later, for the
Romans, Pegasus became a symbol for immortality: all interesting
meanings vis a vis an artist. In your work, a full-sized winged
Pegasus bursts through the bright blue roof of a 1963 Chevy Supersport
creating a fascinating meditation on conspicuous consumption and
irresistible force. Pegasus: Some Loves Hurt More Than Others, made
in 1982, is probably your best-known sculpture in that it has been
reproduced 200 times in books, magazines and articles. In retrospect
it is the perfect visual metaphor for the notion of artists as outlaw
hero, breaking out of the confines of conventional conformity. What
was the impulse behind making this work and why do you think it
has been so popular over the years since it was made?
JC: In Greek mythology, after Pegasus threw Bellerophon to fall
back to earth, he turned and said, "A bitter ending awaits
those who seek pleasure beyond what is right." I liked the
myth's implicit morality but wanted to translate it into a contemporary
context so my secular Pegasus breaks through the top of a 1963 Chevy
low rider. These cars are worshipped but their owners live tragic
lives. There were low riders all over Los Angeles -an update of
the sixties hot rod beach culture of Jan & Dean, Big Daddy Roth,
and the Beach Boys but decidedly more Catholic as pictures of Jesus
and the Virgin adorn many of them. This stylization was added by
the Latinos. The ongoing popularity of Pegasus is telling as it
is still published often in Europe but not much more in America.
Yet it was never shown in Europe. Recently a book in Norway used
it to illustrate a poem by Dylan Thomas, go figure. This says much
about where one would look currently for heroic masculine imagery.
When it is published in America it typically shows up in a non-art
related publications which thrills me to no end, I enjoy the cross-over.
I did not have to skin this horse. He was already mounted in this
position and it was perfect for this piece. The taxidermist had
preserved Trigger for Roy Rogers and he seemed to fancy dramatic
BB: How consciously did you want your audiences
to identify the mythology behind these early works?
JC: Very much so with the Centaur and Pegasus. It added to the work.
Remember, at the time when I started, giving any title to an art
work was considered taboo. For me using a title is similar to using
an additional color. I do this very much tongue in cheek and have
not done it often. I was surprised when McEvilley told me that he
associated my work with antiquity, probably because of the Kouros
imagery more than the titles.
BB: Two of the taxidermed series were female creatures: the Sphinx
and the Lioness. Since you so rarely depict women in your work what
meaning did these works have for you?
JC: I made the Sphinx in 1983. The image came to me not in a dream
but just as I was falling asleep - that is when allot of my imagery
comes to me. That is how I think of it. When I am thinking, I lie
on the couch and run images by like slides one after another. Typically
I take it and model it mentally, viewing it and looking at it from
different points of view. This one just popped in done. It was no
mental work at all. The work has a resin trunk and head, Canadian
Snowgeese feet and wings, glass eyes and anaconda skin on the forearms.
I was attracted to the legendary quote of the Sphinx: "To know,
to dare, to will, to be silent." She is a beautiful and dangerous
creature, a metaphor for woman. The Lioness was an piece I found
behind a taxidermy shop, mounted on top of plaster. I was told that
it was a prop from the old Johnny Weismuller Tarzan movies. The
skin had holes all over it and was waterlogged. I found a model
maker who made the grass and trees and tableau figures of Africa
that we used to fill the holes. The omission of women that are more
human imagery was not intentional: twice in a row I spent a great
deal of time and energy making a woman and it was not successful
and ended up being edited. Its probably harder for me to do. Although
the Dirt Baby girl piece is well liked. Also the three woman piece
I did in 1997 was successful.
BB: In 1984 you moved to Brooklyn, New York,
from Los Angeles; and you began working with dirt as your medium.
How did this come about?
JC: I felt that I had outgrown Los Angeles, so I decided to leave.
I wanted to continue making figurative sculpture and began considering
different materials to work in. Bronze was too expensive and restrictive
of spontaneity. It was an epiphany when I thought of dirt, it was
neutral and loaded! It was everywhere but never used. The first
batch I swept out of gutters in Brooklyn. Around 1985 I invented
a means of mixing dirt and a resin binder which I could cast. That
year I cast the first dirt piece Dirt Man with Fish and I began
the Dirt Baby pieces.
BB: After the colorful neon aluminum and
taxidermed assemblage, didn't you miss color when you began working
with dirt and more neutral materials?
JC: No, there are many colors.... many shades of brown.
BB: You used your face and hands as the
model for the Dirt Men. Why?
JC: Even when making a sculpture of someone else, I constantly reference
my own body when working. I started making self-portraits simply
because I was there and I didn't need to hire a live model. Ultimately
my physical size and proportions work well for figurative sculpture.
When I returned to figurative work, I looked for a material that
had a firm footing. No pun intended, but dirt is solid. It is irrefutable.
It is so common that it is incredibly neutral which is what I wanted.
BB: For a short period you used another
unusual material in making your work, tar. Why?
JC: Well tar is another "worthless" material like dirt,
and very common. In 1988 I made my first tar piece. It didn't work
well and I threw it away. The Umbrella was a successful piece out
of tar. Basically it is all cast from hot roofing tar. It makes
the works indestructible - if the piece gets dirty, I just put it
in the shower and hose it off. Umbrella/roof, water spilling off,
it is a strange psychological image. The Sequential Hats sequence
was similar - I was thinking about Matisse's series of women and
wanted to make a sequential image. It was fun to make. I took a
pail of water, cast the tar into a hat shape, removed it from the
mold and began heating it. When it started to bend, I dropped it
into the water. Whatever the shape of the hat when it hits the water
and cools is the final shape. So each one is unique.
BB: You branched out from the Dirt Man to
the Dirt Baby series which is when we first met. How did they come
about? And what happened to your earlier work?
JC: I was exhausted from making the first dirt man piece so I thought
to make something on a smaller scale. And so arrived the first Dirt
Baby around April of 1986. No one would show them: they were too
disturbing. Finally, five years later I showed them at Alcolea,
a Spanish gallery that had a small outpost in New York City. Although
there were no reviews in American magazines, the work was a big
hit and I sold eighteen pieces at a time when the market was crashing.
As the far as the early work I wanted my figurative work to be conceptual
but stripped of all decoration, I went through a period in 1990
where I edited a great deal of early work and destroyed it. After
discussions with other artists, I was stunned to discover that my
work was being read wrong, almost as if I was retarded and couldn't
participate in the current conclusions derived from the French semiotic.
Some people even thought of the earlier work as kitsch. Basically
I edited and stripped everything down to a simpler, more basic kind
of communication. More toward a modernist presence, but still keeping
the conclusion of narrative figurative sculpture. I just let the
viewer finish the piece. This is the difficult part of making art:
one can never control of what your work will remind the viewer.
BB: Is this from where the Dirt Window series
JC: Yes. The Window series is minimalist and came directly after
this editing- extremely austere, conceptual yet figurative. It is
the first body of work that I began in the 90’s. The window
is a very traditional image in art history - so much of our sense
of art is the world seen through windows. By making windows out
of cast dirt, the series became a summary of twentieth century art:
abstraction, surrealism, earthwork, expressionism, Duchamp’s
sight gags (portable windows) etc. I have made eighteen windows
so far, I intend to make forty eventually.
BB: In the mid 1990s you began a completely
new series of work New Skins for the Coming Monstrosities which
both literally and conceptually were almost the opposite of your
work in dirt and tar in that their concentration was on the surface,
superficial rather than the core medium. Unlike both the taxidermed
works and the dirt works, the skins have surface texture, but no
musculature or sense of underlying body mass: they are hollow. The
New Skins seem fragile and transient, and their subject matter overtly
pessimistic. How do you explain this change?
JC: I wanted a pause from the dirt pieces so I made this high anxiety
series. Also my marriage was breaking up in a prolonged and painful
fashion, it fed the fires. Ending a long term relationship feels
as though ones skin is being pulled off, for some it is a molting,
for others like being flayed. Either way it is about skin. I tend
to read the New York Times with scissors, cutting out articles that
seem extraordinary. About this time it seemed that there were allot
of bizarre incidents all happening at once. For example, a high
school principal and a teacher in Ohio who hired the same hit man
to kill each other, a woman in Chicago who "repeatedly"
shocked her 7 month old nephew throughout the night with a stun
gun because he was crying. And many articles were about common viruses
and bacteria that were mutating beyond our ability to control them.
All of a sudden the volume on everything was being turned up and
all these bizarre situations came to the surface, all having the
same root cause: overpopulation, anxiety, high mobility. It made
me wonder, "How did so many people become undone?" So
I made a series of skins intended as protection against the environmental
insults of our time. Skin we would have if evolution had a chance
to catch up to our times. The first work was a Cradle Camouflage
made of latex, where the child could be hidden inside the mannequin
of a dog. This was based on my theory that people are doing things
to children that we would not do to pets: if we camouflage them
as pets they can survive to create the next generation.
BB: Would you consider yourself a religious/spiritual
person? Do you try to convey any sense of this in your work?
JC: I don't like the words spiritual or religious as they indicate
a canon. I see deconstruction as a negative theology— although
Derrida argues against this—and it is about as close as I
get to a theology these days. I do want my work to have a strong,
mysterious presence, similar to a cathedral, and this possibly is
a spirituality. It also puts me at odds with anti-art. I think the
secret is to have a strong presence without associated, and specious,
claims. Anti-art had its place but as an ongoing activity it is
a sentimentality: they are sentimental about being at odds with
an establishment. As far as being religious no, but something had
to start all of this.
BB: When you say 'It is time to make a culture
again' what do you mean? How would you define what you call 'anti-art'
which, you have stated elsewhere, you believe makes up the bulk
of contemporary sculpture?
JC: I want to make beauty. Some art works are considered special
and beautiful and last from century to century, from culture to
culture. A feature of the world that the environmental theories
of consciousness cannot explain. Once, the activity of making modern
art, pursuing an essence, called for a constant challenging of what
was made before, but that sequence is over and ended recently. The
unfortunate residue is a kind of pointless, manic contrarianism.
I find no iconic value in the identity of the rebellious child,
however this rank identity is routinely the starting point of art
made today. Which is one of the reasons that we are in the mess
that we are currently in. It is sort of like a mom saying to a little
kid, "get in the car," and the kid says "NO"
and runs off to the picnic table. That is as far as the thinking
goes. I have lost count of the number of times visual artists have
been represented as complete pompous idiots by the media, especially
in film. Unfortunately much of this is deserved, the art world is
incredibly inbred, self-referencing, similar to academia. There
are other art worlds scattered about the globe, but they are isolated
from each other. I do believe we have touched bottom though and
I see signs everywhere of the resurgence I wrote about twenty years.
The new work of Eric Fischl is a good example, these lush powerful,
uncanny sculptures similar to Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux and Rodin in
style. Also Bill Viola’s profound video art. Work that has
life in it. The peaceful mystery of Lopez-Garcia is another. It
is a time to make a culture, we must begin again to design metaphors
which will allow us to grasp and redescribe our world. And not those
metaphors which simply reject it, obviously the vast enterprise
BB: Your figures often convey a sense of
isolation and solitary existence. Your own life experiences have
often been fairly isolated - from playing classical guitar to spending
time in the religious order. Do you think there is a connection
and if so, why?
JC: Actually I switched from classical guitar to flamenco recently
precisely because the latter is more social and typically done with
others. Although probably, in general, I prefer to work alone. I
do believe, as many do, that we are in a state of estrangement that
has increased over the past few centuries and my work reflect this.
Even if this increase is ultimately untrue the fact that so many
believe it to be true is evidence that most feel it must have not
always been this way. The Falcon cannot hear the Falconer...
BB: During the making of the New Skins works
you concurrently continued to make work in dirt and that is your
main medium today. I am interested that in your newer figurative
dirt work, you do not make live casts such as George Segal, Duane
Hansen, Antony Gormley etc. but build your figures and forms up
entirely by hand modeling in clay from which you make a mold. Why?
Isn't casting from life easier?
JC: Yes, but life casting results in inanimate, dead-looking sculpture,
always of a certain size. It is the process of building up the figure,
muscles and skin from scratch that gives the work animation and
poetry. Working from the inside out. Life casting was originally
a method of making a death mask. Still is. Presently I am exploring
areas of past art that have always interested me such as the work
of Rodin and Michelangelo. Bernini was an early hero of mine. If
you look at the way my centaur is constructed with horizontals and
verticals, it is very similar to Bernini's Ecstasy of St. Theresa..
BB: You have been very vocal in describing
yourself as an anti-modernist. Why is that and why do you think
at this point that you are going back through art history?
JC: Probably dating myself by doing so, twenty-five years ago this
was a radical stance now basically the norm. Modernism as a style
of art is fine, I have no problem with that, it is often attractive,
especially in architecture. The problem stems from the claims of
universality made by its adherents; the use of advertising language
such as "International Style" or "essence" and
the such. These claims are easily dismantled with our present enlightenment
but this is recent and some people do not yet understand this. The
nature of people is to claim universality...(that’s a universal
statement right there!). Tom McEvilley’s now famous essay,
actually originally only a review, Doctor Lawyer Indian Chief, was
the plain language version of these issues that were stewing for
many years. His piece was unanswerable, although MOMA tried, and
tried,... If one prefers that style of working and its symbols,
ideas etc. hold for you, then great. But don't, as the modernists,
claim to have symbols and ideas that hold true from person to person,
culture to culture. The test for a structuralist statement is to
ask "do you believe that would hold true for people you have
never met, living in places you have never been." If the answer
is yes, even an unsaid yes, one has tried to make a structural statement.
It is a basic human reflex to answer yes, we always answer yes.
Where Tom and I had a meeting of minds is that deconstruction is
now largely a mannerism. Time to move on. His essay in this book
is ground breaking in this area.
What is going to come next is unclear. The modernists tried to control
space and failed; now they are trying to control time by saying:
we don't have to compare to the majesty of the past, that was then,
this is now. Well, I think if you make a good sculpture, it should
stand as a good sculpture next to work from any era.
Personally I am falling backwards to a firm footing—everything
about dirt seems to be a pun— dirt is solid - firm, common
and incredibly neutral. In my new work, in addition to my interest
in Rodin and Michelangelo, I am also looking at the Spanish sculptor
Lopez Garcia who interests me tremendously. I knew nothing of his
work until I was sent a book of his work by a collector from Barcelona.
Lopez Garcia is one of the most sought after artists in the world
and he is largely unknown in the United States. He is a consummate
realist who works with very mundane objects and is extremely adept
at illuminating an object or situation or mood.
BB: You have made several drawings, using
dirt/earth as your medium for drawing on paper. At what point were
you making these?
JC: I like doing drawings but have not had much time to do them.
Two years ago I wanted to continue Goya's Disasters of War with
twentieth century imagery. I made about fifteen drawings and edited
it down to about four. They will resume at some point.
BB: Your most recent work, the full-sized
nudes and the body fragments, are again modeled in clay and then
cast in dirt. Taken as a whole, there is a sense of your work as
having moved from the exuberant, outward, heroic gesture to the
more intimate, solitary quiet. Let's discuss your recent work and
why its mood is so different from the earlier work.
JC: The reversal of mood probably reflects a change of energy as
one grows older and more has happened. More blows to the soul. Look
at the sinister mood of Chuck Close’s recent work compared
to the early work from his youth. Same imagery, miles deeper, and
darker. I think my work has become more intense as I have aged,
although the earlier work seemed more dramatic. Also I live in New
York City now where it is harder to have the space to make the larger
heroic scale pieces that characterized the work made in Los Angeles.
The dirt work was what I was working towards all the time. It posits
solidity in a world that has none. I am currently making a series
of hands and full-scale figures using the elaborate 19th century
modeling and casting techniques I first used on the Dirt Baby pieces.
The Dirt Man series were made differently and the process resulted
in toning down the imagery. With this new work I am continuing my
early fascination with skin made from dirt...I believe this area
for my aesthetic is barely tapped. Especially I like the hands...as
McEvilley pointed out, the whole can look more whole than the whole.
It seems to be true.
BB: What makes a piece "not work"
for you so that you "edit" or destroy it?
JC: I made a large sculpture of a woman that did not work out. It
was a mistake from the beginning, an accumulation of errors. First
there was a poorly constructed armature and I used the wrong binder
to hold it together, the wrong dirt, just everything - this sometimes
happens, not often, sometimes one ends up with an elephantine mess.
The other big mistake I made was in applying the final layer of
dirt with a very heavy glue right after it came out of the mold
in order to give it texture, and in so doing, I wiped out all the
subtleties of the surface. You might not have consciously noticed
this if you saw the work, but your eyes would see it. The subtleties
of the surface are what make a work seem alive. Otherwise it ends
up looking like a dead object, a life cast. If it is a dead object
it gets edited.
BB: Where do you see your work going in
the future? What are your next challenges?
JC: Well mainly I want to come up with a sustaining theme of figurative
art in this vein in which I am now working, in this manner. As much
dirt work as I have done, it has not really peaked yet. I want to
make art that has an uncanny presence.
BB: What quote or title would you use to
encapsulate your work, or entitle your autobiography?
JC: I am fond of an engraving by Goya typically translated as The
Sleep of Reason Breeds Monsters. Actually an earlier and possibly
more accurate translation is The Dream of Reason Breeds Monsters.
I dream of reason and experience the monstrosities of the world
because of it.