Search for Lost Youth

(Jim Dugan)

(wood, wire and wax, approx. 10″x10″x30″ high)

An entire deluxe box of 96 Crayola crayons have been melted in frying pans, then dribbled over  icicles gathered from the artist’s childhood home, creating an intricate negative space of the things that threatened to fall and kill him during impressionable years. The colors are here livid and there muddy, sometimes passionate and sometimes garbled. One icicle tip has been preserved in the odd bronze color with light glinting off flecks of herring scales. The base is splinters of a Western Flyer sled, wrapped in barbed wire from the fence at the bottom of the artist’s sledding hill.

Untitled (sculpture)

To look at it from a distance, it seems like a common sight.  A glittering, bristling cone, it appears to be some sort of modern, metallic Christmas tree.  Only when you come close, but not too close, do you begin to understand its design.  The first things you notice are the hundreds of tiny hypodermic needles.  Maybe thousands.  Each one appears to have a small amount of yellowish, pus-y liquid in its slender barrel.  It’s unfathomable how someone could have mounted so many of these delicate things, as numerous and tiny as the needles on a fir tree, without doing repeated harm to themselves.  Same with the shiny wafer-thin double-edged razor blades that hang from wires no thicker than a human hair.  At various places you notice mouse traps nestled among the needles.  Where the bait would go are little slips of paper that say ‘Don’t’.  Attached to the bar are small cups filled with shards of glass.  They are tiny catapults.  You follow the thick electrical cables that snake to its base with your eyes, and see two things.  Spiraling merrily towards the peak are heating coils glowing a dull red.  Draped gracefully from side to side, like the tracks of a skier, are garlands of lights.  All of the bulbs are broken, and all of the filaments are snipped, giving the impression of a snail peeking out of a small glass crater.  Around the base, in what looks like a wind-driven snow are shards of broken glass of every color and thickness.  At the top is a six-pointed Chinese throwing star, held in place with white thread.  In a small placard is a sign that reads;

Do Not

Depression Kite

(The following is a proposal for a Kite exhibit at the Hudson River Museum in New York.  The actual Depression Kite is now a part of the MVMA collection.)


Dear Jean Paul

This came to me this morning – I don’t know where from, but I think it would add a provocative and worthwhile component to the Kite show.
The working title is ‘Depression Kite’.
The kite would be a traditional shape – an elongated diamond, roughly 36” x 24’.  It would be made of iron bands, cement, hardware cloth, aluminum and baling wire.  The iron bands would form the frame and crosspieces.  The hardware cloth/chicken wire would fill the inside of the shape and protrude in places from the cement.  The tail would be formed from strips of aluminum riveted together, and the string would be baling wire.
It’s a cement kite.
It should be resting on the floor leaning up against a wall, preferably in a corner.  Outside would be best, so it could weather and rust – if it were inside I would treat it with acid to hurry the oxidation.
How complete can a kite show be with nothing but light colorful kites?  My kite would probably weigh 60 pounds, it would be all wrong, it would never fly unless you threw it off of a building, and then it would probably break.  It will have all the color of an abandoned and forgotten factory; it will be as insubstantial as a boat anchor. It is at war with itself, this weighty doomed flying thing. It is defeat.  It is despair.
However, long after the bright gossamer airships have disintegrated, my kite will remain, a fortress of failure that could last almost forever, like a radioactive remnant that can tell its story years after it has been dropped in the woods.
If the other kites are bright kayaks, mine will be the Merrimac, the Monitor.
I would write the label copy if you’d like:

“To be a concrete kite is to be an unimaginative cosmic joke, and earthbound flying machine, a cast iron hummingbird.  To be a cement kite is to have your reality locked in a never-ending war with your identity.  This flying thing will never fly, but it will last a hundred years, after all the pretty kites have been forgotten by the grandchildren of those who flew them.
You may not touch this kite.
You may kick this kite, but only if you answer this question:
How do you suppose a cement kite would feel on the day of the Kite Festival?”


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