I don't think that the race car I fabricated is any more or less art than the little Maine Maritime badge that someone else made in 1944. Nor do I differentiate something in the museum or gallery. They're all taxidermied animals, representing an experience. An experience that was living and drove the creation of that thing.
So even if the person doesn't exist, it seems you are calling attention to a life lived?
A life that was desired for so strongly, that the life continues after the breath has passed. You might find that great-grandpa liked porn and whiskey and no one knew until they find the bottles in the garage, but it just as easily could be that he wanted to be a painter or a novelist. People have secret lives, secret dreams that aren't afforded to them due to any of the obstructions that face us all. With the Anna Isaak piece, it's not about the car. It's about story.
To the point that you obscure the installation with the peephole so it's more difficult for us to admire your handicraft.
The handicraft is relevant only in that it serves to substantiate the story and not undermine it. If it becomes a car that looks like an art construction, the story unravels. Like a bad theater set. You see through it. The craftsmanship is purposeful, but not something to be celebrated. You expect craftsmanship with a writer. If it's not there, you're not talking about the writer.
Let's flip to the rocketship. The purposeful erosion of the paint, the antiquated nature is the same but giving off a completely different feeling of excitement and childhood.
Totally different works with different intentions. Every facet of Anna Isaak's story is documentable; the sum of its parts is fiction but not the parts. There was no room to be flip or playful and childlike. The spaceship, it's a flight of fancy, but I wanted to make it look like it could go up into space. And then I needed to make it look like it did. I did work on the piece with one of the senior physics professors at Kansas State. He'd come over and say, "you can't put fins on it dumbass. you have to make it viable." It's childlike, but the components are viable. You don't need fins if there's no atmosphere. The child in me wanted fins. A spaceship is alternately a trophy of my insistence of the value of childhood and some days it's a monument to my refusal to take a path largely prescribed.
Your path as an artist was delayed later than most. Will you describe that trajectory?
Throughout my teens, 20s, 30s I worked primarily as an auto-body painter. Did some antique toy restoration. Grew up in Oregon, born in the Midwest. Mostly it's this whole life of machines. Cars. Immersed in shiny paint, loud motors, speed. All the sexuality and urgency and smells, seeking peace and happiness in that world and not finding it. I hit the reading really hard in my 30s — Wendell Berry, Richard Rohr, William Stafford, Philip Levine, later on Bukowski and found the other half of the puzzle. Poetry and discussion of dreams and ambitions and love. The literary half of the component, without which the mechanical world was so distressing. That began a move away from the body shop.