“I grew up on the Magoon Ranch, outside Lusk, Wyoming, originally homesteaded by my grandfather in 1886. When I was four years old an old sheepherder, by the name of John the Baptist, showed me incredible chains that he carved out of willow. As soon as I saw them I wanted to make them but it would be six or seven more years before I began whittling with a knife and later, building race cars with hollow eggs and plastic model car parts. Around the age of 12, I began building ships in bottles, eventually discovering a technique for connecting the separate pieces by embedding magnets in the wood. This led to building spaceships in bottles and later, carved wooden robots inhabiting chemistry flasks.
After spending over two decades working as a photographer, silk-screener and graphic artist, I learned to throw on the potter’s wheel and returned, at long last, to creating three-dimensional artwork. Some of the first pots I made were raku-fired bottles and vases. When I laid one of the bottles on its side I realized that my own subconscious, unbeknownst to me, had been busy creating ray gun barrels. I had been drawing on images stored during childhood, of the illustrations from pulp science fiction magazines and book covers, as well as 50’s automobile design and designs from Victorian Super-Science.
I immediately made the rest of the components for my first ray gun, throwing them separately on the wheel and then manipulating them and joining the leather-hard clay parts carefully together. They were then glazed and fired using the raku firing technique. During this process the pieces are removed from the kiln at the peak of glaze-melt, the glazes glowing like fire on ice. Once placed in a barrel full of combustible material, the glazes undergo a chemical change, and cool rapidly, producing iridescent colors, metallic effects and a distressed look that gives them the feel of alien artifacts long-buried.
I’ve been making the ray guns now for 20 years, continually exploring design variations and playing with the juxtaposition of multiple materials, such as incorporating found glass parts and led lights into the sculptures. As a long-time fan of Science Fiction as a literature of ideas, these sculptures have become my homage to classic science fiction authors and the culture of human striving, powered by imagination, that they explored.
When I begin on a new ray gun, I often start with one component, and sometimes a title for the sculpture-to-be, related to the writings of a specific author. The rest of the elements weirdly grow from the first, as each one seeks to complete the ones that have come before. In this way the sculpture grows of it’s own accord, as the ray gun seems to dictate to me what it wants to be.
I hope that someone viewing my sculptures will experience a feeling of gazing at the tomorrows of yesterday, and possibly reconnect with a world-view that has fallen by the wayside; the enthusiasm of a culture that put exploration and science at the fore-front and greeted the future with open arms and a sense of wonder.
My sculptures are based on a genre of writing that is considered to be “outside” classic literature but the true believers in the science fiction world were endeavoring to extrapolate into the future, each from their own unique vantage point and arrive at an understanding of the human trajectory that is often prescient. In the world of visual art, I see Outsider Art as a domain where artists create primarily out of a desire to bring an individual vision into existence, to satisfy their own curiosity and are not really influenced by how they imagine the work will be perceived by others. The end result is a door opening onto an alien world, that being the psyche of another. Or, in the words of Jonathan Carroll, an imaginary world that is “lit by eyes that saw the lights no one’s seen”.”