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Falling Rock (1A)

Making it.

The creative backstory.

While working on the block of rocks sculpture, I began thinking about what I would do next. [The mind always seems to jump ahead to possible future projects.] I wanted to make something in a steel cube frame and had already cut enough rebar to weld three 8-inch cubes. I also had several ideas waiting in line (e.g., make steel cube variations on our cement-block sculptures, a floating field of rocks), but the idea of doing a cube holding one big rock came forward and quickly captured my enthuasiam and my intention. I wanted to use a big rock--something bigger than the croquet ball I had used in the first welded cube sculpture, something that might even stick out the sides of the cube. I realized that I didn't currently have the size or type of rock I wanted to use, but planned to search the yard to see if I couldn't find a rock I could use.

After finishing the block of rocks project (photographing it and making an initial post to my "Recent Work" blog), I got out my new welder, angle form, and cut rebar, and proceeded to weld together a new steel cube. I'm just getting into using this flux wire welder, so I tried to create smoother, deeper, stronger welds when making this cube. The welds were a little better, but the final cube was not very square--it only sits flat on one side.

A search of the yard failed to turn up a rock that I could use (either too big, too small, or not shaped "right") so I reluctantly started giving in to the idea of going to one of the rock landscaping places around here to find a rock. In hindsight, I think I was hung up on the idea of wanting to use rocks that had "a story," provenance, or connection--like using rocks from my yard or my life. Other ideas I considered and kicked around with Janice were to "steal" a rock from the parking lot of the shopping plaza where we go to Home Depot and Target (they use big, softball- to cantelope-sized rocks in their parking islands) or to steal a rock from some place famous (e.g., the original Model-T car assembly plant in Detroit, the place where Motown Records started) or someone of note (e.g., author Elmore Leonard lives several blocks from here, so does Rick Wagoner, the current Chairman of General Motors--Janice suggested stealing a rock from Kid Rock's place.). Also had the idea to paint a big rock green and claim that it was Kryptonite. I was looking for a rock that would come with a story...give the sculpture an extra dimension. Janice began questioning whether this was necessary or even good ("maybe it's actually distracting"), and I began surrendering to the idea of using a rock with "no story."

The next day we visited a rock landscape place, and I selected and purchased four different rocks. By the time we arrived home, I was pretty sure I wanted to use the "rust-colored" rock--because I knew its color would fit nicely with the rusty rebar and the eventually-rusted wire. Because of the weight of the rock, I realized that I was going to need to use my biggest steel wire--18-gauge annealed steel "bailing" wire. I began wrapping the rock with long pieces of this wire. It's a difficult wire to twist and wrap tightly, and the rock was bigger and heavier than any object I've wrapped before, but it all went pretty well.

Near the end of the process of wrapping the rock in wire, I realized that I would not need to attach the rock to to all sides of the metal cube as I had done with previous cube sculptures--I could just hang the rock from the top of the hold it up. I imagined how this would look (the rock just hanging there with no support wires coming out the sides or bottom of the rock). The rock would look suspended, frozen while falling...almost as if it were caught in the act of falling. This idea of a "falling rock" got me excited. The idea "clicked"--it connected to a number of different things: It made the sculpture conceptual and gave it that "additional dimension" I was looking for. It made it Fluxus--the kind of fun and quirky idea I associate with Fluxus art. A "falling rock" would be a nice addition to the Fluxus Indian legend..."the Fluxus Indians used falling rock props like this to stimulate thinking and discussion about space and time." It transformed the whole feel and meaning of the project and put me on a big roll of creative excitement--e.g., I started thinking about making a bunch of these sculptures and maybe even selling them online, etc.

Suspending a big heavy rock posed a couple of new challenges: did I have bendable wire that was strong enough, would the welded cube hold up under the weight, and how was I going to hold the rock up while I wired it to the top of the frame? The last problem was solved by using a piece of wood in the frame that elevated the rock to the height at which I wanted it to hang. I placed the rock on top of the frame to test whether it was strong enough to hold the rock without breaking. It was, at least for now. I figured the stress of the weight may eventually break one of the welds. I suspected that my 18-gauge steel wire would also hold the rock initially...but then realized that the wire will eventually rust and break. This was an exciting insight: THIS IS A FALLING ROCK. LEFT ON ITS OWN, THIS ROCK WILL EVENTUALLY COMPLETE ITS FALL. After attaching the rock to the top of the frame (at mid and lower points around the rock) with seven strands of wire, I removed the wooden support. So far it's all holding.

Now we're just waiting for the rock to fall.

This rock is falling. It's only a matter of time before it hits the ground.

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