Tag Archives: palaeoart

Installations: “Lagerstätte”

It’s been a long roundabout trip over the last few months, but the future palaeontology-themed enclosure “Lagerstätte” arrived at the Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary in McKinney, Texas on Sunday, where it will have a long and successful life introducing Heard visitors to Nepenthes pitcher plants. This, of course, is only the start of the fun: to offer context, the Heard also gets a poster explaining the difference between the different plants commonly called “pitcher plants,” as soon as I have it finished. Even without the context, the new enclosure was already a hit among a crowd of visitors arriving early that day, and it may have to be part of a series. (Researching future fossils and what little would remain of our civilization 50 million years from now leads to a lot of intriguing ideas for future enclosures and arrangements, and those are all burning holes in my brain in their attempts to escape. Such is the life of an artist.)

For those unfamiliar with the Heard, the Museum is open Tuesday through Sunday, and offers both indoor exhibits and activities and a series of trails through its wildlife sanctuary. I may be particularly biased, though: the Dinosaurs Live! outdoor tour is something I’ve wanted to visit for years, and now setting aside time to visit is a priority.

Dallas Interlude: Barry Kooda’s Garden

Longtime readers might recognize my constant plugging of the works of Dallas’s own Barry Kooda, and not just because he’s one of the biggest influences on Dallas music in the last 40 years. Oh, I could bring up his music, between his classic punk band The Nervebreakers, the Nineties-era Yeah!Yeah!Yeah!, or the country fusion The Cartrights, but I know him best for his art. Well, that and for the fact that Barry suffers fools barely, and he was really good at hanging me up by my collar and letting the wind blow the stink off me when I was in my twenties. Even today, I don’t think “What Would Barry Do?”: I just think about something really stupid that I’m planning to do, see Barry’s expression of sad disapproval, saying “I thought better of you” without uttering a phoneme, and decide that yeah, it was a really stupid idea.

Well, one of the many good things about having Barry as a friend for nearly half my life is that there’s no telling what you’ll learn by hanging out with him for all of fifteen minutes. A couple of weekends ago, for instance, he passed on word that he was hosting one of his classic “Clear out stuff to make room for new stuff” garage sales, and the Czarina and I rushed out at the best opportunity. Now, I both needed a Chinese fishbowl and a set of big window screens he was selling off (the fishbowl for a big project, the screens to help keep grasshoppers out of the greenhouse, where they’re feeding on my Buddha’s Hand citron tree), and I would have understood if he’d just taken money and sent us along so he could take care of other folks. Instead, he and his wonderful wife Laura gave us both a quick tour of their wonderful house in Oak Cliff (bought long before the current gentrification nightmare that’s doing to Oak Cliff what previously happened to Lower Greenville Avenue and Deep Ellum in decades past), and then showed off the garden. Oh, he showed me the front garden, and the big fossil slab in the front.

The Great God Pan

Those lucky enough to have read the Bob Slaughter book Fossil Remains of Mythical Creatures might recognize his skeleton of Pan. Even if you haven’t, and I recommend anyone interested in deliberate fabricated fossils should pick up a copy of this book NOW, the Pan pipes by the skeleton’s hand is a giveaway. This is how cool Barry is: it’s not just that he has a Bob Slaughter original in his front garden. It’s that he and Bob were friends before Bob died, and Bob’s wife asked Barry if he’d like to take this original home rather than have it destroyed. This is why I want to be just like Barry when I grow up, if he ever grows up. And as always, he’s inspiring me to big projects on the Triffid Ranch hiatus: those familiar with the Frederick D. Gottfried short story “Hermes To The Ages” might get an idea of the trouble I’m planning for my own front beds.

Projects: Cybersaurus

Cybersaur 1

As mentioned a while back, I’m an unrepentant fan of the palaeoart of Raven Amos and Scott Elyard, two old friends in Alaska who fill my PO box with entirely too much wonderful stuff every time they have an art show. After a while, I started thinking “What would it take to make their work into garden sculpture?” (As the Czarina can attest, this sort of thought happens quite often. This is why we don’t have a hitch trailer for hauling heavy items, because otherwise the back yard of the house really would look like a set for The Red Green Show.) However, not having the studio nor the talent of a Bruce Gray, it was a matter of keeping things small.

Cybersaur 2

Also as mentioned previously, I share so many habits with Gila monsters that they’re practically my totem animal. The venomous bite that’s painful but rarely dangerous is a given, as is a taste for sucking eggs and eating baby bunnies in the spring, as well as looking very fetching in orange and black. No, the wisdom I learned from Heloderma suspectum that I most appreciate is “if you don’t have to be out in the heat, stay underground.” With summer finally kicking in, this means that days off, evenings, and weekends are spent as far away from the yellow hurty thing in the sky as I can manage. Others might fill that time with reading, online porn, or Russian roulette under tournament rules. Me, it’s a matter of getting ready for next October’s FenCon X show. If that means huffing europium paints until I sneeze luminous boogers, then it’s worth the effort.

Cybersaur from above

The real surprise to Cybersaurus (2013), aside from the final plant arrangement in which it’ll appear in October, isn’t that obvious in full daylight. However, inspired by Raven and Scott’s work, most of its best detail is most visible in the dark or under ultraviolet. That all depends upon the amount of light it receives, as one of the best discoveries of the whole project was learning that europium absorbs enough energy in full sun that it glows in shade. (The plan for a subsequent sculpture involves built-in UV LEDs powered via solar cells on its back. I just need to find a suitable Spinosaurus or Acrocanthosaurus skeleton model to make it work.)

Small tyrannosaur sculpture

Small Triceratops

And it keeps coming. A very large order of custom glass means that several larger custom arrangements can be finished this summer, with comparably scaled cybersaurs of their own in them. A good wash of paint to bring out the metal, a bit more europium paint, and suitable weathering, and they should work quite well. And so it goes.