Solo exhibition at the Charles River Museum of Industry and Innovation, in Waltham Massachusetts 2012
From artist Wayne Strattman:
“Self:Illuminated was my first and biggest solo museum show. I was given 11 months to conceive and build this exhibition, in which time I tackled the challenge of making and installing a total of 56 original pieces. The historic Charles River Museum is located in Waltham, Massachusetts and is the site of the first automated textile mill in the United States. This unique museum normally features an array of equipment and technologies from the early 19th century. Since my work is a synthesis of art and technology, this was an interesting venue to display it against the backdrop of what was once the latest technology and is now considered a work of art.
The show title “Self: Illuminated” is indicative of a theme that runs throughout much of the work featured in the show—I wanted to create sculpture inspired by the way the mind works within itself and as it couples to others. I also derived inspiration from the history of science and technology and its effects on our modern culture. It was rich ground to grow ideas into works of illuminated glass sculpture. Ideas around attention, communication issues, the layering of emotions within the mind, layering of specific emotions, and more were fodder for the sculpture I created. This show allowed me to pursue conceptual ideas as well as new innovative technology to create light sculptures.”
LANDSCAPE OF THE MIND
“Landscape of the Mind” is made up of a console comprised on its face of 18 dials controlling a field of blown glass “Jacob’s Ladder” tubes; each tube is connected to a separate, adjustable high voltage power supply within the wooden console.
A Jacob’s Ladder is an electronic tube that has a set of “V” shaped wires. In this case, they are captured within a tube filled with krypton gas that produces a bright white swirling arc. When the tube is turned on, a high voltage arc starts at the lowest point in the tube where the wires are closest together and the arc heats the gas just above it lowering its resistance and thus causing the arc to climb up. A circuit turns the tube off at the top and resets it so it will start the cycle again.
The mind is a figurative landscape of competing and complimentary emotions, each vying for attention. It is never compromised of only one state but many overlapping states. We “dial in” our states depending on the meaningfulness at the time of a particular feeling. Each of the glass tubes in this piece is connected to a control on the front of the console marked with a different emotion. Different “emotions” run and overlap and last for varying lengths of time, in tubes of all sizes.
Flame-worked blown glass tubes contain images and faces created within the tubes by bending phosphor-coated stainless steel wire. These tubes are filled with inert gases that provide fingers of light off the internal images. Each piece is energized by a high voltage, high frequency power supply that “broadcasts” the power to the gases producing the glowing figures and the fingers of light and color.
As humans, each of us broadcasts and receives information through speech, body language, and the written word. Just as a radio is constrained by its broadcast signal characteristics and range, we are limited by our own communication skills and the channels available to carry our information. Our mind further processes information through its internal filters of memory and emotion which often leads to misunderstanding with others and even with ourselves.
This is the world’s largest Mesmer tube made from the world’s largest commercially produced glass tubing.
A Mesmer tube is a double-walled glass tube where the inner tube has been coated with a chemical phosphor prior to being sealed together. The tube is baked at a high temperature while all the air is evacuated, and xenon gas is put in before the tube is sealed. There is an electrode in the top center of the piece that is connected to a high voltage power supply. When turned on it produces sinuously flowing arcs of light.
Xenon actually produces more UV light than visible light. This UV light shines on the phosphor causing it to glow bright green under the faint blue xenon gas arcs, creating “light shadows” under the xenon arcs.
The steampunk-inspired base features a wide variety of plasma, neon and LED lighting effects, as well as the creative array of controls and gauges.
Designer Richard Burbridge contributed to making the base.
This piece is constructed from two large double-walled domed bell jars that are filled with krypton gas producing a white lightning-like effect. Inside the jars are two blow-molded glass “brains” filled with ceramic fiber impregnated with green phosphor. The “brains” have been baked, evacuated, and filled with high purity xenon gas.
Veiled Portraits refers to a personal image or depiction shrouded by layers of obscurity. In communication between two people is a lightning storm of stimuli, memory, preconceived ideas, selfish motivations, and more.
This alien looking forest consists of seven-foot-tall blown glass pieces; abstractions of molecular shapes. The pieces are made of flame-worked borosilicate glass. Using only a hand torch, the tubular pieces are fused together in mid-air starting with the base pieces and working upward piece by piece. The large glass pieces sit into cast concrete cones anchoring them to the floor of the “forest.”
The Electric Forest is a collection of molecular inspired forms that, taken together, appear to resemble a forest of alien looking trees. The forms that the plasma energy takes resemble those of living things within the trees.
Gas filled, blown glass chessmen hold within them the impressions of individuals with whom the artist has interacted. The etched description of each individual is made to glow as a result of being on the board. This chess board has embedded within it conductive strips which carry a high voltage current at a high enough frequency that it can broadcast energy to the chessmen on the board. The chessmen are blown glass vessels containing low pressure gas mixtures. When they glow they produce visible light and some UV light which activated the phosphors in the etched descriptions inside the chessmen.
Today’s culture allows and often requires us to interact with many people. In person or on the World Wide Web, we encounter so many, yet we often interact in a fast and hurried fashion. We may have only moments to form an image of that person. Our minds are left to fill in the blanks from our own experience, prejudices, desires and other characteristics. In some sense, it’s analogous to how an artist gets inspiration from something and then creates an art work from it. We do this in a sense, all day long creating images based on limited information. This chessboard and its pieces question our images of the people we know and the limits and veracity of our knowledge of them.
Artist Renee Dunham contributed character descriptions and icon design.