Dark Spirit

1993, Painted Aluminum, 48” x 24” x 18”

Complicated both physically and conceptually, the Dark Spirit’s creation and fabrication occurred during the build-up to the first Persian Gulf War. The drums of war were beaten daily during Operation Desert Storm as militant warmongers and political war hawks dominated the news. We were all led to believe Iraq, with the fifth largest army in the world, was a heavily armed, well-trained and deadly fighting force.

I was in my mid-twenties and lived most of my life in a time of relative peace. Being of fighting age, this inevitable conflict deeply concerned me. I believed that if my American brothers and sisters in arms were being killed by foreign fighters overseas, then I must enlist to help put an end to it. Ultimately, my father and mentors sat me down and explained that while military service is certainly a noble endeavor, this particular war wasn’t my fight. They were indeed correct, and this so called ‘war’ ended quickly as our GPS connected tanks took out their VHF radio communicating tanks in such short order that the carnage had to be stopped or else it would have been simply murderous.

My buddy Fuse, who received that nickname because he didn’t have one, was a helicopter pilot for the Army and served in Kuwait during this time. He told us lots of crazy war stories when he came home on leave. It wasn’t until I had finished the sculpture that I began to understand why the piece emerged so dark. I was in a somber place mentally and spiritually and accurately reflecting the culture of our nation at the time. This is further represented by the fact that the piece had bronze wings at one point. I could have made the wings work compositionally with the dissimilar metals but intuitively I recognized something else lurking underneath that needed to be avoided.

For a sculpture work to be great, it must work in every direction, shape, and form. I call this conceptual continuity. If you don’t have it, even one bad angle or view can cause the whole composition to fail. It’s like a math formula where if one number is even slightly off, then the whole equation is false. It also makes things exponentially more difficult when you go to great pains to make sure that there is no perceived front, back, or sides to an object. In this case, the piece is a freestanding biped figure that I resolved by using its shadow to hold itself erect.

My buddy Fuse later died while in service to our country, exactly one month before he was to be honorably discharged from his tour of duty. It was his dream to become an airline pilot after he got out and he had a vision where he would try to get us to fly around the country with him for free wherever he went. Unfortunately, we never got to fly together, and the wings came off the sculpture. By the time I began to exhibit the piece, I started to feel a whole lot better. It became obvious to me that this art acted as a sort of exorcism of all the dark thoughts living inside me at the time. It also became instrumental in the awakening of my self-awareness. I consciously chose to be much more involved in controlling my artistic vision, as opposed to being led by suppressed emotions.