The Ascension

1990, Bronze and Aluminum 24” x 24” x18”

The Ascension was my first professional experience with failure. I included it in this book to demonstrate that failure is not the end, merely a learning experience upon which to build. In this case, I secured an 18-foot-tall commission to fabricate the Ascension for a library in Wisconsin. At the last minute, the board of directors decided to remodel the bathrooms of the library instead, and my commission was lost. It would have been a monumental success for a young artist right out of art school, but it was not to be. In retrospect, it’s probably better that I didn’t have that kind of success so early in my career, because it humbled and taught me that life in the big leagues would be far more complicated than I imagined.

Sometimes life kicks you in the teeth forcing you to pick yourself up and get back at it. When it happens again and again, you’re forced to make life changing decisions. Either get out of the game, play it safe, or learn to enjoy the hits. You can do your very best to be smart and avoid the knockdowns, but many are inevitable as life is tough and cares little about your ambitions. The sooner that’s embraced, the better off you will be. For example, economic recession and war directly affect art funding. The arts are the first thing cut when the going gets tough and the last to recover when things are good again. Artists need to navigate through all of life’s currents.

The fabricated aluminum squares and large cast bronze rings of the Ascension had already been completed before the library canceled the commission. So I put them into storage, where thieves broke in and stole them. They were probably cut apart and melted down for recycling money. My mentor at the time, John Adduci, gave me some great advice that should be shared with any young artist facing adversity. He told me, “Keep working, keep improving your skills, and in five years you won’t even remember these times”. He was right, of course, because I kept making art and developing my skills and, several years later, I found myself riding my motorcycle around Europe, carving marble in Italy, and having the time of my life.