36.5" x 14.5" x 45.5" H w/handles    2006-2007

Grisly ant queen lounges on her skull throne as her minions wreak havoc.

Composition: Plexiglas, cat litter, 4 plastic field tile, fabric, TV remote, large cotter pins, toilet tank float, yellow polka-dot bikini, modeling clay, almonds, pecans, walnuts, Bobbi pins, alligator clips, beads, small dolls.


I was in Wal-Mart looking at TV remotes. Some of them are flat and angular but others have a nice organic shape to them—kind of like the body of some little critter.  Kind of like an insect if you stuck some legs and a head on them. Kind of like ants.  I never had an ant farm when I was a kid but I remember seeing them, with the ants burrowing around in their little tunnels and rooms behind a piece of glass.  So the design came to me and by the time I got home I had most of the mechanics and most of the tricks and stunts.

Sometimes it happens like this and sometimes it takes a few years. But whenever it comes, it comes all in a rush. "Babies In Peril" started when I was pulling armored cable out of my cabin to rewire the place.  One piece of cable had a 90 degree angle connector on the end with two pieces of wire sticking out a couple inches (it was an old two wire system). It looked like a snake flicking its tongue.  I thought about it for a while but I didn't have a snake venue so I stuck it in the joists in the basement where I could see it and about four years later the design came along.

The little details that add humor or verisimilitude to the piece I call "tricks."  In "Ant Farm" some of the tricks are: umbrella/parasol, duct tape, miniature money, "Better Homes and Gardens," drool, camera, and uninformative (to us) restroom door signs. Stunts are bigger; integral to the design. They set the tone of the scene, implying motion or purpose. Some of the stunts in this piece are: skull throne, treasure room, offering the sacrificial virgin, cityscape, and valiant but doomed doggy.

The very best part of building a piece of studio craft is the tricks and stunts. Whenever they come, they come like bullets and I have to write them down or they'll be gone.  The design may be a technical nightmare and I may be looking at months of problem solving but the tricks and stunts always come all of a piece.

I almost didn't build "Quicksand" because only one trick came with the general design (the failed rescue broken tree branch). There didn't seem to be enough going on to justify an elaborate (though tiny) set. Then the silent movie card stunt came along and I had the theme for the piece (and a long-awaited use for a Crown Royal bag). I also found out what a good and versatile medium cat litter is. 

"Notes & Ruminations" for Ant Farm in PDF format.


Copyright ©2007-2013 Gary Carlson,, All Rights Reserved.
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found object art
by gary carlson
geneva, ny

all you can eat
ant farm
babies in peril
bat boy
black lagoon
born to be green
contrary (hammerhead)
crossed signals
expanding foam
ima sturnbich
in the box
judgment day
low maint pet
man bites dog
nell's nightmare
roundheads and flatheads
shamrock theater
terror from the deep
triptych in walnuts
voodoo quadruped pelvises
wait a minute - where's the baby?
untitled (enigmatic figure)
untitled (galloping figure)

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