22-1/2" x 20" x 33" H    1999

Storied creature of the distant past becomes a trophy mount.

Composition: fake fur, stove knobs, cowboy boot toe, dustpans, vacuum cleaner hose, plastic kitchen chair harp, hot melt glue drip.

This would be a fine addition (in more than one way) to a collection of stuffed animal heads.  It got started when I noticed the plastic "harps" on a kitchen chair back. Looked like a pair of tusks if the connection at the curl was sawed through. Of course I was thinking elephant but nothing was coming to me about the eyes (very important feature).  Then I thought of mammoths and mastodons.  One of those varmints had a big furry kind of a topknot instead of a smoother, more sloping forehead. That's what I needed to build up an angry browridge over the eyes, which were to be old-fashion stove knobs.  A couple of (toy) stuffed animals gave up their fur and it was fun to use electric clippers (the same clippers with which I cut my own hair and that of the cat) to sculpt the eyebrows.

The hardest part technically was fixing a strut to hold the trunk in place.  The average citizen wouldn't be able to follow the procedure so I'll just say that there is a lot of hardware under that fur.

The ears had me stumped for quite a while. One of the principles (the main principle, I guess) of found-object art is that the object should successfully represent an element of the design while still being recognizable as its original self.  For example, if you build a squirrel's head out of a trailer hitch ball (see BABIES IN PERIL), people should look at it and think or say, "Hey, that squirrel is a trailer hitch ball." Otherwise you may as well be building or sculpting from scratch (and there's nothing wrong with that but it isn't found-object art). One of the most amazing pieces of work I've ever seen took this idea one step further. I was wandering around the grounds of the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis and from a distance I spied a group of life-sized elk or caribou sculptures. They were very good - looked like real animals. Then I got closer and saw they were all made completely out of driftwood!  They didn't look so much like real animals but they sure looked like real driftwood.  I got closer yet and saw that the driftwood was actually investment cast bronze.  Then I got closer yet and ... no (ha-ha) that's the end.  It really knocked me out.

Anyway, where was I? The ears.  Yes, yes, the ears. I couldn't come up with mastodon ears. I explained the requirements to my wife and she said dustpans. Dustpans were just what the paleobiologist ordered but they needed to be hairy.  So I cut up a paintbrush, shot the dustpans with clear enamel and sprinkled the bristles while the enamel was still wet.  When it got tacky I sprayed another coat or two to get good adhesion. Then later (with the same brand of paint and within 24 hours) I painted the ears the proper color and ended up with dustpans that look like hairy ears.  Context is everything.


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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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