Way Out

Inspired words provoked a flame that burned a lifetime.

Material: loam, wood glue, steel, gold leaf articles
Dimensions: 45″h x 24″w x 26″l

A steamer trunk marked “HMH CHICAGO” belonged to a relative of a young artist. The owner encouraged the budding artist to explore ideas by pursuing a life course made natural through good, hard work – art.  At the time, this view was considered extremely unconventional and was met with objection from those close at home who perceived more proven ideas for the young person’s future.

The trunk’s owner, a professional dancer, knew the secret of independence.  She had traveled and danced, mostly entertaining soldiers, through the nineteen forties and fifties. The dancer never lost the zest for living and continued to mentor the artist until death separated them. The artist never lost sight for creating and is independently active today.

The trunk and its story was entrusted to me by this artist many years ago and I was told to use it some day in a creative manner. The trunk sat for several years in my home.  I wanted to keep the trunk intact so I decided to use it as a model.  I also purchased an old hand truck for the same modeling purpose. During this time I became familiar with the effects produced by mixing soil with wood glue which creates a very hard surface that looks like it is deteriorating. I built a steel rebar frame of similar size to the models and covered it with hardware cloth.  I applied the mud mixture and manipulated it to express the concept of time eroding an object as it awaits final deterioration – a natural way out.

I procured clothes, jewelry, and other personal effects fashionable during that period and covered some with gold leaf.  These items are displayed inside the drawer of the trunk piece. Gold is a symbol of the enduring persistence of time and shows a contrast to the deterioration. Glowing in the trunk’s dark abyss, the items reveal a sentimental depiction of a person whose life was well spent.

“Way Out” with sign
Detail view of trunk lock