It took me almost a year to make Epicenter City from beginning to end. This includes the making of all of the paintings, the large floor sculpture and various models and propaganda material. I started by making one 4″x8″ panel of the city out of cardboard and wood. I did this by cutting out rectangular shapes of mat board and gluing wooden pieces to them that I had cut on the chop saw. I had originally bought some wood trimming from the lumber store but it was expensive and for the rest of the project would scavenge through the wood shops dumpster on the third floor of my studio building. This would prove to be a valuable resource; Not only did I save a lot of money but I was also able to find a lot of interestingly shaped pieces to use as buildings. I would collect these strips of wood and spend a half an hour cutting them into smaller pieces and putting them in a shoe box. After I had my wood pieces cut I would make the mat board pieces that I needed (either custom or generic) and spend time creating city blocks by gluing the wood pieces to the mat board bases. The city was built using probably half generically sized rectangular pieces of mat board and half custom made. If I needed a custom piece I would use a piece of tracing paper to trace out the shape I needed and then cut it out. I would test the piece before I built on it to make sure that it fit and I would trim it or recut it if need be. One of the most important parts was numbering everything since it all needed to be broken down and transported. Every city block was traced on the underlining sheet of plywood and numbered accordingly on both the bottom of the city block and on the plywood. This was all done in anticipation of packing everything into boxes and having to rebuild at Hallwalls in Buffalo.
I did this for most of the city. I should also mention that a lot of my friends built city blocks as well, often making unique structures and developments that were included in the final lay out. We had a lot of fun building it and would spend time designing specific parts of the city like museums, industrial parks and downtown high rises. They also helped with painting Davy Crockett which was large and took about 3 months to finish even with help.
I couldn’t build the whole thing in my studio at once so I would put away what ever I didn’t need for reference. The hardest part was the angle that needed to be cut in order for the sculpture to follow the wall in the gallery. This created a unique shape that was also used in a lot of the graphic work that was created for the exhibition. To save time I repurposed some old tree filled landscapes that I had from previous pieces and decided to use them at the farther end of the city. I also created a very generic looking “industrial” area at the far end near the wooded section, knowing that the buildings would just be a visual element and wouldn’t be a distraction to the overall construction.
All and all the city scape took about 5 months to build. I also created 6 paintings for the show. They are Davy Crockett, the pixel painting, These Dreams Never End, Blue Skies Again and 3 small paintings of public utilities that I hung in the back offices at Hallwalls. These Dreams Never End is a painting of a pink sky at sunset with 2 horizontal bands of glossy black at the top and bottom and Blue Skies Again is a painting of a blue sky. I had originally wanted 3 paintings of skies, each a different color, but decided to only make the one. The 3 small painting that I hung in the office were from photos that I took. The water tower is from my home town of Delaware Water Gap. I super imposed Epicenter City on it using the computer. The second painting is of the monorail at JFK Airport and third is of highway lights. I also built a model of a water tower that I then used decal letters on to spell Epicenter City. This was exhibited in a corner of the gallery near the offices and was displayed on a pedestal under a plexiglass top.
Here is a photo of my friend Ben Knight working on Davy Crockett and a studio shot during the making of the floor model.