Tag Archives: 2002

The Shadow, The Shadow (Small Scale Model) and F-117 Nighthawk (Small Scale Model)

After showing The Black Box (Downing of Air Force One) Version 2 at Rotunda Gallery I was asked to show it again at the HERE Arts Center for a show called Airport 03. I was reluctant since I had already built it twice so I negotiated with the curator to create a new piece for the show. I decided that I wanted to try my hand at building a different kind of landscape, one that I hadn’t tried before. The idea came to me quickly to create a snowy landscape out of flour and to use a model of an F-117 Nighthawk that I built the year before. In my studio I started by making some initial drawings to determine the size that I wanted to make it. I decided that since the gallery was positioned in a place where people enter and exit a theater that I wanted to elevate it a little more off the floor so that nobody would accidental trip over it or step on it. I settled on two feet tall and seven feet wide. One of the problems that I discovered with The Black Box (Downing of Air Force One) Version 1 was that because the landscape was so large it was hard to see what the object was in the middle so this is why I decided on 7’x7′ in the end. I built the sides out of particle board since it’s cheap but it requires more wood filling and sanding since the corners are brittle and break easily; I try not to use particle board anymore. I built a structure inside out of 2″x3″‘s to help stabilize the corners and to elevate the surface that the flour would eventually be going on. I had to calculate so that in the end, after laying my 3/4″ plywood on top, it would only be about 3″‘s from the top. This gives me enough depth to fill in with the flour. After building my box I built another F-117 and destroyed most of it by breaking it apart and melting most of the pieces; I destroyed almost everything except for the tail which I wanted to preserve so that the viewer would know that it was an airplane wreck. Unlike The Black Box (Downing of Air Force One) I didn’t need this plane to be recognizable so I thought that it would be more realistic to have most of the aircraft destroyed by the impact.

I took everything to the gallery and built the sides and inside structure according to how I built it in my studio; everything was numbered and lettered so that I knew what attached where since I already made my adjustments and needed it to be built exactly the same as it was before. When I was done I decided that I needed to lay plastic over the surface to keep the flour from slipping through the cracks. I bought 100 pounds of flour and dumped it into the box and started tamping it down with the palm of my hand to smooth it out. Before I got too far I put the tail of the F-117 model out there along with the melted and broken plastic pieces that went along with it. For added effect I used scrapings from a charcoal stick to create a finer spray of black debris around the wreckage. I finished tamping down the flour until it covered all of the edges.

After a few days the flour started to get small hairline cracks all over it which I though was a nice look that I hadn’t anticipated; it also would have been impossible to stop. I was pleased with the end result and received positive feedback about the piece. I thought the contrast visually between the white landscape and the black object was a good one and was excited that my idea panned out the way I wanted it to. I should also say that I made a small 11″x22″x22″ version of it out of luan, foam and burnt plastic as well sometime before I started working on the final version. Here is what I wrote about the final installation and below that are some images of the installation, the small scale model and the model of the F-117 Nighthawk.

The Associated Artists for Propaganda Research’s The Shadow addresses one of Carl Jung’s basic archetypal principals of the unconscious mind. The shadow explains that while repressing our uncivilized and dark qualities, we unconsciously project these characteristics outward, seeing in others the undesirable traits that we’d rather not see in ourselves. As a tool of propaganda, these unconscious tendencies are used against the general population to escalate differences and cause unnecessary conflict between the righteous Us and the evil Other.

The Shadow is an 84″x84″ floor model made using 100 pounds of flour padded down to create a smooth and consistent surface. The landscape shows a destroyed black F-117 Nighthawk which was used by the US for stealth operations during the first Gulf War.

The Shadow by Brian Higbee and Associated Artists for Propaganda ResearchThe Shadow (Detail) by Brian Higbee and Associated Artists for Propaganda ResearchThe Shadow Small Scale Model by Brian Higbee and Associated Artists for Propaganda ReseachF-117 Small Scale Model by Brian Higbee and Associated Artists for Propaganda Research

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Filed under Associated Artists for Propaganda Research, Sculpture, Small Scale Model

At the Gates of Dawn, From Dawn To Dusk and New Dawn Fades

Here are 3 paintings that I made in 2010 and 2011 that are all enamel on canvas. I made the original colored pencil drawings for these back around 2001 and 2002 when I was starting to come up with some ideas for the Future Living Projects. I had originally wanted to design paintings for the future using colors from the 1970’s. The ideas for these colors came from early experiments that I did with pale blue and orange enamel latex paints on the back of plexiglass panels. When the panels were turned over the paint became flat and mimicked the panels that I would see on the sides of schools and other brightly colored buildings from the 1970’s. The panels that I made seemed to exist somewhere between sculpture and painting and I wasn’t sure at the time how these were even art and never completed the project. In the end I made only 2 panels and completed a series of computer generated drawings that illustrated the different colors as they would look when finished. I decided at the time to switch to the designing of paintings instead which provided a more traditional platform for my art making ideas.

I generally don’t like the idea of designing paintings but use the term deliberately. I feel that design is the antithesis of what art should be about. One solution that I had was to have somebody else design my paintings for me; I would essentially become only a worker. This idea appealed to me and I felt that I had reached a new forbidden area of creativity in which the artist would become liberated from design and could be creative solely as a producer of ideas and context. I thought of this as the logical extension of what Marcel Duchamp was achieving in Tu m’ and later John Baldessari for his series Commissioned Paintings which both employed other artists to paint for them. (Is it a coincidence that they both had artists painting pointing fingers?)

So I designed the paintings myself and decided that I wanted them to be long and thin to coincide with an earlier architectural project for Future Living Project’s which imagined a future with thin horizontal buildings. The first painting that I made from the colored pencil drawings was At the Gates of Dawn and was only 12″x48″. I wanted to use glossy enamels for this project since I had never used them before and wanted a change from my usual painting practice. The orange that I mixed for the painting was a color close to what I had originally used for the earlier colored panel project. Here are the final 3 paintings. The first 2′ At the Gates of Dawn and From Dawn To Dusk are 24″x84″ and are stretched over panels. The last one, New Dawn Fades, is 18″x79″.

At the Gates of Dawn by Brian Higbee and Future Living Projects From Dusk To Dawn by Brian Higbee and Future Living Projects New Dawn Fades by Brian Higbee and Future Living Projects

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Filed under Future Living Projects, Painting

Silence is Golden and Paintings for a Brighter Future

Silence is Golden is a work from 2011 and is made of 6 drawings on panels, each 18″x24″ making the piece 36″x72″ in its finished state. Each panel was sanded and filled with wood filler twice before being primed and painted with the same off-white acrylic latex paint that I use for my Future Living Projects pieces. The imagery is of a model home being sequentially shattered to pieces by an atomic bomb in the Nevada desert in 1955. The series was taken by an automatic camera and shows the effects of the 35th atomic bomb test on a house built 1 mile from the point of detonation, over a period of 2.3 seconds until total demolition. I discovered the title Silence is Golden while at the movies one day while taking a break from the drawing. It was at the beginning of the movie and was meant to remind the audience to be quiet while the movie was being shown. At that moment I remembered the saying, “Loose lips sink ships” from World War 2 and thought that the two sayings were similar in their implications.

The destructive power of atomic weaponry is both frightening and awe inspiring. The imagery that I use captures a still moment, a quiet pause in time that reduces our humanity through carelessness and wanton massive destruction. I dealt with the same subject matter in the series Paintings for a Brighter Future from 2002 which shows various atomic bomb clouds painted in oils. I wanted all of these paintings to be framed in elaborate gold gilded frames with gold tags with the name of each bomb attached to them but this part of the project proved to be too costly. I did frame Operation Plumbbob (Hood) and Operation Teapot (Moth) which are shown below, but only because I already had the frames and custom made the works specifically for them. I even have an old gold light that attaches to the frame of Hood that further pushes the painting into a more classical and traditional context. These were some of the first paintings that I used for my project Associated Artists for Propaganda Research.

Silence is Golden by Brian Higbee and Associated Artists for Propaganda Research

Operation Upshot-Knothole (Badger) by Brian Higbee and Associated Artists for Propaganda ResearchOperation Hardtrack I (Umbrella) by Brian Higbee and Associated Artists for Propaganda ResearchOperation Plumbbob (Hood) by Brian Higbee and Associated Artists for Propaganda ResearchOperation Teapot (Moth) by Brian Higbee and Associated Artists for Propaganda Research

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Filed under Associated Artists for Propaganda Research, Drawing/Works on Paper, Painting