Tag Archives: 2009

The Architect’s Tomb and The Architect’s Tomb (Small Scale Model)

The Architect’s Tomb is a sculpture that I made back in 2009 and is 6″x19″x62″. I started by making a quick drawing in order to work out the proportions and to anticipate any logistical problems. After that I made a small balsa wood model of it called The Architect’s Tomb (Small Scale Model) since the final sculpture would take a while to make and would need a lot of preparation to complete. The balsa wood model was easy to make since I could cut all of the wood with a sharp knife. I made the window in the front out of glassine to mimic the frosted glass that I planned for the larger sculpture. In the end the lights and the power source were the most difficult since I needed to install them in such a small space. I wanted to imbed the power source within the sculpture but found that this was impossible and instead opted to use an external battery connected via wire to a small light bulb from a flashlight.

After I built the model I decided to go ahead and build the sculpture at full size. The first obstacle was the size of the fluorescent lights that were available which was four feet so I had to adjust all of my proportions according to these limitations. The second challenge was the front face which needed to be rounded out with a router. My initial sketch had a lighted geometrically cornered rectangular face but I quickly decided that I wanted rounded corners to make it more “futuristic.” I needed the sculpture to be as thin as possible so I adjusted for the thickness of the fluorescent light housing unit and had all of my wood cut according to this size. I cut out the face with the router and put it together. I painted it with F.L.P. white and then purchased a piece of frosted glass and secured it to the inside of the box; I made sure to secure it in such a way that it could be replaced easily in the future in case the glass was ever damaged. I then attached the fluorescent lights to a thin board that was covered in aluminum foil that fit snugly inside the box. I put handles on it so that it could be pulled out easily and attached blocks on the inside so I could screw the board with the light on it into it. One of my main concerns was the distribution of light within the box as it was transmitted through the glass, so I made sure that I had an adequate amount of tin foil inside to help dissipate the light (I didn’t want any hot spots.) I also attached a long white 20′ cord to it that could be wrapped up inside in case I needed to plug it into an electrical outlet that was far away. I made a small hole for the extension cord in the back on the right side; I dreaded doing this but I needed to make the piece as flat to the wall as possible. The last thing I did was to create a cloth backing for it so that the light wouldn’t shine out the back and then attached some rubber “feet” to the bottom to help elevate it off the floor.

I don’t remember how I came up with the idea for The Architect’s Tomb other than wanting to make a large flat white light box that existed somewhere between a piece of furniture and a sculpture. I really enjoyed seeing it when it was finished, and enjoyed the process of making it since I challenged myself into accomplishing certain goals that I set for myself (like using a router.) I’m disappointed that I never got to exhibit this piece and it sits in the back of my studio wrapped in plastic. One day maybe.

Below is the sculpture and the model, which is only an inch tall.

The Architect's Tomb by Brian Higbee and Future Living ProjectsThe Architect's Tomb (Small Scale Model) by Brian Higbee and Future Living Projects

The Architect's Tomb Sketch 2007

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186646591 Version 2 (Small Scale Model) and Drawings

Here is a small scale model that I finished in 2011 of the sculpture 186646591. It is a sculpture of a barcode. I made an earlier version in 2009 that had a much larger base which is why this one is version 2. This one has a small white “pedestal” base that I made for it and is 6″x10.5″x10.5″. I’ve used this type of pedestal base many times over the years, both large and small. I use it to frame my landscapes and to neaten their final appearance. I actually came up with the idea for 186646591 when I was in graduate school around 1999. I was interested in building a large outdoor sculpture in wood on the campus lawn that would be symbolic of the institution’s main goals. It would be symbolic, pop and minimalist all at the same time.

I started by figuring out how many “bars” I would need and buying 2 different thicknesses of balsa wood according to how many of each I would need. I worked out the proper dimension for the final piece and cut the balsa wood pieces down to the size I needed. I used small finishing nails that I then cut down to size and stuck them into the bottom of each piece of wood, leaving about a quarter of an inch sticking out of the bottom. I painted each piece of wood flat black with acrylic latex paint. I cut my base according to size and painted it green. When it dried I covered it with watered down Elmer’s glue and sprinkled foam railroading “grass” on it with a glass grated cheese shaker. This is a mixture that I made myself using 2 different colors of green. After it dried I turned it sideways and shook off the grass that didn’t glue to the base. I then measured out the spaces for each pin on the base with a pencil and drilled out each hole. I finished by pushing each balsa wood “bar” with a pin in it into each corresponding hole in the base and adjusted them so they were straight. In order to refurbish the model From version one to version two I first had to take off the original balsa wood pieces that make up the “bars” so that I could transfer them to a smaller piece of wood. I repeated the process without having to make the balsa wood pieces again.
I made a series of drawings of the sculpture as it will appear when it’s finished. I used the techniques from my three dimensional drawing class that I described in the I Was A Landscape In Your Dream post to accurately draw it in perspective and add shadows.
I’ve submitted the proposal to build and exhibit this sculpture many times but it has always been rejected. It may never get built. I guess no ones wants to see a giant sculpture of a bar code.

186646591 Small Scale Model by Brian Higbee and Associated Artists for Propaganda Research186646591 Perspective Drawing with Shadow by Brian Higbee and Associated Artists for Propaganda Research186646591 Perspective Drawing by Brian Higbee and Associated Artists for Propaganda Research186646591 Scale Drawing by Brian Higbee and Associated Artists for Propaganda Research

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Journey Into the Realm of Reason

Journey Into the Realm of Reason is a 36″x84″ painting in 2 parts that I made in 2009. I designed it on the computer first, taking into account the composition and the colors that I wanted to use; I was interested in creating a composition that used perspective as a design element. I went to the art store and found some cheap enamel paints. I picked out a wide variety of colors that I liked, including black. After I had my colors I used Photoshop, which I used for my original design, to fill in the spaces with the colors that I just bought. I made both sides different and made sure that the same color wasn’t used in an adjacent space. Although I designed the 2 sides differently, I realized later, after I was done painting it, that I had instead used an earlier mock up of the painting which used the same side twice, only in reverse. Most of it is still this way except for a few spaces that have been altered. I tried to use all of the colors equally and because they were cheap enamels, I had to paint most of the colors with 5 or 6 layers of paint to make it solid. The title comes from Superstudio who used this title back in 1967. Here is what I wrote about it a couple of years ago:

Journey Into the Realm of Reason takes its name from one of Superstudio’s theoretical concepts for architectural investigation. As a reductive tool for learning, this “Pigrim’s Progress” aims to expose and then remove the prevalent but unnecessary properties of architectural design, leaving a guide for a stripped yet necessary aesthetic.

I decided sometime this summer that this design would be great as a stained glass project. It would need to be around the same size though to account for the black lines that connect the glass pieces. It would be large and I have no room to store it. Maybe one day. The painting has been hanging above my couch ever since I painted it. It fits perfectly.

Jouney Into the Realm of Reason by Brian Higbee and Future Living Projects

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I Was A Landscape In Your Dream (Small Scale Model) and Drawings

I’ve been wanting to make I Was A Landscape In Your Dream for a couple of years now. In 2010 I made a small chipboard version that is 1.75″x8.75″x8.75″. It is made of 25 layers. I started it by cutting 25 pieces of chipboard that were the same size and sketching out the top layer and then cutting it out with an angled mat cutter. I laid this over the second layer and drew a line as close as I could (within an eighth of an inch) to the layer above and cut that out. I did this until the shape was too small to cut. I made the piece thicker by adding uncut layers to the bottom.

I enjoyed making this because it reminded me of a project that I made in art school for my three dimensional drawing class. It was a very intense class and focused on developing rendering skills for drawing in perspective. We learned how to accurately draw objects in three dimensions, cast shadows properly, shade (using the proper pencil for even shading without using too much pressure), use a knife, and eventually, build objects. One of the assignments included making small square designs out of chipboard. The rule was that no layer could overlap another and the edges had to be clean (not cut with a dull knife). I think we had to make somewhere around 20 of them and use the best 16. It was a hellish class and the students in the class that semester would be in the studio late at night working on their assignments all week and weekends. It was worth it though since I learned how to draw imaginary 3 dimensional objects with shadows and learned how to use a cutting knife. For one assignment we had to design an object by drawing it first with shadows as it would look on a wall, separate the layers and cut them out of Masonite and then put it together, wood fill, sand and paint it without any layers showing. My friend Jim and I cheated though by using a type of paint that made it look like stone, which also conveniently covered up the mistakes. I got an A on the assignment but he banned the use of that paint the next year. I’m glad I still use these skills, including “cheating” sometimes. Now it’s called problem solving.
Anyway, I plan on making a larger version of I Was A Landscape In Your Dream out of wood that will be 11″x22″x22″. It will eventually sit under a glass table so it functions as both a sculpture and as a piece of furniture. I sort of dislike the idea of using art as a design element so I was interested in this cross-over in my own work, and think of it as being a little tongue in cheek. For 2 summers now I’ve planned on making it, needing the warm weather to do all of my cutting and sanding, but its cold again so I might not make it until next year. It’s a logistical problem since I need all of the wood to be exactly the same size so that the edges will create perfect sides in the end. I think I’ve figured out how to make a jig for this using some wood and a circular saw. I may paint it white in the end which will require wood filling and sanding.

I also made a series of drawings that I consider contour drawings of I Was A Landscape In Your Dream that preceded the original chipboard version. The idea for this was more conceptual, in a classic sense, meaning that I set up ground rules for how I would make them and then let their final outcome be dictated by the rules. So I decided on a size and then started by making as straight a line as I could across the top free hand. I then went back and made another line underneath the original line, trying to follow as closely as I could to the line above. I did this until one side reached the bottom of the page for one series. In another series I continued until the whole page was full. I did some in blue ball point pen and some with black ball point pen. Some I did horizontal and some I did vertical. Some I turned upside down. After 16 of them I stopped, feeling that I explored this idea as far as I could. I really like the look of blue ball point pen although it is not very archival and will fade in the sun very easily.
The title is taken from a song of the same title by the band Of Montreal.

I Was A Landscape In Your Dream Small Scale Model by Brian Higbee and Future Living ProjectsI Was A Landscape In Your Dream(Drawing #1) by Brian Higbee and Future Living Projects I Was A Landscape In Your Dream(Drawing #6) by Brian Higbee and Future Living Projects

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All Memories are Traces of Tears and What Is, From the Light Above, In the Flat Field, Unknown Pleasures and What Should Never Be

Here is another pixel painting that I did in 2010 called All Memories are Traces of Tears (Le Muerta ll: for MZ) that I exhibited at the beginning of 2011 at St. Cecilia’s. The canvas is 24″x84″ and was made using 2.5″ squares this time. The piece is based on Holbein’s well known elongated skull from The Ambassadors which shows a distorted skull at the base of the painting which must be viewed at an angle in order to be fully recognizable. I exhibited the painting on a pedestal that I built, laying it flat on top with the front facing the entrance so that the skull could be fully viewed upon entrance into the space. The pedestal was made 4′ high so that the viewer only needed to crouch down a little bit and turn there head at a slight angle in order to grasp the illusion. All of my pixel paintings are a bit rough in their finish upon close inspection. The reason for this is two fold: The first is that I usually have a lot of pixels to paint and the second is that in order for the illusion to work the viewer must be at a distance so it doesn’t make a difference in the end. I also like the difference between the experience of the painting as it appears rough and slightly unfinished up close and smooth and perfect from a distance. All Memories are Traces of Tears is the only pixel painting that I painted twice in order to smooth out its finish and cover the canvas completely with paint. I knew that people would be viewing the painting up close and I wanted the painting to look “more” finished. I also painted the sides of this piece black because the white sides were distracting when I displayed the piece flat and to make it feel more like an object. Putting it on a pedestal flat almost made it feel like a table at a mortuary and reminded me of Mantegna’s Lamentation of Christpainting.

St. Cecilia’s used to be a nunnery but had fallen into disrepair over the years. I was lucky enough to get my own room and decided to install my paintings so that they would be lit with minimal light, giving the room a quiet and still feeling. I thought that painting on the pedestal was very effect as you entered the room, and had an almost “religious” feeling to it. The title All Memories are Traces of Tears was taken from the beginning of Won Kar Wai’s 2046. La Muerta ll is Death in Spanish and there was an original Le Muerta so this one became the second one. MZ is my friend Mirelle whose mother had recently died and wanted to dedicate the piece to her. I titled the installation, which consisted of 6 paintings, What is and What Should Never Be which is actually a title of a Led Zeppelin song. Here is the work as it appears on the wall and again in its final placement on a pedestal.

In 2009 and 2010 I did 2 pieces that I also included in this exhibition. One is called Unknown Pleasures and the other one is called In the Flat Fields and both are named after albums (Joy Division and Bauhaus). I wanted to see how abstract I could make my paintings using pixels while still making them recognizable. These paintings are 12″x12″ and are made with 144 one inch squares. For these I painted directly on the panels in order to experiment with a smoother finish. The illusion doesn’t quite work at this level of abstraction. I had planned on making more, some with color, but decided that I had achieved what I wanted to know and didn’t need to make any more. Ultimately I needed imagery to make my abstractions from but in the end, thought that the idea was a little hokey. Here they are.

All Memories Are Traces of Tears by Brian HigbeeAll Memories Are Traces of Tears from What Is and What Will Never Be (Installation View) by Brian Higbee All Memories Are Traces of Tears from What Is and What Will Never Be by Brian HigbeeIn the Flat Fields by Brian HigbeeUnknown Pleasures by Brian Higbee

I also included 3 paintings of lights in the exhibition. The main one, which can be see in the photo below, is called From the Light Above from 2009 and is 30″x48″. It is an oil painting and I used a simple traditional painting technique in order to achieve a more traditional effect. This involves using a diluted down light coat of Ultramarine Blue under the areas that are going to be black. The theory is that the human eye will “read” the blue that is under the black, creating a rich and slightly tinted hue. I leave the area that is going to be white (the light) the color of the white primer and paint this area with a titanium white acrylic in order to further make the whiteness “pop” in it’s finished state. I mix my own blacks using Sienna Brown and Ultramarine Blue but it’s important to make sure that I’ve mixed enough because if I don’t it will be impossible to mix the same exact color again and the difference will be seen;I would pretty much have to start over. After the black paint is applied I use an old balled up T-shirt to start tamping the paint in order to eliminate the brush strokes. It’s important not to let the T-shirt get wrinkles in it or it’ll start leaving patterns all over the surface. It’s important to keep restretching the t-shirt. It takes a little while to build up the right tack but once the T-shirt is nicely saturated I start at one end of the canvas and use a light rocking motion in order to cover the entire black surface. It’s also important to do this in the right light so that the effects can be properly seen and mistakes can be eliminated before the surface is dry. Because I paint so thinly my paintings tend to dry within a week or two which is a comfort since wet paintings are a pain to keep clean while they’re still drying. This painting is also stretched over a panel that I made, creating a good resistance for the technique that I described above. When the painting is finished and completely dry, I varnish it with a Matte Golden UVS varnish which will protect it from both light and dirt. Here is what I wrote about it:

From the Light Above represents one of mankind’s greatest inventions, light, and delivers it in one of its cheapest and most efficient form, fluorescent.

Here’s the painting.

From the Light Above by Brian Higbee

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