Thomas Arthur Schaefer
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Monday, October 30, 2006

After Us The Savage God

"I wish to grasp things with the mind the way the penis is graped by the vagina"Duchamp

So I spent the entire day cleaning and clearing out my studio. Removing all sorts of crap that I don't need and or don't want to concern myself with anymore. Not a stitch of it went to the trash, instead it's all gone to the fire that I'm sitting outside with right now. Old prepatory drawings, billboard paper, unused frame structures, general collected paper artifacts, color photocopies, a set of magenta postcards I'll never send a certain girl in another state, and a blue suede jacket, from an ex-girl, that I had attempted to transform into something beautiful to wear for the 'Sweet Tooth' opening that went horribly wrong. It's kind of exciting watching all these items go up in flames v. just dumping them in the trash. I guess I've used fire as a means of finishing or finishing-off many of my works thoughout my short career (I'm still not 30).

I remember the first thing I ever put fire to was the canvas of a rival student (well not really a rival mind you) a student in high school who's attitude I very much disapproved of. I guess I didn't appreciate his outlook on the arts and knew it, even at the young age of 16. I took a completed oil painting of his that he had discard some weeks before by leaving it in the back room of Kidwells classroom. Martha Kidwell, our high school art teacher. I believe it was a Dali'esque type work that he never totally completed but touted on-and-on about like it was the most important piece ever. What I do remember most is that the theory and research behind the work was total bull-shit and had nothing to do with the surrealist movement. Now mind you , we were in high school, but I took this subject matter quite seriously at the time and 'so apparently' did he. I smuggled the work home and left it in my studio for a few weeks. Even at 16, I had my own studio that my father had built for me in a large section of the basement quarters. One evening, I believe it was a wednesday night, Spencer Barnett came over to the house to work on a banner for the football team with me and I burned the canvas in the back yard at some point. I used some kind of mix of gasoline and oil, whatever my father had available, lighting the work, and then extinguising it at the last minute so that the frame and a few outlining portions of canvas were left. I then spent the next several days creating a new painting from the burned structure. I strung a small monochrome oil painting, done on a CD case-plate with fishing lure, off-centered on the work and a burned photograph. A tree limb with infant leaves was afixed to the side of the work. I later that year exhibited the work at the Hunter Museum of Arts - ArtScene Exhibition. The renewed canvases previous owner attended, saw a small portion of his original painting that I had intentionaly left and became quit upset with me. It was a liberating experience for me and the work was probably the first serious construct or collage work I had ever made in my young career. I believe the work was later given to Abby Lamb at some point. Wonder if she still has it.

In college I burned several other works. One in particular was an Oswald series piece, 'His Angel Death', today owned by Matt Lane Harris. I remember finishing the work, having a few drinks with Dave & Dave, my roommates, and being so dissatisfied with it's all too clean/bright non-aged appeal that I took it outside onto the street in front of our house, began to pour gasoline on the left corner of the work, which I was using at the time instead of acetone form xerox transfer drawings and set it ablaze. At a certain point I lifted the work upright while still on fire so that the smoke would wash over the surface of the piece staining it with soot. I again extinguished the work before it was totally destroyed. Then took it the next morning to my Drawing II class, whose main focus was on materials and techniques. The teacher was so impressed with the chance I had taken in my action, that she assigned everyone on their next project to burn their work in some fashion if possible. She also wondered why I wasn't a painting major as well... like most of my friends thru my career in college.

So fire has always been important... it's a chaotic element that can only be controlled to certain degrees and sometimes not at all. It can never be tamed... only utilized.

Another set of works that dealt with fire in this chaotic method are 2 drawing I did for the 'Poor Little Rich Boy' show at Spin & Gin IV. I was rushed for time to finish and set a pair of drawings so I was drying them in the microwave. The drawings were based on the idea of identicals or mass produced prints. I wanted to develope a way of producing the same drawing multiple times but without the traditional means of a printing press or photocopier. I myself want to be that means... the artist as duplicator, as much. So any mark made to one had to be made to the other. I've followed this practice from this set of 2 works to recently as many as 50 total pieces... all the same, but as a print or photocopy individual. So, one of the 'PLRB' drawings caught fire in the microwave leaveing a small burned mark and I had to find a way to repeat the effect in the other drawing. It took several hours I remember. I couldn't just take a cigarette lighter to it. I had to force a certain area to ignite in the microwave as had happened before. I believed the reason for the initial fire was an abundace of metallic paint, but was not sure because I hadn't microwaved the other work for fear of a non-result. So I tested the idea using slightly more metalic paint on the original burnt drawing and it went up immediatly. I then proceed with the same process on drawing #2, adding more of the metallic paint and like clock-work it ignited in the same fashion. A process, a complicated one, duplicated in each work. In the end, because of the fire incedent, the pieces took on a greater aura than they had before and revealed a wholly new character all their own. Fire had done the trick yet again.

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