BirdPerch (1977). Approx. 6 feet x 2 feet dia. 15 lbs, steel, feathers, beads, paper, electronics.
Responds to ambient light and sound.
A flock of movements elicited by a nest of logic paths and digital memoriesformed by interacting pulses and signals from sensors of local ambient
light and sound. The activity of the artwork not easily predicted nor is directly
responsive to stimulus. It does tend to be more active when there is activity around it.
Helyn Goldenberg collection
It was one of the first large artworks I sold to famed art dealer, Allan Stone. Before I met Allan, Donald Morris who had a gallry in Detroit said, "Allan Stone is a dealer's dealer: He doesn't play like other dealers. And he doesn'y pay like of dealers. He's slow. You have to badger him, but he's got it and eventually you'll get it"
Shortly after Allan bought BirdPerch in 1978, he confessed to me that he was "a collector pretending to be a dealer." He said , "People think I have a lot of money. I don't. " Then he told me he had a recent court date over some unpaid parking tickets that would likely end with him behind bars. He was a Harvard educated lawyer, passed the bar but hated practice. At the last moment, closing a big corporate collection deal gave him the money to pay the fines and late fees but it "was a close call."
He said, "I like BirdPerch alot. I don't want to sell it. But Helyn is an important collector in Chicago. She wants it and it would be a good placement for you". But he said he didn't want to let it go.
I said, "Allan, I'll make another one like it but different. If you like it, you can have it at the same price you paid for BirdPerch."
He said, "It will be like... Son of BirdPerch?"
"What? You wanna call it "Son of BirdPerch? ...That's crazy but, yeah, OK. Title it "Son of BirdPerch."
The BirdPerch is almost impossible to transport. Only the base can touch a hard surface. All other parts of it are too delicate to bear any weight. Art shippers scratch their heads, describe elaborate crates and then quote outrageous sums. There are only two ways to transport it. One way is to lash bamboo struts to stabilize some of its more delicate parts, wrap it all in bubble pack and carry it onto an airplane. This was possible back in the seventies when the Cuban plane hijackings tapered off and brutal terrorists had not yet realized the publicity potential of a plane load of folks.
At that time, most airlines had a courier service, For a $25 fee, as a passenger, I could hand carry a parcel all the way to the gate. There an airline worker would escort me down the stairway to the luggage loading operation where I would hand the parcel to a worker loading the plane. He would place the parcel in the luggage compartment of the plane as I watched. I always pointed out to this person that I had taped a plastic baggie containing a length of rope, a single edge razor blade and a ten dollar bill to the parcel. I told him the ten dollars was for him and could he tie the parcel to the hand holds in the compartment. I would stand there and watch until the luggage compartment hatch was closed and climb the stairs back up to board the plane. At the destination, a gate personnel would escort me down to the tarmac where I would be handed my parcel. I truly abused this service by shipping some very large but portable sculptures, often to the amusement of airport employees. Needless to say, this service is no longer offered by any airline.
Sometime later, Helyn called and said BirdPerch was sick. It is my practice to repair at no charge any work that needs it due to failure of materials or design if I'm in proximity to it. If not, the owner can pay the freight of it to me or me to it and I will fix it. Helyn said it would be OK if I took care of it the next time I was in the Chicago area. I was often in Chicago. Time went by. I was not near Chicago. Years went by. Decades passed. No Chicago.
For many years, I lost sleep over this ailing sculpture.
When one reaches a certain age, the past is much larger than the future. Some of us are cursed with the masochistic proclivity of ruminating over our mistakes and regrets ; Things we said and couldn't take back. Things we did that can't be undone. Stupid decisions that led to disasters. And finally important tasks waiting to be completed. The sick BirdPerch was a frequent subject of that last wakeful interlude.
Finally, for my own peace of mind, I had to do something about BirdPerch. I contacted Helyn. I was gratified to learn she hadn't scrapped BirdPerch but stored away. She was willing to pay the freight to get it to me and back again. I got shipping estimates from art shippers but they were more than the original cost of the sculpture. So, I found a couple who were driving to Chicago from Port Sanilac, Michigan where I and they lived,
The second way that this particular sculpture can be transported is suspended in space. Their van was large enough and had interior protuberances, hand holds, knobs and other features that BirdPerch could be suspended from cords horizontally in the rear of the van . They picked up BirdPerch and delivered to my studio. I cleaned, reconditioned and repaired the sculpture in the course of a year.
During that year, My wife, Janet, and I decided to move to Oregon. With the help of our very competent daughter Lydia, we loaded our van with some luggage, house articles including a cat and the BirdPerch suspended in the rear. Our first stop was Helyn's place, a lakeside eyrie in downtown Chi-Town. There, in spite of the late hour, we were warmly received. While I unpacked and set up BirdPerch, Lydia and Helyn had a lively discussion of intellectual property issues and the state of the so-called art market. One of the benefits of this artist's life is meeting people like Helyn.