Monday, June 8, 2015

Creek Float 5.0 with the Below 40's Public Arts Task Force, Syracuse NY June 6 2015

CREEK FLOAT! Which is about the most enjoyable public arts project I've had the pleasure to take part in now two years running. The concept was originated by artist Theresa Barry as a way of having an "art parade" in downtown Syracuse. Her idea was to float the art down Onondoga Creek through the happening Armory Square district. According to reports those present the impromptu meeting kind of looked at each other in stunned disbelief, cracked up and then burst forth with a chorus of WHAT A GREAT IDEA!!!

And it is. Artists from the area are invited to create floating artworks, sculptural floats that are lashed to innertubes or some other method of keeping them afloat. A team of volunteers from the Onondoga Creek Creek Rats brigade -- who keep the watercourse free of garbage and old shopping carts -- helps to usher the floats down the channel to the start of downtown Syracuse's Creek Walk, a developed pedestrian walkway running the length of the creek from Armory Square to the Inner Harbor of Onondoga Lake.

And by golly, it's such a tremendously simple idea that it works. I first became aware of the tradition in 2013 but was unable to take part. In 2014 Theresa Barry invited me to make a painting specifically to float on a tube, something which had never been done before. The result was Creepfloat, or The Final Voyage of the HMS Chumbucket, as the only thing I could think of that would be appropriate to float down Onondoga Creek was a pirate ship full of barfing zombies. It's title is even derived from the somewhat cynical name of Creep Walk that my buddies and I referred to the Creek Walk as before understanding what it was.

A video I put together on Creek Float 2014; 6 minutes.

So whatever: Good art is distinguished by how it results in more art, and the Creek Float creations I saw accompanying my painting down the river last year won me over. The crowds howled with glee at every creation, delighted to see someone doing something constructive and alive with the notorious and quite hazardous waterway. The way I look at it, the creek itself is being revitalized from a truly disgusting blemish into something that's actually worth being proud of. Same with downtown Syracuse in general, slowly but surely, and to me Creek Float is a symptom of positive change. 

Getting swept up in it also turned out once again to be one of the most rewarding projects I've worked on since last year, and was overjoyed when this year's event director Missy Zawacki invited me to be part of the planning & logistics committee for the day of. Everyone worked super hard to make it something special rather than let the tradition peter out and I fully intend to lend my name, reputation, muscle, sweat, and 14 year old kid who just discovered boobs enthusiasm to keep the event on people's minds. This is what ALL public art projects should be like, and we couldn't have asked for a more perfect day to launch on and a more rowdy crowd to greet the floats as they came bobbing by.

Let's take a look! and pardon if I'm slow with adding captions to pix. 
Not enough hours in the day anymore, will fill them in as time permits.

Poster design by Cayetano Valenzuela.

With 2014's Creepfloat, aka The Final Voyage of the HMS Chumbucket, currently on display at The Tech Garden as my contribution to the "Id/Ego/SuperEgo" exhibit. I did not expect it to survive the journey and only after did it sink in that's one of the best single-surface paintings I've ever done. However it came to be, it's one of my best.

Creepfloat 2: The Return of Creepfloat as it appeared on Float Dynamics Test day in late May. The project was also about recycling and repurposing materials: The canvas was pulled from a trash heap and repainted (all waterproof acrylics). The pontoons were pipe insulation tubes spray painted white. The yellow rope and wire used to secure it all were leftovers from previous projects. Total cost was about $20, most on spray paint for the pontoons.

The painting itself was an idea I'd had for the "Id/Ego/SuperEgo" exhibit as my favorite practical working example of the theory is the Kirk/Spock McCoy triad from the original "Star Trek" series. McCoy is the Id, wrapped up in concerns of the self and the human condition. Kirk is the Ego, reacting to stimuli based on input from the other two. And Spock is the SuperEgo, lobbying for that which will benefit the greater whole. Or something like that, but I knew by the beginning of April that it wouldn't be painted the way I wanted in time for that exhibit.

Plan B was to float it, and the dingbat nerd in me came up with the idea of fashioning pontoons to resemble the nacelles on a Starfleet shuttlecraft upon which it would be secured. It was such a stupid idea that I knew it had to work, and in the end decided to have the painting appear to be the work of a 12 - 14 year old boy with nobody around to tell him no.

Float Dynamics Test, Syracuse NY May 24 2015.


Float Dynamics Test video. No wreckage from the Roswell crash this year! That's all down at the Golden Foundation awaiting secret testing with the Tubes Machine. I'll be there.

Mermaids! Pulling me into their web-toed watery world, a running theme this spring.

 The final form of the painting on my studio easel. Wanted to have them blowing up one of my space pyramids to sort of de-mystify what that series is all about. And for the record I'd thought of the motif before Leonard Nimoy passed away ... Thought about nixing Bones blowing chunks all over his shoes out of respect. Then decided Spock would have wanted it that way.

And the re-fashioned pontoons, now fitted with a broomstick handle in the outer pylon on either side to help keep them from bending. Which as it turned out was almost too efficient, the straightened pontoons acting as a kind of rudder which guided the rig right down the current and past the other floats as they bobbed in the eddies and backwaters, arriving at the observation bridges while we were still launching floats. I never got to see it in action! having already been pulled from the water at recovery point by the time I reached the bridges. Call it revenge for having blown that Soap Box Derby when a Webelos Scout.

The rig packed up with the carefully wrapped pontoons for the drive from my Utica NY studio to Syracuse.

With the rig assembled and ready to go, and all I can say is God bless America. Where else do you get to do stuff like this?

Artist/musician Dave Kane with his crowd-pleasing flying spaghetti monster float.


Launching floats with Creek Float 5.0 director and artist Missy Zawacki! We first met up in the spring of 2013 at a BC Restaurant gallery show, then again at Art on the Porches from June of that year. Insisted she take part in our epic "Thirteen Directions" show at BC in July of 2013 and adored working with her, wanted to give her a followup show there for 2014 and when BC closed last fall I immediately invited her to be part of our "Winter Recipe" show at The Tech Garden in January of this year. Right after that had run its course she invited me to be part of the 5.0 committee and once having been part you can't say no to Creek Float! SO much fun, thank you! and stay tuned for an idea we had for a show about the seven Chakras. Might take us a year but we'll make it happen, somewhere  ;]

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