Sunday, November 30, 2008


We just put the finishing touches on the commission in the newly restored Civil Engineering School at Oregon State University in Corvallis. The whole process took about four years to completion surviving a state projects construction freeze while testing our artistic diligence.

The idea behind the work concerns the primary task of thinking, drawing and making. The etched glass drawings on the glass elevator enclosure relate to the planning and design of civil engineering projects like bridges and city structures. The three dimensional bridges emerge from the drawing wall into realized forms.

Several weeks work and a marathon assembly session with the boys from “BEAST” (Blackstock Emergency Art Services Team) brought the bridge truss forms into shape. The 20’ and 25’ units were then cut in half for the trip out to Oregon.

We decided to truck the project out ourselves towing our silver “Bio-Bug” behind in order to get back home again. The drive was long but made to fly fast with Barack Obama’s books on CD, “Dreams of My Father” and “The Audacity of Hope”. It was a treat to ride with Barack's stories, humor and wisdom.

After two days on the road through four states we pulled into the loading dock of the building and entered the site that was still under construction. I was there several months ago doing the glass etching mural work that featured graphics of bridge forms and engineering images but had not seen the finished glass mural installed yet. It actually looked quite wonderful in the space.

Pulling out the bridge truss sections from the truck, we quickly got to work and the pieces were connected and hung in the fifty foot high atrium. It took one day to get everything up. The bridge forms arc in the skylight space and have reflective and prismatic materials that flash color.

Jump in the bug and head home. A job done!

Sunday, October 5, 2008


Years ago when Melanie and I first collaborated on a project together we did a series of outdoor house themed sculptures called “The House Project”. One of these houses was entitled “Fire House” for obvious reasons.

This image came back to us in a quite literal way recently when we were attending a music performance at a local venue here in Boulder. The phone rang in my pocket in the theater just after they told everyone to turn off their cell phones during the performance. I clinched the phone in my pocket to muffle the embarrassing ring. I snuck out to the lobby to see who had left the message. It was from Sanjay, our next door neighbor saying “GEORGE! YOUR STUDIO IS ON FIRE!”. Another muffled ring and message seconds after that first call was our other neighbor, Mary with a similar message and that the fire fighters were there dowsing the fire on our tool shed.

Melanie and I ran back home five blocks arriving breathless to the sight that no one wants to see. The blue and red lights surrounding the entire neighborhood with hoses snaking up the sidewalk and into our back yard where the Airworks studio and little wood shop shed are. The fire fighters had just put out the flames and asked me if I was the owner. The scene was surreal seeing the blackened trees and the stories of the neighbors about how high the fire had been and how freighting it was. Luckily the main studio was unharmed thanks to the heroic efforts of neighbors Sanjay and Brad. The sixty foot tower of flames would have taken the studio as well during the high winds that night that fanned the flames. They both grabbed garden hoses and kept the roof of the studio from the flames and heat.

The neighbors gathered in the alley each telling their stories of mysterious bangs and sparks that suddenly leaped into an inferno. The fire inspectors passed clipboards around for each of the witnesses to the heated event. As firefighters wrapped up their hoses one neighbor brought out a tub of ice cream and cups to cool things down and chat excitedly about the fire.

The next day revealed the extent of the damage. The inside was like some macabre set of the film “Alien” dripping with water, melted plastic bins of screws and washers and blackened power tools. Maybe half the tools in the tightly packed “smallest wood shop in the world” shed were beyond recognition. The fire had started outside near the trash bins and worked its way inside through a window and the eaves of the shed. Arson? electric short in the power lines above?...a tossed cigarette? All these were ruled out by the inspectors.

We’re now slowly getting back to normal and cleaning up the charred mess. Another wood shop has already been drawn up and we might be able to save a lot of the original structure that is believed to be over a hundred years old and has foot wide wooden board walls taken when the forests around Boulder were of virgin forest size.

Melanie has been photographing the remains which may lead to an artful conclusion to a horrible and heated event here.

the tool shop and outside dining area before the fire

.....and after

The fire rose into the surrounding
tree canopy and burned a neighbor's

the inside of the tool shop melted into a pile of dripping
plastic bins and containers
the heros of the night

the exact time of the big melt

M.T. Ligget's cat head survived the flames

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

DRAW BRIDGES - Oregon State University

We finally started work on a project for the new Civil Engineering building at the Oregon State University in Corvallis. After a two year delay by the state legislators, the construction of the building is under way again and I drove out to begin the glass mural portion of the commission. The 34 etched glass panels will be arranged on a three story glass elevator shaft. The work was sandblasted for us by space suited Walter Hales of Corvallis with an old friend from Hawaii, Tim Havens from Portland helping with the application of the mask patterning.

The artwork is entitled "Draw Bridges" and blends etched glass images of bridges along with three arching trusses through the overhead space. Below are photos from the proposal model.

I drove out with a VW bug full of rubber mask patterning that was computer laser cut by our local Boulder Sign Company back in Colorado. We were given a work space at the Smith Glass shop in Corvallis we spent a few days applying the patterns and moving the glass out to Walter, our sandblaster.

Applying the frisket mask to the glass...

....and blasting away

We'll be finishing the sculptural part of the project in November and installing the hanging bridge elements to the work. We'll post the end result when it's all finished.

Sunday, September 21, 2008


We packed up our kite bags to head off for the Dieppe International Kite Festival in Dieppe, France. The city of Dieppe is along the North coast of France in Normandy and is one of the premier international kite events in Europe. International guest flyers from all over the globe came to enjoy the winds, the French cuisine, long time friendships and the seaside ambiance of this charming city. Located along a stretch of chalk cliffs with a 15th century castle overlooking the broad pebble beach and grass park it is a lovely place to spend ten days flying kites.

We were greeted the first day by a strong wind and rains that canceled the traditional kite flyer’s parade through the streets of Dieppe on Sunday. People in Dieppe were saying that the summer has been unusually rainy as we all checked the weather report daily from a cyber hut set up on the flying field. Despite six days of intermittent bands of rain and clouds we still managed to pack in a lot of kite flying and gatherings with our international kite friends for meals in the afternoon and evenings. It seems that nothing short of a hurricane can dampen the spirits of the positive minded kite enthusiast.

The “kite village” featured several kite fields for each particular venue. There were single line kites along a broad stretch of grassy park, dual and four-line sport kites at the other end of the park and the giant kites on the huge stretch of pebble beach facing the ocean front. There were displays and vendors as well as the international kite village tents along the single line field. Each invited guest delegation from around the world puts up a display of their country’s kite traditions for the public to see.

While this was my sixth or seventh time at the festival, it never fails to delight. The wait for the perfect winds coming off from the sea each afternoon is taken by visits with kite friends and walks in town. Each Saturday there is a huge farmer’s market along the main street of Dieppe featuring a wide array of produce, flowers, fish market stands, food stalls and other merchants. By the end of the week the clouds lifted, the sun came out and the winds reached almost perfect conditions for putting up the whole sky circus. Saturday night featured one of the most spectacular night flying events I’ve seen in a long time with thousands attending. By Sunday morning we all took to the streets with our banners, music and kites for a closing day parade instead of the rained out opening day disappointment and paraded to thank the city of Dieppe for this wonderful event.

The pictures tell it all…

George's Flying Man kites on the field

Melanie with the Flame and Bali banner array

kite line banners made a big spash in the field

a giant puppet danced

on the line of a kite

a kite by artist kitemaker,
Steve Brockett from Wales

Mikoto Ohye with his Japanese Odako kites

Claudio Cappelli - Italian kitemaker

& artist extraordinaire

Robert Brassington came

all the way from Tasmania

Historic kites made from cotton, spruce & bamboo

A kite powered bicyclist

The kitemakers,

Team Mangalore

from India

Then the parade took to the streets with drums drumming,

horns blarring, puppets strutting and colors flying

birds of a feather drum together...

Au revoir Dieppe! We'll see you in 2010

Sunday, August 31, 2008

A wind tunnel, some colored clouds and a stage village...


We’ve started on a city transportation project here in Boulder that was postponed about four years while the city went through some belt tightening. The project is actually an addition to a pedestrian/ bicycle underpass to the University of Boulder campus. We finished the east side of the tunnel entry in 2004. Now we’re onto the west side. The project will involve incised patterning into the “Wind Tunnel” walls, aluminum pattern facing, four wind vane pillars at each side of a pedestrian/bike bridge, a spiral graphic in the entry plaza and tile murals on the wing walls of a wind pattern image similar to the other side.

architectural plan illustration for the "Wind Tunnel" pedestrian/bike tunnel and plaza

First phase of concrete pour and patterning

The East "Wind Tunnel" entry - finished in 2004

So far we’ve completed the incised patterning in the concrete walls and will work on the other parts of the project as it progresses through the end of this year and beginning of next. We'll keep publishing updates as the work proceeds.


We’ve also just finished a commission for the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Aurora. It is a series of sunscreen “clouds” that arc around a stair atrium in a new wing of the Anchutz Campus of the University complex. The work was commissioned through the Colorado State Arts Council as part of their Art in Public Places program. The concept was to merge the shapes of clouds and micro cellular structures in a colorful merging of similar forms. The Anchutz campus is a new addition to this huge medical studies extension of the University of Colorado. We had completed another commission here at the newly completed Anchutz Cancer Pavilion in 2002

The long reach to the clouds


A panic call from Nick and Helen Forster requesting a stage set background for their nationally broadcast “ETown” radio show put us into the sweat shop to design and build the set pieces in a record three days. With little sleep we rushed the sunscreen set to it's destination for early morning 7 am set up. Arriving at the theater loading dock we started setting everything up but there was a noticeable lack of stage fact, we were the only ones there. Eventually someone arrived and asked us what we were doing. "We're doing the set for the Etown there someone to help lower the fly battens for us?". There was a confused look on the man's face. "This is the Auditorium want the Buell Theater...that's next door". Oops!

We found the proper stage door to the Temple Buell Theater in the Denver Center for Performing Arts complex and set everything up. The show was during the frantically packed Democratic National Convention and was videotaped for a television broadcast in the near future. A great line up of musicians included James Taylor, Neil Young, David Crosby, Irma Thompson, Anni DiFranco and special guest Robert Kennedy Jr. and made for a fun, sold out show during the DNC nomination party for Barak Obama.

The view of the model plan

...and the curtain comes up!

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Ooooklahoma where the wind comes whippin'...

We drove out to a little community called Sand Springs near Tulsa, Oklahoma this last week to install a series of mobiles in a brand new community center there. We've been working on the pieces for a few weeks and were about to ship them off when we discovered that the whole project could fit into our little silver BioBeetle. In fact, we could have fit five times the amount in if we had them. Preferring any chance to take what most people call a "vacation", we drove instead of shipping the pieces and flying out to meet them. It was the right choice.

We hit the road with the new CD book of short stories, "When You Are Engulfed In Flames" by David Sedaris to keep us laughing as the Kansas corn fields and grain silos blurred by our windows. We took back roads to see a little more of the countryside, finding an incongruous and amazing array of rock formations just off the road to Garden City in the south west of the state. A peculiar geological formation in an otherwise very flat state.

Heading east we wanted to stop by Greensburg after seeing a documentary about the devastation that happened last year from an enormous tornado that literally flattened this historic farming community town. Just before getting there, though, our eyes were caught by a quarter mile of fence line featuring the fantastic art of a local eccentric folk artist. Wind whirligigs made from highway signs spun in the breeze and tall metal totems, each with a name and curious comment posted at it's base stood in long rows along the fence. We both hopped out and started snapping photos which led us down the roadway and around the side street to even more. A tan faced man in a pickup truck was just passing and stopped. He leaned his head out the window and said "How do you like the art?"...."Did you do all this?" I asked gesturing toward the colorful line up extending down the fence. "Yes, sir. I sure did....go over there to my studio and I'll show you more when I get back." We walked down the street scattered with bits and pieces of his artworks and old rusty tractors parked in front of his very full studio entry.

He soon returned to show us around with his morning coffee in hand. Introduced himself proudly as M.T. Liggett and started in on his stories that he has rehearsed probably a thousand times from passing motorists caught up, as we were, in his artful spell. All along the eaves of his studio shed were street signs, lines of coffee mugs....thousands of them, welding equipment, sheets of steel on the floor, tools, drawings, paint cans, hand drawn signs. In a Kansan drawl he started in on his harangue about how his art had upset the town folk and how much they hated it and wanted him to stop. When anyone would complain, he said he would make a totem figure of that person and then put it out on the highway. Many of the caricature figures had rather rude comments written underneath them. The mayor of the town, the council members and the "Self Anointed Bourgeois Elitists" suffered the most. The locals were not the only ones stung by his steel sculptures and barbed wit. There were political themes too with well known figures shot with his arc welder and painted with garish colors. He would curse up a storm over the crimes of George Bush for starting a war worse than Vietnam. He added that his own twenty two year stint in the military took him all over the world and gave him a better perspective than "these ignorant fools". His closing line as we excused ourselves for our trip to Tulsa was "You can't fix stupid!".
We told him we'd stop by on the way back to Boulder for a short visit and maybe purchase one of his works. He went right back to working in his studio shed under the canopy of coffee mugs lining the ceiling. Apparently, his mug collection that stretched along every rafter inside and out consisted of over 11,000 mugs. He was proud of not really knowing how many there were and seemed perturbed at the question.

We drove through the town of Greensburg amazed at the recovery efforts that town has experienced in the last year and a half. New houses were sprouting everywhere along with the green shoots of leaves coming from the broken limbs of the bare trees. The town had decided to rebuild to platinum Leeds standard so there were solar panels and green building everywhere going on in this new boom town.

We arrived in Sand Springs and set to installing the mobiles at the new community center. One area was a stairwell that was filled with scaffolding. Difficult to hang the works that we had designed for the site but we put them up and wove them through the boards layed horizontally in the space. We both felt that the scaffolding was probably more interesting than what we had made for the space.

In two days the job was done and we made our way back to Boulder through Kansas again. We drove through an absolutely beautiful landscape of hills and almost miniaturized valleys, trees and buttes. Not what you would think of for a Kansas landscape. We visited M.T. Liggett's studio again on the way back and picked up a small metal sculpture of Medusa's head. Some of his works borrow heavily on Greek mythology. We had a good visit and wished him luck with his detractors. He gave us a cat head sculpture with our purchase and we gave him a left over "feather" from our project. He seemed pleased and went back to his colorful work.

Driving back we grabbed photos when we could. Going through cattle country we tended to get stuck behind large smelly cattle trucks just after they dropped their bovine passengers off at the Cargil meat processing plant. Squeezed between them we grabbed a dirt road out to a large plume of smoke just off the road. A fire? We pulled up alongside the burning field just as a guy on a four wheel ATV with a large tank and torch pulled up to our car..."It'll cost you $5 if you want to watch the fire".... joking, of course. He said he was burning off the chaff from the field and seemed delighted that we liked watching the flames of his work. It all seemed to fit too well into David Sedaris's book "When You Are Engulfed In Flames".

Ten hours later we arrived in Boulder and hung the Medusa head on our tool shed wall. M.T. said that he puts a bit of himself into his art and likes spreading them around the country. Worried that his work would disappear with his inevitable passing, we looked him up on the Internet when we got home and found many sites and video interviews about him and his works. Long live the passionate artist!