Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Spring Mix- Warring Gargantuas and a brief history of bats and hotels.

OK lots to cover-
Recently I have been going back to films that I recall from childhood to see if they are as I remember them or if, as I am apt to do, the memory has been tweaked to my taste. Earlier blog posts have already touched on this (see     ). In this case I revisited "War of the Gargantuas". This Japanese film is in the giant monster genre and a favorite when I was a kid and watched Creature Feature and Ultraman religiously.
The plot of the film involves two giant gorilla-like creatures, one green and one brown, that have contrasting behaviors when it comes to interacting with human beings.
The brown gargantua was raised in a lab environment and likes people- even comes to the rescue of the foxy japanese scientist lady a few times. The green gargantua, who lives underwater, likes to eat people and destroy cities. The film is fairly graphic when it comes to the green gargantua eating people, which is something I had forgotten. The greeny eats folks and spits out their clothes and can eat up to 8 people at a time. Another thing that I had no recollection of is the fact that Russ Tamblyn plays the American scientist that studied the browny in captivity.

Above Russ Tamblyn in "War of the Gargantuas" Below as Dr. Lawrence Jacoby in "Twin Peaks"

Altogether the "War of the Gargantuas" was worth the revisitation. My next will be "Voyage into Space" where I have finally tracked down the disembodied giant eye monster I remember from childhood.
Bats and Hotels
Recently I have begun a public art project that has been a long time coming ( I mean this in regards to my past attempts at building bat houses as a public art project in Tampa with the Experimental Skeleton Inc. group). I am building ten bat houses for the PortoFino Hotel at Universal Studios Orlando Florida. The genesis of this particular project was prompted by my realization, while doing mural work for the hotel in a boom lift, that there is a large bat population living behind the fake shutters on the exterior of the buildings at PortoFino. Since the shutters are being replaced as a part of the hotels face lift I proposed that bat houses be built and painted to mimic the facades of the hotel. The little structures would have the same trompe l'oeil treatments we are redoing with mural work. The project, in collaboration with the Nassal Company, has begun and the first of the completed bat houses are being installed around the man made lakes that surround PortoFino. During the research into this project another historic attempt to equip a hotel with  a living place for bats emerged. This research also goes full circle to connect to a local project (Tampa Bay area).

PortoFino facade with painted architectural elements.
Three chambered bat house based on the PortoFino facade.
Bat house installed on pool pump house ( centered above the portal ) close to man made lake.

   In 1929 Richter Clyde Perky, a fish lodge owner in Sugar Loaf Key, built a spectacular bat tower to control mosquitoes in the lower Florida keys. He followed plans by a man named Charles Campbell who was, according to my research, a pioneer in bat research and had a vision to control the spread of malaria through his knowledge of the animals. To Perky this probably seemed like a heaven sent answer to some of his major problems ( mosquitoes and the fear of disease born from the pests) but neither probability or luck were on his side. Bats did not like the new digs. It seems through all of its history, because of its design, the Perky Bat Tower has seemed like a dump to bats. The tower still stands today even though Perky's hotel burned down in the 1930's.
   The more amazing fact is that 14 of these towers were built. It seems that, besides visionary intent that I admire beyond the results, all of the structures lacked the design elements necessary to attract the bats of the particular environment they were installed in. Of the towers built only 3 survive. The three include the Sugarloaf Key tower built by Perky and two in Campbell's native Texas ( one in Comfort Texas and one in Orange Texas) which have been reworked internally to actually serve as habitats for bats as originally intended. Then there is the fourth- Temple Terrace/ Tampa Florida was the home of another of Campbell's experiments. Built in 1924 ( according to the web site funding the rebuild) and burned down by vandals in 1979, the Temple Terrace Bat Tower is subject of a campaign for renewal. Originally on the banks of Hillsborough River this incarnation will be more visible to the curious. In fact, the Temple Terrace Bat Tower is being compared to other bat related tourism in the US as a promotional device. The new tower has the support of actual bat specialists ( identified as Cyndi and George Marks of the Florida Bat Conservancy ) and for this I am very happy.
   I plan to go to the Perky Tower within the week to document it and blog the observations.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Dawn & Tilly and Turtle Soup

Two paintings recently completed at the studio a.k.a Octoplus Labs a.k.a Octo+Labs have had a long gestation period ( over a year ) and will soon be complimented by two more canvasses to complete the series.
The personification of Chance illustrated in sculpture was the seed of this series of paintings.
Numerous drawings (like the one bellow) started the path towards these paintings.
The standing figure on a sphere (Chance) and the standing figure on the cube (Wisdom) appear or are
considered in all of the compositions. The skeletal foot atop these shapes- a comment on where either condition leads- are also present in all pictures.

The imagery for the painting "Dawn and Tilly" comes from the tragic death of Dawn Brancheau during a "Dinner with Shamu" performance at Sea World Orlando Florida. I was in Orlando when this happened working on a Universal Studios project and saw first hand how the event affected the people of Orlando. For my part, I was deeply moved by the event. Later, I worked on the new orca show backdrop just next to where they kept Tilly and where also workers constructed a new tank in place of the tank where Dawn's death occurred. Peeking through the construction blinds I was struck by the immensity of the grey walls dropping down into the new tank- the tomb-like shaded darkness that held the public from viewing the replacement. All these experiences and others informed this painting.
The others in the series are more detached but hover around similar subjects.

"Turtle Soup" for instance is all about balance.
Not visual balance, although it was impossible to not edit towards some visual logic, but balance in the "meaning" that the images chosen are given. The balance begins with the offsetting of the overall theme of Chance vs. Wisdom with imagery from a promotional poster for the Marx Brothers film "Duck Soup" to the pairing of the images of an alligator snapping turtle with a congo eel (two of the strongest jawed creatures to be encountered in the fresh waters of Florida- one being a reptile and one being an amphibian)