WV me fecit
This site is an archive for my artwork. It's an ongoing project, because I'm still making new work, and because I haven't yet finished mining my past (not to mention the endless temptation to revise).
I'd like you to experience the artwork as if it were a kind of music for the eyes, so I'd prefer that you look at the images rather than read. On the other hand, I'm delighted you've gotten this far, and you're welcome to hang around anywhere on the site as long as you'd like.
Most of my work is constructed from or includes found material, for reasons you're probably familiar with: it's inexpensive; it's the “native material” I encounter in my everyday life, and reuse is an ecologically positive action. Though art from found material hasn't really been shocking since the days of R. Mutt (and there's been some question lately about whether that fountain was really found), there may still be something faintly subversive, in a consumer culture, in using castoff materials.
I remember the day I first spotted a big pile of broken glass on the sidewalk, glinting in the light like Aladdin's hoard, with that lovely green color (I learned later that it was tempered glass, 3/8ths inch thick). The pile came from a broken pane of a MUNI bus-shelter. I knew I had to take it home, even though I had no idea what I was going to do with it. In a way, the rest of my work with glass has simply been an effort to recapture that original éclat. To this day, 3/8-inch green tempered broken glass remains my favorite sculptural material.
I haven't had to carry a crowbar around for smashing glass, I have no trouble finding it already broken. I don't usually modify the glass, aside from cleaning it, and breaking off little clinging fractured bits. Frequently, I sort through the pieces, looking for those of a particular size, shape, color and/or thickness. Often the sorting is the single most time-consuming part of building something.
Using the glass as-is isn't policy, just pragmatism. Tempered glass, for example, is very hard to work. Access to a kiln, even if I had one at home, is not as convenient as cold-work, and since most of my artwork proceeds by accretion, I can work every day without having to schedule great chunks of unbroken time.
The original artwork is not for sale, for a number of reasons. First, I'm lucky enough to have a reasonable day job (so far), which means that the artwork doesn't have to be self-supporting, and that eliminates a major source of external pressure. Furthermore, the luck extends to the wider combination of circumstances that allows me to make art, and it somehow feels wrong to try to commercialize that. Second, I think that trying to sell the work might change my relation to artmaking (i.e. from “leisure” to “labor”), and I might find it difficult to avoid the temptation to productize.
From a less directly personal vantage, it seems to me that over the last couple of decades, there's been a mania for the bottom-line adversely affecting the body politic. This market-mad philosophy believes that nothing is as important as immediate profit. Not selling my artwork is a way to say (admittedly mostly symbolically) that the buck stops here; there are other values to be considered (e.g. peace, social justice, protection of the environment). So I declare this a market-free zone.
It's in this light that, with the exception of some images taken by friends (who can make their own decisions), all the material on this site is governed by a Creative Commons license. This is something like making the site open source (also see here).
Looking at pixels is still no substitute for being there. If you'd like to see the work, and you're planning to be in the San Francisco Bay area, then contact me and I'll try to arrange a viewing.
I'd greatly appreciate any comments, suggestions, complaints, bug reports (sigh); whatever you'd care to email (well; almost; no nasty attachments, please). Also, if you come across a good pile of discarded glass—or some other cache of interesting raw material—somewhere in the Bay area, please drop me a line: maybe I can come pick it up.
Thanks for checking out the site (even though you kept reading when I asked you not to).
Thanks to Rachel Strickland, Russell Zeidner, Eric Hulteen, and Meg Withgott for perceptive and useful comments on earlier drafts of this website. Of course, any remaining infelicities are solely my responsibility. Thanks again to Rachel, Russell, and Eric, and nearly everyone else I know, for advice, encouragement, raw material, and physical labor in support of my artmaking activities.
–wes virginia, autumn 2002