Bloom: The Elephant Bed by John Grade

Wanna see what I did yesterday?
building paper scuptures for John Grade.  woop.
So I work as a part time artist's assistant to John Grade.  He does really incredible large scale scuptures that are both inspired by nature and interactive with nature.  This is the set of sculptures we created for the new Watcom Contemporary Art Museum in Bellingham, WA.  They have been up for about 4 months.  And yesterday we took them down and washed them away.  They are made from a completely biodegradable paper that has no binder in it.  Binder is what holds paper together and what prevents it from just falling apart when it touches water.  So this special paper, when touched to water, completely disintegrates.  It is completely safe for the environment.

I worked on these sculptures with John and the crew for months and months last year.  And this weekend was the grand taking down of the sculptures to be walked in a procession to the bay.  Once at the bay, we were going to drop them into the water to watch them dramatically and quickly dissolve away.  John did this same piece in England last year and they walked the pieces into the ocean.  The photos from that are gorgeous.  So we were really excited to get to do that here.

But guess what happened.  A bunch of people, having read a little about the show in various newspapers and magazines, freaked out and thought that the sculpture would do harm to the water.  False.  Even the tiny bits of plastic lining in parts of the sculptures, maybe about 5% of the sculptures, were made of corn which melts away with the water as well and is completely safe for the environment.  A person who works on a boat said that they didn't want anything going into the bay that didn't come out of the bay.  Hello?  How much oil and gas and waste goes into the bay from boats, buddy?  Also, have you checked out the bay in Bellingham?  I saw a mighty large amount of waste and trash piled up on the shore that was washed in by the water.

Anyway, the mayor decided to tell John the day before the event that he couldn't do it anymore.  And then he went on vacation for the weekend so we couldn't talk to him.  Nice move, really mature.  So, after talking to a million different people, we finally decided to do something with the local firemen, melting the paper with their crazy intense water hoses.  It ended up turning out pretty cool.  It became a lot more interactive with the 100s of people who showed up.  And it became an interesting metaphor in itself.  John's work is all about nature and the awareness of the environment.  His original plan was completely safe for the environment but the mayor obviously didn't want to get in trouble with anyone so he just tried to cancel the whole event, causing even more drama with more magazines and newspapers.  Thank God John is such a mellow guy and was just calm and polite through the whole thing.  Anyway, it is really interesting how these pieces, that were all about nature and were meant to be put back into nature, were instead hosed down by humans in uniform.  The firemen themselves were really nice and were actually excited to get to participate.  But I just think it is pretty funny that it all turned out.  It was a success I'd say amidst all the potential blockades in our way.

This is Maria Grade (John's incredible and inspiring wife), me (in the teal sweater), and Ian taking the sculptures out from the museum, one by one.
 There's John.  (Also, it was hilarious and weird seeing people so desperate to talk to him, to have him acknowledge them WHILE in the middle of us trying to transport 20 foot fragile paper sculptures across a museum and out in the windy outdoors.  There is a time to try to talk to the artist and a time to just let him do his thing.)
This part was crazy haha.  We had 9 volunteers walking inside of the sculptures, carrying them down to the edge of the bay into a park and then 9 volunteers guiding the people inside of the sculptures. They had to walked down about 4 flights worth of outdoor stairs too.  Poor ladies and gents.  I kept running around trying to help out the different people.  See those power lines?  We had to dip the sculptures down about 5 feet to get them under.  You can kind of see my arms hidden behind the woman in all white's head, directing the sculpture that is leaning in this photo.
There were 2 rows of power lines to go under haha.
Getting them into a circular formation that reflects the conical shells from the Cliffs of Dover that inspired the piece.
Laying them down.
There's me on the ladder.  I heard one person comment, "oh she brought her own ladder!" Sorry buddy, it's the museums.  I would rarely elevate myself above a crowd unless there was someone telling me to do so, aka John and the museum.
See them melting away in the distance?
Almost all melted away!  Kinda cool, right?  As soon as the firemen stopped spraying, the crowd suddenly cheered and then rushed in to touch the last bit of pulp that hadn't melted away yet.  Kids were bunching it up and throwing it at each other.  Hilarious.  I love when art becomes an experience.

This was so much fun to be a part of.  Now John's next show in in New York.  Someone get him some more funding to pay for a flight to NY for his assistants! Haha.
check out more behind the scenes photos here taken by Ian Gill.

you can also read about all the drama here in the Stranger, followed with some comments from people who have no idea what they are complaining about with the art and who don't appreciate art in any form it seems. Does it ever seem to you like the people who know the least are always the quickest to vocalize their thoughts? Hmm...


Roxanne said...

This is insanely inspiring Moorea. I'm glad that John was able to make a statement while abiding my the mayors insane rules. You look mighty good on top of that ladder, lady!

nikolina100 said...

that is SO RAD!!!

Anonymous said...

Those are AWESOME. Sorry the mayor was lame...

Anonymous said...

That is so, so awesome!

konner said...

I hope the mayor enjoys the fact that you used a publicly funded service like the fire department. Tee hee!

elycia said...

wow that is soooo cool! that would have been super fun to see.

Laura Belle said...

Great documentation.:) What a fun job!

Anonymous said...

I cannot believe that you get to do this for your JOB.. So amazing!

Marsinah (mar-see-na) said...

The artist you work for has some amazing pieces! And for this installation to be earth-friendly is an added plus!