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Work Samples

The Tree of Life

watercolor, paper, painting
The Tree of Life- 30"h x 22"w- Watercolor and archival ink on Arches paper. Note the round medallion just above the center.

The Scent of Light-2000-2006

public art, installation, site-specific, interactive, earth art, wood
The Scent of Light- 2000-2006, Stone Quarry Hill Art Park, Cazenovia, New York. 16'h x 81'l x 24'w. 11 tons of wood on 24 cement footers. Interior viewing deck, seating. Literary quotes on interior walls. Antique door and two windows. Built around four hickory trees. The light pole with its reflecting element is held by a 7'h stack of slate. The first in a series of public installations.

Homing Device for the Politically Challenged- 2016

sculpture, mixed media, political art, paper, collage
Homing Device for the Politically Challenged- 2016 28"h x 28"w x 4"d- Paper collage and acrylic on wood, with an inset lenticular image of a flying cup and saucer and additional woven lenticular foil supporting an image of Earth as seen from space. Korean bamboo leaf paper, image of a blue butterfly, crystals set amid acrylic stars, a map of the Amazon and a star map topped by an artificial tea leaf. A unique crossover with the Star Tent series and a collage series not online.


oil painting, sculpture, mixed media, 24k, wood, acrylic
Mentor 10-2018- 40"h, Mixed media on wood with 24k leaf, leaded glass, paper, acrylic, finger nail polish. Oil on canvas- The Floating Ax series.


About Al

Baltimore City

Al Zaruba's picture
Al Zaruba's work employs a wide range of materials, concepts and processes as a way to continually evolve his interests in the global community. So far he has lived in or traveled through 36 nations. His first years were on the island of Guam in the western Pacific. Later he attended high school in the Panama Canal Zone where he began painting. After graduation he moved to Los Angeles and later joined the Navy in 1974, ushering in a transformative decade. Beginning in 1978 he served for 18 months in... more

The Floating Axe

Names often reflect key aspects of our character. My last name Zaruba is an old Czech name that loosely translates as 'he who splits wood with an ax'. As Allen means harmonious, then I am the happy woodcutter. Yet, years before I discovered this, I was intuitively drawn to wood as a creative expression, even during the 20 years when painting was my principle medium.

As a consequence, the symbolism of the ax has periodically appeared in my sculptural work. This began with acquiring an eroded ax head in 1991 that had lay buried in a 200 year old apple tree. I gilded it's lace-like form in 24k to translate the way I perceive it's context and resonance. The hollow of the handle suggests a house in miniature, such as the spirit houses of Asian cultures or the sky burials of others. Later this concept inspired two series of cage-like sculptures on legs during the 1990's based on human rights abuses.

During a 2015 residency in West Cork, Ireland, I participated in a fascinating annual bronze casting symposium, Umha Aois, which attracts artists and archeologists who utilized the basic techniques, raw materials and processes of the bronze age to produce new works, some of which were replications of historic artifacts, such as the ax. This was the catalyst that prompted the series.

In January of 2016, this series began with Awakening , which, in turn, bridges the series-A Tent of Stars. Based upon the ax as metaphor and symbol, the ax surface is covered in stars with a 3D form as flame that passes through a small canoe covered in lenticular image fragments of various works of art and cultures. The upper hollow is lined with slices of lenticular images and reflective surfaces.

Why the ax?
Considering the increasing cultural violence as well as our tendency to isolate ourselves through social media, I was initially at a loss as to why I would focus on what most Americans would peg as a weapon of violence, such as the Lizzie Borden murders. The research helped me to see that the ax symbolizes much that is positive and constructive, especially in regards to the building of civilization. Yet, the symbol, like a mirror, confronts us with what is buried in our own make-up.

The ax is an ancient universal symbol of authority and power rooted in many cultures, from the First Nations to Asian, European and African cultures. For example, in ancient China, the ax symbol was often woven into the silk robes of the emperors to signify the decisiveness of their absolute imperial authority. From there, I began to explore other cultural myths which led to the foundation that the first axes were stone. These created sparks and consequently became associated with lightning, thunder, rain, rebirth and...creation! They were often termed 'thunderstones' and held as highly sacred. It is interesting to note that both the Chinese and Pre Colombian cultures periodically created elaborate, non-functional ceremonial axes out of prized jadite and flint.

The metaphor of the ax can operate on many levels, such as splitting apart issues to reveal 'facts' or the truth. The ax is judgment in action, splitting truth from lies, clarity from confusion. It is both tool and weapon. My hope is that the abstraction of the symbol would offer a way of considering how each of us might see authority (vs. the current focus on abuse and fear.), possibly as a way to reflect more deeply upon what our culture is contending with. Above all the mud slinging, what is true? What are the facts? What vital aspects may be missing? Do we believe everything we are fed by the media? Are we selective in the building of our own 'false news' campaign? What do we not want to consider or see?

Gilding the blade edges with 24k gold questions what is eternal against the brevity of life. The moment of now is now past. Getting into the river now is not the same river tomorrow. Gold's stability is a fascinating medium, especially as it is the only metal that visible light can pass through and yet filter out those rays that can harm our eyes. It has been used in the visors of pilots and astronauts to protect their vision.

  • Awakening

    sculpture, collage, painting, mixed media
    2016-96"h, Based on studies of bronze age Chinese ax heads. Acrylic, carborundum, lenticular image fragments and mixed media collage on wood with 24k gilding, swarovski crystals. The upper chamber (behind the orange facade) contains vertical slices of lenticular image fragments, acrylic mirror and treated Mylar.
  • Your Heart-Shackles are not Unrequited Hope

    sculpture, wood, mixed media
    2017, 30” x 24” x 6”. Metallic ink on burned wood, mixed media, with lenticular fragments, 24k gold
  • His tongue the only epicinium of the aftermath

    wood, sculpture, assemblage, mixed media, ink
    35"h x 32"w x 8"d Silver ink on burned wood, acrylic on wood, 24k gold leaf, lenticular image of the sun and moon (inset behind the eye), fragments of mother of pearl, car glass and tail lights, lenticular fragments, synthetic gold flakes, mica flakes.
  • Skin scraper is love's best interest

    sculpture, collage, painting, mixed media
    2016- 24"h x 13"w x 2.5"d- Synthetic ink on acrylic on wood, lenticular image of Venus, 24k. In ancient China, anything that was yellow automatically became property of the Emperor. Yet the emotional play of yellow in contemporary culture has a very different array of associations. Even so, the choice of using the planet Venus instigated the cross cultural associations, which are left to the observer.
  • She said: Est ad Astra

    wood, sculpture, assemblage, mixed media, acrylic
    23"h x 12"w x 4"d Acrylic on burned wood, pen shell fragments, titanium exhaust port, lenticular fragment of stars.
  • It all comes down to being out of time...

    relief sculpture, mixed media, found object, wood, gold
    22"h x 11"w x 3"d, burned wood, photo collage, 24k gold leaf, antique women's watches, auto glass, mother of pearl, magnifying lens, lenticular fragment, operculeum.
  • Blind Shores: Center of the World

    relief sculpture, mixed media, found object, wood, gold
    23"h 11"w x 2"d, acrylic, antique keys, slag crystals, lenticular fragment of the Middle East (from space), 24k gold leaf
  • Dowsing Ax

    wood, sculpture, mixed media, ink
    16" x 12" x 2", Synthetic ink on wood, 24k gold leaf, lenticular fragment of Neptune. Private collection
  • Some keep their own sacrifice

    sculpture, mixed media, assemblage, acrylic
    26"h x 12"w x 3"d, acrylic on wood, copper, zippers, stones, 24k gold leaf, lenticular fragment of Jupitar's moons.
  • Liferaft: For how long?

    sculpture, ink, mixed media
    24"h x 13"w x 3"d, wood, synthetic ink, 24k gold leaf, lenticular fragment of Earth and the moon.

A Tent of Stars

Within the Tents
In 1966, when I first saw the epic, Lawrence of Arabia, it impacted and inspired my fledgling sense of identity in inexplicable ways that was to later bear fruit, from studio to performance work.

In 2013, when this series began, to my mind's eye there first appeared a nomad's tent suspended in space and covered in stars, as if in camouflage. I did not think of the movie's impact at first. However, I had first encountered nomadic tents during a 2007 visit to the Middle East. As my installation concepts are based upon creating enveloping environments, the attraction was natural.

Bedouin tents often appear as black, or dark brown or gray, looking as if they are of humble means. Yet, they often cover a profound heritage, including layers of opulent rugs and other treasures. Some families are very wealthy, yet prefer to continue living as they do. Again I encountered this during a Fulbright conference in Morocco, especially among the blue clad Touareg.

What became clear during the development of this series was that outward appearances, such as culture, race and gender, are often deceptive identifiers. For example, why do so many of us treat others the way that we do, if not by appearance, actions and gender? Yet, such externals often mask or hide the greater truth and meaning of our inner beings. Can we find a way to encounter each other in deeper ways?

Each tent's golden threshold symbolizes this deeper search for identity, meaning and connection. Each of us contains a mystery, be it darkness, shrouding light or as light manifested in the fruit of one's love walk and talk. I believe each person, no matter how disturbed, disenfranchised or even manifesting acts of evil, contains a core of light and truth.

Looking up to the night stars offers the open mind and heart endless awe and wonder and confronts us with our fragile lives on this tiny jewel called Earth. What do we hope for? What are we looking at? What is the condition of our own hearts in the ways we treat all others, regardless of their external signifiers?

  • A Tent of Stars

    2014 36"h x 48"w x 4"d, Wood, acrylic, stainless steel nails, crystals, gold foil
  • Abraham's Promise

    12/2013 15"h x 26"w x 5"d Wood, stainless brads, crystals, carborundum,mother of pearl, acrylic #1 in the series.
  • The Fall

    2014 79"h x 43"w x 9"d Third in the set, driftwood, body putty, screws, stainless brads, crystals on acrylic, optical plastic.
  • Dalet (The Door)

    2014 80"h x 28"w x 4"d First of three. Wood door, wood, stainless brads, optical plastic, acrylic, crystals
  • Deep unto Deep

    2014 35"h x 28"w x 10"d One of three 'Star Shields', each topped by a differing horse. Each convex shield has a leather encased, rope hand grip grometted to the concave side, which hangs on a wood wall mount and can be easily lifted and carried. Fiberglass, acrylic, crystals
  • Released

    2014 40"h x 32"w x 3"d Wood, acrylic, Mother of Pearl nut pickers, sterling, steel, optical plastics, crystals a self portrait
  • A Book of Stars

    2014 12"h x 8.5"h x 2"d Private collection One of three books. Wood, fabric, acrylic, crystals, carborundum, optical plastic.
  • Measuring Hope

    1/2015 53"h x 13"w x 3"d Wood, acrylic, crystals
  • Reach

    2014 19"h x 13"w x 3"d Wood, padding, screws, fabric and acrylic. Outlining the artist's right hand, this work is related to an older series of wrapped works. Collection of the artist.
  • Eye of the Needle

    2014 15"h x 22"w x 3"d Acrylic on wood, stainless brads, crushed mother of pearl, crystals.

Gentleman's Babel (1989-2017)

This began as a self portrait in 1989 when I frequented abandoned houses in search of raw material. When I spotted the green knob of the cabinet, it was located in a sagging, partially detached wooden bathroom on the second floor of a wet wreck of a row house. It was an acute moment of mental illness in going after it but that knob and inlaid frame had my name all over it. Every careful tug caused the entire structure to creak and sway. It groaned as I stepped back into the solid section.

Initially inspired by the works of Joseph Cornell, I began working in it as a way to process what haunted me. Over the years, I kept returning to the cabinet, hoping to resolve it into something more expansive. Layers upon layers of materials, objects and images were added and later removed over the ensuing years. Initially it was where I exposed some of my darkest secrets and regrets. At times I considered its destruction, thinking I did not want it to outlive me. Yet, as those painful memories receded over time, it strangely evolved into something like a Dorian Grey portrait, hidden in my basement.

Yet, through this one work, inference grew to be preferable to the obvious and the vulgar. Its impact on the greater body of my work remains deep, even as its concept shifted into a more generalized exploration of identity beyond gender.

At the same time, the transformation of its exterior underwent the same process. At first it was crude. There were times I stripped everything and began again, moving it from the dilemma from a self-reflective struggle with depression towards an increasing outwards looking and more inclusive look at the state of being fully human, shattered dreams and all. Even so, its contents remain a telling autobiography, where items, such as the lock of a woman's hair, the marbles, the paper map boat, the broken stage lens carry histories best left to the viewer.

Recently I began to see it reflecting Babel-like questions of broken language born of pride and arrogance. The upended antique book shelf had lay dormant in my basement for 25 years. Once that was incorporated, other items quickly flew into place and for the first time in years it began to speak a new language. One of the last additions was the foot sculpture covered in shredded American currency being added to its base.

  • Gentleman's Babel

    sculpture, mixed media, self portrait.
    Rouse Gallery installation- 09/2017- Two primary parts. The cabinet is on top and can be opened to expose four compartments of numerous items, images and materials. The upended antique bookshelf has sliding doors, which contains two ceramic glove molds. The top one has been shattered and glued back together with red glue. Both sit on antique beveled mirrors taken from a crack house in Los Angeles. A tiny rusted cast iron skillet holds an antique iron clown piggy bank washed in red enamel.
  • Cabinet Front

    sculpture, found object, assemblage, mixed media
    Antique Baltimore medicine cabinet, with most of the silver of the mirror removed. Unseen in this image is an old enamel sign, Gentlemen, recessed in the top compartment, behind a Meercham pipe, an ink bottle, a anti-vivisection copper plate, a plastic model pelvis, sawdust and a fragment of a stage curtain from the old Mayfair Theatre where Billi Holiday used to perform (Since destroyed). On top is a double glass lens with a metal frame covered in sawdust. On front and in back are two antique prescription glasses that came from an old train conductor's house.
  • Cabinet interior.

    sculpture, found object, assemblage, mixed media
    Cabinet interior with four sections. Broken stage lights from the old Mayfair Theatre, printing plates from the old Anti-vivisection Society, a photo of dead dogs, a paper map boat, a bat skelaton, keys, stage curtain fragments, marbles and a McDonald's clown toy that's been burned with a tuft of singed ruby plastics exploding from its head. For starters.
  • Right Side

    Sculpture, found object, fetish, altars, mixed media, wood, collage
    The antique hand forged handles on the sides of the cabinet came from a ruined home deep in the Sumanian Gorge in Crete. the antique photo of an early French aviator was purchased in a Paris flea market.
  • Left side

    collage, assemblage, wood, mixed media.
    This side carries a scallop shell found on a remote beach in Ireland. These shells were often worn by European pilgrims during the Middle Ages, which offered them some semblance of protection from robbers. The antique photo of an early French aviator was purchased in a Paris flea market. The antique forged steel handle is from an abandoned house in Crete.
  • The cabinet's back surface

    collage, assemblage, wood, mixed media.
    Collage and text with lenticular dolphin's eye.
  • Gentleman's Babel

    sculpture, mixed media, self portrait.
    Rear view of the cabinet in the studio.
  • 2.3.JPG

    sculpture, mixed media, self portrait.
    collage- one side of the bookshelf.
  • Gentleman's Babel

    sculpture, mixed media, self portrait.
    Alternate side of the bookshelf. Collage

Ship Installations

My identity as a sailor and global nomad flows from a colorful upbringing amid certain cultural crossroads, from the Asia Pacific islands to Central America.

At nine months old, I learned to walk aboard an ocean liner crossing the Pacific Ocean. Since then I've been aboard supertankers, WWII military landing crafts, yachts, trimarans, speedboats, dug out canoes and outriggers. So, it was only natural that my work often cycles through the ship as an metaphor of life's journey, from the womb to the cradle to the coffin.

In 2000, I began a new series of large-scale, ship-shaped installations built around on-site trees as the sails. Each was intended to serve their local communities as a gathering place or informal social practice. They also served as crucibles for experimental photography, video and performance.

Their interiors welcomed visitors as participants and dreamers, which many claimed as their own. For example, a small girl in Annapolis learned from her parents that she was the captain of her own ship.

  • The Scent of Light

    installation, public sculpture, interactive, environmental, wood
    2000-2006, Stone Quarry Hill Art Park, Casenovia, New York. 16'h at the light pole. 81 'long and 24 feet wide. Eleven tons of wood set on 24 cement footers. Constructed around four hickory trees as the sails. The interior had a viewing deck, stairs and multiple seating options. An antique door with watered glass opened to the interior, which walls contained an array of quotes from world literature, both from the artist and visitors. The light pole was held in place by five tons of stacked slate and is topped by a three foot tall egg shape covered in reflective elements.
  • Cantus

    This photo was shot as a 35mm time exposure inside The Scent of Light, which was located at Stone Quarry Hill Art Park in upper New York. (2000-2006) The red color comes from car flares set inside frying pans set behind the trees. Alone, I pushed the camera trigger, ran into the exposure and then hand held a 1 million watt flash light up to the reflective sculpture on top of the pole.The 'glory' effect resulted from clouds blowing in that night. Edition of 3 artists proofs 66"h x 44"w Each print is formatted uniquely.
  • Hunting Light

    2001/06 The second ship in the series and perhaps my favorite project ever. Formerly located at Quiet Waters Park, Annapolis, MD. 72ft l x 22ftw x 12ft h. 14 tons of wood, 22 cement footers. Four interior chambers with seating, world literature quotes, sculpture. It served as a basis for performance, photography and video. More important, lots of fun events happened in it with a great many children of all ages. The most powerful was when 3 young boys left a hand made American flag on 9/11. I came that afternoon, in pouring rain. The flag is still with me.
  • untitled

    Central image for a planned tryptych. White light is from my auto headlights. Red is a car flare in a frying pan.
  • Hunting Light

    Night performance.
  • Earthsong

    11/2002-The front lawn of the Korean Cultural Service of the Korean Embassy in Washington, D.C. Part of a proposal for a senior Fulbright to Seoul (2003-2004) The ship is split by a sidewalk (North and South) and is made of bamboo, wood, plastic and 38 bamboo wind chimes representing the 38th parallel by which Korea remains divided. An interior exhibition showed related sculpture and photography.
  • Grotto (The Scent of Light)

    This is the second part of the Scent of Light installation, as a symbolic safe harbor for the ship. It is located in a thicket about 50 yards directly off the bow site of the ship. A path was cut through the tall grass that ran alongside the ship to the Grotto. inside, 5 tons of large stones formed a circle around a recessed circle of black slag sand. The exposure was at twilight- a 35mm one minute exposure using a car flare. My moving body blocked out segments of the flair's trail.
  • Hand in Hand

    2004- 2008 Constructed in front of the Ministry of Arts and Culture in Seoul, Korea. Specially treated cedar, stainless steel rice bowls, interior has two one million watt street lambs that come on at twlight-shedding light upon the sidewalk and up into the gingko-(a tree sacred to Koreans) 1200 x 330 x 336 cm The bow pointed towards Pyeongyang, the capital of North Korea. The hull was designed as two halves not yet aligned. A catalogue and DVD are available. Project grant- $7500, from Sung Kyun Kwan University.
  • Hand in Hand

    The stern showing the split hull design and entry door. Due to high volume and safety concerns on University Blvd, the interior is closed to the public.
  • Dancing Light

    installation, wood, public commission
    Located on the corner of the Baltimore Convention Center (06/2006-07) as part of Artscape- Milled wood, driftwood, stainless steel bowls, plastic, epoxy paint, cement footers. 30'lx12'wx9'd- $1500 stipend. Based upon the Korean prototype, this installation had more widely spaced slats and is the first not built around a tree (or of natural tree branches), but rather between 4 small trees (the cardinal directions) around a light post and two additional street lamps that came on in the evening. These illuminated the world literature quotes written on the inside.

The Sky Below, Earth Above: Forest House

Created at Quiet Waters Park in 9/2006, this four room interactive multi-level installation was constructed upon the cement ruins of a hunting lodge that predated the park. Made of driftwood and found objects collected from the bay, it was intended as a place of contemplation in order to question humanity's relationship with our collapsing environment. This came about because of a beach I'd been going to since 1989. For the first several years, I would collect and carry out trash I'd find along that mile of cliffs. Then it began to overwhelm the beach to where 20 feet provided more garbage than I could carry.

So, I determined to make a work that would critique this- by using some of this garbage to create a challenging context. What resulted was a surprise in many ways, both positive and unfortunately, negative.

First of all, it's remote location was originally rarely frequented outside of joggers and hikers, even though the site was among the tallest stands of original trees in the park, on a hill overlooking a sheltered cove. As the installation drew near to completion, it began to draw people in increasing numbers. Each time I returned, I found more and more repeat visitors. People brought picnics. Children played. Music happened. The word spread. I was most amazed when I was introduced to a European couple who flew in because their friend said it was worth the trip! An informal festival like air took over. That autumn was one of wonders upon wonders as I almost lived in it, refining details and happily talking with people who often helped with difficult parts. Many spoke that it brought a profound sense of peace and wonder.

However, it proved to be the most controversial project of my career. Within three months, it was condemned by two small groups of wealthy Annapolis people. I met with one of them on site- a most amazing experience of being absolutely hated as if I was the devil. He refused my handshake. Nothing I said was heard. His hatred was so far off the charts as to not touch me. Rather than being offended, I was astonished that this well meaning work of art could provoke such a completely different response from the others I had been experiencing.

They saw it as either an illegal religious Christian chapel on government land- or as a Satanist sacrifice center. It rapidly became the center of a public storm that resulted in coverage by the Associated Press and an article in Sculpture Magazine. Despite hundreds of local people supporting it and a professional offer to take the case to court (for free), those wealthy people bypassed the director of Maryland's state park system (who had visited it and delightfully approved the project)... and managed to get it torn down prematurely- condemned by the State as a building without a building permit!
A DVD is available.

  • Forest House- the main entrance

    The front at 9am Sept 23, 06- a brief window of time that illuminated the outer wall.
  • Forest House

    installation, public sculpture
    During September into October, in the morning light the entrance would be highlighted around 8 to 9am
  • Forest House corner

    Shot in winter, giving the appearance of a ship's bow and a cage.
  • The entrance

    Looking through the first room, up the two steps to the main room and the altar.
  • Inside the entrance

    This shows one of the benches that was mistaken as Christ crucified. Titled 'Cry'
  • The main room

    The most controversial part of the installation was the table. Made from an old slate slab from a sink excavated while cleaning up the site. It was seen as an altar. The water wheel that supported the wood arms was from the original farm and also excavated. The orange plastic was a bonanza find- they had unknown function, but I cut them into fragments and wired them into place.
  • Forest House performance

    A simple 15 min performance to drums.
  • Forest House: The upper platform

    installation, site spefic
    On top of two intersecting walls, I constructed this platform, accessed by a stairs.
  • Forest House: view of the cove

    Forest House
    A donated cement bust was incorporated into the southwest corner of the installation overlooking the slope down to the cove, where waterfowl were often gathered.
  • Forest House

    Detail next to the main entrance.

Ocean @ the Creative Alliance-

Eight years ahead of the Excessivism Movement that started in 2015, Ocean was a sensory overload of a critique on our consumerist culture gone wild. Constructed in March 2007 for one month in the main gallery of the Creative Alliance, it's ship-shaped installation sat on a diagonal across the 2000 sq ft space and contained eight rooms, each with a unique theme. It was a 360 degree shift in materials and concept from the preceding public sited ship installations, each of which were constructed primarily of slab wood around or near existing trees.

Both the exterior and interior surfaces incorporated an eclectic range of diverse materials and found objects. Eight performance costumes hung on stands outside the entrances, which were available for the public to don while exploring the rooms.Inside, five videos of prior performances were shown in various locations. Slide projections of my travels were also projected onto various surfaces. Oscillating fans were located in each space and transition point and softly blew hanging materials back and forth. An inverted antique sailing skiff served as the roof of the Drowning Room, while various rooms included sofas and chairs buried under layers of materials, among other seating options.

The green, silk-lined and padded Sex Cage proved the most memorable with certain visitors falling asleep... until after closing, which then set off the alarm and brought the police.

  • Ocean

    mixed media, assemblage, performance
    The main entrance showing a few of the wearable costumes. The yellow is on its stand. The blue in on the floor.
  • Ocean- the main entrance

    Located on the port side, this was also the main performance area. The seven elements, or costumes, as in the case of this yellow one, could be taken off their armatures and worn by the general public. This proved numerous opportunities for people to dance for the first time in and out of a work of art. Parents often followed their children. Every visit was a constant surprise of people and engaging conversations. I spent most weekends on site.
  • Ocean's bow

    This shows the installation as first viewed by visitors. The construction was set on a diagonal across the 2000 sq ft gallery, which was mostly filled by the 8 interactive rooms. The hull surface was covered by a diverse array of materials as a critique of our run-away consumer culture. On top of the bow sat a stuffed rooster wearing a large fake blue gem (ala the Titanic) Quotes from world literature were written into sections of this exterior surface and inside each room.
  • The Gullet of the Whale

    This was the wind blown passage that led to the Belly of the Whale video room. The plastics are all bio-hazard bags. Their warning signs, although often stretched, would on occasion appear right at visitor eye level.
  • Belly of the Whale

    This contained two videos, X-ray windows, texts, a couch, seating and the entrance to the Drowning Room. Half way through the month, I opened a third door to the left of this view, allowing a greater flow for the increasing crowds.
  • The Drowning Room

    The most controversial room in the ship. The view is looking from the floor to the ceiling, which was capped by an inverted 20 ft antique sailing skiff- from which hung a series of oxygen breathing apparatus. The backlit blue plastic created a strong blue light inside the space. Contrasting that effect, a special light inside the boat overhead created an underwater effect reflected upon the silver Mylar floor, and back upon the walls. This room frightened more people than the rest of the ship combined.
  • The Apocalypse Room

    The most hidden and smallest room containing several burned doors, a partially hidden illuminated resin skull and an overhead 32"diameter illuminated fiberglass globe questioning the future of our planet. In essence, this was the underlying critique of the installation. On it's bottom was a single phrase- 'Our future?' Below it was a small stool you could sit upon. on one side it said- 'Think' and on the other side- 'Act'
  • Cry

    The central interior hall that connected the three main branches of the ship. This centered upon this wood figure recycled from the Forest House project. Three hidden oscillating fans constantly blew about the suspended plastic tendrils and rustled the torn plastics, giving the interior a constant rustling sound, almost like a forest.
  • Ocean- the starboard door

    This led directly into the windblown 'Gullet of the Whale'. Assorted found objects mixed with art works.
  • Ocean: Sex Cage

    installation, performance
    An elevated and padded platform enclosed in bars and wrapped in green parachute silk.

Sculptural Forms and Concepts

The origins of my sculptural concepts were heavily influenced by my high school years in the Panama Canal Zone. (1966-1971) Behind our house, the jungle offered colorful adventures, from collecting orchids, bugs and animals to building forts or exploring overgrown buildings. Outside of Gatun was an abandoned and rather eerie submarine base carved deep into a cliff facing the lake. (This was removed during the rebuilding of the new set of locks) The town kids broke in and turned it into a cool hangout for a year before we were busted.
On the opposite side of town was a gigantic banyan tree that had several generations of fort additions. However, my favorite retreat was the ruins of Ft San Lorenzo, 20 miles from town along pot holed gravel roads. It was set on a high cliff overlooking where the Chagres River flowed into the Caribbean. Henry Morgan the pirate sacked the fort, but had his flagship with all of its treasure sunk off the point. Following storms, gold doubloons are sometimes discovered, providing ample fuel for a teenager's rapt attention.

In 1986 I spent an undergraduate year abroad in Paris, France. What started as a dream quickly turned into a financial nightmare when my scholarship was taken away and I was forced to work on the black market in construction. I did not have a green card. So...I began to dumpster dive and discovered that I could make extra money selling the things I found. The unexpected benefit was that I began making sculpture for the first time- out of found objects. Much of that work was dark in concept, but much to my surprise, it sold very well. The result was a happy end to that year, capped by the restoration of my scholarship.

In 1988 I left Los Angeles and drove across the US to Baltimore for graduate school. On the way, I explored an abandoned mountain ranch and found a horse yoke that manifested a concept I'd only realized in sketches. It was a eureka moment. Upon arrival, the work exploded into a series of wall sleds with yokes, exploring the dilemma of the human condition.

These works bridge many years. Most represent larger bodies of work. For example, the Ax Tail Slugger is the last in a series of sixty six wall mounted works.

  • Gaia

    sculpture, mixed media, assemblage
    1989, 96"h x 48"w x 14"d, wood, acrylic, leather yoke, broken bones, computer boards and circuits, leather straps, ceramic shards, hog bristle, a rag doll and insulation foam. (Private collection.) This was the first in the YOKE series- of wall sleds.
  • A Question of Balance

    Sculpture multiples, wood, mixed media
    1993- 90'high, Nine piece- wood, sawdust, coffee and acrylic. Being interactive, it offers a visceral physical interaction with the viewer, but not in a gallery space due to its weight and insurance issues.
  • Hunting Sins

    sculpture, wood, mixed media, acrylic
    1998- Nine of twelve wrapped wood multiples, variable positions. Acrylic, watch lens. 98"high All are in private collections.
  • Anima Mundi- 1995

    110"h x 98"w, wood, stain, acrylic.
  • Threshold

    sculpture, wood, mixed media, acrylic painting
    1991- This piece won the first of four Maryland Artist Grants. It also got me into the Sharpe Foundation's Space Program's residency in Tribeca for one year The opening is the circumference of my head.
  • Epilogue

    multipes, sculpture, installation, wood, mixed media.
    1996. Curated by Mel Chin for a solo at School 33. The ship shaped enclose was filled with black slag sand. The thirty two double-sided cages were in response to the aftermath of the Vietnamese Refugee Crisis, which I was involved in while serving in Naval Intelligence in the Philippines (1979-80). This work was the third in an ongoing series of installations about human-rights abuse that eventually led to the larger public installation series, The Scent of Light. The cages have been sold seperately. Six remain available.
  • Ax Tailslugger

    sculpture, wood, mixed media
    1997- 26"h, Wood, ace bandages, microcrystalline wax, velvet. The last work in a series of sixty six pieces. Collection of the artist.
  • Shoes My Father Never Gave Me

    installation, sculpture, mixed media, interactive.
    1992- A seventeen piece interactive game set, plus the wood stretcher. Wood, acrylic, cotton fabric, burlap. Based upon the horseshoe, this became the first interactive work where i freely invited visitors to move and rearrange the pieces between the pegs and the stretcher and the floor.
  • Radar and Wird Wird

    sculpture, mixed media
    Rouse Gallery show-9-2017. The two sculptures in the foreground are from a series originally created during a Sculpture Space residency. The smaller is Radar, a self portrait. The taller is Wird Wird. Both are wood covered in acrylic over paper, text and 24k.
  • Hand in Hand

    Sculpture, mixed media, acrylic
    2004- Seoul, Korea. Acrylic on wood, diffraction grid over plexi mirror, black velvet. A portrait of a divided Korea amid the dream of a united nation. This was the last work created during my Fulbright.

Recycled Ocean: Performance Work

My performance work began in 1995, during Artscape's memorable complex of installations- The Ecstatic Garden of Sublime Delerium, which was located in the former Decker Gallery of MICA's Station Building. After creating a multi chambered installation in a 20' x 20' x 20' square space, I realized that I wanted to integrate my presence into the installation. So, I covered myself in the same stressed and torn plastics used in the installation and in effect, became part of the experience.

This continued for a few years before I began doing solo performances independent of an installation. This was also the first time that I opened the work and invited other artists friends to participate. This led to an increasing interest in collaborations.

The majority of those performances took place in two venues. The first was during the initial seven years of the American Museum of Visionary Art, where I worked on staff. In addition to installing the exhibitions, I led off the museum's parades at their yearly festivals. The other venue was during successive Artscape festivals. Over time, I've traveled as far as Southeast Asia, performing at locations along the Mekong River, up on the Plain of Jars and at Anghor Wat.

During the year that I was a senior Fulbright scholar to Korea, (2003-04), I was invited to a series of festivals, including sold out performances at Theatre Zero, at that time a cutting edge space. I also began to develop an interest in Japanese Butoh, which led to several impromptu performances around Seoul, on the streets and in the subways. One of my primary projects was to have my performances filmed in different locations around Korea and compiled into a DVD- Inbetween.

In 2004, having returned to MICA, I organized Recycled Ocean- a performance at MICA's Falvey Hall with 16 of my students and the world fusion band, Telesma, then just beginning to be recognized. It was well received.

There are ten DVDs of various performances, from dancing among Christo's Gates in Central Park to an appearance on Maryland Public Television.
These performances have since inspired several print series. In addition the costumes have been used as suspended additions to my installations.

  • Turtleship, South Korea

    A still from a performance on board a reproduction of one of Korea's historic armor-plated turtle ships, located in a naval history park on the very southern tip of the peninsula. My two assistants are wearing Naval Officer costumes from the Chosin Dynasty. The video, Inbetween, is a series of short performances and was shot in various locations around Korea, from Seoul, to the mountains and southern coasts. This image is in the catalogue.
  • The American Museum of Visionary Art

    The gold Mylar costume used in the finale of Recycled Ocean- and shown here as a welcome to the 2006 International Fulbright Conference lunch hosted by the museum.
  • Maryland Public Television

    Artworks this Week- #545 An impromptu performance with friends, to the sound of Telesma
  • Ocean (a still)

    Ocean was shot amid Cristo's Gates in Central Park. The video is 30 min, with, at times, as many as seven overlapping layers. There are two versions on each DVD- words and without words.
  • Angkhor

    The Bayon, Angkor, Cambodia- 2001. I performed in a number of locations, also in Laos and along the Mekong River. A very wild time full of adventures.
  • Ghost

    2015- Performance at Maryland Art Place. Photo by Ariston Jacks
  • Orouri-The Scent of Light series

    The first ship inspired many photographic experiments, most done during the evening hours and during the various seasons during it's six years of existence. This image was shot in 2004. George Maris was dancing in minus 40 degrees. 2 editions- Cybachrome- 30" x 24" edition of 3 permanent pigment gyclee 11 x 7 edition of 5
  • Corehands

    A solo performance on the roof garden of Corehands- a cutting edge design firm in Seoul, Korea= as part of the Seoul international Performance Festival. It was a wild night- windy and a packed crowd. the edges of the rails were lined with my materials. A high point during my Fulbright in 2003.
  • The Arbor of Unfulfilled Desire

    Artscape,1994- Laure Drugal's The Garden of Sublime Delerium. A 20'x20'x20' interactive installation of 8 rooms-three overhead platforms, three stairs, a black room, a white room and the rest in red, cinnamon scented shredded plastic bags being blown about by oscillating fans. Lights faded in and out on electronic relays. This inspired the creation of my first costume and performance. So, I also invited several other artists and a dance troupe to experiment with their own performance work- this was my first collaborative experience.
  • Overcome by a Hairy Doubt!

    The Tyrone Guthrie Centre, Ireland, June/July 2014. An informal skit during the residency that began at the dinner table.

Paintings: From Realism to Grids

I began painting nature in 1966 while attending high school in Panama. Over the years my work moved from realism into surrealism and then into magic realism before entering into military service in 1976. In those years I painted several large murals on military bases from Great Lakes NTF to Subic Bay in the Philippines.

In 1980, I was appointed to the Blue Angels, where the demands and responsibilities of working in public affairs transformed every aspect of my style and technique through a four year phase of exacting aviation painting. After leaving the military in 1984, my focus turned again towards an open ended period of experimentation.

In 1986 while in Paris, I tore up six months of paintings- and then, being at a loss at my immaturity, tore the canvas into stips and wove them into a wrapped work- Rage and Loathing, bridging painting and sculpture.

The grids began in 2007, initially inspired by a sculptural work- A Soldier's Burden, (See the Folded Faces), which was initiated while living in Seoul, Korea.

  • Tower

    2012- Acrylic on canvas, optical plastics, 24k, turtle shell. Private collection- Hawaii
  • Ghost

    abstraction, painting, acrylic, mixed media
    Acrylic on board, mixed media with linticular images. There is a human torso covered in text that the grid pattern is overlaid upon. Private collection.
  • Up From the Field

    Acrylic, painting, mixed media
    8 feet wide. Oil on canvas, w/24k and linticular images. Based on the Book of Ezekiel and the valley of dry bones.
  • Turnaround

    painting, abstraction, mixed media, acrylic
    2010- Oil on canvas, 24k, linticular images, mixed media seven feet high. What does it matter how an artist comes to such an image? To me, painting is a deeply spiritual journey that is also like a child's sandbox- where the voyage of discovery provides moments of revelation.
  • Plunge, rocket man

    abstraction, painting, acrylic, mixed media
    2010- 30" x 22", acrylic on canvas, with lenticular fragments, 24k
  • Between my heart and the earth

    2007- Oil on tar on canvas with 24k gold leaf. Burned wood, crushed metal. This painting is the bridge to the Atlantic series, which included crushed metal and burned wood frames. They are not posted online.
  • Rage and Loathing

    painting, relief, abstraction
    1986, Paris, France. Oil on torn canvas. A pivotal painting. Following an emotional meltdown during which I tore apart six months of work, I took stock. Taking up the remains, I wrapped the three surviving stretcher bars and then painted over them that afternoon. It proved to be a turning point from which I left behind representational painting and began to explore abstraction and the connections between painting and sculpture. Private Collection
  • The Rose Garden

    painting, acrylic on canvas
    24" x 24", acrylic sketch on linen. Created one afternoon in 2007 during a residency at Chateau Rochefort en Terre in Brittany, France. Collection of the artist
  • Persephone's Realm

    painting, acrylic
    1986- Paris, France, acrylic on linen. Private collection
  • Deja Vu

    painting, acrylic
    1984- Acrylic on canvas. Based upon a visit to the Mayan ruins of Copan in Honduras. The slab is a Mayan throne. This is an example from twenty years of older works, most of which reside in California. Private collection of George Maris.