Career Opportunities

 

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A few short details that don’t necessarily show through in the photographs:

There are four characters in the piece-

  1. The infant, helpless and oblivious, nursing at his / her mother’s breast.
  2. The mother, sitting barefoot in the swing, dependent on the chain suspending her, doing what she can to provide for her child.
  3. The working salary-man, his necktie tied to his briefcase, shackled to the chain by his feet, desperately hanging on to his impossible place within the system.
  4. The machine, a mechanical and industrial instrument with a quasi-human face, observing and dictating what occurs beneath its merciless influence.

Career Opportunities was a result of a full year of work. I decided to try working at a large scale, and putting together a real opus-so-far concept. I hate trying to portray sculpture with pictures. (There’s a reason we’re sculptors, and not photographers, or 3-D computer artists) Career Opportunities is (in my humble opinion) ill served by a photographical synopsis. I used scale discrepancies to try to draw the observer into the work. From afar, it is simply a massive industrial machine of some sort, and those more curious about its purpose will come closer to investigate. As you approach, you realize just how useless the machine must be. A twelve-foot-tall steel-and-hydraulics outrage, apparently designed to stretch tight the suspended, dissected face of an elderly giant… You have to stand beneath 700 pounds of steel and bronze, snarling at you with chrome eyeballs, to clearly see the detail of the smaller characters on the chain.
I tried to create a pliable metaphorical architecture within the piece, so that a diverse array of different people in various positions within our society could “plug in” and identify with one or more of the characters involved. Depending on your background, sex, and worldview, there are many different ways to read this piece. It can be a cautionary tale for ambitious would-be executives, a sexist glimpse of our collective stereotypes, a pitiful rant at the futility of being born into a rigid structure…..  I’ve heard versions of all of these.
When it was installed at San Jose State (outside the art building) in may 2003, I left a small podium in front of the piece, with a notebook for people to leave their thoughts or reactions, and a small poem I wrote as an artist statement. Four different notebooks filled up after a while, and the reactions ranged from death threats to fawning praise. I’ve been humbled and supremely thankful for the opportunity to display my work in a venue surrounded by thousands of talented aspiring artists. As of this writing, Career Opportunities is passing its 5th year on display at SJSU. Unfortunately, it will not be a permanent installation, and I will someday need a new home for this two-thousand-pound twelve-foot-tall monstrosity.

click here to see the podium statement

 

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