This weekend was surreal... Nationwide organizing against police brutality and the death of George Floyd and many unarmed Black lives taken by violent and racist, fearful and abusive white police over the past few weeks, not to mention centuries. Followin well organized, nonviolent protests in Raleigh, aggressive, white alt-right party members took advantage of the timing and destroyed businesses, framing Black and allied protesters, strategically exacerbating their being scapegoated for all America's problems. The weight is so heavy, and there is so much work to be done. I feel pressured, we white people who don't live to abuse people should all feel pressured, to step up our efforts to defend Black people, donate to organizations like Black Lives Matter, and show up however we have the capacity to, continuously, for the rest of our lives and for those coming after us. Black people are tired. They've been risking their own lives for centuries for the most basic humanities, like being able to watch birds in a public park. It's our turn, our responsibility.
In the midst of this, the rest of my life could not be paused. My two collaborators (Anna Wagner and Nyssa Collins) and I were also working, from our backyards, on a environmental public art project for the City of Raleigh's Walnut Creek Wetland Center. We were building the armature for a 20 foot long catfish- specifically, a Carolina Madtom catfish- small (maxing at 5 inches), very cute, and native to NC. Because of its small size, it's a threatened species, living only in a few rivers still, and conservationists are working to keep its numbers up. The three of us chose to sculpt a giant catfish after finding a baby one inside a tire we removed from the wetland during during a clean up. Turns out Carolina Madtoms make their homes in cans and bottles... so making one out of trash felt appropriate. We will be installing the sculpture at the Walnut Creek Wetland Center the week of June 22 and working with conservation corps teens to finish it over the following weeks. Here are some snapshots of our progress.
Anna Wagner, Nyssa Collins, and I sketching out how we will build the catfish armature. Our challenge is making it at our homes in Durham then getting it to the wetland center in Raleigh. So, we are building it in 6 sections, assembling it wholly in the yard, and then disassembling it to transport it to Raleigh before reassembling it on site.
Anna using a dog leash on hand to rough-measure a cross section of the catfish and determine whether we have enough chain-link fence to cover the armature. We'll be using chain link to shape the fish while remaining transparent so we can fill it with trash, resembling the fish's organs.
(Me) working on the beginnings of the fish's head. Anna came up with a simple and efficient armature design, requiring little more than straight-cut 2 x 4's, a circular saw, and a drill. (The band saw is just weighting the board to the sawhorses so it doesn't slide around on us as we work. LOL)
Satisfying progress! Anna working on measurements for the third segment of the catfish. You can see the profile beginning to shape.
Don't forget to rest and stare at the trees. A tire makes a nice recliner- we've been collecting old tires which we'll use to lift the catfish up from the ground, making it more visible from the road.