Artist: Buzz Spector
The Last Book
by Kim Lozano
Suppose a bible turns to vapor and condenses
on the ear of a man made of black iron,
a statue of a soldier of the Great Revelation.
The droplets of water fall onto a little plaque
that reads, Of This I’m Afraid,
beside which a fruit tree grows like a wound,
as grotesque as the foot of a crow
growing from the head of a baby.
Suppose there’s no one shuffling in the piazza,
no stalls, no cafés, just the iron man
and a sliced orange, the juice
dripping from the end of his gun.
I was pleased to be offered Kim Lozano’s “The Last Book,” both because its title evocation could be related to a major component of my work as an artist, i.e., alterations of found books to make sculpture, and because several specific references in the poem, to “a statue,” “a little plaque,” “the piazza,” and “the iron man,” could be things able to be included in the installation. The great obstacle for me was in figuring out how to make the box itself. I don’t count cabinet making among my repertoire of skills so I began looking for a box already made, a “found object,” if you will, with the appropriate scale for containing the work’s other elements. In searching for such a box, in antique malls and junk shops, I found the carved wooden hand I ended up using, plus a couple of items of joke taxidermy (a rabbit with deer antlers, a moose head gun rack) I did not. The terror that shimmers inside the poem would not be enhanced by dumbly literal artifacts.
While visiting the special collections library at Washington University in St. Louis, where I teach in the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts, I noticed a shelf of stacked foam lecterns, used by the library to cradle fragile books brought out for showing. The gray foam resembled stone, so much so that when I posted years ago. This cube structure was large enough to hold the foam lecterns and materially imposing enough to convey something of the dread within Kim Lozano’s poem.
A last question was onto what surface to put the poem? The plaque reference I’d read there on-line a photograph I took of the stacked forms a couple of friends complimented me for this new direction in my sculpture practice. The library staff was amenable to my borrowing some of their lecterns for Poetry of the Wild, and in my studio the carved wooden hand looked appropriately eerie emerging from the ash colored shapes. Still, in what box would I put this tableau? After several weekends spent in fruitless quest for the right container I finally remembered that I had a stainless steel box of my own design sitting in my studio storage room, a leftover from an unrealized project of some 25 drew me to the Sam Fox School’s architecture wood shop, where I found a piece of scrap MDF (medium density fiberboard) shaped vaguely like an obelisk. With a laser router I burned the words of the poem onto the MDF. This architectonic shard leans against the box.