by Rj. LeBlanc
Etcheonda - A Shop For Dreamers is my continuation of a personal search to find “magic” in the “real” world. Some time ago, as I was putting the finishing touches on a "timesculpture," a college student asked me to define one of my “structures” or sculptures as he defined them. “Just what is that?” he asked, pointing to the metal and wood construction. “Explain it to me.”
When I did not immediately answer he asked again. “Come on,” he said, “You made it. Now tell me what you had in mind.”
I tried as best I could to ignore him, but since he was so persistent, I reconsidered as I realized that he did indeed deserve an answer of sorts. I grunted but put down my soldering iron. “Well, . . . “ I replied, “I wish that I had an easy answer, but I can't find one. Of course you're right, I had an idea in mind when I put the pieces together, but that initial idea isn't necessarily translatable into words.”
“What do you mean?” he continued.
“If you look at the process of creating anything its not always a linear process, with a start and a finish. You don’t specifically think of the idea, sketch it out, and then build it. Often in my own work there is a shadowy outline of an idea and I begin to look for the components, call them ingredients, needed to put that concept together. Then in the middle of the process I find something that “feels” like it belongs. So I incorporate that new part into the design which, of course, changes the original idea into something else. It's as if the structure has taken on an identity of its own and begins to define its personal destiny. “
“Does that happen all the time?”
“No -- sometimes an idea comes in fast and the structure goes together so quickly that there is no time for change or variation.”
“But your process always works the same way?”
“No -- sometimes the idea arrives in the form of a feeling or maybe just a texture and the translation of idea into three dimensions has to take place on an intuitive level . . .”
“What do you mean by that, something like Zen?”
“Sure! Zen comes close to defining the experience. Intellectually you back off and let intuition take over. . .”
“So each of your sculptures gets done by intuition?”
“Not really. They’re really a combination of intellect and ituition working together, not necessarily both at the same time.”
“How long does it take you to build one?”
“Variable -- anywhere from one day to 30 years.”
“30 years! How come 30 years?”
I start with an idea and it becomes complete when the last piece is added. Sometimes that takes 30 years, and at other times it takes 30 seconds . . . “
The student nodded and I'm sure that he wasn't satisfied with my answer but apparently he didn't want to pursue the thought any further and we ended the conversation. But his question remained and I continued to think about the nature of creativity, what is it that pulls us towards the creation of a sculpture or painting? And I realized that it is the tides of our lives, starting from conception, perhaps beyond but I don't know that.
For a while I searched through scrapyards
Finding artifacts of yesterday:
chipped bathroom tiles and twisted bicycle wheels
Cast off parts of broken lives ...
Fragments of Eternity among the piles
Of weary dolls-eyes and battered limbs.
Sometimes I salvaged what I could
But mostly there was nothing left intact
One thing or another climbed out of the pile
and escaped, for a while ...
I am descendent from a long line of story-tellers, from my grandfather Arthur Pierre LeBlanc back 13 generations to Rene LeBlanc, the notary from Longfellow’s Evangeline. Twice our family was exiled, once in 1755 from Ancient Acadia, and again in 1837 as part of the failed “Canadian Revolution” against the English. My great grandfather's uncles were shipped in manicles, as political prisoners to Australian prison camps. Though, in time, they were pardoned and returned to Canada.
My Time-machines are attempts to explore and understand the process of time and space and our relationships to those entities. “Time is a circle, a wheel without end ...”
Through my structures, “universes in a box”, I am trying to find and to phrase the right questions. I don’t expect to find a single answer or any “Unified field theory” but feel that searching for important questions is almost as important.
The primary element, Time, is the dominant element in most of my work. Time itself stands as a symbol of our race against Eternity; and I seek to explore a few of the facets of that “precious-gem” in that painfully small time we have in our lives to explore the physical Universe.
Winds of the Cosmos,
or storms churning desert plains:
of birth and death.
I dance from sunrise to sunset
creating -- destroying,
all are one.
Children from dust spores
Old men into dust motes are torn...
Clouds spiral from my dancing feet
whirling through night air.
on tombs of dead princeses
asleep by the streets.
I dance and the universe moves in my
Time is a circle
a cadence without end ...
The past -- the present -- the future
all rotating slowly
a wheel rumbling on ...
Our frustrations in trying to define the meaning of our existence is a universal struggle. I have been influenced by the works of all the “others” who have tried to put a face on the plight of humankind in this struggle to know themselves and the meaning of their existence. Filmmakers such as Ingmar Bergman, Federico Fellini, Lina Wertmueller and Kurosawa have been mentors in my life, as through their films I did gain insights into the night of our souls.
Cervantes stands, through Don Quixote, as an important metaphor of our struggle to define the nature of the enemy: Often, I visualize myself as that knight, confused while engaged in a perennial joust with the windmills of the Cosmos. And, I have awakened in a cold-sweat after a dream in which I was the knight in Bergman's "Seventh Seal," playing chess against Death personified with the life of my son Tony in the balance.
Over our lifetimes we pass through the circles of influence of thousands of writers, artists and filmmakers whose works become a multi-layered mosaic of questions. Each generation picks up the challenge anew to redefine those same questions which were asked by other generations, but through their own unique eyes, with their own individual experiences as a basis for their expression.
For me, “the clock,” that circular planetary motion is a focus for my energy and concentration. I try to interpret those 360 degrees of movement in my own ways, but aware that my creations are based on the experiences and works of all those writers, artists and invividuals whose works form the framework of my memory. I see through their eyes and attempt to interpret the effect of those thoughts, that fusion of ideas which, over a lifetime, have molded my thoughts and attitudes.
My Time-machines and writings from: “A Connecticut Odyssey” to “Footprints of the Exiled” and “The Cellars of Cosmic Manipulation” are frustrated attempts to interpret that which I have learned from the masters.
It is through technology that our generation frames their questions. Our lives are so inextracably intewoven with books, movies, television and the computer that this electronic “web” has become an extension of our lives. This “Electro-plane” of consciousness is now part of our way of thinking, and in a very real sense “bionics” has become a part of our lives.
I began work as a young man in the Physics Laboratories of Yale University working as an electronics associate with the Molecular Beams Department. There I constructed circuits to be used in the exploration of the atom. My circuits were tools used by researchers such as Klaus Ziock, Vernon Hughes and Hugh Robinson as they probed the nature of the sub-atomic Muon during the 1960’s. I became curator of “the clock” the “Atomichron” used as a prime reference in their experiments. One of my structures, “The Mother Grok” grew out of that project as my “artistic interpretation” of that research. “The Mother Grok, alias “The Muon Connection.”
Today I continue that tradition of interpreting the vision of others here at Wesleyan University in my own fashion: “The Cellars of Cosmic Manipulation” is a visualization of the physics of Professor Tom Morgan’s laser lab. “The Zintar” is or was a component of Robert Rollefson’s Low Temperature Lab. “The Muse” is a personal reflection on the personalities and the work of several wonderful people whom I have known: Professors Robert Rosenbaum, Phillip Hallie, David MacAllester, Earl Hansen and David Beveridge. Each of them has influenced me in their own fashion as I have been privileged to work with them, for them, and to observe the quality of their lives, their styles and their works.
Yet none of these structures are meant to portray the physical layout of their laboratories, but only to interpret the spirit of their investigations into the unknown. “Max’s Universal Glassworks” is a fond interpretation and remembrance of my years of association with Professor Max Tishler and the joy that I experienced in being a small particle of his world through the annual Leermaker’s Symposia and in the production of a video chronicling his life.
The showing of my “electro-thoughts” in the gallery of Jane Bauermeister in Madison, Ct. was a reflection on times gone by as I moved into my closing years at Wesleyan. I've been fortunate in having worked, studied and taught in an environment of privilege where I was able to explore some of the “wild possibilities” of my creativity.
My friend and fellow sculptor Grace Kopman once said to me: “You know Bob, it seems that I was just nine years old, then I took three umbrella steps and here I am, an 85 year old woman.” ...
In time I have gained Grace’s perspective. I too have taken those umbrella steps and I add: “You know Grace! Once I was a 12 year old boy who laughed with his friends, at something, at nothing, at everything. We rolled in the grass holding our sides until we could laugh no more. We stepped from that grass of “The Fields We Know” into the “Fields We Know Not,” and somewhere the boys became men and everyone of them vanished into time ... “
I have been the technician in the control booth , (one of the many “night-mechanics” so to speak,) We are the people behind the scenes who keep the “machinery of the universe” lubricated and running. It has been my privilege to watch the “on stage” and “off stage” lives of “the shakers of the world” and quite frankly: I have been impressed by the very depth and quality of those whom I have served...
Rj LeBlanc “dit” Bob White: Summer of 1995.
Structures on display at “the Moon Over North Madison” Exhibit at the W.W.W. Gallery of Jane Williams Bauermeister: 1995.
1. The Cellars of Cosmic Manipulation.
2. Mother Grok: The Muon Connection.
3. Zintar at X below zero.
5. The Muse
6. Max’s Universal Glassworks
8. Ritual: Opus 1.
9. Ritual: Opus 2.
10. Wesleyana -- Yesterday
11. Wesleyana -- The City Under Construction.
13. Beyond the Fields We Know.
1. Planets: Video Interpretation of the music of Eric Satie & Tomita.
2. City in Dreams: Video Interpretation of the music of Edgar Varese.
3. Cosmic Carnival
4. Carnival Variations.
Photos of many of these sculptures can be found at:
Rj. LeBlanc (dit White)