Featured Landscape Coin Drops for 2006

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Coin Drop of the Month for May, 2006

Sculptural Installation with Three Figures, Route 395 NE of Alturas, Calif.


These three life-size figures really startled us as we whizzed past them at 60 miles per hour on Route 395. Naturally we turned right around and went back to examine them more closely. Because of the ditch by the shoulder of the road and the fencing that surrounded them, this was as close as we could get. They seemed to be stepping right out of a movie we want to see, but haven't, as they evoked both The Road Warrior and Robo-Cop in our minds, while being very different from the characters in either of those films. Each figure is inspiringly hand-made: the figure on the far left has a chest made from an old cash register; other parts are from motorcycles, typewriters, toasters, and engine cylinders (and everything else). This style of make is consistent with the world of yard-based folk art that is distributed regularly across North America. But most yard art engages themes that are fanciful but serene. These figures' unusual collective pose instead suggests a demonic army of the mechanical world, animated by a glee at coming alive, and perhaps a bloodlust for the living. At the same time, the figures are wielding patriotic flags that are in crisp condition, and that do not seem to be posed ironically. The red flag carried by the motorcycle-riding figure is a standard of the U.S. Marine Corps. The figures are positioned facing the road in a stance that suggests they are moments away from tearing onto the road and into the path of oncoming traffic.

The figures were so well done that we paused on the isolated stretch of road and observed them for several minutes. There were no buildings nearby. The figures were carefully enclosed by protective fencing, and were unmarked by any kind of attribution or artists' statement. After a while the ticklish contradictions of the installation began to sink in: Is it making a patriotic statement? Hard to believe otherwise, out in rural, relatively socially conservative northeast California. And yet its very nature suggests an aesthetic of critique: a comment on the dehumanizing/dehumanized nature of armed conflict. In a different setting I would assume it to be a strong anti-war comment piece. Interesting that its setting here in the bucolic Modoc County countryside has such a determining effect on our perception of the installation as probably pro-military. But even more interesting is that whoever made the sculptures, no matter what his or her feelings are being expressed about the military, expressed those feelings in a style that lies far outside mainstream aesthetic sensibilities. It was an exciting find. The coin was tossed into the grass at the feet of the figure wielding the American flag. --MSP

There have so far been only two Landscape Coin drops recorded on the website in 2006 (this one and the current one). Our apologies to fans of this site. We've been spending all our time in the Library . Please join us there.

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