Hello and Welcome to Day 51 of the 365 Days of Art.
Chris Burden (1946–2015) emerged onto the art scene in the early 1970’s, when performance art was just unfolding (following some of the minimalism in the 1960s).
In art school, his Master’s thesis was a bit controversial to the students and faculty at UC Irvine. Burden stayed five days in a small locker (2x2x3′) with 5 gallons of water in a locker above and 5 empty jugs in a locker below. People visited him at random times – even in the middle of the night. In an interview with Ebert (here), Burden shared about the locker experience: “It was like hearing confessions,” he said. “People couldn’t see me, but they knew I was there. They told me about their Army experiences, about things they’d done they were proud of, or ashamed of. I was like a box with ears and a voice. That was interesting. The rest was pretty hard. I was in a fetal position. I could scoot around a little, but I couldn’t bend my knees. The cramps were always there.”
Burden is now most noted for some of his installation sculptures, but early on, it was his performance art (works of self-peril) that brought a lot of attention his way. Like the days in a locker or being drowned, electrocuted, and kidnapped. He also was nailed to a VW Bug, stayed immobile under glass, and another time he disappeared for three days (only went to a hotel, but it caused a stir).
Burden’s most famous Performance Art act was Shoot (1971) (here) where he had his friend shoot him in the arm with a .22-caliber rifle.
Burden’s sculptures are quite varied, ranging from metal bridges to 625 cardboard submarines to 202 lampposts. The lampposts, or Urban Light, are symmetrically arranged posts, making a type of “open-air temple” and they are right outside of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (See the collage above). I guess the original plan for the museum entrance was to have Jeff Koons’ replica steam locomotive hanging from a 160-foot crane, but they went with Burden’s lampposts instead. The posts are quite the experience to walk through – and a great photo opportunity! They almost seem well-timed for our modern culture that has a camera on hand at all times to capture selfies and global sharing.
I wanted to share a pair of oil paintings I made in late 2012 – Linked to Narami’s Texture of Tuesday HERE
A few years ago, Daniel Edmondson, with one of his weekly oil painting tips, advised students to “think more and paint less” (here) and while that might be great advice for some art pieces – like painting a detailed still life or realistic duplication piece with a classical vibe, it was NOT my goal in 2012.
I wanted to “think way less and paint more…” ha! Creating texture and playing with pattern on some easy abstract pieces allowed me to decompress.
If you are exploring art this year, keep in mind that we change AND our interests keep changing. And so we should naturally have different seasons pursuing different parts of art.
I used to get most of my “art needs” met from “teaching” art – which is why I taught that specific subject, but I also had seasons of doing my own watercolors, collage making, sketching, etc. And then I have had seasons of not doing, but reading more, going to shows, museums, etc – And of course I had times of pausing from the visual arts — to pour into other wonderful art forms.
Chris Burden’s art career is a wonderful example of how professional artists also evolve greatly. Some stay consistent with their work, but others, like Chris, move from edgy performance to grand sculpture, while staying true to who they are and meeting their own needs for that season. If you want to read more about Burden, go here.