Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Wonder, Childhood Archaeology, and Dirt | Blue Moon Rising Modern Art Mobile by Mark Leary

Mobiles: Blue Moon Rising x 2

On wonder
“I wonder…” rabbit began.
“That’s nice,” replied fox.
“But,” rabbit hurried, “I didn’t tell you what I was wondering about.”
“If you’re wondering,” explained fox, “that’s all that matters, isn’t it?”
Thoughts while making
Walk to the far corner of the backyard, duck under the plum + apple trees, wrestle open the back gate, step around the massive jade plant, race down the narrow path, and watch as another world opened.

This was Meanley Park. Steep, rocky, and thick with eucalyptus that leaf rustled and sap crackled in the breeze. Winding trails connected forts made by neighborhood kids and rough hearts carved in picnic tables. Scrub jays and red-winged blackbirds watching. Always watching.

I must’ve been seven. The last days of summer. Shoes off. Always off. With digging stick in hand, I’d make my way to that hillside near the bottom. Even steeper there, mule fat and scrub oak holding on with exposed roots, creating hidden places I could tuck under and between, unseen.

Scratch, dig, dig. I was looking for dinosaur bones. Or green army men. Scratch, dig, dig. I was hoping to find treasure. Or pages from a weathered Playboy. Or rusted things buried in ancient red clay.
Things to hold in my hands, in my head, in my thoughts. Things of history, of mystery, of stories waiting to be told.

I remember finding an old toy car (or what was left of it). Rolling over on my back. Holding it to the sky. Sunlight gathered between the sway of trees. And wondering, first: “How did it get here?” “Who owned it?”

Then, the next level of wonder: “Why did it only have three wheels?” “Who was the driver?” “What was he escaping from?” And the next, as I climbed in and drove deep into the crumbling hillside leaving the world behind, always under the watchful eye of blackbird and jay.

What are you wondering about today?

Sidewalks, Holding Attention, and Merchant Modern | New Hanging Art Mobiles Spinning in Santa Monica

On attention

“Are you hearing what I’m saying?” asked crow.
“The better question,” replied fox, “is am I listening?”

Thoughts while making

Like lightning strikes etched in time, a scatter of colorless arterial veins. Each confined within uniform rectangles of concrete, squares stretching one after another, uninterrupted for as far as the eye could see.

As a kid, I knew every inch of the sidewalk in front of our house. How many steps it took to walk across each section (5 toe to heel). How wide the curb was (the width of two of my 7-year-old hands minus one thumb). How many pedal strokes it took to get from the bottom of my driveway to the corner (4.5).

I knew how fast I had to run to jump over one square. I knew that if I wanted to avoid breaking my mom’s back, I needed to steer clear of the section full of cracks near the rosemary bushes; the same bushes where I caught a bee. In my hands. Got stung, but refused to cry.

I can also tell you the color, too. An impossibly clean white gray, shades of childhood, and fear of what lay beyond. I can tell you the sound a soccer ball makes when you play alone, echoing against the curb, over and over again. How it feels under bare feet or to sit upon it waiting for mom to get home with ice cream. An emotional density far greater than its aggregate parts of water, sand, and cement.

Funny thing is I can’t tell you much about the sidewalk in front of my house now. Or any since childhood. As age expands our geographies, does our focus necessarily retreat? What could you gain right now if you took a moment to think about what was in front of your house growing up?

And that’s the question: what *was* in front of your childhood home?

Merchant Modern carries a small line of my one-off, custom mobiles. Visit their online store or see in person.



Gramma, Buddha, and the Elusive Royal Flush | Pinwheel Modern Hanging Art Mobile

Mobile: Pinwheel in Pennsylvania
On playing
“But I don’t know all the rules,” said fox.
“Nobody does,” replied crow. “Just follow your heart.”
Thoughts while making
“I played a lot of poker machines in Vegas,” she wrote. “I got a Royal Flush with three quarters in and got $199. I wasn’t as happy as I probably should have been,” she continued, “but I am determined to get a Royal with all the coins in before I die.”

This was my 82-year-old Gramma. She loved to gamble. And she loved Vegas. She said her body didn’t hurt as much in the dry heat.

Gramma was always talking about hitting it big. Whether it was winning the Publishers Clearing House or Reader’s Digest sweepstakes or those poker machines in Vegas, Pechanga, and Barona.

“If I had had five coins in,” she said, “I would’ve gotten $1000.”

Back in her mobile home in Escondido, she and my Grampa had these small Buddhas and bodhisattvas taped to the shelves that lined their walls. I often wondered what these saints and sadhus thought of all of the gambling.

When a customer in Drums, PA, recently sent me this photo of the Pinwheel mobile, the wooden samurai on the side table instantly made me flash to my grandparents’ mobile home and the handful of statues I inherited.

“I cried a little on the way back from Vegas because I didn’t want to start hurting again,” my Gramma shared before cutting herself short. “I had better stop this idiotic rambling. However I always feel I can tell you stuff that I don’t tell other people.”

“I don’t mind dying,” she said, “I just want to get a Royal with all the money in just once.”

My Gramma never hit the Royal Flush with all the coins in. But she kept playing, and had hope, and had the best laugh. And I guess that’s the best any of us can do.

What’s your favorite card game?

Vans, Buster Browns, and Catholic School | Pinwheel Mobile at Vans Vault in NYC

Mobiles: Pinwheel + The Wham, Vans Vault in NYC, 📷: the brilliant JeffLee (https://www.jeffwilliamlee.com/)

On becoming

“Before you can soar,” explained hawk, “you must first drop in.”
Thoughts while making
Brown pants. White button-down shirt. White socks. Brown shoes. This was the everyday uniform for boys at St. Didacus.

In the seventh grade, girls could trade in their ugly barf-colored plaid jumpers for equally ugly plaid skirts. Boys could trade up our K-6 pants for corduroys. And then there were the shoes.

We weren’t allowed to wear athletic shoes in grades K-6. Why? Perhaps only Sister Bernadine knew. But if junior high was a rite of passage, Vans were our savior. The Era, Old Skool, #sk8hi, and – of course – the Classic Slip-Ons.

As a kid growing up in San Diego in the late 70s and 80s, skateboarding was everywhere. My brother hit the streets with his Gordon & Smith Pine Design board, and real-time legends like Tony Alva and Stacy Peralta were eVANSgelists for our generation. The neighborhood kids all had ‘em. And yet I slunk around in my Buster Browns :(

One by one, my classmates started showing up to school with those now-iconic brown gum-colored Vans (yes, they still had to be brown) with their signature rubber waffle soles.

I remember the day I finally convinced my mom to buy me a pair … only to discover that my high arches and oddly-shaped feet didn’t fit in the shoe that I was sure would change my life.

I was crushed. And the pair of no-name puke brown running shoes I came away as a replacement didn’t help. And yet I lived.

So you can imagine how stoked I am to have a pair of my mobiles spinning in this Vans Vault window display in NYC. In the coming days, they’ll swap out those placeholder shoes with a new line that will match the colors/patterns in the mobiles.

What was your favorite (or least favorite) article of clothing as a kid?



Pool Decks, Megaphones, and the Coming of Age | The Classic Mobile in Miami

Mobile: The Classic in Miami

On daydreams
“But what does it mean?” asked mouse.
“To find out,” said crow, “close your eyes and go back … all the way back.”
Thoughts while making 
Imagine the pool deck, warm in the summer sun, your little kid body wet, pressed against it, goosebumps with the breeze, muffled sounds as you drift in and out.

This was the community pool of my childhood. A towering high dive, impossibly tanned lifeguards, “Don’t run on the deck” echoing through white megaphones.

I used to lie on that deck, my ear suctioning to the wet concrete, a thousand patterns swirling where water collected and dried, sky blue reflections.

I’d close my red eyes, chlorine blurry, and watch colors behind lids, listening to families and laughter, hushed reprimands and social niceties, all like clouds passing by, distant yet near.

Once-wet shorts dried, the fabric now stiff and noisy, I’d roll over to see shadows blowing through eucalyptus.

I remember stealing quick glances at the older kids; girls already becoming young women, reluctant, while boys flexed their confusion. The thought that this could be me someday thrilled and scared me, seemed remote and improbable. And yet, we all become, something.

When a client sent me a photo of The Classic spinning in her space in Miami, that floor instantly transported me back to that pool; to the hopes and fear and questions of that kid sneaking peeks at the curious world washing around him as he sunk deeper into daydream and sunshine.

If you could be transported back to one childhood “location,” where would it be?