The Fish Ghost

The Fish GhostA couple of days ago I sent a few of you a black and white state of this etching, because it was a particularly lovely state proof.  Here is the color version which I like a bunch.

This is the beginning of a new body of etchings called, Nickel History: Volume 2. The first suite of Nickel History was made in 1997 while I was working on a film called U.S. Marshalls.  It was the not-very-good sequel to The Fugitive.  It starred Tommy Lee Jones and Wesley Snipes and a very shaky Robert Downey, Jr. who was in the middle of his travails with substances and the law.  I played a crook and there was a lot of downtime waiting for big stunts to be wired, lit and shot, including a plane crash where I got to hang upside down for a while.

I’d taken to secreting a little 2 by 3 inch plate to set with me every day with the idea that I’d make some miniatures about childhood that would be kind of a  sequence of stories about childhood.  I’d seen several Lynd Ward books around that time and was intrigued by the idea of a really intimate scale–and I enjoyed making them immensely.  I didn’t think anyone would be much interested in them.  They were dark, angry and  compelling little pieces, but they were also oddly funny in a gallows-humor kind of way.

At that time, my father was suffering from the cancer that would inevitably extinguish his life and I was fairly consumed with anger.  I was mad for him; that at a time when men of his age were retired and enjoying a respite after a lifetime of working, he was desperately ill and still needed to work.  It made me furious and I was a fairly volatile person in those years.  I had not had a drink in 12 or 13 years but I was acting out almost like a drunk.  My friends would later inform me that this was classic dry-drunk behavior.

Anyway, this  state translated into the work.  What I had at the end of making ten of them was a body of furious, tiny etchings.  Oddly enough, people jumped on them; not at first, but after a few viewings, my hardcore print people had to have them.   When I look back at them today, I’m very proud of them.  They were sensitively drawn, atmospheric and packed a tiny novel into each piece.  Regrettably, I sold all of the complete sets I had of them, including my own, which always pissed me off.

Making a living as an artist, I have had to make this bargain with myself a hundred times; to pay the bills I’d have to part with something I will never be able to reproduce exactly as it was.

I began to realize that Nickel History was the start of my grieving for my father. He would hang on for another year, but every day there was less.  These ten little etchings were the beginning of a slow walk into darkness that would end quietly on September 18th 1998.

By this time, I was working furiously on a 26-piece suite of the alphabet for my kids and a show at the MCA.

I kept thinking about Nickel History and how it’d have been nice to keep making these miniature novellas as a way of just entertaining myself and keeping track of a journey and and keeping one foot in the childhood I so missed.

This is the first one of Volume 2.  I’m making them now because I can and I don’t give a fuck whether anyone buys them or not.  This is the magical set of stories I will tell myself.  I probably won’t send all of these out–just once in a while.  They may or may not go up on the blog, but make no mistake, these are for me.

Published in: on May 27, 2011 at 5:17 pm  Leave a Comment  

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