Tag Archives: Lee Bontecou

All Good Things

So much love for these Fools (photo by Jessica Sherman-Prince)
So much love for these Fools (photo by Jessica Sherman-Prince)

I studied theater in college, because of course I did. I mean, I didn’t get this weird entirely on my own, right? Then I fell in love, moved away from Albuquerque to Chicago for a few years, fell out of love, and eventually found my way back to New Mexico. It was then that I really immersed myself in the theater scene there. I helped found a Shakespeare company, directed for the first time, and found a passion for theatrical production design.

I moved to Los Angeles in 2001, ostensibly to start an acting career, but also because all of my friends made a mass-exodus to the west coast. I quickly found myself discouraged by the constant rejection. This isn’t making art, I argued in my own head, this is a business. There were so many other people who wanted it more than I did, and were far better at it than I was. I stepped away from pursuing acting, put my nose to the grindstone at my retail management job, and didn’t look back.

Fast forward a few years. Continue reading All Good Things

The Warp and Weft Part 4: Happy Endings

Neil Gaiman and Michael James Schneider, on the set of "Neverwhere"
Neil Gaiman and Michael James Schneider, on the set of “Neverwhere”

Fourth and final in a series. Here is Part 1, Part 2, where I speak to the inspiration and construction, and Part 3, where I interview the playwright.

The project I’ve put so much of myself into, alongside an amazingly talented cast and crew who did the same, is finally up and running! Designing the set for Neil Gaiman’s “Neverwhere” (adapted by Rob Kauzlaric, see my interview with him here) has been a dream project, I’ve learned so much from it, and it’s strange to suddenly be done.

And then last night got even stranger: Neil Gaiman himself came to see the show… Continue reading The Warp and Weft Part 4: Happy Endings

My Brother’s Keeper, My Brother’s Killer Part 4: The Plan

On New Year’s Eve, 22 years ago, my big brother passed away of a drug overdose. This past year, I experienced a romantic loss…which would normally be fine, but this one hit me like a ton of bricks, and made some pretty old, ugly personal demons surface. Why? I think my reaction to the latter has to do with unresolved abandonment issues from the former. This series is an attempt to move past both of these losses, and start healing. We’re all in this together, and the stakes are never higher than when you take a stand for your own happiness.

If you’re new and just joining this journey with me, you should probably start at Part 1. If you’ve read some of this already, you can join me at Part 2 or Part 3. If you only want to read this entry, I really don’t understand you. We probably can’t hang. Major spoilers ahead, boo.

John Hastings would have been 49 years old today. Happy Birthday, big brother.

The last few weeks have felt even better. I’m stronger and happier. My life doesn’t feel like I’m wandering through a Lars Von Trier film anymore. I’m nearing the end of this journey to find Mxxxxx Bxxxxxxxxx, the person my family has held responsible for my brother’s death. It feels like perfect timing. Not only personally, but professionally: I don’t want the search to take over my life, or be the focus of this blog (“BLCKSMTH? Oh, you mean the Dead Brother Blog?”), even though the point of BLCKSMTH is to tell the story of people’s paths, however difficult, to lives they love, and were probably meant for all along.

One thing that has helped me heal is vast amounts of boxed wine working on my set design for the stage adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere. It’s a dream project of mine, combining Mr. Gaiman’s storytelling while aesthetically being inspired by a favorite artist of mine, Lee Bontecou. Most days, for almost two weeks, I have been at my theater from 10 am to 10 pm. I am exhausted, my hands look like hamburger meat, and I think I might permanently smell like metalworking/welding fumes. But I am so happy working on this project, making art again, and it’s so gratifying to see members of my “extended family” at Sacred Fools Theater in Los Angeles come by and help out. There are some pretty talented and generous people executing this project.

This week, I broke away from the set build for a couple of hours to talk to Mark De La Garza, Gilda De La Garza’s brother. Mark was probably the last person to see John alive, and the conversation solidified my decision on what to do with the new information I have now (that my resourceful sister Linda found), about where Mxxxxx Bxxxxxxxx lives. Continue reading My Brother’s Keeper, My Brother’s Killer Part 4: The Plan

The Warp And Weft, Part 2: Stitching Together The Art Of Neil Gaiman and Lee Bontecou

As anyone who has been reading this blog for the past few months already knows, I’m designing the set for the Robert Kauzlaric adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s “Neverwhere”, at the Sacred Fools theater. I’ve gone into great detail about the musical, artistic, and cinematic inspiration for the scenic design in this previous post. As I type this, auditions are underway at the theater, and I’m going to deliver the set model this afternoon to director Scott Leggett, the intrepid leader of this creative expedition. This set will be heavily influenced by the sculpture of Lee Bontecou, and I’m finally ready to reveal the set model to the public! Some snaps of it follow later in this post.

To be honest, it’s kind of a dream of mine to mash-up the art of two of my “artistic heroes”, Neil Gaiman and Lee Bontecou. The former, because I enjoy the hell out of his storytelling, and the latter because find her art moving. Below is an example of her canvas-and-metal sculpture that I’ll attempt to replicate for the set:

Untitled, Lee Bontecou, 1962...the jumping-off point for my set design for "Neverwhere"
Untitled, Lee Bontecou, 1962…the jumping-off point for my set design for “Neverwhere”

The process started with a simple sketch (more after the break), Continue reading The Warp And Weft, Part 2: Stitching Together The Art Of Neil Gaiman and Lee Bontecou

In Between The Warp And Weft, or, A Sublime Monstrosity

Sculpture by Lee Bontecou. My set for Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere will be heavily inspired by her artwork.

UPDATE: I’m ready to reveal the set model for the upcoming Sacred Fools production of Neverwhere! Click here to see the post revealing the set model.

This past week marked the start of my working in earnest on an upcoming project: the scenic design for the Sacred Fools Theater production of Robert Kauzlaric’s masterful adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere, directed by Scott Leggett.

It could seem like a daunting project: there are a couple dozen locations in the play; the set has to represent both the overworld and the underworld. And I have taken inspiration from an artist, Lee Bontecou, whose steel-and-canvas sculptures defy logic and challenge complacency. I can only hope to come close to replicating her art on such a large scale, but I will do my best. My enthusiasm for both Lee and Neil’s creations far outweighs any concerns I have about the challenges ahead.

Lee Bontecou in her Pennsylvania studio, June 2003
Photo by Josh Titus, courtesy UCLA Hammer Museum, Los Angeles

After reading the script a few times, and also getting inspiration from Neil’s book and graphic novel, I set about sketching the set. I have included other inspiration, too: Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro’s work on The City of Lost Children inspires so much of my creative work, and I can’t help but include their influence. Here’s the trailer for that film:

I listened to a lot of Sigur Ros and Radiohead while sketching (when the set is complete, if you put your ear up to it and listen very, very closely, you may hear the strains of “Treefingers”). My first pass is a sublime monstrosity, both organic and mechanical, both refined and grotesque. In other words, better than I could have hoped! Continue reading In Between The Warp And Weft, or, A Sublime Monstrosity