At the tender age of 5 years old, I faced one of my greatest toy-related tragedies, when not 5 minutes from returning home with a brand new original (silver-headed) 3 3/4″ GI. Joe Destro figurine, my older brother maliciously pulled it from my tiny innocent hands and blew it’s leg off with an intentionally over-pumped Daisy air rifle. That was 28 yrs ago, but we’ve actually discussed the situation as recently as last weekend. Despite the traumatic experience -or, perhaps, subconsciously because of it- it would only take a few more years before I began removing the legs off of my own action figures myself. The G.I. Joes were easy, because their legs were connected with a little metal hook in the center that was held in place by a thick black rubberband-like chord attaching them to the body. I would disassemble the toys and switch their components with other figures. The creators of Toy Story would have you believe that this was deviant behavior or the actions of a future serial killer, but we were just being resourceful. Similarly, when we didn’t have the right characters, certain figures would have to fill in, like Shakespearean (or Monty Python) actors dressed like women. When the backdrops weren’t available, makeshift vehicles and environments were constructed out of whatever could be stacked, fastened, fused, or mounted together.
I have plenty of memories from jr high and high school where I would be bored to death in my room, when I was supposed to be working on some bullshit project or studying for a test. There were even times when I spent the evening going through my sketchbook, speed drawing and backdating illustrations to feign scholarly diligence and make it appear as if I had been doing my daily updates for art class the entire quarter. These were supposed to be avenues for creativity, but they didn’t feel very creative. Instead of focusing on the homework that I was supposed to be focusing on, I would gravitate towards doings things like wasting an entire bottle of Elmer’s glue by trying to adhere a large pyramids worth of AA batteries together or uncoiling a heavy-gauge brass spring and applying a bottle cap to make it resemble a cold mechanical daisy, complete with pennies attached as copper leaves. My little brother found more interest in taking simple electronics apart and playing with their insides. Were any of these deconstructionist acts, either in my adolescence or younger days, demonstrations of high art? Perhaps not, but I definitely seemed to find more of a creative outlet by destroying and/or reconstructing new versions of items than I did with their original forms, or through alternate, more typical/orthodox means of expression. But when you really think about it, what’s more of a representation of art than standing with your dirty shoes on a chair, anyway? A defined object with a set purpose -in this case, the purpose of providing a surface for your ass to rest in- is instantly redefined with endless applications. Now it’s a step ladder for changing a light bulb. Tomorrow it’s an essential component of a blanket fort. Portland-based artist, Ron Ulicny displays as much of a passion and vision for this type of deconstruction and repurposing of objects as anyone. Read the rest of this entry →