For “Broadway Augmented”
Sacramento Old City Cemetery Plot B118 / Lot 34 Sacramento, CA
In this work virtual sculptures of animals gather at the solitary grave of Freda Sample, who died at 11 months-18 days, on November 26, 1897. They were visible only on site via an augmented reality app on a smart phone or tablet.
The invitation to be part of a show of augmented reality projects created for sites along Broadway in Sacramento presented an unusual challenge. I had never heard of—let alone understood—“augmented reality” or how it works. In November 2013 I toured possible sites to see what ideas might develop. A single monument topped by a lamb in the middle of an open, mowed plot of caught my eye when I visited Old City Cemetery. I recognized the iconography as being the grave of a child. But how unusual that it stands alone, with no stones for parents or siblings, in an otherwise crowded cemetery. The absence—the void—struck me as much as its solitary presence.
Back home, looking through my photographs of the site and contemplating this lone animal got me thinking about paintings by 19th-century folk artist Edward Hicks who created more than 60 versions of The Peaceable Kingdom. In these works, lions and lambs gather together, along with (variably) leopards, bears, oxen, cows, calves, goats, dogs and small children.
This led to the idea of introducing virtual sculptures of animals to accompany the solitary monument. As sources for the figures, I drew on my childhood collection of Arabia of Finland figurines—simple, essential forms that manage not to be cute or kitschy. A carved wooden ox was a gift 30+ years ago from artist Varujan Boghosian who spotted the M stamped on its flank and decided it should be mine. At the other end of the continuum of sources are two of my public commissions: Big Pig Bank (1997) and elephants that top the Goodale Park Fountain (2013). The lion is a direct reference to Hicks’ paintings.
The virtual sculptures were modeled by an ace team of (then) current and former students of the New Media Art Program at Sacramento State University. The weeping willow sign functioned as a QR code. Because the forms were modeled in 3-dimensions, viewing the site through a smart phone from different positions (as if one were taking a photo), made it possible to view the animals in the round from multiple angles.
As a creator of physical, material works, I appreciated the opportunity to conjure up stone monuments with this fugitive, immaterial technology. And because the sculptures were derived from personal sources, I have come to understand that the work may be understood as simultaneously site-responsive and as a kind of personal time machine.
Special thanks to Cody Drury, Bryan Moretti, and Mario Sotelo for buying into my vision for the project and taking pains to model the figures, and to Rachel Clarke and Geoffrey Alan Rhodes for creating and perfecting the augments. Thank you to Shelly Willis for the invitation to participate in the show.