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Mak_Filthy_Lucre_Image 1When I was invited by Susan Cross to create a mural project for MASS MoCA, I began thinking about all the great painted rooms in art history and recalled Whistler’s strange and splendid Peacock Room. As I began to research further, I was struck by the singular vision; the play and continuity between art and architecture and started to think about my own project as an all-encompassing environment. I imagined it as a painting that one would literally “walk into”, completely surrounding the viewer in the experience.

The tumultuous history of The Peacock Room and it’s decadent excesses kept my imagination running and I soon decided that I would simply make my own Peacock Room, a preposterous idea. My beloved friend and assistant Nicole Miller came out from San Francisco to take my temperature and determine my mental state, then nonetheless, proceeded to dive in and help tremendously in launching this endeavor. Mak_Filthy_Lucre_Image 2

This was far beyond what the museum had initially set out to co-create and only because of Susan’s willingness and gumption to change course, Filthy Lucre began to take shape as a concrete idea. She is truly the reason that any of this has happened… and it really all started only in January of this year! From that point on, it has been all consuming, all peacock, all the time. Mak_Filthy_Lucre_Image 3

There was intensive research to jump into and with the guidance of the lovely Lee Glazer, curator of American Art and the gatekeeper of the Peacock Room at The Smithsonian. My studio assistant at the time was Danny Greenfield, an artist and architecture major at Yale, who created all the schematic and construction drawings and the model building within a few months. No easy task. Mak_Filthy_Lucre_Image 4

Major fund-raising had to be pulled together quickly and thanks to the most extraordinary, spirited, generous group of friends and patrons, we gathered the “lucre” to make the art. For this I am forever grateful. 

We have been so engaged in the creation of the work it took us a bit longer than planned to get the blog up and running. So here is where we are to date in the studio with some brief descriptions. The first wall went up in September and here you also see the start of the studio set-up.Mak_Filthy_Lucre_Image 5

By October we had gathered over 150 ceramic vessels – shown in various states of being coated and painted. Mak_Filthy_Lucre_Image 6

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So now, here we are, it’s November and Filthy Lucre is well underway, there is lots of paint and sawdust flying around and little tufts of gold gilt shimmering about. It’s all that I seem to live and breathe these days….Mak_Filthy_Lucre_Image 8

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Image Credit: Jane Burns and MASS MoCA