In 1993, I graduated from VCU with a degree in Sculpture and moved to Atlanta, where my uncle Frank was building a dirigible. His was the smallest in the nation at the time (77 feet) and his thought was that it could maneuver in between tall buildings and serve as a billboard for more noticeable advertising. The FAA wanted to see how well it could maneuver so Uncle Frankie hired the former pilot of “Shamu”, Allen Judd, and started BAT (Blimp Advertising Technologies) for testing.
Hurricane Opal was approaching Georgia but instead of suffering the expense of renting a hanger large enough and because of the confidence that it would hold, they decided to leave the blimp tied to a mast at the airport to ride out the storm. 80mph winds proved too much for the mast connection to handle and the blimp popped off, slowly turned around and flew away.
The blimp was found the following day resting in a field 60 miles north of the airport. It hadn’t collided with trees, powerlines or any other obstacle during its flight. I asked Allen, the longtime blimp pilot, how an airship could maneuver on it’s own for 60 miles and land in a field. Without hesitation or humor, he described the “helium ghosts” that he had experienced during his career as airship pilot. “… They are protective, unseen and make collective aviation decisions when contained”.
The studio is lonely. There are only the voices of your teachers, family, artist friends, audience, and critics. Happening more and more frequently as I know what to look for, are the brief moments when I hear nothing at all. Like I’m being puppet-ed by an unseen force. No voices - just reactive decisions. Ideas pop in and without hesitation, I move on them. Reactions that cause solutions. I trust those moments as everything feels right, and the results are always better.
“Helium Ghost” is a collection of work about my memories of the very beginning of my art career and a homage to the rare, silent moments when decisions are made effortlessly.