Neon, Wooden Mount, Transformer

5' x 6' x 4'

The Damaged Spirit of the African Elephant

Spirit of the African Elephant has evolved into the Damaged Spirit of the African Elephant reflecting the continued issue of poaching in Africa. The Ground Zero Series is inspired by years of unrelated, overlapping graffiti on the walls of Ground Zero Blues Club in Clarksdale Mississippi. The entire club is covered including, for example, lampshades, all of the woodwork, the felt on the pool table, and each slat on the window blinds. The years of overlapping graffiti tell stories of love, hate, exuberance and joy. Each mark is subject to an overlapping mark, until the messages become blurred and confused, only until someone makes an even bolder, broader mark, obscuring the history below. Finally, I make my own light mark, transforming and reinventing the images.​

 

After transforming my own random scribbles into neon drawings in the series “Unintentional Drawings” I noticed a photograph in (the NY Times) of the Ground Zero Blues Club taken by Shane Lavelette for the High Museum in Atlanta. It was for an exhibition titled “Picturing the South”, 2010. The image of a corner of the club immediately resonated, reminding me of my own random graffiti. Yet it was different; it was done by strangers in a dark classic southern blues club. There were decades of mostly intentional, overlapping marks entirely covering the club.

Ground Zero Series

The Ground Zero Series is inspired by years of unrelated, overlapping graffiti on the walls of Ground Zero Blues Club in Clarksdale Mississippi. The entire club is covered including, for example, lampshades, all of the woodwork, the felt on the pool table, and each slat on the window blinds. The years of overlapping graffiti tell stories of love, hate, exuberance and joy. Each mark is subject to an overlapping mark, until the messages become blurred and confused, only until someone makes an even bolder, broader mark, obscuring the history below. Finally, I make my own light mark, transforming and reinventing the images.​

 

After transforming my own random scribbles into neon drawings in the series “Unintentional Drawings” I noticed a photograph in (the NY Times) of the Ground Zero Blues Club taken by Shane Lavelette for the High Museum in Atlanta. It was for an exhibition titled “Picturing the South”, 2010. The image of a corner of the club immediately resonated, reminding me of my own random graffiti. Yet it was different; it was done by strangers in a dark classic southern blues club. There were decades of mostly intentional, overlapping marks entirely covering the club.

 

In February of 2013, I traveled to Clarksdale Mississippi to see the graffiti, first hand. The visual impact was astonishing. The feeling was similar to when I discovered my unintentional drawings years before. I stayed for two days in Clarksdale collaborating with photographer Evy Mages taking thousands of images of the club walls, ceilings and furnishings. They were all taken in low light and hand held. I selected the most poignant images, knowing I was going to light them and had them printed on 3’x2′ Epson premium photo paper-enhanced matte. Painted and scratched neon tubing was then used to highlight, deconstruct and reinvent the original images.

Random Neons

This artistic process was inspired by the random selection method originally developed by John Cage in the 50's. Tubes were selected randomly from my 25 year old collection of rejected, collected and donated neon tubes. They were then placed onto steel tubing and mesh structures without regard to composition. This method results in a colorful, spontaneous and arresting light sculpture.

Unintentional Drawings

I had an epiphany when I rediscovered a series of doodles or scribbles that I had been creating all my artistic life. These doodles were folded away in drawers on scraps of paper, newspapers, and other project folders. They hung in my closet directly on the pant legs of my jeans. Created while concentrating on something else, the drawings flowed unconsciously and uncontrollably from my hands to the closest writing surface. Characterized by freshness and fluidity and wrought with implied meanings, they were created without preconceived notions or intent to exhibit. I consider them to be “found objects” not unlike the cave paintings that the surrealist artist Brassaï photographed and then titled Unintentional Poetry in the 1930s. The doodles draw attention to the small voices within us, the nuances of the mind that mostly go ignored or unrecognized. I took these doodles, increased their scale, drew patterns from them, and transformed them into neon drawings. Almost incidentally, I decided to show the reverse side of these works that reveals the mechanics of the pieces. They are run by over 30 transformers, generating 270,000 volts of electricity. The power of neon transforms the forgotten into the remembered. The Unintentional Drawings are no longer small and insignificant; they now stand on their own as momentous and meaningful. I am reminded of Brassaï's observation that “beauty is not the goal of art, but its reward.”​

Column Interrupted

Metaphorically and literally, light has a way of leading from one state or phase to another. In many ways it is about transitions, the in between. Column Interrupted captures this unique functionality of light. The light dissolves the physicality of the different sized aluminum columns and melds them into a continuous one.​

Craig Kraft