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Sculptors Have the Last Word (Don’t leave it up to the National Endowment for the Arts!)

What promise lies and all things good arise from Liberty.

The catalyst of civilization, pearl of humanity born of irritation, the elixir, the seminal spark — the arbiter of authority ...

The ultimate ascension plan. All pay heed!

Every generation, each and every one, our very grain is tuned

to make the way for Liberty.

 

“I would like to send this rhyme 1000 years into the future please!” My mail carrier thought I was a nut, but here’s my point… 

Communication has never been easier, yet the hardest message remains one sent through time. Monuments outlast caudexes, books, recordings, movies, you name it. Even bronze plaques are mounted on temporary walls. And then there’s cultural evolution... Languages change, mores shift and don’t even mention political upheavals! So how to maintain the message? That’s why sculptors have the last word, especially if they can make monuments that are loved. Then they will be protected and a monument can be a flag that marks a body of knowledge or a concept. 

On 9-11 I began researching Liberty. In time, I learned about it’s extreme antiquity and Devine promise and I realized the ideal was being threatened after surviving thousands of years and before fully flowering. I decided that I must leverage my gifts for the cause of Liberty and it must have been a calling because I’ve driven myself into poverty over it. In 2006 I mortgaged my house to cover months of expenses while I carved a massive, wooden Statue of Liberty. Then I schlepped it to the woke-before-it-was-a-thing Burning Man human expression festival. There I stood her up, deep in Nevada’s hot, barren and dusty Black Rock Desert in August...

Why would I do that, I can hear you wondering. Because Burning Man has rightly been declared a modern-day acropolis, that’s why. I wanted to influence the arts by nudging the world view at it’s very nexus-point. Accolades are too numerous to list, but Time Magazine featured the culture-bending event on the cover of their large-format book: “Civilization's 100 Most Important Sites the only currently existing city to make that list and it only exists for a week each year! When The Simpsons attended the event in 2014 (Marge got dosed on shrooms...hilarious.) it went mainstream. This is currently a challenge for the secretive, leave-us-alone, global community, but I see it as a way to get my message into the future: monuments, each with a Liberty rhyme of its own permanently engraved. 

I am the artist known as “Timeless”, a name acquired at...that…that place where I became a double agent for a dozen years, each summer exhibiting my latest Liberty statue(s) and burning them full of holes (It’s...a thing there, but mine are the only to survive their own burn...umh ok, more below.) No simple feat! Aside from the cultural disconnect, no funds nor display venues for patriotic themes are bestowed, because most public art grants are subsidized by the National Endowment for the Arts, including Burning Man grants. There, such monies are called “honorarium” grants, which speaks to the status of self-funded artists like myself, ummm ... not so honorable, certainly not worthy of promotional opportunities, fond mentions, on-site amenities and other backing. (Try keeping a woke, volunteer crew together with no incentives but Liberty...I mean think about it…) 

Still, my dozen years of installations was a cultural success despite the financial challenges. Then to transport zillions of tools, many massive and fragile sculptures (not a good combination) my ass and those of my crew to a harsh, lifeless dry lake bed in the desert; all within the framework of a culture that abhors the mention of art and money in the same sentence… And after the event, each year we began a string of related events in cities everywhere. All of the above and a coincidental 2010 tax audit, compliments of Lois Lerner, finally took my house from me all together in 2011, but I digress.

“Burners” love their freedom but in general they don’t get it about Liberty. (Ironic since the events would have been driven off long ago without the stuff.) 


My first Statue of Liberty was arsoned there ... no lie… burnt to a crispy char, including my display trailer and carving equipment but the lady, carved from a solid log didn’t consume! This started me thinking about how I would ever participate in an intentional burn…should I ever be so deluded...

So I discovered a way to burn my solid wooden statues from the inside out, an all-night process which would come to be called “Fire Inside”. A backwards way of burning in a culture centered around fire art won me gobs of fans and even coveted placement. By the time I was finished in 2018 they placed me closest of all artists “on-Playa”, to Black Rock City’s fabled Temple, the spiritual center of a thriving community, built-up again each year differently, gigantic and gorgeous and burned down the same week (I told you, it’s crazy). 

Despite the honors, after 12 years I don’t plan a return. Cancel Culture has arrived and, well...I like to quit while I can still have the last word, remember me? The sculptor...

So now it’s off to privately owned, public spaces I go, with freshly hardened and finished monuments in tow! And I expect a warm reception, given the enigmatic rise of the globally positioned “Burning Community''... A much-lauded, first ever Burning Man art exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution doubled attendance over the previous year and that leaves the door open for my Liberty (R)evolution Collection to someday reach that gold-standard venue. We need to make Liberty hip again and nothing says hip like Burning Man artifacts, burned full of holes at the Smithsonian...

I’ve never applied for NEA money. That's because I don't think funding art is government business. Art is the last refuge for truth, so why would we want a corrupted government funding it? Still, publicly owned venues are almost all controlled by the NEA, so how to follow my calling without their much-coveted financial backing and how to secure public venues in which to exhibit? Here’s how. 

Ways to fund public art installations that the National Endowment for the Arts would never consider:

  • "Fundiversify" is where the wooden originals, (Appraisers and curators call them “Playa Artifacts”) are sold to private investors, who own the pieces and insure them while they are exhibited in ever more prominent public venues, doing their job of course, but also accruing value due to their curious provenance, their extreme rarity and pertinence to the era. I remain responsible for maintenance and security. 
  • Private parties may now commission replicated works. With digital scanning and 3D printing, coupled with modern casting techniques, my sculptures can now be replicated in any size, very small to huge, either in "faux" wood (cast in weatherable polymers.) or in actual, hot-cast bronze. Commissioners may have their sculpture’s Liberty rhyme permanently engraved directly into the surface of these replications. People will read these simple, memorable messages many times in homes, parks, resorts, wherever the sculptures reside. And some, I pray, will be inspired to learn about and preserve Liberty. 
  • Funding from privately owned and operated public spaces (museums, sculpture gardens, resorts, golf courses...) Burning Man art is in vogue, it's an attraction and this payment can actually come in the form of a Fundiversify purchase (see above). These exhibitions will also offer a way to generate commissions for replications, as well as being a venue to resell investment pieces.

The scorned statues of 2020 all carried the same thread as my monuments: Liberty. Privately funded, my replicated sculptures will carry their message of Liberty’s antiquity and promise across the globe and farther down time than any government will.

Actual hot-cast bronze and today’s polymers are perfectly suited to last for decades, even centuries or more. I feel sorry for any weather that tries to wear them down. Either way, if we leave publicly displayed art solely up to the NEA, there will be no monuments to deliver America’s values. And I want Liberty to be the last word. 

_____________________________

[Matthew “Timeless” Welter has been a professional sculptor for 50 years. He resides in California’s gold country where he divides his time between promoting Liberty, maintaining his many Liberty-based wooden monuments and planning his next public exhibition. Your venue suggestions are welcome. For the skinny hit the “About” button at: fireinsideart.com]

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