Client: Philbrook Museum of Art
Location: Tulsa, OK, United States
Completion date: 2018
Artwork budget: $120,000
Philbrook Museum of Art
Philbrook Museum of Art
Nestled on the outer grounds of the Philbrook Museum of Art in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the bona-fide 19th-century log cabin glows like a beacon. Upon approach, the details emerge: a prismatic roof made of translucent resin-bonded shirts; stained glass windows incorporating antique glass tableware; a grand fireplace constructed entirely of stacked books; dozens of colorful lanterns composed of bottles and glassware. This tranquil walk-through sculpture whispers of a broader history while remaining an intimate local homage.
Materials: Reclaimed log cabin, stained glass, wood, cloth, resin, reclaimed glassware, LED lighting, stone, concrete, reclaimed books, tchonk glass
The entire project was a melding and reconfiguring of where the commissioned work began and the structure ended. The plan during the concept phase of the project was to inundate the viewer from all conceivable angles with architectural wonder, color and whimsy. This involved incorporating stained glass into the window apertures, constructing a menagerie of ceiling lanterns made from reclaimed dishes and bottles, designing a roof that allowed light to pass through a polycarbonate decking with resin-coated cloth as shingles, even placing LED lighting between the logs with resin-bonded cloth scrim acting as a light filter to make the walls glow. It was vital to add so much color to the extent that the myriad onrush of colors became a visual symphony, allowing the viewer to settle into a harmony within the structure.
I happened upon the cabin’s remains in rural Wisconsin in 2005. To the best of my knowledge the original iteration of the cabin was constructed around the mid-to-late 1800’s, whereby it can be said that I am anonymously collaborating through time with its primary builder(s). My initial plans were to reconstruct it as a home for myself and/or as an artistic installation. Over the course of 13 years I repaired the log-work of the structure to bring it up to a “re-buildable” state. During this time I offered its potential as a public art installation to many of my associates and friends within the arts industry. In 2017 The Philbrook Museum of Art’s Executive Director Scott Stulen was curious if the log cabin was still available as a conceivable public installation. The Museum’s gardens were a perfect fit for the structure to become a focal point for a broad array of programmed as well as happenstance public experiences. I brought my stained glass and “reclamation” game to the project whilst tapping into Philbrook’s resources for accumulating publicly donated materials (glassware, books, and other ephemerae) in addition to melding with their very thorough preparatory staff’s building knowledge and experience.
The “log cabin” has stood as a symbol of rural gumption, nationalistic pride, abject poverty, political clout and colonial incursion. It is simple in its design whilst providing for the basic principles of comfort and safety. Beckoning to the reverent, yet gleefully lacking the pomposity to itself ever be fully venerable, this installation resists definition — and deliberately engenders its very own sense of self. As it jostles differing views of necessity in the face of contemporary excess, it reminds visitors to take a deep breath, tune out some of life’s never-ending noise, and simply… bring things down a notch.