Ale Cans

“Somebody told me that Bill de Kooning said that you could give that son-of-a-bitch (Leo Castelli) two beer cans and he could sell them. I thought, what a wonderful idea for a sculpture.”

Jasper Johns
As quoted in “Jasper Johns” by Richard Francis
(via: Abbeville Press)

Jasper Johns “Painted Bronze”, 1960
Lee Puffer ” Valentine’s Ale” 2013. From the series “Girl Talk” with Kelly Schnorr
Lee Puffer “Valentine’s Ale”, detail 2013
Lee Puffer “Valentine’s Ale” 2013, detail

Why do I continue to make things? It is a habit as much as anything else at this point, but do I enjoy the process. I love interacting with the physical world, manipulating materials, creating. My habit of making things is a compulsion, though. I’m not sure I have a choice. Making art has two important roles in my life, it is both my way of processing information and my way of making life feel meaningful.

By making art I am able to better understand the world around me. I see connections between events, object and ideas. Some of these connections are funny, sad or ironic. I am challenged to find a way to make these ideas into physical objects. In making the non-physical idea into a material object, I am forced to define and make permanent my feelings about the subject/object. Making sculpture is a brave thing to do. You are required to take a stand, present a point of view, and be specific.

An equally important reason for my practice is the making of meaning itself. Through art I hope to make an interesting object and in doing so, I am making my own life feel meaningful. I make evidence of my existence, recording time, places, and feelings, hoping to leave behind some document of my life and the lives of others like me. Read a quote recently by writer Dolen Perkins-Valdez , “it is the job of the artist to fill in the gaps left behind by historians”. I speak for those of us likely to be left out of the history books. Making art gives my life meaning because the manufacture of the art object feels like an important occupation to me.

But maybe I am wrong. Lately I’ve been struggling with hundreds of unsold sculptures in storage, and the futility of making more. My sculptures are labor intensive, the subject matter is challenging. The end result are objects very few people feel comfortable living with. I like my work, I am proud of what I have accomplished. But what of it?