Ever fashioned a house, castle, or fort from a humongous box? Remember how it challenged you to create and inhabit an imaginary world, a paracosm?
Full Stop is that: a fully realized paracosm in 3-D that you don’t even have to build nor buy a ticket to enter.
Imagine a to-scale artist’s studio made of ordinary cardboard, complete with stove, a work sink, and even a separate toilet. And then, imagine stocking that studio with a full complement of tools, cans, ladders, tables, art supplies, art books, papers—even a slide projector for your art slides. But to keep things interesting, imagine all of this made solely with cardboard, black paint, wood, and hot glue.
Someone, a gifted someone named Tom Burckhardt, has done exactly that. From the exterior to the interior walls, everything visible is made of cardboard. Visitors are allowed to walk inside, and experience the penultimate cardboard fantasy, allowing their inner child to wander in and wonder. At the center of this mythical artist’s studio, a (cardboard) blank canvas awaits on an (cardboard) easel. (More about that canvas in a sec.)
If there is one art installation for everybody, this might be it: Full Stop, by artist Tom Burckhardt. It is guaranteed to make you stop, gawk, and smile. Hit the Weatherspoon Art Museum (open every day but Mondays) before the exhibition leaves October 21 for the McNay Art Museum in San Antonio. And enter Burckhardt’s imagination.
My engineer husband walked in the studio door (cardboard) and said, “Hunh! This is cool!” He admired the cardboard floor; the cardboard pipes snaking up the wall and in the toilet with the lid up and a plunger at the ready; he admired the cardboard turpentine and tubes of paint, the brushes inside the sink. The ladder and tools against the wall; a turntable. The goose neck lamp and clutter on the desk. The shelves filled with paper art books. A chair, stool, and radiators. The walls lined with sketches, portraits and snippets. Windows with smeary views of NYC. The potbellied stove and a gas stove, complete with a lidded pot and espresso maker.
In fact, he grinned broadly at all details large and small, lingering long over an oil can. For an engineer, an oil can is a thing of beauty.
My teenage niece declared it better than Disney. (High praise from her.) Then, stopped fully herself before a slide carousel, she asked “What is that?” A Kodak slide required explanation.
Yes, there is definitely an archival quality to this studio, which emulates famous artists’ studios like Jasper Johns, de Kooning, and Pollack. (Burckhardt’s photographer father, Rudy Burckhardt, shot their studios for ARTnews.)
And that haunting blank canvas that dominates the studio? How else to impel the viewer to ponder the artistic process that begins with nothing and sometimes ends there? A journal with entries by the artist leaves no doubt: making art is lonely and consuming.
But Burckhardt’s Full Stop is assessable and intriguing. He understood, perhaps best of all, that down to the last paint stroke and fold of paper, design matters.—CA