At home in Aspen: Tom Sachs coming to Virtual Salon at Anderson Ranch
IF YOU WATCH …
What: Virtual Art Salon with Tom Sachs
Where: Via Zoom, hosted by Anderson Ranch
When: Tuesday, May 26, 4 p.m. (rescheduled from May 12)
How much: Free
More info: Pre-register at andersonranch.org
Editor’s Note: Tom Sachs’ Virtual Art Salon has been rescheduled to May 26 at 4 p.m. Mountain Time
The artist Tom Sachs has made a career out of making the most of what he has available to him.
His signature bricolage sculptures often come from found materials and jerry-rigged processes. So he’s been well suited to the quarantine life of the coronavirus pandemic, spending time in the basement of his home in Queens, New York, making art with what he has on hand and telling others about how they can do the same.
“In a weird way, I feel like I was born for this time,” he said Saturday from the basement. “Because it’s a time when bricolage is the natural state of things.”
Away from his famed Manhattan art studio and his team there, Sachs is in his element splitting time between being a husband and dad and tinkering in the basement.
“There is this tradition in my family of Queens basements that I’m continuing,” he said, explaining how both of his grandfathers were basement guys — one using it as a repair shop and the other as his lab for dental molds — and how the great midcentury Queens artist Joseph Cornell made his surreal boxed assemblages in a basement nearby.
Sachs has been making collages of people who inspire him with a simple color printer and scraps he’s collected from the street, using empty Cup O’Noodles Styrofoam containers as pedestals for the pieces.
“I’m also doing what I do best, which is home repair,” he said.
Sachs has also taken to Instagram to share his projects and processes, also hosting “office hours” on Instagram Live, where he takes questions from his 254,000 followers.
On Tuesday, May 26 Sachs will lead a Virtual Art Salon with the Anderson Ranch Arts Center. The Zoom-based event will include a conversation with Ranch painting director Liz Ferrill and audience questions. Sachs is hoping it is a way for him to connect with Ranch artists and locals he’s gotten to know through his long history in Aspen.
“It’s an opportunity to geek out a little bit more on things specific to making at Anderson Ranch,” he said. “Liz is a great thinker and I love talking with her.”
Sachs has lectured, taught and worked at Anderson Ranch throughout his career during regular visits, often experimenting with new media on the campus and returning a ceramics practice he’s developed in the Ranch’s clay studio.
Best known for his bricolage sculptures and “Space Program” installations that recreate historic NASA operations, Sachs also has shown with the Baldwin Gallery in Aspen and, through the Aspen Art Museum, installed the large-scale sculptures “Miffy Fountain” and “My Melody” on the Snowmass Village pedestrian mall in 2014.
“Aspen is an important part of my life,” he said. “It’s a place that has embraced me professionally and personally for over 30 years. I’m grateful to have made so many friends there.”
His work in the basement is based on the concept of “in-situation resource utilization” (ISRU). Borrowed by Sachs from NASA, it’s the practice of using found objects in space for exploration. Sachs began using it with his studio team years ago.
“We’ve been practicing this for decades in the studio,” he said. “Now that we are in shelter-in-place, things are more ramped up. We can’t get materials and there is a greater risk with doing that, so making the most of what you’ve got is more amplified.”
He suggested that his artistic practice may forever be changed by the pandemic, and that the wasteful way most humans lived before the virus might end now, as well.
“Though it sucks, (with) the situation we are in there is an opportunity to remind ourselves — while we’re forced to use the materials around is — that humans are in nature, that New York City and Hong Kong and Aspen all exist in nature,” Sachs said.
He is hopeful that the current collective action to stay home and flatten the curve of the global outbreak might lead to similar worldwide action to stem climate change.
“My fear is that we get a vaccine and go right back to f—ing up the planet,” he said.