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Bremerton, WA

Brian Watson, Wood Sculptor

Vessel Forms, Bowls, Platters, Relief Carving, Letter Carving, Commissions, Labyrinths, Laser-engraved veneer bookmarks, Custom Design

"So Close So Far" series

"So Close So Far" is an ongoing series of asymmetrical, thin-walled vessel forms, all sculpted out of a single apple tree planted on the shores of Hood Canal by homesteaders decades ago in the community of Bangor, Washington, in what is today Kitsap County.  

Today, instead of  a homesteading community, Bangor is the base for the Pacific Trident submarine fleet, and has the largest concentration of deployed nuclear weapons in the world.  The destructive capacity of only one nuclear warhead on the tip of a single Trident missile defies all human comprehension.  Bangor is home to hundreds of such warheads, on dozens of missiles, on 10 Trident submarines, all ready to be launched at a moment's notice, 24/7.  We are rightly horrified by the memory of the gas chambers and ovens used to commit genocide in World War 2, and recognize that such actions against innocents are wrong in every respect.  Why, then, do we as a society  tolerate and even support the continual deployment of nuclear weapons such as Trident?  What else is our nuclear weapons system but a global gas chamber without walls?

These things were on my mind when I conceived of this series, given the origin of the tree it is sculpted from.  The title for this series, “So Close So Far,” plays on the old phrase about the proximity of apples to trees, as well as the aphorism about striving for a goal that is just out of reach.  The geographical origin of this tree from Bangor is significant, referencing the human struggle for sustenance and security--from a simple farm, to a high-tech weapons system that paradoxically threatens the security and sustenance of life itself.  

The vessel form is a powerful archetype for our lives and the journeys our lives take, as well as a reference to the Trident vessels plying the oceans with nuclear weapons.  At the heart of the vessel is a void, an emptiness.  I believe that a similar void exists at the center of our beings as humans.  This void is an existential abyss that can never be filled, and its persistence is the motive for most human endeavors. I believe it is what we do in response to this void inside us that shapes the vessel of our lives and that of our society, that nurtures life or destroys it.  We can choose to accept the reality of the void, embrace the uncertainty and anxiety it inspires, and dance with it.  Or we can choose a state of denial, and vainly attempt to fill the void by dominating others.  Either way, the void is still there.  Choosing the first way leads to the creation of vessels to "receive, to carry, and to give back," as Dag Hammarskjold said.  Choosing the second way leads to the creation of a very different kind of vessel, such as a Trident submarine, whose final purpose, in the end, is omnicide.  

In creating these vessels, from this tree, I have meditated on these thoughts, especially my own response to the void.  The vessels in "So Close So Far" are a reflection of my hope that the work of my hands is one of reverence, care, and humility, that the shape of these vessels--their lines of motion, their curves, their open-ness, and depth--are a mark of my prayer to shape my own life with beauty and integrity.   

I intend to create a series of 12 vessel forms from this apple tree, all with a similar size and style.  So far, I have completed three of the eventual 12.  I created these first three for the Bellevue Art Museum's biennial exhibition "Knock on Wood," which ran from Oct. 31, 2014 to March 29, 2015.  I will sculpt the remaining pieces over the next year or so.

Across this series, each piece has evolving variations of curve and shape, that carry a consistent visual theme throughout, while also exhibiting individuality in each piece, much like the similarity and difference between individual members of a species, of children to parents, of apples to trees.  Ideally, I see these 12 vessels displayed as a group “in the round,” so that viewers can see them from all angles, and compare the form of each piece with the others, and also to take in the overall effect of the entire series as a whole.  I say "ideally" because I hope that all of these 12 pieces in this series will be purchased together as a group.  The price for the entire series is $49,500.  If you would like to reserve the option to purchase the whole series when complete, please contact me.  Of course, I am also making these pieces available for sale individually, or you can buy the first three in the series.  Click on the pictures above for prices.

All of these pieces are micro-sanded and left bare, that is, not coated with any oils or other surface finishes.  These pieces all have a naked vulnerability to them, in which there is only the wood form and the viewer.  

“So Close So Far” is an experiment that speaks with simplicity to the inter-related themes of origin, purpose, and destiny.