Monday, September 1, 2008

It Was Fifteen Years Ago Today...

Of all the pranks I've been involved with, the one I'm most proud of is attaching the 700 pound ball and chain to the Hammering Man in front of the Seattle Art Museum on Labor Day, 1993 (That's me with my arms raised above my head in the photo)-- I was good friends with Jason Sprinkle and Rob Shealy, who built the giant ball and chain, and when Jason asked if I would help "install" his inspired creation, I gladly agreed-- We did a "practice" installation without the ball in Seattle's Ravenna neighborhood the day before, and when it came time to do the real thing, it went very smoothly-- Jason Sprinkle went on to create many other giant metal sculptures and illegally install them in downtown Seattle, and I helped with a few of those, too-- Sadly, Jason was killed by a freight train in Mississippi in 2005-- There should be a book, movie, or website documenting all his work, but unfortunately it hasn't happened, yet-- For more info, here's an article from The Seattle Times and one from The Seattle P.I.--

8 comments:

JeanDodge said...

Happy laboring day, indeed. I didn't know this artist, but reading about his triumphs and troubles is another exercise in life's bittersweet lessons. The phrase "troubled artist" comes up so often one can grow weary of it, but of course it brings attention to the fact that all artists are "troubled" to some degree - it comes with the territory.

Art is about comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable, as the saying goes and it sounds like Jason was a true wounded warrior. He kept up the fight as best he knew how.

"No one here makes it out alive."

It's a occupational hazard of mine, but reading this story one wonders if there isn't a good movie in there somewhere.

Of course I know my share of punk rockers who ended up in jail - and in prison - and a good percentage of them seem to find Jesus eventually. The fact that Jason had a conversion after 33 days seems to suggest he was on an advanced track to somewhere already.

I'm curious about his love life, too. Artists tend to choose a muse over choosing a flesh and blood partner and that's a recipe for disaster, too.

Are there rumors over the circumstances of his demise, or is it a complete mystery?

Jim Blanchard said...

Thanks for the thoughtful comment, Jean-- I think Jason killed himself because he was mentally ill-- There was talk that it was accidental, but from what I've heard from those close to him, it was a suicide--

A good part of Jason's genius was his naiveté-- Once the concept was born, no matter how whimsical or impossible it seemed, it was merely a matter of DOING IT-- 700-pound ball and chain? JUST DO IT!

Regarding his love life, one of his Seattle installations, "The Heartbreaker", was a direct result of a breakup with a girl, if memory serves-- The Heartbreaker was a gigantic black metal heart which was "installed" directly in Westlake Center in downtown Seattle-- Must've weighed at least 1000 pounds-- I have photos of it somewhere-- The heart was attached to a large swing which had slots containing sledge hammers-- People were supposed to hit the heart with the sledge hammers and write the name(s) of those who had broken their heart on it-- When Jason first thought of this idea, I had lunch with him and he showed me his little drawings and told me the plan-- I thought there was no way he could pull it off, but he did! Amazing and magical--

heidi said...

Jason was one of my first and dearest loves in life.
I miss him very much.
He was a wonderful smiling soul.
I'd love to share memories, photos, film... I think I have old Hi 8 of the ball and chain... I also am in production, so could ralley to pull something togther with the right group. I've lost track of most everyone though. Don't know if you remember me. Heidi. Jason and I loved, lived and traveled for many years together... way back in the day. Kinko's days.
Do you know how to get in touch with Rob?
Every now and then I google to see if there's any new links to someone out there.
Glad to see you're doing well!
Take care
~heidi

heidi said...

Jason was one of my first and dearest loves in life.
I miss him very much.
He was a wonderful smiling soul.
I'd love to share memories, photos, film... I think I have old Hi 8 of the ball and chain... I also am in production, so could ralley to pull something togther with the right group. I've lost track of most everyone though. Don't know if you remember me. Heidi. Jason and I loved, lived and traveled for many years together... way back in the day. Kinko's days.
Do you know how to get in touch with Rob?
Every now and then I google to see if there's any new links to someone out there.
Glad to see you're doing well!
Take care
~heidi

Jim Blanchard said...

Hey Newt!

I'm just now reading your comment! Howthehellareya? I am still in touch with Rob S.-- he just shipped off for another stint in Alaska-- Please email me: info@jimblanchard.com

Patrick said...

I have hours of video post ball and chain starting with Franken Tree and some Jason audio. I would totally support any Rob approved endeavour. Jason was my hero.

Jim Blanchard said...

Man, Patrick, I'd love to see this footage you have-- Can you send me a dupe??

Patrick said...

I need to re capture it from 8mm video tape ... I have started and hope to have the just FA footage on DVD in a couple of months (i'm slow) .. I will make a copy for you and Rob :)