Oculus: Emerson / Beebe, No. 1 & 2

Left: Oculus: Emerson/Beebe No. 1., 6 ft.(1.83m) diameter, steel, glass, Pacific Ocean sea water, misting system, pencil on vellum, Santa Barbara Contemporary Arts Forum, Santa Barbara, CA 1989

Right: Oculus: Emerson/Beebe No. 2
, steel, glass, soot from burning oil, 6 ft.(1.83m) dia. 30 ft. (9.1m) h.

Oculus: Emerson/Beebe No. 1 & 2, originally known as Oculus: Emerson/Beebe (Seas of Salt/Chains of Carbon), was commissioned by Betty Klausner, director of the Santa Barbara Contemporary Arts Forum, for the exhibition, "Eco Systems," 1989. This work had two primary inspirations: first, the transcendentalist philosophy of Ralph W. Emerson and his concept of an all seeing, transparent eyeball in the essay Nature1 and second, to the the bathysphere, a seminal deep sea diving apparatus invented by William Beebe, in the 1930's. Beebe descended more than 1/2 mile into the ocean, a first for his time. Oculus: Emerson/Beebe No. 1 was installed inside the Contemporary Arts Forum, filled with a circulating and continual mist of Pacific Ocean sea water, as its "vitreous humor." Oculus: Emerson/Beebe, No. 2, was installed outdoors at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natual History, lined with carbon soot from the ignition of a hydrocarbon solvent. Both Oculus: Emerson/Beebe, No. 1 & 2 are oriented in the exhibition to look westward at the off-shore oil drilling platforms in the Pacific Ocean, metaphorically bringing Emerson and Beebe into the present to examine and contemplate extrapolations of their wisdom/explorations in the use of the environment. For this and the pre-exhibition at Fuller Goldeen Gallery, San Francisco, Ca, two drawings, each 6 ft. x 6 ft. of inverted sea images: a sinking ship and an underwater canyon with oil drill-rig poles penetrating through the sea were shown as visions of the two oculi.

1Standing on the bare ground, --my head bathed by the blithe air, and uplifted into infinite space, -- all mean egotism vanishes. I become a transparent eyeball; I am nothing; I see all; the currents of the Universal Being circulating through me; I am part or particle of God.
Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature, 1836.

After "Eco-Systems," the physical apparatus of Oculus: Emerson/Beebe No. 1, had numerous subsequent incarnations and titles, resulting from alterations of context and/or of the type of water comprising its "vitreous humor." Oculus: Emerson/Beebe, No. 2 was not shown again after "Eco-Systems."

Oculus Exhibition History:

Solo exhibition, Fuller Goldeen Gallery, San Francisco, 1989, a pre-showing of the un-animated Oculus: Emerson/Beebee No. 1 & 2 apparatus/structures and drawings before being tranported to Santa Barbara for "Eco-Systems." A show of Pat Steir paintings were in the other gallery spaces.

Eco-Systems, Oculus: Emerson/Beebee No. 1 & 2, Santa Barbara Contemporary Forum Santa Barbara, CA 1989.

The Nature of Materials, group exhibition, Lance Fung Gallery, New York, NY, 1996 as Oculus: Emerson/Beebe, No. 1, with a "vitreous humor" of Pacific Ocean water, shipped to the east coast.

The Rising Sea: Images and Constructions from South Florida and Other Selected Works
, solo exhibition, Museum of Contemporary Art, Lake Worth, FL, 1998, as Oculus: Emerson/Beebe (de Leon/Osceola), 1998. It "vitreous humor" was black water from the Loxahatchee River, FL. This version extends the issues of perception and the sublime into the Florida landscape through references to Ponce de Leon and the Seminole chief Osceola and the use of materials from the Florida terrain.

Permanent collection, de Rosa Preserve, Napa County, CA as, Oculus: Emerson/Beebe (Sonomia)
, 2000. This is the final site for "No. 1," with water from the aquifers of the Pliocene Sonoma Volcanics, also known for its use in Napa Valley wines as its "vitreous humor." Alternating periods of misting and drying are intended to build up a residue on the interior surface as a symbolic distallation of the Napa/Sonoma landscape and aquifer system in the form of deposited salts.

Oculus: Emerson/Beebee No. 1 & 2, formed the inspiration for a two-bathysphere/oculus kiln project, Oculus: Dead Sea/Oil Field, 1989, in Arvada, CO. The Arvada piece also included two main ocular elements, Virgin Bathysphere and Ancient Bathysphere, fired in a one-evening performance.


Untitled Document