An Unchartable Truth

An Unchartable Truth

The Ann Arbor Art Center was kind enough to offer me this great opportunity to create an installation for their Aquarium Gallery. Creating this piece had two elements that attract me. First, it was a tight deadline of just over a month to conceive and create the installation, and second, it gave me the opportunity to use various processes and mediums.

I started out knowing that I wanted to do some type of shrine, which is typical of much of my work over the years. The shrine would be on the order of altars I’ve seen while traveling in Mexico and South America, which are very over the top on detail with lots of (if not all) gold ornament and figures.

I also like to depend on “happy” accidents. I start out with a general idea about what direction I’d like a piece to go, but then having no definite plans I let the piece evolve on its own. This piece was no different. Everything within this installation presented itself when the time was right. As examples:

  • The side walls are from a remodel of my basement. I was about to throw them out when I realized they would be perfect for this piece.
  • I saw the waving “lucky cats” plus ideas for pillars on a recent visit to Chinatown in Philadelphia. I saw an abundance of color, various shapes and lots of gold leaf, all of which ended up influencing this piece.
  • The 22 stars on the walls are inspired from a similar star with shelf that my mom had when I was a kid. She always had a figure placed on it. The original star has been on my studio wall, and I happened to focus on it while thinking about the piece.
  • On the floor of the installation, the cat and dog Angels along with the central angel all happened to be on sale at Joann’s when I was there one day looking for something else.
  • I saw the lotus flower birdbath (under the central angel) at Lowes. I ended up turning it upside down.
  • The seated Zen gnome (on the floor) I happened to see on Amazon while doing research and thought it would be a fun addition.
  • I had the praying gnome (the ones sitting on the star shelves) sitting on a shelf at home. It had been meant for another piece, but didn’t work out. For this piece, I cast it to make several replications.
  • I saw some Tibetan prayer flags on a windy day here in town and also remembered seeing paper flags in Mexico, similar in color and shape. These inspired the “bee flags.”
  • I had the small dog angel ornaments (on the center shelf above the main angel) among the supplies in my studio. My wife Julie was looking for something on the shelves, saw the ornaments, and put them on my table in case they might work or be inspiration. I got them a few years ago from Alice, original owner of Dogma Catmantoo here in Ann Arbor.

An Unchartable Truth - In Progress

With a tight deadline, I don’t have a lot of time to analyze and think about things. That’s a good thing for me because if I have the time, I’ll think a piece of art to death, and if I overthink it, the piece usually turns out dry and boring. With little time to think, I am forced to act on impulse and gut feelings, which generally provide ideas more true to myself and also make creating the piece much more fun.

The name of the piece is inspired from a quote found in Herman Melville’s masterpiece Moby Dick: “It is not down on any map; true places never are.”

Michael Working

An Unchartable Truth incorporates many processes including mold making, casting, woodworking, using found objects, digital printing, and lots of painting. I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed helping it come to life. If you have any questions about it, feel free to contact me directly at

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