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Walter M. May
From April 6th 1982 to April 24th 1982
«Looks Real» «Feels Real»

The installation deals with concepts of illusion versus non-illusion, or, as I prefer to call it, fake and real. There are questions of how closely people observe, of their preconceptions getting in the way of their observations.

The “snake boxes” (display cases) are of interest in that many of the ideas associated with them are illusions. The advertising on the box is false. Nowhere on the box is it stated that a fake snake is contained within. The box states “Snake”. The box states “looks real”, “feels real”, and “wiggles like real”. This statement implies unreal. When the contents of the box are examined, one finds that the rubber snakes bear little resemblance to real snakes, and that they do not look real, feel real, nor wiggle like real. It is quite astonishing how far away these snakes are from real snakes.

If an artist were to attempt to make a rubber snake that looked real, I am convinced that a very good imitation could be produced: obtain a snake, make a mould of the snake, cast the snake in rubber, paint realistically. It is interesting when people who are not artists attempt to make illusion. This illusion is not to convince anyone that a snake is present. Rubber snakes are only meant to work in situations where close inspection does not take place. Reaction proceeds from a glance… from a shock situation or from a distance. Perhaps overstatement is required to ensure a reaction, for somewhat the same reason that black velvet paintings or fluorescent colours illicit response- i.e. overkill. Perhaps cartoon snakes are required to ensure that a real scare is not induced.

The new contents of the snake boxes introduce more fakery, mostly involving simulated snakeskin… or simulated art materials (i.e. the fake marble). None of the simulations approach reality (the dyed red snakeskin). There is even an implied falseness to that element, as the colour is so unbelievable.

There are wonderful paintings on the snake boxes. Just as the rubber snake manufacturers are creating an illusion, so are their advertising artists.

The Wall… appearances are deceiving, expectations, colour, judgment. The illusion in the wall is that it is like any other wall. It appears this way from the front. Clues are given to the viewer as he approaches the flat side. However, few people pickup on small protruding 2x4’s visible at the edges of the piece. As people pass around the pieces, reality, somewhat humorously, intrudes. The support for the wall is constructed out of the most twisted, bent and warped lumber I could find. Having to work with such materials, besides being funny, forces one to think. It is no longer merely a question of having to measure, cut and join wood. Each activity, no matter how simple, is complicated by having to deal with non- standard materials. Creative solutions to simple problems are forced upon the artist.

The third piece in the exhibition uses graphic elements and the design of the display boxes in conjunction with warped materials. Important considerations are the attempt to construct a circle with the warped wood. This is the third or fourth attempt to construct a circle with this material. So far, it has always failed. Another recurring theme in the work is the use of the wood as line… a sort of drawing exercise. Colour similarities and the waffle/snakeskin reference the original contents of the boxes.
- Artist's statement (Optica)