My newest work is currently hanging in an installation titled “What Wild Life Left”. It’s the brainchild of my son, Gordon Millsaps. Gordon is a sculptor/fabricator/engineer/visionary who lives and works in Brooklyn.
When Gordon first hit town, ten years ago, he found that a cabinet company nearby was discarding long thin strips of pine. They were perhaps a little less than an inch square, and eight feet long, or more. He gathered them up and brought them back to the rough-hewn loft where he lived, and started constructing everything he needed out of these narrow strips of wood. He made a wooden grid to cover the entire bathroom floor, a kitchen island and a table, in the beginning.
A couple of years ago, Gordon and Su got married and they set up housekeeping in a raw space with no kitchen and no shower. So he got some more sticks and made a wooden kitchen sink, and a shower stall on stilts, so delicate it seemed to float. The walls were draped translucent fiberglass, and the floor made of more strips of wood, glued tightly together. The shower turned out to be the impetus for deeper contemplation. We all loved it. It was a poetic experience, to climb up into this elevated space and unleash the plumbing.
A couple of months ago Gordon asked if I’d be interested in being part of an exhibition he was planning… of showers. About water. And spirituality and universality. As he said, in his artist’s statement “What unites the practice of bathing and my impulse to make objects that satisfy some wordless longing? Could both pursuits be holy if they dissolve the daily poisons of anxiety and tension?” The thought was, also, that this might be the only New York exhibition ever conceived that required nakedness to be fully grasped.
He knew how deep my interest in water as a subject ran, and that the contemplative and playful and goading parts of our work could find harmony in the same exhibition. And, he asked, who ends up being our greatest influence in terms of our relationship to art? Usually, our mothers. Certainly in my own case, and Gordon says, in his as well.
So, it got pulled together in all its myriad moving and plumbing parts with no minutes to spare before the opening. So ambitious was the work in the time frame allotted that Gordon set down the tools and attended the opening in his torn work clothes. People came and admired. Only Helena, not quite three years old, was wise /free enough to play and giggle and actively engage with the 10 foot tall stainless steel and colored acrylic shower on the roof, for over an hour.
We celebrated, we shut it down and went to dinner. We slept the sleep of the dead. The next day, on my way to the airport— all set and ready to go, I stopped by and Su insisted that I put down the luggage, forget the deadline, and go take a stained glass shower before I left. I had showered in the early prototype many times, and I thought I knew what to expect, but the experience really caught me off guard.
In the privacy of the windowless roof top, for the most part enclosed by other rooflines and brick walls, I took off my clothes, naked under a blue June sky, and stepped into the shower which threw colored light all around me. Unnervingly— the “goading” part— you face into clear panels, and you immediately feel both exposed and vulnerable, and also as though you are removed from the real world, and the overseer of everything around you. More than a meditation on cleansing and water, it becomes a meditation on vulnerability and power. The observer and the observed. You fully realize that you are high in the air, in Brooklyn, NY, naked, but bathed in warm water and colored light. And it’s comforting and beautiful and thrilling.
If the job of art is to change and expand the way we regard our life on earth, then these showers are art of the highest form. There is something thought-shifting that rides along on the tailwind of a shower stall on a rooftop in Brooklyn.
postscript: The showers are open 24/7 by appointment, to ensure the viewer has privacy, through June 23, 2019. To schedule a visit call or text 704-651-4297, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or direct message @anythinganywhereincorporated on Instagram. Go on– give it a shot! I dare you.