Friday, July 1, 2011


One of my unmet goals of the Verbier 3D Residency was a third piece on the mountain that used my sapling technique and hand-made stones. I had gathered saplings early in the residency, but they were just too short and not my usual maple, oak, beech. They were pulpy and soft woods - mostly spotted alder and a cottonwood variety. I was not able to get the strength and length I needed for the high environment. But in our closing days I applied silver paint to them and built a piece for the final party:

My industry and insecurity with my stones meant that I had over 20 made for the 9 I fit into my sculpture. The remaining ones were placed as remnants of my visit to Verbier. Here are some of the placements:

Placement #1

Placement # 3

Placement # 5

Placement # 7

Final days @ Verbier 3D

The final days were a blast of energy and fun. The finished works went up the mountain with huge efforts by many folks. We had several long days working around holiday schedules and the unpredictability of media, weight and just the complexity of each installation. My work and Donna’s were done with good timing, but Donna and I each had a final afternoon on the mountain getting grass arranged, soil raked, paint touchups done. Saturday the 25th we were up on the mountain until late in the afternoon, applying finishing touches and getting through final video interviews. We then came back to the tent to build our final sculpture.

Together we built a sapling Ibex, the mighty mountain goat of the high Alps. Our structure was covered with a layer of straw and soaked with oils. We set our Ibex in place on a steel mountain I had fabricated and then dressed for the evening’s party. It was a well ordered affair with a lovely VIP cocktail, the usual introductions and goodbyes (in both French and English), a painting competition (Art Battles), fire dancers, and lots of great music. As the evening scrolled to a close we ignited our sculpture. It went alight with magnificence. It was a GRAND close to our fine time in Verbier.

The after party went past our dropping time but we danced for hours before calling it a day well spent.

Sunday we all gathered for a walk through of the high mountain site at 2pm. We rode up the lift and then walked along the road between the end of the lift and the restaurant where Donna’s piece is so well featured out the main dining room windows. It was a great time for us all to talk and share the experience. Many impressions of the work were shared. Several of our new friends joined us for these two final events. Donna and I have several standing invitations for places to stay when we are next in Verbier!

By four, most the artists and guests headed down the mountain, but Donna and I faced the clearest day we had yet seen in the high mountains, so up we scampered. For the next two hours we hiked into the alps, following a trekking trail to the first of the mountain lodges. By the evening barbecue, both of us were sore and exhausted - spent but smiling. It was glorious!

The final meal was full of goodbyes. We all regretted the end of this unique and lovely adventure. Donna and I left as the sun set, walking the last two miles down the mountain to our hotel to pack. 7:30 lift off for Venice!



When a tree is wind beaten to the extremes of uprooting, it is a trauma that leaves a scar beyond the individual that is toppled. When a forest titan is blown over and the earth is torn by the tenacity of roots, even boulders can be hoisted aloft. These excavated stones leave an impression, the uplifted roots draw a shape, the remnant hollow becomes a shelter.

Man has marked this earth deeply. We are well rooted.

I am unsure how as an artist, I can respond to the extremes of the Alps. My work is not a triumph over adversity. It is a personal story. I am recording my presence. In the fragile state of today's world I am determined to draw with a mark that lasts. In this Residency I aim to leave a significant trace.

UPENDED (a ghost print) 2011

When a printmaker places a second damp page on the plate without pausing to re-ink, a ghost print is produced. UPENDED is a retelling of UPROOTED. Like a ghost print, much of the mass is gone. The impression is skeletal, but structure is evident. In a second pressing, only the deepest image remains.

UPENDED works well in all seasons but was designed for the brilliance of the mountain terrain. Fog and clouds isolate the linear design and suspend the stones in vapor. Sun on snow creates a stark shadow reflection. The image will be doubled, compressed, stretched as the sun angle changes throughout the day.

The steel rod has been bent and shaped into layers that lack geometry but that evoke volume - much as a brush patch occupies a distinct physical space with abundant disorder.

UPENDED implies both geologic and organic events. The stones reference authentic shape and colors while revealing a hand-made sensibility. They invite trust in their materiality as boulders, but show a painterliness, brushstrokes and surfaces that are distinctly created. Splash, drip and color confound believability. That was my goal for these still-life rocks.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

June 22 23

Rocks for UPENDED proved to be a challenge. The colors I chose were based on the flowers and vegetation about the mountain terrain. The mauves, reds and yellows were impossible for me to wrap my head around. I made over 20 rocks for a total of 9 spaces. On the 24th I was driven up to install. The red ones were wild and untamed and intimidated me. They were finally replaced by genteler but still dynamic rocks. I was thrilled by the final composition, but the installation was not without a lot of agony.

Individual stones

UPENDED Andy Moerlein 2011

Monday, June 27, 2011

June 21st

Donna gets her stone base delivered on Monday and Tuesday she FINALLY gets the BABY BRINGER hauled up the mountain…

It is laid on its side, then hooked to the sling built into the pipe spine we secured into the sculpture.


The truck driver pauses as the work settles upon the stone and expansion anchors are drilled and secured. Donna is a proud busy bee.

Jerome is lifted up by a strap to unhook the bird and close up the head hole.

Donna Dodson 2011

My UPENDED is hauled up and secured in place. I still have rocks to complete...

Friday, June 17, 2011

A FEW too many days slipped by….

It has been WILD around here. We laid the lovely stork down on her back to put a steel back bone for her to be carried and secured to the base.

I returned to the mountain and secured my footers.

We visited the studio of a local artist. JeanClaude has a small but efficient studio. Check out that roof!? They use flat stones as shingles, attached with a clever hook system. According to our buddy Matt, they never leak and last as long as stones… I just want to see the raftering it takes to hold it all up with an added 5 feet of snow!

We had a stunning day at Art Basel, one of the worlds hottest gallery exhibits. This year they burnt all the records for sales on day ONE! We got VIP passes to be there. Basel was such a delight. Driving down the twisty road from our high alps paradise, through deep valleys peppered with castles, then on to the low flat lands of lakes and cheese on our three hour ride to the German speaking end of Switzerland - we got a renewed perspective of where we are — MAKING ART IN THE ALPS!!!

I spent a day making a hap hazard scaffold up on the mountain so I was FINALLY staged to cement… then waited for a day of reliable weather, a cement mixer, a truck to haul my materials and finally made the move…

I still have several days getting a finish coat and color on… but now I move on to FINALLY securing my last bit of steel and making rocks for my second piece.

Dona has been working TOO HARD> She has done two 2am nights in a row and still insists on getting up at 6. Last night i refused to stay up with her and woke up in a fright when she never returned. I strolled over in my PJs and recovered her. The work is huge and lovely. She will be forever proud and I am confident the helicopers will film her piece as a local landmark.

Speaking of helicopters, we work with two of the finest world class “off piste” (off groomed trails…) snow boarders. Matt and Jerome have been filmed and also film some of the areas most spectactular glacier drops on snow boards. Matt is a huge help - he knows everyone who lives here and can solve almost any problem. He speaks good english and it is so interesting to hear him go from steady calm English to the emphatic and expressive French. Same conversation - but French has a completly different approach use of intonation. It is built into the language.

Jerome speaks good but limited English. Working bilingually we smile and share a lot — and often miss a lot… but both these guys work like real heros.

Friday, June 10, 2011

June 9th

This morning was SO cold, but Donna was scheduled to run up the mountain to check out her site for soil conditions, (the architect/engineers had concerns about securing her work…) so I jumped into the van with 8 bags of concrete to finish up my foundation. My piece was covered in ice when I arrived, and even though I worked until 11:00, it was still iced over when I left.

The pick was needed to secure the piece on the mountainside until the cement cured. This is SUCH an extreme place to work!

When I was done with all I had to do, I walked back to the lift, but it only runs limited hours. I was between trips, so I just hoofed it down off the mountain, cutting straight down steep slopes rather than take all the switchbacks. It was a cold, exhausting morning.
After lunch we laid Donna’s STORK down on its back and worked out a system for giving it a proper backbone! See tomorrow’s video..

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

June 8th

We had great materials success FINALLY… we hope. We found a local product that seems like the ticket! Donna made a sample, and I used her leftovers to cover some of my rocks. It seems to respond similarly to our US product. We are very happy!

But the truck drivers and engineers looked at Donna’s HUGE foam and scratched their heads a lot. It is looking like they want a hole down through the center… YIKES! This would have been easier as she built it, but I am optimistic that we can lay the huge sculpture down and drill through it for a helecopter hook. We fashioned a pipe into a drill and had adequate success:

We had a lot of fun shopping! The carts here are made for narrow aisles! They have FOUR swiveling wheels. It is wierd at first, but once you get the idea, WHAT dexterity.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

June 7th

Today started at 6:50. I set out all my needs for the move up the mountain. The truck arrive promptly at 7am. Lovely and crisp morning. a stunning drive back up the s curves to the site.
The loading and off loading were most professionally handeled.

I was again thoroughy thrilled with the site I had decided on. It has a long vista as one approaches, and a spectacular outline against the glaciated mountains beyond.

I had Jerome, one of the French fluent assistants, to help me and he was a great worker. We beat ourselves up diggeing in the tough soil. deep slots followed the contour of the piece.

Then we mixed cement to secure the piece as rain slipped over us. We caught the 12:30 lift down off the mountain and arrived to hot plates opf food saved for us. I still have several hard days getting the piece covered with cement and then stained. The site is steep and so I will need to spend a day building a scaffold so I can reach the higher places. I will catch a ride up the mountain on the lift and return similarly. The view and ride are exceptional. What a place to work!

Donna had a great day getting solutions to our materials dilema and doing the final shaping on the skirt ruffels, feet and lower areas. Now she will work her way up the shape cleaning up details as she awaits the new material.

Monday, June 6, 2011

June 5th & 6th

Sunday June 5th was a bit flat. We got to the tent early as usual (we generally start before 8, most others arrive by lunch...) We had a lovely dinner party at Maddy's the night before, and the key was not in place... Perhaps the mood made others a bit forgetful. Donna had work, but I mostly putzed about. After lunch the key showed and I got some work done. We had a hard pour midmorning, clouds the rest of the day, but both of us got work done.

Monday JUNE 6 was a serious work day. Donna cut out her monument's lovely feet and just as the day closed... popped out the sawzall and trimmed in the ruffel for the dress! So close -- so cool.

I played with my steel curlyques and the welder.

I built a base for it that will go into the ground to secure it in place:

The cement guys brought us the wrong materials completely. Even with good translation, it was frustrating. I finally went down to the factory to chat about acrylic additives and glass fiber with my laptop in hand. I don't know how it works, but when I google it comes back in English, but when they google on their computer it comes back in French!

Finally, one of our local helpers brought me to a stunning mountain ravine to gather saplings for our burning sculpture. The tree selection is less than premium. I got a small collection -- less than half I need, but I might have to make due...

We continue to eat like hogs. The food is basically home prepared for kings and served at a small pub directly across form our work tent. It is HARD not to eat too much.

On thing that continues to give us a chuckle is the "size" decision one is faced with daily when flushing:

Saturday, June 4, 2011

June 4th

Today was a nice day. We both worked hard - but Donna worked harder!
She has attacked the legs.

I worked on ideas. First in foam...

Then in REAL rocks....
Then I started bending up for the new piece...