Al Price's light works blow up real good

If Price's New Mexico living quarters were beautiful, his existence there was not. When he'd head into town to pick up his mail, the locals would give him the finger as they cruised by in their lowrider cars. He wondered if D.H. Lawrence and Georgia O'Keeffe had suffered such indignities.

"I thought it had all the earmarks of a neat place to live," he recalls, "but after about a year it was more like [the film] Deliverance. You know, 'Squeal like a performance artist.' So, enough of Rural America. I had to see the Throne of the Art Gods."

He moved to New York, got a day job welding the floor of a lard factory in TriBeCa, and began work on an intricate kinetic structure he called "Caruso's Motion Picture," ("Art Detour Sneaks Into Town," April 6, 1995). New York proved both inspiring and daunting; the view from the Brooklyn Bridge, he says, seemed like the world opening up with possibilities--and the whole moment spoiled by the feel of a cold steel gun barrel in your back. And so after a year of banging his head on the New York art scene, he jumped at the chance to return to ASU to fill in for a semester for an art professor on sabbatical.

Price now lives in a vintage Airstream trailer parked on a concrete slab in an industrial park in Phoenix. It's a minimalist bachelor pad, aluminum inside and out, with no decor other than a few of Price's sculptures, small metal birds on wheels, with human faces and decidedly Mayan-looking paint jobs. He sculpts in an uncooled, unheated M*A*S*H-style Army tent, adding his welder's torch to the 110-degree days, so hot that he describes it as "an out-of-body experience. I'm hovering overhead watching myself welding. This Btu's for you."

If it seems a loose lifestyle, he's focused his welding torch on a tight new style.

"I used to scoff at jewelers whose sphincters were just a little too tight," he says. "Come on, dream a little harder than that."

Though his trap sculptures are being displayed in tight rooms with smooth white walls, they were built here on the concrete lot. Price claims he sometimes talks the drivers from the nearby earth-moving company into parking their trucks near his trailer after hours so that he can have something to project images onto.

"I don't have a ceiling, but I have several acres of floor," he says. "And, boy, from a couple of hundred yards, these shadows are immense. They get pumped up."

Price sees those traps as commercially viable entities, artworks he can set up in public places.

"There must be a lobby waiting for one of these," he muses. "They're such an economical way of activating some big space. With ten pounds I can move the room. To achieve Vegas with a 50-watt light bulb and 20 pounds of steel is a trip."

Al Price's "Traps" continues through Sunday, September 1, in Lower Gallery at Scottsdale Center for the Arts, 7380 East Second Street.

For more details, see Art Exhibits listing in Thrills.

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