The red paint is a bit stripped, yet, the message, is clear, Dream More. This unexpected charmed sign, an oversized sunflower, plucked, juxtaposed out of the fields and onto a concrete wall is the surviving remnant of a sculpture installation, interactive kinetic artist and retired architect, David Butts, created for Burning Man several years ago. The wooden bloom is fastened to the side of the artist's building, Allen's Radiator, on the coveted corner of 15th and NW Everett in the Pearl of Portland, where his studio is housed.
5 strides heading east, one will find this boldly quirky, inventor artist's, interactive sidewalk gallery for passerbyers to pause and play for a moment. "Some just walk by and touch the window without breaking stride, as if it were a talisman", shares Butts. A quick ritual fix with immediate reward for all that decide to join in. Audience participants begin their adventure by placing a palm on the paper handprint adhered to the window. The engineered interactive sculpture is activated within moments, stimulating geared movements, a layered message, music and unexpected delight. Just what DB intended. The observer is actively involved in the art.
How does David dream up these genius inventions? " I have my best ideas when I wake up in the morning. I think my right brain wakes up first, or is still dreaming, before my left brain takes over." This purveyor of intrigue and fun is luckily gifted with a resplendent mind, uncluttered and brilliantly open for genius inspiration, most often when the sun comes up. "I keep a tablet with a pencil by my bed so I can start making sketches and notes as soon as I wake up."
"I love gears, how things work. I grew up in a house with a shop in the basement, and my dad showed me how to use tools when I was very young - I come by this honestly." This Wizard of Oz, with the curtain pulled back, shares his discoveries. Everything is exposed and subtly explained, whether it be Barb's Lamp, with the model earth rotating around the light bulb 'sun' and the moon on its path gracefully passing through the vortex of space or the current Cabaret Voltaire exhibit. Wonder is inspired here on the side walk looking into the charming geared vignettes this brilliantly clever dreamer materializes for us. "There is a reason for everything, we just don't know all the reasons yet. I am careful to expose the workings of my pieces so those viewing them can understand how they work."
David's sidewalk art is a hybrid of the holiday window displays with an interactive sculpture you can involve yourself with. The observer is in it, and an active participant of the performance art. Physically and mentally participating in David's world can inspire one to Dream More. How fitting. "They (the pieces) respond to audience engagement. I am working on one now that will talk to you."
This artist is dedicated to discovery and lives true to his "Rationalist Manifesto ":
1) There is a reason for everything that happens. Because we can't (yet) predict what will happen, it does not mean that things happen for no reason. Because we don't (yet) know the answer, it does not mean that there is no answer. Superstition, magic and religion are neither reasons nor answers.
2) We do, in fact, live in a clockwork universe. Leibniz was right. The Age of Enlightenment was aptly named, and it is sorely missed.
3) Before computers, nanotechnology and microbiology, much of the mechanism of the universe - the laws of mathematics, physics and chemistry - were observable if one made the effort to look.
4) As the workings of things are increasingly hidden, we are increasingly unaware of the underlying functioning of the world we inhabit and our relationship to the world and to each other. Misinterpretation leads to foolishness. Misrepresentation is a tool for evil.
5) Knowledge is essential to understanding. Leave the back off the clock, hide nothing, always show the gears. Be honest and forthright in all things. Say what you mean. Mean what you say. Speak the truth.
Wisdom and curiosity are a fine fit for this innovative delightful journey David invites us to take with his pieces. "I am happy being the little man behind the open curtain. I like surprising people with something they didn't expect."
For instance, the sunflower was a part of a gigantic parabolic reflector cooker. Rather than the expected tax returns and Barbie dolls to singe for the Burning Man installation, the audience instead gathered hot dogs to cook and made a giant party out of it.
"I need to build stuff - It's an addiction. " Whether it's an interactive kinetic installation for the Children's Museums of Pittsburg Tough Art Program (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gnnbs08AJss&feature=channel_page ) or for side walkers in our "it is important to keep Portland weird" city, David offers his audience an invitation for a quick lift for the day by including us in his creative world that with ease bestows to us expanding knowledge of the inter workings of his creations with delightful enlightening participation.