When I was young, my family would go out garbage picking in the alleys of Detroit. It may have been because it was fun, or because we were broke and could find valuable discards from richer people, but whatever the case, these family outings left me with a preoccupation with the fate of discarded things.
In my late teens a dozen 1950s portable TV sets were adopted curbside and came home with me. I had no idea what I was going to do with them but I knew they weren’t meant for the landfill.
In my early 20s, I took the first steps toward transforming "junk" into art by gutting portable TVs and turning them into wine racks. Burt Reynolds adding one to his art collection inspired me on. I bought a 1940s TV cabinet at a garage sale and turned it into a dresser by switching out the tube for a set drawers. I'd found an old Westinghouse fridge ad in a vintage Good Housekeeping magazine and decoupaged the lady and fridge onto the front to make the cabinet look like a TV set again.
Later I'd found out that Westinghouse model Betty Furness was more than just a pretty face, she had gone on to be a pioneer in television consumer journalism. Since she was still alive and kicking I thought it would be smart to get her approval. How fortunate to have chosen this quintessential midcentury 'good wife' public persona with this contrasted consumer advocacy background! In seeking her permission (back then I didn't know that I was free to use the image in art), she wrote me a letter and also called on the phone. I wasn't available to get the call but her assistant left me a voicemail saying Ms. Furness said I was "gutsy, creative and terrific." High praise!
After moving to Los Angeles in my late 20s, I expanded my appliance acquisitions into things like commercial dryer doors and taught myself cabinet making using How To manuals. While completely enjoying the process of creating new works, life as an artist wasn't very profitable. I found work at a product placement agency starting as a receptionist and learned the business of entertainment marketing from the bottom up. In the late 90s I started my own agency and spent the next twenty years using the medium of television to increase awareness of my clients’ products.
In 2018, not long after closing the agency to "retire," I revisited my stored collection of vintage TVs in my garage. My tool fingers were itchy and I dug back into the process of creating art.
The big wooden console televisions that were once the centerpieces of 1940-60 family life were taking up too much space in my shop. I went back to an idea I'd played with years ago, shearing off the front of one and discarding the box. Once I mounted it on a MDO wood panel, the puzzle all but completed itself.
The appliance/spokesmodel/journalism formula I use today was developed thanks to technology that didn't exist back when I started thirty years ago. I discovered an online archive of newspapers that would provide my work with endless high-resolution advertisements, while introducing me to articles about events from the 1940s to 1960s. These, combined with my affection for mid-century design and style, have allowed me to delve deep into the darker side of the “good old days.”