• Steven Heller

Monumental Madness

Let’s say you are an art student who has never made anything larger than what fits neatly into an average-size portfolio case. Suddenly, you are thrown headlong into a class with the unassuming title “3D-Design and Illustration.” You think, “Maybe I’ll be making three-dimensional images that can only be seen with those funny glasses.” Instead, you find yourself hammering, welding, vacu-forming, soldering,

and performing countless other technical feats that transform old Yugo compact cars, vintage typewriters, televisions, gas masks, beds, birdhouses, skeletons, bicycles, subway cars, push carts, and even a real antique carnival carousel into functional, albeit monumental spectaculars.

You conceive of ideas and fabricate objects that would have been impossible to imagine, no less do, only a few weeks earlier. You become fearless about working with your hands and other appendages. As though by some transforming transcendental force, your work is good enough to stand alongside other unique assemblages in such exhibition venues as the Vanderbilt Hall at New York’s Grand Central Terminal, the lobby of Washington’s Union Station, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and prestigious gallery spaces around the country. You wonder, “Is this some out-of-body experience?”

In fact, it is the experience of working with Kevin O’Callaghan, 3D Chair at the School of Visual Arts, New York, and the master of mad, monumental marvels, who is now the subject of a recent book Monumental: The Reimagined World of Kevin O’Callaghan by Deborah Hussey (with foreword by me). The book is a documentation of O’Callaghan’s incredible fortitude, persistence, dedication and, of course, imagination. But nothing he imagines just stays in his head (where most would store away their inconceivably monumental ideas); his imaginings are routinely realized in all manner of incredible ways and venues.

Monumental is a testament to his talent and his monuMENTAL state. Oh, yeah, he can even fix flat tires.