Rough Road to the Apocalypse: Development of Ideas

In the studio working on the wagon element for  Rough Road to the Apocalypse . Photo: Malayka Gormally

In the studio working on the wagon element for Rough Road to the Apocalypse. Photo: Malayka Gormally

The idea for my sculpture Rough Road to the Apocalypse was inspired by the book The Apocalypse Explained, which I found in a thrift store in the summer of 2014.

The book was written between 1751 and 1759 in six volumes by Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772). Swedenborg was a scientist, inventor, writer, and philosopher; he was called the da Vinci of his age. Swedenborg claimed that visions and visitations from the spirit world had compelled him to attempt to explain the Book of Revelations verse by verse and image by image.

The book wasn’t translated from its original Latin and published until 1810. The book that I purchased was an 1880 edition and, like many of the objects that I collect, occupied a place in my studio and my subconscious for months.

The idea that this particular volume on apocalyptic thinking had such “legs” was intriguing to me. The book was written by a man who was born in the 17th century and wrote his exegesis on Revelation in the mid 18th century. It took 60 years before the book was first published in the 19th century and then another 130 years to end up in a 21st century artist’s studio.

I saw a 19th century connection between the unknowable nature of the apocalypse in Swedenborg’s book and the journeys of the American pioneers traveling west in their Conestoga wagons, unsure of what lay ahead.

The idea of a covered wagon moving toward an unknowable destination inspired me to create the directionless double-wheel that pulls the wagon. Once I constructed the wheel I realized that I had created a simplified form of an atom, which tied back into the apocalyptic thinking.

The floating wagon plays on the concept of revelatory thinking and the idea of rapture. Strewn behind the wagon float ejected valuables.

On the Oregon Trail, pioneers with overloaded wagons often threw out treasured objects and heirlooms in order to ease their journey, as these objects were usually the heaviest and least useful in their wagons. Many times they had to eject the things they cared about most. To my thinking, this discarding of valuables is similar to the concept of apocalyptic thinking in that it looks past the value of this life for the promise of the next life.

Both the book’s subject matter and the pioneers were dealing with issues of life, hope, faith, love, and death. The directionless wheel pulling the floating wagon trailed by discarded belongings questions the fragility, balance, and vulnerability of life’s core issues in a darkly humorous and poignant way.

Special thanks to Paul, Mary and Paula of METHOD gallery for giving this opportunity. I would like to thank Artist Trust for the 2015 Fellowship which helped fund the creation of this work. Many thanks to Richard Albritton and the crew at SoDo MakerSpace for their expertise in making this work possible.