December 19, 2017


        The hourglass has probably been a symbol of time since its invention (which may have been in Alexandria, about 150 BCE).  However, it also came to symbolize mortality, and as such was used on everything from elaborate vanitas paintings to pirates’ flags to gravestones,  sometimes with wings added to show that time is fleeting.  It is interesting that, unlike a clock, an hourglass simultaneously shows the time passing at the present instant, the past that has already flowed through, and the future remaining in the top bulb.  And we can still see a little hourglass icon on our computers, flowing and flipping, flowing and flipping, while we wait for the computer to get something done.
        Before my last show, when I asked my family for suggestions of what block I should make to carve, my son P replied, “an hourglass,” no doubt inspired by the decorative one he keeps on his desk as a fidget toy.  Obviously I was far from the first person to think of doing interesting things with the image of an hourglass; I quickly found cool art depicting hourglasses full of day and night, castles and universes, water and earth, people becoming smothered in falling sand… There were broken bulbs with little worlds escaping, hourglasses showing polar icecaps melting, and more.  In fact, it appeared that all my first thoughts had already been done, so I cast about for something else to put inside an hourglass, and thought of birds.  They can circle around scenic ruins, which is cool, and they can fly upward from the future to the past, which is cool.  And as a bonus, they’re another play on “time flies.” So here it is.

[Picture: Flocks of Time, rubber block print by AEGN, 2017.]

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