by J. Paul Fennell
In these pages, you will find some of the articles I have written,
correspondence, or musings about subjects relevant to my work.
Please feel free to comment about them via email.
Title: Blood From a Stone
Exhibit: Turning Green, Portland, Oregon, 2007
Dimensions: 16” x 8” x 10”
Materials: In keeping with the exhibit’s prospectus, all of the elements of the piece, except the electrical
components, are from recycled materials—viz:
Wood flower and leaf forms—bleached citrus from a tree removed from a private residence
Wood pedestal—made from scraps of bubinga wood from a furniture project.
Stone—salvaged from a commercial landscape remodeling project
Neon tubing—salvaged from a sign-making shop which had a few pieces of this rare glass tubing stored away and
forgotten for over 50 years.
Theme relationship: A vital issue of anthropogenic (human-induced) climate change is understanding the
consequences of long-term abuse or neglect of the environment. This piece was created as a metaphor
emphasizing the extreme difficulty in uniting the global community to deal with the implications of climate
changes due to human activity. Global resolution of the concerns of deleterious climate changes is seemingly a
nearly impossible task, as in the figure of speech, “squeezing blood from a stone.” Furthermore, not fully
understanding the dynamics of the human-induced exponent of these changes, much less directly addressing the
problem, implies that any effort expended a towards long-term solution will be like "squeezing blood from a
There are a number of metaphorical overlays in this piece, beginning with the just-described idiom of squeezing
blood from a stone, which is a commonly used figure of speech to emphasize some highly unlikely or impossible
Secondly, the piece is fragile, a metaphor for the earth (the heavy stone) and its delicate and sensitive
environment (thin glass tubing, and thin delicate flowers and leaves).
Thirdly, blood is generally perceived to be the essential matter by which life is sustained, at least in the animal
kingdom. In this piece the implied metaphor involves blood being used in the surreal manner of sustaining a
flower, eliciting a false sense of well-being, even with the knowledge that it is impossible to extract it from an
inorganic, sterile object such as a stone. This emphasizes the proclivity of mankind to ignore or trivialize trends
that will have negative consequences in the future, either by procrastinating, or by falsely assuming that yet-to-
be-developed new technologies will be available to quickly solve the problem. (It has been said that an
“overnight technological breakthrough” that gets reported in the press as such, usually takes about 20 years to
And finally, after turning the piece on to show my wife, she pointed out that from one angle the glowing stems
appeared to be in the shape of a broken heart. It occurred to both of us that 36 years ago on Earth Day 1971,
there was a very impressive public service television ad depicting a heart-broken Native American with a tear
rolling down his face after paddling up a polluted and trash-filled river, viewing a trash-filled landscape, and seeing
the land defiled—something that Native Americans consider sacred.
I am hoping that my viewpoint is not perceived as pessimistic and cynical, but rather one of concern with a dose
of reality and skepticism thrown in for good measure. Problems like this get solved after a great deal of effort is
expended by dedicated researchers, scientists, engineers, and plain ordinary folks using a lot of common sense.
Technique: The piece is comprised of wood, stone and luminous neon tubing that is energized from one
concealed electrode within the stone, connected to a low-voltage high-frequency transformer housed within
the wood pedestal. The wood elements—leaves at the base and tubular flower forms—are turned, carved and
bleached to appear white and lifeless. The stone, a common hard granite cobble ubiquitous to the riverbeds of
Arizona, has drilled holes to accept the leaves and neon tubing that acts as the flower stems. A pedestal supports
the stone, and simultaneously houses the necessary electrical components. Once energized, the stems glow a
blood-red up into the flower calyx, causing the flower forms to glow because of their translucency. “Blood” is
seen as oozing out from the base of the leaves, within the leaf veins, and dripping off the pistils of the flowers
onto the stone.
J. Paul Fennell, 2007 RETURN