In the Hands of Alchemy
 ART > Sculptures > Key to Heaven

The Key to Heaven The Key to Heaven (top) The Key to Heaven (face) The Key to Heaven (key) The Key to Heaven (prayer) The Key to Heaven (detail)
The Key to Heaven  (10 of 19)
Prayer Machine

There is one motor operating an array of activity on this piece. More than once as the mechanical details of this piece were being worked out and a test-run was conducted the complex network of linkage would comically self-destruct. There are a variety of religious paraphernalia used throughout this piece. Some of them are placed in the hidden compartments to be discovered. To make sure the machine worked properly, I thought I had better include symbols for every religion, just in case the religious fundamentalists were right after all, and one particular religion did have more of an “in” with God than the others!

The main face of the Being is a carved and gold-leafed Buddha face. The golden face looks out from behind a crucifix. The delicately sculpted wood of a termite nest spirals upward serving as a topknot for the Being. The headdress is adorned with decorative and symbolic objects. Among these objects is a small black ceramic skeleton that moves up and down. This skeleton is mechanically linked to several other moving parts within the larger creation.

There is a pair of glass eyes, which came out of an old doll that a friend, Christina, had given me.

To run your prayer through The Key to Heaven, you insert a dime and turn the large brass crank on the front of the machine. This mechanism dispenses a slip of colorful paper with an angel on one side. The other side is blank. On it, you write your prayer. Then you put the slip of paper into the designated slot of the prayer wheel, which is mounted on the left side of the art piece. You give the prayer wheel a spin, which rings a little bell and sets your prayers in motion. You then take the Key to Heaven that hangs from a large brass padlock and you insert it into the keyhole and give it a turn. This awakens the guardian angel of the piece and brings it fully alive!

The wings mounted on the sides of the being begin to flap; the Buddha face pops open, and “Amazing Grace” plays. Behind the face, which is also a door, are two other masks, one inside the other. The outer mask separates in the middle and slowly opens and closes. As it does, the glass doll eyes roll back into the head of the inner mask. At the same time, the little skeleton above comes up out of the termite-eaten headdress and then returns inside.
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