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Chris Burden

Liz Larner’s copy of the map locating Chris Burden’s Scale Model of the Solar System, 1983, in Newport Beach, CA, 1988.

IN 1981 (it could have been ’82), Chris Burden came to speak at my beginning sculpture class. I was not an art major at the time and was taking the class as an elective. It is significant that I recall so much of his lecture because my memory usually doesn’t work that way. I can still see his head tipped down slightly, eyes looking up. He had a chilly, metallic affect that skewed against his cherubic face. He seemed a little mean, but not in the punk-rock way I was used to by then. Thinking back on it, I realize he was just intense, passionate, and succinct—a man on a mission who didn’t want to be charming. To say that seeing his work and hearing him talk about it were startling is not sufficient. To a young, uninitiated student, the idea that what he was doing had anything to do with sculpture was mind-expanding. A chasm of possibility was opened.

It was a few years later,

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