Billy Zane

House paint, canvas on latilla ladder

41 x 98"


"Medicine Show, is a dictation, a real-time instruction of and by the elements assembled that make up this piece. What is typically an improvisational exercise by the artist quickly evolved into a unyielding directive by the art. Sums of a part  that conspired to forge itself into being. Consequently, this human in the loop, accustomed to greater sway in the process, was cast as a humble apprentice. In short, the Damn piece made itself!  I just work here. 


The process started with a found object, an old, discarded adobe ladder that my local landlord and art-buddy, Kyle Maier, could not account for on the property. Once I introduced the ladder to the usual industrial strength materials found at a local hardware store, it became party to a study in surrender. The antique ladder revealed itself as something far greater, perhaps even hinting to the symbolism of it’s very function. 


The age and seeming wisdom of the petrified wood I intended to drill, staple, and contort simply did not submit. I could not drive an object into it.  It was impenetrable. And my plan to simply fix a canvas upon the wood as a rustic frame was quickly dispatched with. I had to rip, tie, fasten and create counter tension with the canvas that also had other plans. I am mystified by this piece and process personally. I attribute it wholly to the zip code. Albuquerque. Old Town. Founded in 1706 and still swing’n. 


Made under the slightly cooler cover of night, under a Yellow street lamp and Moonlit clouds, upon gravel,  in front of an old adobe tack room from the 1800’s turned B&B, my idea was rapidly retooled before me. The spirits of Wagon trains, Teepees, and bloody Stretchers came to mind. Tourniquets cauterized by paint fused and secured the knots in opposing corners, held fast, giving no quarter. The scraps and strong seams sheered from the edges demanded to be wrapped between two rungs like splints. Even the thread gathering upon the painted pebbles found it’s only logical place upon a leg. These were battle dressings.


I remember it all vividly, but only in retrospect. In the moment, it was a fever dream. I realize now, I was making a commission for an unknown benefactor. A totem. A machine who’s function I need not know.  Is it satellite dish from the old west? A windmill casualty from the old world, reborn, taunting the next conquistador upon quest? It’s irrelevant.  I just build, like a 1st generation mason who will never see the completion of the cathedral his great grandchildren finish, but who is entirely sated by the promise and ecstasy of the service and contribution to the mystery. Good medicine."



"Medicine Show"