Double Dogs was inspired by the 1950’s novelty “Tricky Dogs.” Using the push/pull of magnetism, the tiny toys offer a bit of amusement as they attract, repel and playfully scooch across the table until—smack! — together face to face. I had rescued a set of the dogs from my 8 month old’s mouth and hidden them in my shirt pocket. This is in 1971. Later at my desk, drawing, I fretted about my upcoming stint as a sculpture graduate student. I had been admitted to school positing an exploration of the idea of gateway. I thought a worthy sculptural idea. I reached for a pencil, pulling out the pups instead, and began fiddling with the little guys as a distraction.
As I scooted the dogs around, the meeting of their muzzles formed a toothy opening (in my mind anyway). Years before I had seen the reflection of the Teton Mountains in Jenny Lake, Wyoming. Dogs? Mountain Lake? Gateway? It was the space between above and below, in a flash! It became a creation story, how—once upon a time, the earth and sky were a grey blur. A black dog, a white dog in an eternal scuffle. Then, their mouths met in a still kiss. A kind of cosmic eternal opening. The gateway that expressed this feeling was the horizon, that thinnest line between one and another, this and that. The gateway I was looking for was the horizon line.
I had recently been released from the mayhem of Viet Nam after a three-year struggle with Uncle Sam’s draft. At my draft physical, if I passed muster, I would have been left with the choice of Viet Nam, jail or exile in Canada—“Step over this line, raise your right hand, you are in the army”. Instead, it was—“What do you do, Lang? An artist?? Sorry no place for you in the army.” Flash! My life changed.
The gateway I wanted to talk about was that instantaneous shift from one state to another. The moment between awake and sleep. The space between grief-struck and awestruck. The cambium layer separating bark and the woody core. What allows us in to that new space? What keeps us out. Not the slow opening of a bud to blossom but a lightning bolt. How to express that gateway?