Talk of the Town - To hell in a hand-basket November 13 2002

Lawn art along North Druid Hills

Sculptor Clark Ashton's "mechanical river" — or "road" to regular folks — runs loudly outside his ranch-style house along North Druid Hills Road. At first glance, Ashton's yard looks to be scattered with exposed lawn furniture. But a second look reveals a lawn "gallery" — a collection of large, rusting metal sculpture titled "The Infrastructure of an Uncertain Future," which he's been assembling for the last five years. Ashton is happy to play host to curious individuals and groups stopping by to check out his work. On a recent weekday morning, the Women Explorers of the Decatur YMCA quizzed him about the oddities populating his lawn. The questions below come from CL and members of the group.

You developed this theory about the waning faith of society and the corporate corruption of the business world. What about your personal beliefs?

There is no way of answering that question. Society creates this system of control. My belief is to create my own system to separate myself from these issues of control. I take all these ideas and appropriate them to my work. I am reconstructing psychic unity. But not everyone is ready for psychic unity; they want to go to Cancun.

What are you trying to prove with this superstructure in your back yard?

I'm not trying to prove anything. We're going to destroy this Earth — it's just a matter of when. I'm looking at the mechanisms that will bring this about. In my view, we're going to do this to ourselves before the Earth does. I'm looking at this system that sucks you in, chews you up and spits you out when it's done.

Have you had someone steal your stuff?

When I first built "Faith and Industry," the parts were separate, and someone stole a small but vital part of the sculpture. So I decided I needed a way to connect it all. I just welded it all together.

What you have here in your front yard looks like a fence.

Ashton: Well, I call it a boundary. I am separating my peaceful home life from the chaotic life of world and transit — and just plain stealing people's stuff. This is about relationships in society. It's about scattering about the community and not caring about other people.

You need to write a horror movie. Do these structures attract lightning?

I don't know; [it] doesn't really matter much. It will just go straight into the ground.

You sound so angry sometimes. Where's the happiness in your life?

Doing all this. If you look at all of this, you can see humor in it all. For everything funny, there's something sad.