| In 1968, I had left school and was building public address systems for rock bands. I had taken an introductory art course in college and also worked as an assistant to a local sculptor. I was fascinated by mechanical shapes and forms. I found a cast aluminum bell housing for a Ford automatic transmission, the intake manifold for a Plymouth slant six, and a cast aluminum washing machine agitator from a Whirlpool machine. These objects had been originally crafted by hand before being mass-produced and I had a notion of somehow utilizing them to make "art."
I picked up odd jobs in those days. The most interesting was cleaning up the basements in slum buildings on the South side of Chicago, emptying out years of cluttered debris and possessions, old refrigerators and furniture, salvaging what I could and selling for scrap what was valuable. In one particular building I came across in the basement an old "laundry" stove, a 3-burner cast iron stove top more like a large hot plate. Taking it out to my truck I noticed the burner (stovetop #024). It was unusual and seemed iconic when separated from its function. I saved it and in that moment this collection began.
Six months later, I moved to New York City and took with me all my found objects. I lived one block from the Bowery, a neighborhood undergoing transition as well being as a center of commercial kitchen and restaurant equipment dealers. It seemed that every week there was another stove, space heater or commercial oven abandoned on the street. And I collected what I could, amazed by similarities as well as differences. I noticed the changes in technology that shaped the construction and design of these burners. At first exclusively made out of cast iron, the changes in design were slow. Some burners were porcelainized like the stove itself. Other burners were cast in 2 parts to allow for a different burner port and the latest versions are stamped out pressed steel sheet, ending the use of cast iron. Unfortunately I never thought of this collection as a serious endeavor and did not catalog from what type of appliances these burners came from. I also did not note the name of the manufacturer nor attempt to date the appliance. The categories of burners established on the web site are based on my shaky memory. Over the years, I collected over 200 assorted burners displaying them in my basement studio. I never found a way to incorporate them into art. I preferred to let each be a reminder of the hands of a long forgotten designer who had created the shape and of the patternmaker who had carved the original model.
Raymon Elozua, October 2002
Raymon Elozua is a visual artist. He has taught at New York University, Rhode Island School of Design, Pratt School of Design and Louisiana State University. He has received three National Endowment for the Arts grants in painting and sculpture. His work appears in numerous public and private collections. In May of 2003, the Mint Museum of Art and the Mint Museum of Craft and Design will present a career retrospective survey of his sculptures, paintings, photography and digital works. (www.mintmuseum.org/elozua) A full catalog will be available.