Michigan: An Immigrant's Dream exemplifies the material history of the state of Michigan; the materials that shaped the culture, the economy, and the collective history of our state. First the use of our vast water ways, then the discovery of our virgin pine forests; our mineral resources of iron and copper, and most importantly our human resources; the immigrants that came here to tap the natural resources, make new lives for themselves, and furthered the progress of the state.
Even after the initial natural resource booms were over, the founding fathers of the automobile industry choose Michigan for their industrial empires because of the proximity to iron, copper, sand for glass, water for transportation, and populations for work forces.
I used all of these resources as my materials. Though both water and people are un-shapeable by hammer and anvil – mallet and chisel, they can both be represented by a common iconic metaphor; a ship. A ship that both sailed the Great Lakes, carrying our natural resources to consumers around the world, and a ship that sailed the Atlantic, bringing millions of immigrants to our fertile lands.
I have made a representation of a square rigged mast, reminiscent of the clipper ships that plied both the Great Lakes and the Atlantic in the mid 19th century. The mast of iron and the sails copper. The rigging of steel attaches the mast to its haul of old growth timber.
Inspiration for Michigan: An Immigrant's Dream one of my ancestors - a great great grandfather – was a sea captain. His name was Caleb Laben: as a young man in the Netherlands he plied the sea that his land was made from. In the mid 19th century his family immigrated to the Grand Rapids area of Michigan, and brought him with them. He lived out his old age in the attic of his daughter's and son in-law's house. He knew the sea, and the sea brought him to his final destination, and he knew the vehicle that carried him – a ship.
99% of materials used in Michigan: An Immigrant's Dream are either recycled or reclaimed.
Old growth white oak timbers
Pine stumps left from the 19th century logging of Michigan
Wrought Iron made before 1870
Paint made from recycled copper
Steel found at old mill site and scrap yards
Pine tar, linseed oil, and turpentine – all natural finishes
Dimensions: 14 ft tall