Artist Henry J. Simonds loves balls. Super Balls® in particular. He wants you to love them too. He has dedicated his solo show Requiem for the Super Ball® (through September 10th at Charles Bank Gallery) to worshiping them in all their bouncy splendor. I spoke to Henry about his compulsion to collect and curate life’s little trinkets.
The L: So, Super Balls?
Henry J. Simonds: As a kid I used to collect a lot of things, anything that I thought was interesting I collected and kept, so it wasn’t a surprise for me to find a coffee can full of Super Balls, something like 60 balls, when I graduated college. The whole idea of this show is to emphasize the beauty and dynamism of the Super Ball, so if there are ways that I can do that in any kind of discipline or medium then I will do that if it gets people to appreciate the work itself.
And by “work” you mean the Super Ball or the artwork?
I would consider the show a success if I didn’t sell a thing and all of a sudden there was a resurgence in the appreciation and play of Super Balls, and that’s a grand statement in and of itself. I mean, I would like to recoup the costs of making the artwork.
You describe yourself as an interpreter rather than a traditional artist?
I’ve never had any particular facility in any field whether it be photography, painting or drawing. I have a heightened sensitivity to things, I know the talents people have and I try to elevate those to make an overall product better than it is. I think that looking at Super Balls, most people look at them as bouncy fun things to play with but I look at them and see that someone took the time to create different images, graphics and structures for something that just could have been a clear plaything, they decided to use it as a platform for their own creativity.
You created a scientific study of Super Balls called “Sphaeralogy” and an International Sphaeralogical Society—a Facebook for the bouncy ball set; all of this is pretty intense, do you think you have some sort of compulsion?
Maybe. What is it that I appreciate about Smurfs that compels me to collect a box full of them and keep them into adulthood? It’s this idea that there is something missing about my capacity to pass judgment on things so I have to surround myself with all of the detritus of daily life so that other people can look and interpret what the things were that I like. I’d rather try and see every movie by Stanley Kubrick rather than tell you which one is my favorite. I’m not sure if you can Google the dysfunction that makes me do that!
Part of the scientific investigation for this exhibition includes firing Super Balls out of a canon?
Yeah, one day I was like, ooh maybe I can shoot them out of a pneumatic canon in a ballistic tank and film them at high speed and see what they look like, so I contacted a few friends and said is this something we could do. We made it happen and the results are one of the many ways the Super Ball has been investigated, classified and inspected.
It sounds like fun. Is humor something you think about in relation to your work?
Art is serious but it doesn’t have to be serious. I definitely think about that in describing myself. Asking an artist to describe his work is like asking a fish to describe bouillabaisse. As artists we are undertaking activities that adults encourage 5-year-olds to do and yet somehow we are still doing it, so we should at least be able to look at ourselves and go, isn’t this kind of silly? I am finger painting and I’m 36.
Requiem for the Super Ball® continues at Charles Bank Gallery through September 10.
(Images courtesy the artist, Charles Bank Gallery)