"Fat Sentinel"
Bronze 1961

Michael Ayrton

In 1969, I completed my pathology training in Palo Alto and arrived in Santa Rosa to join a group of pathologists. Finally, I had enough income to afford a room at a magical Chicago hotel: the Drake. I requested a corner room allowing me to view North, Lakeshore Drive and South the amazing Michigan Avenue and there to recall my college days,1955, falling for a wisp of a girl, whom I nicknamed "Mimsy," from the Jabberwocky. Her father was a vice-president of Montgomery-Ward, in those days the major catalog retailer. I arrived, in awe, at the door of their apartment, literally the entire floor of a lake-view building a block from the Drake. I had a Woody Allen moment; I felt completely unworthy.

In 1969, I wanted to create a new experience of my own. I can bring myself to that hotel today and see the off-white painted walls, and soft sculptured window coverings, the windows that opened to the air and the steam-driven, cast-iron radiators, standing painted accordions beneath the windows. I can hear the sound symphony whoosh of tires on asphalt, the special tone of a V-8 engine exhaust, horn toots and whistles calling cabs painted a light lime green. This is a nest I built in my brain, one I can come to at any time. It is a nest only a few blocks from the second floor gallery of Stanley and Ursula Johnson where I found Ayrton.

The Johnson exhibition of Michael Ayrton's etchings, drawings and sculpture took me all at once, a blind-side tackle of my psyche, and I saw immediately the whole of my life's work, though I did not realize it until a few months ago, 32 years later. The notion of the labyrinth, of the maze, entered my life earlier, through my children's interest in working their way through mazes printed in books. But, at the Ayrton meeting, I took the whole matter of mazes as a metaphor for human existence, in general, and for my life, specifically.

Lithograph 1975

"Minotaur Aroused"
   Bronze  1970
 10" h x 6" base

The maze, in the myth of Theseus, was designed by the greatest architect of the era, Daedalus, a multi-talented man with a son, Icarus. I took particular note that the son's peril came of a combination of innate ebullience and unwillingness to follow fatherly advice. The maze was both a detention encampment for the Minotaur, and also a place of safety for this creature; to invent such a dual- purposed structure demanded a highly superior mind. The myth shows that Theseus needed the help of a woman who loved him to guide him to safety, to help him find his way out of the maze.