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Michael C. McMillen

American, b. 1946

Luna Park

Assemblage of found wood and metal objects with framed print
52 x 31 x 10.5 in. (132.08 x 78.74 x 26.67 cm)
Gift of the Kathryn C. Wanlass Foundation

The title of this sculpture instantly conjures in the mind’s eye visions of the famous amusement park at Coney Island. But the work itself contains no obvious reference to the historic park, with its enticing gates of pinwheels and crescent moons, its roaring Cyclone roller coaster, and the gaiety of a summer day on the boardwalk. It is instead a dystopian counterpoint, a backstage fragment of the park, with the machinery, wheels, pulleys, and devices that activate the public “fun” side. The block-letter A might be all that is left of LUNA from the park gate’s bold signage, or perhaps it is just a spare.

There is a paintbrush mounted on end, perhaps once used to produce the lurid canvas sideshow banners promoting the Snake Girl and the Giant Spider. There are stairs and passages for the anonymous, unseen minions who keep the machinery running. And there are signs of age, the rust and grime of decades, bent pipes, patches and fragments of a makeshift foundation. Hanging on the left, from a cantilevered beam, is a framed copy of a forgotten drawing, which adds to the abandoned feeling of the work while introducing a mysterious note to the rich array.

McMillen possesses a magical gift for assembly; Luna Park is composed of scrap wood, miscellaneous hardware, a motorcycle carburetor, and parts from a piano and a lawn chair. The artist acquired a variety of construction and painting skills while working in a Hollywood prop shop for a decade after his art studies at UCLA.

The source of Luna Park extends back thirty-six years, when, at the age of eleven, McMillen accompanied his father on a weeklong adventure to New York City. A visit to Coney Island and its long, resonant aftermath inform this potent and poetic work of art.

Philip E. Linhares

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