In October 2021, artist Al Farrow sat down with conservators Jane Williams and Céline Chrétien to discuss the origins and future of his massive sculpture The Spine and Tooth of Santo Guerro, 2007. The work, a five-foot-tall Gothic cathedral, is made almost entirely of gun parts and ammunition, along with a human spine and tooth. In the following excerpts from their conversation, Farrow shares everything from his relationship with guns to how he’s finally slowing down (a little).
On the Origin of The Spine and Tooth of Santo Guerro
[The cathedral was] the first really major piece. . . . I'll tell you what happened to make this project a go, a very expensive endeavor, because it was going to take a long time. I needed assistance, a lot of materials and a lot of labor, and I didn’t have a lot of money. . . . I had detached retinas in both eyes, and I was legally blind. I had three surgeries . . . And they told me I was going blind . . . But when I got my vision back, and it slowly recovered, my celebration was to do my fantasy. For 10 years I had been thinking of doing that cathedral. And every time I thought of it, I thought, It's too expensive. It's too time consuming. I can't afford it. So, when I got my vision back, I thought, You know what? I don't care how much it costs. I don't care how long it takes. I'm doing this because I can see. . . . And so, I did it. I borrowed money again and again, and I just kept working. And this was the first of my artworks to enter a museum collection. So, it changed my career.