Midnight

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    Photo: Stephen Pitkin/Pitkin Studio
1978
Found wood, tin, nails, plastic, paint
26.5 x 37 x 15 inches

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The first piece Ralph Griffin made was an anteater called Midnight. In 1978 he found a piece of zigzagged wood in Poplar Root Branch, the small creek that ran behind his home.

The first piece Ralph Griffin made was an anteater called Midnight. In 1978 he found a piece of zigzagged wood in Poplar Root Branch, the small creek that ran behind his home. He painted the wood black and white, "spotted" red eyes, and affixed two strips of tin to serve as legs. Some say Griffin was inspired to make it because ants were overrunning his land, but its name draws it autobiographically into confluence with its creator: Griffin worked as a second-shift custodian at Murray's Biscuits, from which he came home around midnight each night. When he says, in a different context, "black is a dangerous color," the black anteater's qualities become complete: helical, mysterious, "dangerous." Midnight is the time of magical transformation, that moment of what Victor Turner, writing about the roles of ritual, calls "liminality": "pure potency, where immoderacy is normal, even normative, where anything can happen, and where the elements of culture and society are released from their customary configurations and recombined in bizarre and terrifying imagery." This transformational moment was central to Griffin's mythology and his root sculpture.