This documentary film is based on the creation of a sculpture which was a collaboration between legendary author Ray Bradbury and renowned sculptor Christopher Slatoff.
The three-foot tall version has won the Gold Medal for sculpture at the California Art Club’s 97th Annual Gold Medal Juried Exhibition at the Pasadena Museum of California Art. The eight-foot version is the focus of this film.
The frontal view of the finished sculpture depicts a father carrying his son. Turn the sculpture around and the image of the father is in reality Bradbury's "Illustrated Man," a character taken from his classic story collection about a tattooed man. When the Illustrated Man sweats his tattoos come to life and tell their stories. In keeping with this, the muscles of the back of the sculpture turn into twisting figures, some taken from Ray's stories, others are the artist's own images taken from conversations with Ray.
The concept of the sculpture comes from one of the Ray’s childhood memories. The life-size bronze "Pieta" at Mission San Diego reminded him of his own Pieta. It was an image of his father carrying him home from a very long day, a day spent at two circuses. Knowing Ray Bradbury, you could imagine that one circus, at age 13, would have been heaven. Well, two circuses were total overload and the teenager fell asleep in exhaustion. Despite his thirteen years, Ray’s father carried him the mile and one half home.
As Ray says, the Illustrated Man is the metaphor for his creative process and imagination. And just as Ray's biological father literally carried him home, the Illustrated Man figuratively carried him through his career.
The title of the piece, Father Electrico, also comes from another of Bradbury’s childhood memories. Ray and Chris had been trying to come up with a title of the sculpture and late one night, Chris got a call from Ray telling him the story of his "creative" father, Mr Electrico. The real Mr Electrico was a carnival magician that Ray wrote about in his book, Something Wicked This Way Comes. The day that Ray spoke with the real Mr Electrico was his birth as a writer. Mr Electrico said to the 13-year-old Ray, "Live forever!" And I am sure he will!
As art, the image reflects that last comfortable sleep of boyhood in your father's arms. Around the corner lurk those images of adventures and fears that comprise adolescence. This fantasy and delight, tinged with fear and the unknown, is what Ray captures so masterfully in his books. On the sculpture, some of the tattoos of stars creep down the Illustrated Man's arm onto the boy's flesh. This is what one experiences when coming into contact with Ray Bradbury.
Says Slatoff, "On another level Ray has become a second father to me, and the sculpture becomes him, with his stories and friendship carrying me. Ray's creativity and friendship picking me up and carrying me is truly one of the most touching things that I have experienced in my life."
Read more about the project here: https://filmfreeway.com/FatherElectricoRayBradburyLivesForever