Monsters and Dust

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In Oakland I had spent some time thinking about the myth of the Black Taj, which claims Shah Jahan had meant to build an exact copy of the Taj Mahal across the river for himself, but in black marble. This story seems to cancel out the intensity of the romance in the more familiar one, which says the original construction was a selfless profession of his deep affection for his favorite wife. I made paintings on paper of a drab grey Taj, as if to represent the two buildings blended together to cancel out their difference. It didn’t work how I expected, so I trashed these and forgot about the whole thing, until one night in Buenos Aires, I came across a giant mirrored Taj Mahal on the side of a building.xlv It seemed to make so much more sense than grey as an association with the ego in architecture. I took the idea and made a Taj mirror prototype when I got back to Chicago.xlvi



Of course there was one other Cayetano Ferrer that I had known, the now deceased grandfather that I was named after. Maybe my later fascination with my other historical homonym came from a distant knowledge of this grandfather, a blurry analog that I only remember meeting once during his visit to California from Argentina in the 80s. Some months after the incident in New Orleans, I made it to Rosario, the 'Chicago of Argentina,' the birthplace of my parents and the base of practice for Cayetano Ferrer (the architect). I spent some time in the house my father grew up in, which was designed by his father. When I told him I was curious about the designs my grandfather made, my uncle Pepe pointed me to a stash of old drawings in an old dresser. He hadn’t seen the buildings his father had designed for years, so we made a list of addresses found on each old blueprints and did a driving tour. The last one we saw was a 12-story apartment building downtown.xlvii

My uncle said I could take whatever I wanted from the drawer, and along with the piles of architectural schematicsxlviii I found other things. There were some expressionistic portraits in ink by my father,xlix and some carefully rendered drawings that my uncle Fernando had made of his three brothers: Ricardo (my dad), Pepe, and Edgardo.l