The front of the AHA Box


painting of Alabama Hills


AHA = Alabama Hills Art. It also means just what it says, "Aha!"




Notes:  Boc's AHA Box is one of the most complex objects I have ever made. It is a painted wooden box 18" high x 28" wide x 16" deep. It is mounted on a decorated table that is 30" high x 48" wide x 20" deep and includes several interactive elements.

Read about the box and its origins or . . .
skip to the photos.



Finding the Alabama Hills

I began working on the AHA Box after the second of three one-week trips to the desert in the Fall and Winter of 1995-96. During my first trip, which was a relaxed ramble down US. Highway 395, I happened to spend a few hours in the Alabama Hills near Lone Pine, California. Those few hours were enough to make me plan an immediate return. I took my second trip just a week later. This time I headed straight for the Alabama Hills.

    From my very first glimpse, I was stunned by the place. There before my eyes was exactly what I had been seeking in my paintings for decades! No matter where my gaze happened to fall I saw spectacular arrangements of unexpected yet strangely familiar exotic forms. The infinite variations of browns, tans, grays and blacks were in constant contrast with the ever-present clear blue of the huge sky.

    The almost always visible sight of 14,496' high Mt. Whitney midst the snowcapped granite thrusts of the Sierra Nevada Mountains provides another splendid contrast with the endless jumble of textured Alabama Hills stones. Whichever way I turned, my breath was quite literally taken away. I took over 200 photographs.

    I learned that Alabama Hills has been a popular location for the filming of motion pictures since the 1920's and more recently has been a regular backdrop for countless television commercials. As a child in the 40's and 50's, I was raised on the mystique of the cowboy movie. A great number of the movies that I watched with amazement as a small boy were made right here. The Alabama Hills provided me with the mythological geography of my childhood and now I found myself smack in the middle of it...and it was in color! ...and it was very real!

    When I found myself there for the first time, I experienced a strange combination of being stunned by the rich natural beauty of it all, along with a deeply-rooted recognition, a kind of geographical deja-vu that was spinning me back into my chilhood. It was like seeing my mind turned inside out!


Making the Box

Upon returning home from the second trip, I found myself longing for the endless panorama of fantastic forms and textures of the Alabama Hills. I considered painting a very long landscape but that did not seem to encompass all that I was feeling, all that had been awakened in me. After a couple weeks of messing around with drawings, paintings and some small polymer clay sculptures, one thing led to another and I wound up making Boc's AHA Box.


The View Inside

To look inside the AHA Box, you must first pull on the "eye" knob on the front of the Box. Then press your own eye up into the viewing window while turning one or both of the knobs on either end of the Box to create the desired lighting effect. The knobs control dimmers which light up the miniature sculptural landscape of rocks that is inside the box.

    Once the proper lighting is established (I prefer a simulated sunrise), you can explore and move through the landscape by turning the red-knobbed handle on the top of the Box. To complete the experience, you get to enjoy the fragrance of some the sage I brought back with me from the Alabama Hills. It is in the little bag that hangs by your nose just under the viewing window.

    Take a "scroll" through the manipulated photograph "A Panorama of Alabama Hills" to get an idea of what the inside of the Box looks like.



AHA Box Photos & Stories

A Roadside Attraction  45k

The Missing Hornytoad  45k

An Alabama Hills Panorama  46k

AHA! Sage  19k

Born in the Desert  35k

Born in the Desert II  32k

Two AHA Guys at Play  62k

Beavertail Cactus  42k

The Back of the Box  53k



Back to the: NFMOA Galleries