The Plumber's Gloom
Notes on The Plumber's Gloom Plans Flawdrawing
and The Plumber's Gloom Paintings
In 1971, we bought 14 acres of north slope and an abandoned one-room
cabin smack in the middle of Mendocino County. The cabin (which
had been the LaRue School in the 1920's) had no functioning electrical
or plumbing systems. Since it was to be our idyllic home in the
woods, it was a foregone conclusion that we would re-wire and
re-plumb the place.
So, using our ever-diminishing building fund, I bought several
do-it-yourself manuals, a few tools and proceeded to do the job.
It should be noted that I had absolutely no training or skills
in electrical or plumbing matters nor as a child had I been exposed
to any role models who could have prepared me for the task at
I carefully mapped out the various fixtures, pipes and joints that
would be needed. I hand-soldered all 96 joints. After about 3
months of crawling under the house through spiderwebs, packrat
nests and rattlesnake homes and lots of sawing, drilling, cutting
and soldering, the day finally came to hook up the water supply
to the new plumbing system.
Of the 96 joints, 48 leaked!
To fully appreciate my state of mind at the time, you should know
that a couple days before the plumbing disaster I had, with the
help of my friend John Kessel, completely re-roofed the house with corrugated 2 ' x 10 ' sheets
of corrugated galvanized metal roofing.
When we stepped back to admire our work, we suddenly realized
that we had incorrectly overlapped all the metal sheets and instead
of making our roof rainproof we thought we might have just put
hundreds of new holes in it and in the several hundred dollars
worth of roofing.!
I was so upset I stopped all work on the place and spent the next
two weeks on the banks of Outlet Creek drawing and painting. The
paintings were intended to relieve my frustration and to depict
how awful and helpless I felt.
I made about 8 small acrylic paintings. Several are of the scene
at the Creek with very unpleasant little creatures walking by.
The landscape was painted as if it were a paint-by-numbers kit
to add to the creepy feeling. Here is the painting I did to commemorate
the Tragic Plumbersgloom Event. The figure on the roof is Kessel,
the guy freaking out inside is the official Nada Farm plumber.
"Plumber's Gloom" acrylic on panel, 10" x 12" (approx.), 1972.
Collection of Diana Zlotnick
The Plumber's Gloom Plans
Some time passed and with the help of friends, the plumbing finally
worked. I had to resolder most of the joints and epoxy those that
I could no longer reach or dismantle easily. Once the plumbing
worked and I could begin to forget my recent construction nightmare,
I noticed the sheet of paper I had used to map the plumbing system
and which had also served as my parts list.
It had been with me in the pocket of my overalls throughout
the installation fiasco. By now it was heavily wrinkled and stained.
I decided to celebrate the flaws in it (and thereby announce the
giant flaw of the whole plumbing installation) and made what has
become one of my favorite flaw drawings: "The Plumber's Plan Flaw
The Plumber's Plan Flaw Drawing Flaws Gallery Flaws Resources