rocket man

Interstellar Art by Jimmy Descant

by Kallistí

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Deluxe Rocketship Galleries


Jimmy Descant, native of the New Orleans area, Tour Manager of the Stars, Musician, Pin-Ball Machine Refurbisher, & Flea Market Connoisseur has recently made a crash landing onto the world of art & sculpture with his Interstellar Deluxe Rocketships, the main bodies of which are comprised primarily of vacuum cleaners, thermoses & penlites from the 1930's thru the 1950's.

Mr. Descant had the kindness to invite the Marquis and myself to a wee soirée he was holding this September past, in order to view his rockets, take some photographs and glean pertinent information. We arrived, fashionably late, entering the grounds through the garden, which was decorated in an extraordinary manor. Hanging from a tree, we were greeted with a large lit up sign that read "Lounge" in a rather smarmy script. Upon makeshift tables stood several 60's style rococo table lamps of immense proportions. And available immediately as we entered was a large and wonderfully hideous Incredible Hulk plastic toy chest marked "cerveza". We had found the beer!

VR4 We were shortly greeted and ushered upstairs, into the abode proper, which resembles nothing so much as a kitch collectors paradise. One point of interest that MUST be mentioned is the light switch in the bathroom. While fully functional, it is also discreetly rigged to an 8-track cassette player currently sporting the delightful and magic sounds of Al Green. "Ow, bahbeh!" winds up while you take care of business, which dutifully, if disjointedly, shuts down when the light does.

Our next enterprise, besides hanging out in the bathroom of course, was to corner our gracious host, no easy task as he was certainly the belle of the ball. With all the piñata smashing, guest greeting, cocktail serving, rocket showing, it wasn't until the Cramps' "A Date With Elvis" made it onto the stereo that the interview could commence.


In December 1996, while on break from touring with the Connell's, Mr. Descant stumbled across an old 1950's vacuum cleaner of stunning dimensions in one of his many forays to flea markets and thrift stores. This, coupled with conceptual sketches he'd been knocking around for some time, was enough to ignite the elusive flame of inspiration, and within a month VR-1 was born. But, as duty calls, Jimmy soon returned to his next scheduled tour, resolving that after this engagement was completed to go on indeterminate hiatus in order to develope his new ideas.

That brings us to 1997. Upon his return in February he set to work, and stepped up the pace, furiously combing junk markets and hardware stores to add to his not inconsiderable collection of little metal bits and pieces. August saw him with no less than 12 rocket sculptures completed; 7 VR's (Vacuum Rockets), 3 VTR's (Vacuum Thermos Rockets) and 2 VFR's (Vacuum Flashlite Rockets), ranging from 120 lbs. for the heaviest VR to 1 lb. for the VFR's which, made from 1950's penlites, can fit in the palm of your hand.

VR5 The rockets themselves? It is difficult to do them justice here. One conjures up the old "Flash Gordon"/"Ultra Man" props, but even so, Jimmy's rockets are far more elaborate. The artist states, with much enthusiasm, that the primary visual objective is the simulation of flight and motion. The rockets are comprised of an amazing array of parts. Aside from the main bodies of vacuum cleaners, thermoses and penlites, such objects that enhance the rockets include, but are by no means limited to: egg whisks, bicycle handle bars, fondue forks, old school desks, celluloid lamp finials, 1940's posh ashtrays, WWII die-cast figurine soldiers, pinball shooters, barstools, basketball trophies, bumble balls, hotel towel racks, and taco holders, ad infinitum. Upon first seeing them, the initial inclination is to play with them. All the knobs, buttons, and switches (some of them, the original switches for the vacuums) are extremely tempting. But not forbidden. The damn things do stuff! The larger rockets each have numerous switches which serve to turn on various inherent functions.

These functions include:

pulsar Moving parts: VR-1, for instance, has a slowly rotating wire whisk on top that creates an optical illusion due to its spiral wire construction. VR-4 has an insidious looking claw mounted in its tail pipe that flexes and rotates in a rather disturbing manner. And VR-7 has a '57 Chevy hood ornament mounted on it's nose, which spins at an exhilarating speed.
pulsar VR6 Noise & Vibration: All the larger VR's make some kind of noise & vibration, mostly caused by inner mechanisms designed by the artist for that purpose, which in turn gives the sculpture the appeal of being extremely dynamic. For instance, VR-3, a 1930's Electrolux vacuum, still has an intact vacuum motor, when switched on one has the feeling that it is about to take off. VR-6, it was explained to account for the very peculiar noises it emits, is fitted out internally with a golf practicing mechanism where the golf ball has been replaced by a superball, which is shot out repeatedly to bounce around the innards, emitting a kinetic reverberation, and quickly falls back into the shooter to start over again. Last but not least is VR-5, which is fitted out internally with, among other things, a bumble ball. The amazing noise emitted therefrom, sounds nothing so much as an errant, and very loud, mosquito. One imagines a space ship of this shape (round) would make such an absurd noise.
pulsar Lights: each of the VR's and several of the smaller rockets have working lights, most of them more than one. The lights range from super nifty half-moon/full-moon '50's nite-lites on VR-1 to old red plastic ice crushers fitted with lights inside on VR-2. While VR-5, along with the multi-colored bumble ball, is lit on the inside. Two minuscule convex "windows" (thus creating a reverse magnification) appear near the back underside of the main body, and when peered into, one sees a very tiny image of the tropically colored bumble ball bumbling frenetically about the innards.
Jimmy Descant Jimmy Descant's artistic volcano has by no means subsided, along with concepts for new rockets, he's currently kicking around entirely different ideas for new industrial collage, among other current projects. One of which I feel I must mention. Listen up Swing Bands & all you Lounge Singers, Jimmy refurbishes old microphones, turning them into "Elvis Mics". Fitted out with the lastest in microphone technology on the inside, on the outside they're all chrome & lights, with many of his own "special" touches. They'll give that performance the proper Velvet & Tinsel feel, in addition to being a work of art in and of themselves.

Mr. Jimmy Descant and his Deluxe Rocketships are ready to hit the road and he's looking to exhibit in both New Orleans and beyond. He's currently exhibiting at U.F.O. (Unusual Furnishing Objects) on Magazine Street in New Orleans, until January 1, 1998.

To contact the artist regarding exhibition or inquiries in respect to his work, please email Jimmy Descant at:

Say Cheese!

Photos by the Marquis & Kallisti

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