There is a butterfly trapped in the engine of the HM2 Only Watch collaboration with American artist Sage Vaughn, and it has no hope of escaping because the complicated movement is wrapped in barbed wire. This emotionally charged piece, a one-of-a-kind interpretation of MB&F’s Horological Machine N°2 is signed by Sage Vaughn and was auctioned at Only Watch 2009, the charity auction benefiting research into Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, held in Monaco under the patronage of HSH Prince Albert II.
The disease is a genetic disorder affecting boys. It causes a progressive weakening of the muscles that becomes fatal as the child gets older. The Monegasque Association against Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (AMM) is a leading force in the drive to find a cure.
The HM2 Only Watch 2009 is a unique piece which was auctioned on the 24th September 2009.
Sage Vaughn was born in Jackson, Oregon in 1976 and grew up in Reseda, California. He now lives and works in Los Angeles.
As a child he developed his talent for art in the company of his father, the artist Richard Smitty Vaughn Junior. His father would take him to the Los Angeles zoo, where they would sit all day, sketching the animals. His hippie parents had little money for toys, but they encouraged him to draw and to develop his own style. Later, he became an avid participant in the graffiti culture.
Today he favours painting, but the city of his graffiti days is ever present in his work. It is shown in its least flattering light, in the grey walls and stylised cityscapes and freeways that form an austere backdrop to his vibrant foreground figures. He has also preserved the same free and easy touch and energy. This is most visible in the paint runs used in certain areas of his work.
“I try to utilise animals in the same way that Aesop did in his fables”
Sage Vaughn’s paintings question the human condition and the difficulty of living in a contemporary environment. The bright birds and insects serve as an affirmation of life, but they also remind us of our strategies for survival in a modern society. Imperceptible at first glance, black tattoos in the birds’ plumage spell out the names of gangs or codes. They evoke the individual’s need for recognition, but also a subculture, linked in the collective conscience to violence and rebellion in the streets.
“It is easier for an observer to project into the countenance of a child”
Sometimes, children replace the birds in the foreground. Not yet formatted by society, they seem to have the energy to survive and reinvent the world. Sporting masks and brightly coloured costumes, they look like superheroes. Yet there is nothing joyous or innocent about them. Each is desperately alone, abandoned in a hostile setting.
The message could thus be seen as a bitter one: the American dream of bucolic happiness is shattered.
Sage Vaughn likes to cloud the issue, however, and scramble what might be seen as clear cut. His paintings do not stop at that admission of failure. To live is, of course, difficult but the simple fact of being alive brings hope. In the wake of Melville, whose novels the painter admires, Vaughn knows that even during war, birds do continue to sing and children to play.
Maximilian Büsser said that he and his team were “shocked into” participating and were determined to work with Sage Vaughn. His paintings of gaily dressed children or bright birds or butterflies against bleak urban backgrounds had the tension between affirmation of life and a sense of desperation that they were seeking. This young artist, whose solo shows have won widespread critical acclaim, has fought and conquered his own demon – a seven-year heroin addiction – and the pain of that struggle is felt in the emotional power of his work. He immediately agreed to contribute his time and talent.
The result is a unique interpretation of MB&F’s Horological Machine N°2, the watch launched as a limited series in 2008. The entire upper face of the watch – the rectangular case and the projecting portholes – is crafted in sapphire crystal, revealing the HM2’s complex engine. The hundreds of minute components display the meticulous hand finish that is MB&F’s hallmark. But they are imprisoned in barbed wire. A blue butterfly struggles to escape from the same fate, but its wings are clipped. The barbed wire is handcrafted in blackened gold and the butterfly in blued gold, and the scene has all the emotional impact of the first rough by the artist.