Lava Lamps

The colorful rise and fall of Queer™ Art, Culture & Icons

Eric Griggs

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The lava lamp is a stylish light fixture of dorm rooms and modern day opium dens. These hip items of decor were breathed into existence in 1963 by an English accountant. Isn’t it strange that this groovy fixture of counter-cultural decor should be the brainchild of a buttoned down bean-counter? Here’s what Edward Craven Walker had to say about his own creation:

image courtesy Warisan Lighting

“I think it will always be popular. It is like the cycle of life. It grows, breaks up, falls down and then starts all over again.”

A former RAF pilot and naturist (read:nudist), Walker created his lamp from an orange soda bottle and a weird homemade egg-timer someone had fashioned at his local pub. Compared to your stereotypical accountant, the now 82 year-old Walker is a bit of a weirdo, a misfit, an outsider — his outsider status informed his imagination.

The evergreen James Finn wrote a nice piece pondering the place of musicals, opera and showtunes as part of our shared Queer culture which made me think of lava lamps.

Do you know how these hippy-lights work? Basically you take two liquids, quite different in color and opacity which, for fundamental reasons do not mix, and place them together in a clear bottle. The colorful liquid gets agitated by a heat source and its density changes. This blob moves and pulls itself apart inside the other unremarkable liquid, rising as it heats up and becoming less dense and falling once it cools again.

Somehow we perceive this intersection of liquids, temperature, light and density as abstract art. It’s beautiful, expressive, ineffable . . . trippy.

Long before Gaga there was Dada and “tea rooms’ — image of Duchamp’s “Fountain” from the Tate Modern collection.

As a community of “others”, we Queer™ folks (shortening the alphabet-soup LGBTQI+ acronym) act like those psychedelic blobs, floating within the bland world of mainstream identity.

As we feel the heat, we stretch out and rise up. The forms we take define our collective culture.

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Eric Griggs

Juxtaposeur, technical analyst, process engineer, poet wordsmith, INTJ, Anansi, MBTI certified practitioner & team-builder, certifiable fabulist & Uppity Queer™