Building Men

Lee’s hands used to help me build so many things that were part of my art work. While having company here this week, I talked her into helping clean out the storage room so I could search for some things I wanted to donate to the folk school archives.

We found what I was looking for. These cloth, clay and pine bark small sculptures of the men of Brasstown. Here is Jake and Harold.

When we moved here in 1993 I would watch tall old Jake come into the corner store with his crooked neck and lean in toward whoever he was talking to….in this case Harold. They all had to look up to Jake.

I could not figure out at the time how to make separate legs so went with just this lower body from the bark a recently downed pine tree. Antique men’s underwear buttons were perfect. The shirts I made from some striped fabric from my stash of cloth.

Then I got better at manipulating the bark in 1994 and made The Home Boys. Happy dancers.

The shirts here were from fabric I wove on a dish towel exchange. I had to mount them on slabs to keep them from toppling over in their exuberance.  Lee would do all the cutting of logs for me.

Now they have all been delivered to the archives office as well as some black and white photos taken during a photography class in 1996 and later. They were pictures of things of interest to me and the men of Brasstown who were the subject of both undergraduate and graduate degrees.

In sorting through the pictures I found these of an installation I made in undergraduate art class. It is about men leaving, just going away. My interest was peaked by the study of hobos and why so many left and did not come back home.  I was always intrigued by those who leave and don’t look back.

So I made a threshold doorway, cut down some trees to invert and then clothed them with cloth and nails. Each has his bindle tied to his walking stick (just like the hobos used to). The walking stick kept them upright as they left.

And the reason all of those men left home was a lack of nourishment in some form or another so I made this and placed it just the other side of the doorway….on the inside.

I still have this empty bowl that was an accident piece from Lee’s wood turning days. The bowl could hold nothing and the basket materials I wove around the edges could not contain anything. Even the ladle had to be carved out so as to give these men nothing….no reason to stay. I loved this installation. I loved gaining the confidence of strangers who were happy to have someone care as to why they were gone from home. This bowl will be one of the last things I part with. Just holding it can make a person weep….weep and then smile at the memories I filled it with.

Anyway, Lee is no longer turning bowls but I have found several that our kids will take home. Our shelves are full of other ones and so are the cupboards.

I am about to go upstairs and have a bit of red and popcorn in one of his bowls….turned apple wood. It holds just the right amount.

Til next week or a few days….whenever something comes up that is worth sharing. It might just be my cod skinned stone and cane toad book spine. Tomorrow they will be dry enough to see if the experiments worked.

Til later.