First Time - Mixed media and sculpted head. 22 x 17 x 3.5 inches. 1999.
Getting back into the studio after a holiday hiatus got me wondering about the works of mine still packaged and packed from our move over 2
years ago. Our decision to move from Chattanooga to Lake City, SC was done very quickly. It actually started out as a joke. I was
delivering one of my wall pieces to the Artfields exhibition in the spring of 2019 to the small town of Lake City, SC. Oddly Lake City
has no lake. It boarders the Lake Swamp which also has no lake. What Lake City does have is three excellent gallery spaces, run by the
Artfields Collective and a 9 day visual arts exhibition that encompasses the town, focusing on contemporary works by hundreds of
Jan and I were aware that our home/studio in the former Jehovah's Witness Kingdom Hall had significantly increased in value since we bought and
renovated it.. We also knew our property taxes were getting pretty high. I joked that we could sell the Hall and probably buy a studio and home outright in the little town of Lake City. I said property has to be cheap in that little town. Jan responded it's in the middle of nowhere. I wasn't serious but that is indeed what we did. In less than a week of delivering my work to the Artfields exhibition we had purchased a building that was to be our new studiosand temporary home. The town of Lake City is truly a unique place and that became apparent to us rapidly after visiting and its not really in the middle of nowhere. We quickly realized it would satisfy our needs and desires over this next part of our life. It's near the coast and near to some our children and grand children. It's is affordable, and it's a unique and dynamic visual arts center with a variety of interesting show throughout the year. By late summer of 2019 we found a buyer for the Chattanooga property and moved to the renovated building that was to be our new studios, gallery and sculpture garden.
We had to move a houseful of furniture and art, 12 large outdoor sculptures, our studio equipment and our extensive art inventories. With help, we managed to get this all accomplished but we really didn't take the time to reflect on or cull the art we had packed. So, two plus years later we live in a renovated 1957 southern colonial, which we love. That's good because with the pandemic hitting our first winter here we have split most of our time between it and the studio. If we had to quarantine this wasn't so bad.
Back to the present and all those packages of stored art work. Jan and I had talked about doing a show of our some of our past works. Besides
being a mini retrospective of our work it would allow us to see where we had been artistically before moving to Lake City. It would also
allow us the opportunity to cull some pieces that just needed to disappear.
In the 90s and into the 2000s besides my free standing sculptures I did a lot of wall pieces using an alkaline resistant fiber glass, reinforced
commercial cement product over lath or polystyrene foam blocks. Some of them contained objects, bits of stuff I had found and kept over
the years. One such object was the concrete sculpted head pictured here. I kept it as a memento of the beginnings of my journey as a
sculptor. It is all that is left of the first sculpture I ever made and it has great sentimental value. At one time I also had the body
of this severed head and I have no idea what happened to it. Culled perhaps before one of my many moves.
Detail of concrete head
Besides acknowledging that this piece was my "first time" at sculpting which obviously wasn't entirely successful , since the head fell
off the body while I was trying to extricate it from it's waste mold, it marked the beginning of what is now a 50 year practice. I made
the sculpture in a night class at Syracuse University. It was taught by a graduate student by the name of Roger Brown. No, not the Chicago
artist Roger Brown, another artist a sculptor. The modeling of the figure and molding and casting was the substance of the first half of the
course. I can't really tell you what the second half contained because Roger offered me another choice. During the critique of the
class sculptures he had positive things to say of all our endeavors. I could see that my work, even in pieces, showed some promise. He
must have also, because he invited me to follow him to another part of the sculpture area where oxyacetylene rigs and scraps of steel sat
next to a welding table. He showed me the basics of how to weld and then told me if I so chose I could stay there and work and didn't
need to return to the second half of the class. And I never did. By the end of the class I had welded a 3 foot tall boat-like sculpture
made from the steel of an old car hood. That was 1971. By 1973 I was enrolled provisionally in the graduate sculpture program at the
University of Georgia.
I never saw Roger Brown after that class and my attempts to locate him over the years have been unsuccessful. There are some days I curse him
for gatewaying me into the life of a professional sculptor. Those days are few, usually when its all going to shit in the studio. Mostly, I
just feel incredibly fortunate and thankful to have taken his course and found the path he subtlety suggested I needed to follow in this
life. Thank you Roger where ever you are.