Last Thursday was the senior cook out for the art folks at Lander. We gathered at Jon Holloway's Sundance Gallery courtyard for onion burgers and aluminum foil hats. Sure it sounds strange but trust me, it made perfect sense at the time.
...and add in Leah, B-Berry, Jason, Latonya, Elizabeth & Gabe's cool dog Picasso for the group shot.
After the shenanigans, they traded shiny hats for professional attire in time for the Senior Exhibit in the Monsanto Gallery the following day. The exhibit boasts a very impressive body of work from each student....including a few very fine sculptures.
If I've talked to you in the last 40 days there's a really good chance I told you the truth.
My wife found herself belly laughing at a goofy commercial a while back. She laughed so hard I came in the room to see if she was in need of professional help. She grabbed the remote and continued laughing as she backed the TV up so I could see it. It was the one where there's grainy footage of Abe Lincoln and his wife preparing to go out. She is of a portly description and she asks "Honest Abe" if her dress makes her backside look large. Abe is immediately at a loss for words and his search for any sort of less-hurtful answer sends Mrs. Lincoln away in a huff. As commercials go, it was a funny one.
For the season of Lent this year I gave up lying.
I suppose the disclaimers should begin here. I'm not talking about Radical Honesty. A.J. Jacobs tried Radical Honesty for a period of time while doing research for one of his writing projects and I may have written about it here in the past. Radical Honesty called for him to be nothing but honest all the time. Not only was he forced to answer questions honestly, but he also had to offer up truth whenever and wherever he found it. He is still married (as far as I know) and you can imagine his wife is a saint for overlooking some of his comments. In his experiment Radical Honesty proved to be very problematic and this was not something I was interested in. I believe that we should be honest, but I also believe that we should use the rational thought we were given and this rational thought often tells us when to keep our mouths shut.
I'm also not talking about sarcasm or jokes. Apparently you can't have sarcasm and jokes without some element of deception and as one of my students put it so eloquently, without sarcasm and jokes I really can't be me.
I can hear some of you saying, "Wow, this guy must have a real problem with lying." Thirty nine and a half days ago I would have told you that I don't have a problem at all being honest. In fact, since I still have a few hours left before lying is OK again, I must tell you that I thought this would not be a huge challenge for me at all. It's not like I go around making up things and misleading people for fun every day. What I discovered is that I have the same problem with lying that everyone else does. That problem is that we do lie every day in small, often unobserved ways.
I'm talking about social lies. The tiny lies that are just a part of polite conversation. Like when you're talking with someone and they present some odd or awful idea and you smile and nod in agreement. Maybe you even say, "yeah" or "I understand" when you really just want them to shut up so you can escape. And then they say, "It was nice talking to you" and you respond with..........the truth? Not a chance. You say, "Nice talking to you too."
It's not that you want to hurt them or mislead them. It's just easier to be nice and lie. No harm, no foul, right? And you wonder why I prefer the life of the hermit.
If you're confused by this completely backwards approach to Lent, let me repeat something I've written before. I know this is not how it works. I'm a recovering Southern Baptist and my churches never really observed or mentioned the season of Lent. Giving up things is just not what we like to do and I get that. Someone would eventually suggest giving up fried chicken or covered dish lunches and we'd have to secede and create a whole new denomination and no one wants that. When I entertained the idea of giving something up for Lent I was smart enough to do the research and figure out how the sacrifice went along with the spirit of the weeks leading up to Easter. My thinking took a turn though, and I saw this as an opportunity to do more than simply give up a good thing for a season. My goal shifted toward working to give up something that should remain given up after Easter Sunday passes. As far as my memory serves right now, I've given up cursing, carbonated drinks and negative comments toward people in previous years. While I can't say that any of those things are still "given up", I can say that I've seriously decreased the amount of presence most of them have in my life (darn you Throwback Mountain Dew).
So, on day one, I got up and went about my business and I caught myself almost lying before lunch. Twice.
A few days later I found myself talking to a person about my artwork. He asked a direct and insightful question about one of my sculptures and I forced myself to explain the answer in all of its personal glory. I still hate that he had to listen to all that.
There were an alarming number of big questions I had to answer during this time. My wife and I had to make some important decisions and the fact that I needed to be completely honest may have helped some of those decisions go better than average.
I've lost count of all the art and social events I had to attend during this challenge. For the most part I think I was pleasant but there was one event where I was surprised by a few greetings and I may have been social instead of honest. I'm not proud of this. Don't worry, if you're reading this, it wasn't about you.
Keep in mind that these Lent thoughts about honesty were running through my head during all these events and during all those conversations. I found myself trying to stay a sentence or two ahead so that I could anticipate questions or comments and be prepared to respond appropriately. I also used the time to observe people who seem to have already conquered these problems. I watched one guy in particular and noted his elongated pauses in conversation before he will commit to agree or disagree with someone. I watched a few people practice the most wise response - silence. I've long thought that silence was the enemy of conversations and socializing but now I see the wisdom of silence.
It was this discovery of silence as an acceptable response that freed me up to begin telling people around me that I was trying not to lie. For a while I kept quiet because I know my friends and my wife well enough to know that they would do their best to make this difficult for me. I could just see them using this as a tool for their own personal entertainment. The really strange thing was that when I told them what I was doing they seemed to go out of their way to not ask me anything. A couple of times my wife asked me something and I replied with a smile "ask me again on Easter". I suppose it's nice to have the truth available to us when we need it, but maybe we don't always want it. Or maybe sometimes we need something beyond the truth.
It would be great to say that I feel enlightened by this experience and that I will never lie again. It would also be a lie. If anything I feel perplexed and interested in learning more about the human relationship with the idea of truth. Maybe I'll look into that more after I completely figure out gravity, dinosaurs and quantum physics. While we all wait on that, I'll keep trying to be honest. But make no mistake, I know exactly what to say when my wife asks me questions about her dress.
We saw the Avett Brothers again last weekend. Everyone had a favorite Beatle back in the day and apparently everyone has to have a favorite Avett. My wife loves Seth. Ginger alternates between Seth and Scott. Alicia loves Bob. My argument is that while Bob has great taste in universities (Winthrop) no one could ever hope to be as cool as Joe Kwon. Have a look... That's what it looks like to love what you do. That's what it looks like to be completely lost in your creative outlet.
That's what it looks like to play the cello in a rock band while destroying a bow.
Of course I envy his hair too, but you can't help but like someone who is always positive and always so grateful to be doing what he loves. He really seems to enjoy every minute.
Installation day for the National Outdoor Sculpture Competition and Exhibition was today. Ethel's Daughter made the trip down to Charleston to Riverfront Park. I envy the view she has until March of 2012. It's a beautiful park and it was a beautiful day for digging a 30 inch hole through concrete and gravel. Charleston is already hot and humid if you were wondering.
Ethel's Daughter and her spectacular view of the Cooper River
Ethel's Daughter and her new friend "Creapy Crawley" to the right
We drove through the old Naval Officers' residences to get to the back entrance of the park. This great house was up on a hill with sculpted oaks and spanish moss in the front and the river in the back. I want this house. Sadly it's a bit of a drive to Lander.
The back yard slopes down to the park and to the river. The small red speck in the center of the photo is Ethel's Daughter. And......
I got to see this guy.
Adam Walls is a sculptor and a professor at UNC Pembroke. Adam and I go back a ways. He lived in or around Spartanburg for some years and he and my brother travel in the same circles. He was also in the MFA program with me at Winthrop during my last 2 years of school. The image above tells you how he's doing these days. This is a nice 2 page article on his work in the January/February 2011 issue of Sculpture Magazine. I'm pretty jealous of it.
Adam is one of the nicer guys on the planet and if you get the chance - you should meet him. You can see his work at www.sculpturebyadamwalls.com. Adam created the "Creapy Crawley" sculpture in the 2nd image up there and I'm lucky to have such a cool installation neighbor.
Fun fact from today's tour of the interstate: We saw a blimp.
This one snuck up on me. Sneaked up? Either way, it's already open. http://wiregrassmuseum.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=80&Itemid=81 "Toys.Art.Us" sounds like the kind of art exhibit I'd enjoy seeing. A handful of artists from around the country were invited to exhibit work based on whimsy and childlike play. This exhibit is at the Wiregrass Museum of Art in Dothan, AL. The show is open March 29 through July 30. Dothan is not too far from the Gulf Coast so if you're planning a beach trip this summer stop in for some laughs before hitting the sand.
The spring semester has been action packed. I know a couple of sculpture students who would shout a hearty "amen" to that. Those two students are pictured below holding down the right side of the photo.
That's EllenBess, Melissa, Ivy, Doris and Cate moments after they gave their presentations at the Student Scholarship Showcase at Lander last week. Excellent students were selected from all areas in the College of Arts and Humanities to give presentations about their own research in the humanities. These ladies represented the Visual Arts and they did a great job of putting together fine presentations with very short notice while juggling project deadlines for their other classes. They all did a superb job and Doris and Cate made sure that the three-dimensional areas were well represented. I was proud.
That's Gordon standing on the table and that's his chunk of plaster blurring in mid air. It would be easy to explain how this plaster smashing is a part of the plaster project....but that would take all the fun out of the photo.