Sunday, December 30, 2012

Solo Exhibit

Blue helped me deliver artwork and install this exhibit in Spartanburg at the Chapman Cultural Center last week.  The show features work that is either directly or indirectly influenced by my dad.  The reception on 1/17/2013 will include some of his favorite foods prepared by my mom and by Ginger at Delightful Dishes.  All the work is for sale and credit cards are accepted.  I'm told that this is a very different exhibit than what is usually in the guild gallery.  I'm hoping that's a good thing.  Either way, come see the freak show.  It will be worth the trip to see the poster designed and rendered by Blue and to write in my specially selected guest book.  Oh and there will be a continuing slide show on the LCD screen inside the gallery.  That might be interesting too. 

The Chapman Cultural Center is located at 200 East Saint John Street, Spartanburg, SC 29306.  The hours are Mon - Sat 10:00 - 5:00 and Sun 1:00 - 5:00.

 On installation day, Blue was out of school for Christmas break so I had to leave enough room in the truck for him and me.  We were both surrounded by artwork.  Behind us was the trailer loaded down with freshly painted pedestals.

 Blue mostly held the door because his dad is a control freak when it comes to handling the artwork.  I wanted to let him carry things, but I kept seeing him dropping my iPod in the gravel last summer and I just couldn't do it.  He apparently gets bored easy too, so instead of rolling up the blue tape into a ball as I suggested, He straightened out each piece and started making a tape drawing on the floor. 

 And it looked like this when he was finished.  Sadly, this is cooler than the artwork I delivered.  It's not a good feeling to be shown up by your 6 year old son.  I left the tape on the gallery floor for a long time trying to find a way to justify leaving it there for the exhibit.  I couldn't make a good argument for it, so we carefully transferred it to a large sheet of bubble wrap and sort of preserved it.  While we were there he announced to anyone who would listen that he was going to be an artist when he grew up.  And that he was hungry.

After demonstrating his creative thinking, he also demonstrated his powers of deductive reasoning.  He studied my beard and asked why it was growing so fast.  Then he asked if I drank a lot of root beer.  I do, so then he announced that it was the root beer that was to blame for my beard growing.  Logic!

But the show looks good.  Almost all the work exhibited was made within the last 12 months and most of it has never been exhibited before.  It's one thing to see a sculpture or a drawing but it's a much different experience to stand in a room filled with drawings and sculptures by the same artist.  I suppose it could be like the difference between reading an isolated chapter or reading an entire book.  Or maybe not like that at all. 

Come see.

Monday, December 24, 2012

my lucky precision tool

This is my lucky hammer. 

Surely we all have our quirks and since I happen to know just how weird some of you are, I won't feel bad about sharing this particular oddity of mine.  I have a lucky hammer. 

As a student, when I turned out a good sculpture I could barely enjoy the compliments because I was already wondering if I would be able to make another one just as good or better.  I always wondered if the good one was a fluke.  I wish I could tell you that this insecurity faded after graduation but it was always the same.  If I made something that people loved, I always wondered if the next one would be a flop. 

I began to observe my creative process and each time I started a new sculpture, I tried my best to follow the patterns noticed during the last successful sculpture.  Not in an obsessive compulsive way, but making sure the welder was set exactly where it was before, trying to use the same clamps and eventually the same hammer. 

This little 4 pound hammer was the one that handled the precise seams and bends on some of my best sculptures.  It's also taken a couple of hearty tosses across the welding shop, but I'm trying to be better about that sort of behavior. 

It's also my favorite hammer and for slightly different reasons.  This little guy was the smallest hammer in my dad's toolbox.  Most of the others were 8 pound hammers.  When you're trying to convince steel to do what you want it to do, the bigger hammer is generally preferred.  But for whatever reason, this was the one I picked up on a particular day and it stuck.  And of course, the fact that it was my dad's hammer is also important. 

I have several hammers of my own.  (See a previous post about how I feel about hammers if you think that's an odd statement.)  But this hammer was one that my dad told me to take with me when I moved my sculpting operations out of his welding shop and into my basement.  Each time I grab this one to swing at something I get a pleasant memory of home and of my dad.

Pop called hammers "precision tools".  This was his comedic nod to the barbaric nature of such a tool.  Yet as strange as that sounds, when you need a 200 pound piece of steel to move 1/16 of an inch, the hammer is one of the few things that can provide that gentle and precise nudge. 

Friday, December 21, 2012

steel tree

The latest addition to the Plantation...

A polished steel tree.  Blue and I planted it last week and it was immediately 10 feet tall and 7 feet wide.  We do not expect it to grow. 

There are deer tracks leading up to the trunk.  I'd love to know what went through the deer's mind when that encounter took place. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

mcabee's minions

I've had some great students this semester.  Talent, personality, sarcasm....they've got it all.  Starting with Sculpture I:
 First day of class.  Before they were sculptors.
 Last day of class.  After they mastered power tools and welding.
 It's a big class and since their facial expressions are funny and potentially embarrassing, let's zoom in.  Above:  Sean, Danielle, Whitney, Megan C and Megan T
 KJ and Fred flashing the "work, work, work" signal, Bennell, Anne, Ashanta and Brandy (Cessquatch) bending steel
 Abby with the stick, Katie (Katertot) reclining, Emily, Lydia striking Emily with a steel rod, and Ashley behind the flame mask
 Shawdrea (Shawny) attacking Kelsey with a grinder
 Then the other Sculpture I class posing
 Taylor spraying Margie who along with Leigh Ann is hitting EllenBess over the head
 Corey (who is not in the class but refused to get out of the photo), Jaaziah, Nich, Bethany with the sculpture pot on her head, Mia trying to clamp Bethany's head and that student whose name I can't remember (Erin) showing off a piece of steel
 Then there's the Advanced Sculpture and Master of Arts in Teaching group posing with Sam's sculpture.  Clockwise starting with the girl choking the guy:  AnnieBob choking Corey, Adri, Paul, Winston (or at least his eyes and hat), Patro, Scofield, Samantha and Other Paul (not in the photo)
Speaking of Samantha's sculpture, it's pretty cool, huh?

Sunday, December 9, 2012

i love a hammer

This is what happens when you are late for my class.

I'm kidding of course. 

Some days are better than others.  Last Thursday was a perfectly good day.  It was the last day of Tue/Thu classes and my students were scrambling to put the finishing touches on their projects.  That's a joke too....the truth is many of them were just starting to work on their final project.  As I was gleefully encouraging each one to work, work, work, I noticed a couple of students headed toward the door.  I told them that sculptors did not need to take breaks and asked where they were going.  They said they were going to smash a car with a hammer.  I instantly fell in behind them knowing that my day was probably about to get even better.

The student affairs people had arranged for a car to be donated for a stress relief project.  Students were encouraged to de-stress by taking turns pounding on the car with a sledge hammer.  I watched as large framed guys pecked at the fenders with the heavy hammer and small, stress filled ladies struggled to swing the hammer hard enough to hit the car.  I know I'm supposed to be more professional, but the 12 year old boy in me came out and I jumped at the chance to take a shot at the car.

I'm lucky enough to have my own sledge hammer and to have about 30 years of experience using one.  I love to smash things with it.  This may even be an understatement. 

One of my students was kind enough to take a series of photos with my phone.  If you look carefully you can see the roof of the car sink through the series.  On swing number four I tore through the sheet metal and make a 6 inch hole in the roof.  It felt amazing.

Thursday was a very good day.

Monday, December 3, 2012

the parade

 I love dealing with ideas of duality in my artwork.  Pairing up ideas and characteristics that are not normally associated with one another is fun for me.  When we moved to Laurens I had no idea that this was a town of dualities.  The "historic" public square that seems to be falling in on itself in some areas is fully equipped as a video surveillanced, wi-fi hot spot.  I noted this while sitting in the square waiting for the Christmas parade to begin last Saturday.

 There's always such a wide spectrum of people types at these events, the people watching parade started long before the decorated floats arrived.  G and I herded the kids and tried to keep them on the curb as the real parade began. 

 The kids share my lack of tolerance for noise.  Sirens, fireworks, loud music force their reflexes to push their hands up around their ears.  This is especially funny when someone is singing.

 This posed a bit of a problem for them when the candy starting raining down from the floats.  I was under the impression that people didn't throw candy in parades any longer.  I haven't been to any in years and I guess I assumed we had become more civilized.  I was wrong.  My kids became Philistines when the candy started falling.  They'd race out a few feet to pick up the tiny gifts not caring if it was even candy they liked.  I didn't see them step on other kids in the process but it would not have surprised me at all. 

 By the time Santa arrived they had candy stuffed in all their pockets, in my pockets and still had their hands so full they had trouble waving at Mr. Claus. 

So the Christmas season is here and boy are the kids excited.  The tree is up, the tattle-tale elf arrived and my to-do list is eight pages long.  Bring on the sweets.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

here we go...

 ...barrelling full force into the holiday season.  The semester speeds up, the weeks fly by and the stores sell my favorite holiday treats.  I've had a couple of boxes of white chocolate covered oreos already and even though I'm not drinking much of the carbonated juices lately, I'll take a glass bottle coke any day of the week.

 So Thanksgiving break came.  Blue and I spent Wednesday grading tons of sculpture projects and doing yard work.  Don't worry, I did most of the grading and he did most of the yard work.  Then we settled in with the rest of the family to watch Charlie Brown.

 Thursday morning I met brother Daniel at USC Upstate for our second running of the Gobble Your Giblets 5K.  I got lucky and won my age group but I also got beat badly by a girl with one shoe and a dog.  Seriously.  This one young lady literally ran out of her shoe at the second mile marker and was apparently going so fast she couldn't stop in time to find it.  She finished the last mile with one shoe and a sock and still beat me so bad she had time to catch her breath and get cold before I finished.  Of course, she beat most everyone else too, so I don't feel too terrible about it.  The dog also beat almost everyone else.  I knew he was going to be trouble when he showed up not dressed as a turkey, but wearing a racing bib.  Yes, the dog was wearing a racing bib.  I just feel bad for the guy who had to keep up with him to hold his leash.

 There are a lot of kids on the McAbee side of the family.  The fooseball game was paused to capture them all.  We had the Thanksgiving meal with the McAbees...

 ...and still made the coast before all the light had faded.  Then we headed out to TFI Fridays for our smaller and less traditional Thanksgiving meal.

 Black Friday started with coffee.  Relax, it's chocolate milk, but Violet was pretending to have coffee with me.  I'm sure there are great deals to be found if you venture out to shop on Black Friday but when you have an entire family of people who do not like crowds,

 there's a great alternative called Beach Friday.  After breakfast we mixed our summer and winter wardrobes and headed out to the sand to play.  These kids either have saltwater or sand in their veins.  They love the beach.  Blue drew pictures in the sand and was 90% wet by the time we went inside. 

 Violet was 50% wet but what wasn't wet was covered in sand.  It warmed up nicely and it was an absolutely beautiful day.

 The kids wanted to jump in the waves like we do when it's warmer.  Blue ran in with me but made a quick exit when the first small wave hit.  Violet made me carry her so that only one of us would have to feel the pain of the cold water.  My feet were numb the moment the water touched me.  It was worth it.

 Then we gave thanks at Russell's. 

 Russell wasn't there but everyone else was.  The hostess has been greeting us pretty much since she was a child.  We've been going there quite a while.  Best seafood in the Grand Strand area.

 And you get to enjoy the beauty of the inlet while you're there.

 If there are more beautiful spots, I haven't seen them.

 Oh, and we tried to see Santa's big arrival at the Market Common.  We waited in the cold for a long time and endured several local talent acts as we waited.  This somehow led to us accidentally seeing most of the Nutcracker ballet before we couldn't keep the kids still any longer and had to bail.  But it turned out great for us.  We had ice cream and coffee and then found Santa waiting on us by the tree.

Before we headed home we let Blue demonstrate his powerful lungs.  He nearly blew this tree out of the ground.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

great moments in sculpture #422

My students are awesome.

This is the time of year when I get most excited about teaching.  I know most teachers love the start of the academic year when everyone is excited about restarting.  But since I teach sculpture, a dirty, grimy, sweaty class where students have to wear crappy clothes and they have to take the class as a requirement - the start of the academic year is not always so exciting.  Many of the students are not exactly looking forward to the class so it becomes my goal to make them love it. 

It takes some time to see them come around and many of them would sooner die than let me know that I've won them over, but during the steel project people start smiling more and walking around with a new confidence.  That's when I know I've got them.  That's when I get excited.

The fall time change makes our sculpture patio more of a challenge but we added some halogen lights to extend the work times.

In the daytime all the visitors and even some of the students see and hear us working on the patio and think we are the physical plant.  I can't imagine what they think when they see us illuminated at night.

Not only do the students stop caring about being fashionable, they embrace the safety attire.  The fire resistant "mad scientist jackets" are worn with pride and the students carefully pick through the box of welding caps to find one that speaks to their personality.  That's Shawny wearing the Dolla' Bills cap.

Everyone wants to wear the flame welding helmet.  I'm told it makes the welds more awesome.  I spend time with each student when they weld for the first time and teach them what to do.  I stay with them until they get the hang of it and then sometimes I snap a photo to show them just how cool they look.  When Ashley saw this image of her welding she sent me an email that simply said:  "let me just say that i'm a badass!"

We don't allow hearts, stars or glitter (or hugging or crying) in sculpture.  But I have to admit that this note on the dry erase board made me smile.  It also made me realize that there are 31 more people in the world now who know how to weld.  But I still erased the heart and smiley face.

 What started out as this...

...ended up looking like this.

And what started as this...

 ...turned into this.

 And Mia (please take a moment to notice the welding cap sitting high up on her head to protect her curls) turned this...

 ...into this.

 The only problem for me is that after everyone knows how to weld and the project is winding up, there's not much for me to do but observe.  I get bored easy and on this particular Saturday...that's right, they came in to work on a Saturday...I paid tribute to The Kids In The Hall by taking pictures of me squishing people's heads.