Friday, June 29, 2012

a taste of my own medicine

Back in the spring I had my advanced sculpture students create painted steel flowers for an outdoor installation.  They cursed me under their collective breath as they hammered, cut, polished and welded the inorganic steel into organic sculptural forms.  I may or may not have secretly laughed at their struggles. 

Enter kharma.

I was recently commissioned to create......a bouquet of flowers.  It's still a little top secret so that's all I should say.  But here are photos of my own struggles.

 Almost 150 petals cut out of steel

 Almost 150 petals ground, sanded and polished

 Almost 150 petals bent by hand into curved forms

 A handful of leaves also cut, polished and bent

 Flowers welded together

 Flowers finished along with a steel vase

 Have I ever mentioned how much I hate to paint?

 I think these are called Black Eyed Susans

View from below

Sculpture project number 7 for the summer completed.  Working on number 8 now.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

the summer shadow

This is Blue.  He's my boy.  Blue just completed 5K which means he's now enjoying his first ever summer vacation.  Since I'm also on summer break - I have dad duty this summer.  This means if you see me before August, you'll likely see Blue too. 

It's an interesting time.  There are so many things that he's seeing and doing for the first time right now.  Sleeping late is a good example.  This is a child who previously considered 7:00 am sleeping in.  The second week he was out of school he stopped waking me up and I started waking him up before I went out to run.  Last week he woke up a good while after my run was over.  I'm so proud of him. 

He's also learning to do things for himself right now.  This is especially noteworthy to me since I had hoped to spend a significant amount of time this summer making sculptures.  It should not surprise you that I work best in complete solitude and I strongly dislike interruptions of any kind.  The idea of trying to weld and grind in the basement while being asked to make drinks and snacks every couple of minutes was not a happy one.  But Blue has mastered the laptop computer, the internet (only to, the TV remote, and the water dispenser on the fridge.  Now that I type that out it sounds like he's running loose for hours at a time doing as he pleases, but that's not the case at all.

As soon as parents learn that children can do things, children get chores and assignments.  Blue has a few things he must do just after breakfast and he has a daily "smart assignment" as well.  The "smart assignment" involves reading a book, writing a story, or some other school related activity.  We hope this will help him remember all he learned in 5K and we hope it will keep his brain from turning to mush.

I'm told that many boys are their mother's children until they reach double digit ages.  This is the case here for sure.  But Blue is smart and he was quick to realize that dad must be buttered up if there's going to be any secret ice cream treats and other such fun activities during the summer.  I don't want to use the word "manipulate" here, but children learn quickly how to use their charm to get their way.  And parents learn quickly how to use ice cream and Bojangles to get their way.

Blue accompanied me to a recent school function where we helped orient a few incoming freshmen ladies.  As he was in other meetings and school talks, he was well behaved while he quietly played the old iPhone games.  When we walked to the truck to go home he asked who the young ladies were and then promptly told me which one he thought was the prettiest.  This led to a brief discussion of aesthetics.  No surprise, he picked the one that looked most like his mother.  

That was also the day I noticed his pants were on backwards after his mother pointed it out to me when she arrived home from work.  Looks like I won't be getting that Father of the Year trophy this time either. 

He's also taken to whistling at girls.  Now, before you go blaming me for his sudden summer interest in the ladies, let me remind you that Blue has been the Ladies Man since way back in preschool.  Believe me, if I could postpone his interest the girls, I would put that off for a long time.  We have uncle Daniel to blame for the new "whistle language" that Blue has learned.  At the beach he whistled at a few girls his age and then almost got his dad beat up when he decided to whistle at a group of freshly graduated high school girls.  Thanks again uncle Daniel.  I've told him that the rule is that if you whistle at someone they are supposed to come kiss you.  So if he happens to whistle at you, plant a big one on him and maybe he'll stop.

Ladies, Nickelodeon and Super Mario are not his only summer interests.  He spends a considerable amount of time doing cool stuff like using his imagination and drawing.  We stay stocked up on sidewalk chalk because he likes to draw big.  The image above shows him working on his latest masterpiece featuring 3 pirate ships.  He went to a lot of trouble to bring out his toy pirate ship so he could draw from direct observation.  He did this without any encouragement or suggesting from me.  Again, very proud. 

He does and says the funniest things.  There's no such thing as context or transitions for him.  If it comes to mind, he says it and the juxtaposition of ideas is great for getting my mind thinking creatively.

Saturday night we all went to a juried exhibit reception.  The gallery was filled with very diverse and really interesting works of art.  Blue was excited we were going to see art and when we got there I asked him to look at everything and pick out his favorite piece.  When I asked him which one he chose he grabbed my hand and led me through all the people before stopping in front of a sculpture.  He looked up at me and smiled and pointed at my own sculpture.  Then he asked if we could go get some ice cream now.

I'm no fool.  I knew his game.

But yes, we got some ice cream.

Friday, June 22, 2012

a dog with a pig in it's mouth

During our beach vacation we had an ice cream visit with Logan Woodle.  The image above is a new work by him and you can see it and much more on his website

Logan hit the lottery his freshman year and ended up in my 3D-1 class at Winthrop.  It may be more true to say that I hit the lottery since his work in my classes made me look like a good teacher.  His interest was jewelry/metals and he was quite the dedicated student.  He was gullible enough to sign up for my 3D-2 class and I was able to watch him complete his undergraduate degree while racking up lots of awards and scholarships. 

The move from Conway, SC, his family home, to Rock Thrill, SC was not a tough one.  I think he had some salty air withdrawals but he was close enough to home and surrounded by Carolina culture so he still seemed to feel at home.  The move to Pennsylvania for graduate school was a tad tougher.  He spent the last couple of years a rock's throw from one of the great lakes enduring snow, cold and being away from his very close family unit.

His distance from "home" allowed him to see exactly what details about the family farm he missed and allowed him to begin thinking about why he missed them.  This thought process led him to create his best work yet, a series of metal sculptures directly related to his family and his home. 

While eating his mint chocolate chip he told me that oddly enough he found that he missed humidity while he was away.  An odd thing to miss for sure. 

We just passed the one year mark living here on the plantation.  Since we began packing over a year ago I've been thinking about the idea of home.  Is where we live now "home"?  Is "home" where we grew up?  Is it where our parents live?  Is it a location or an intangible feeling?

When we packed for the beach trip the kids each grabbed a few things that made them feel comfortable.  A stuffed animal, a particular blanket, a ball.  They took things with them so they could feel a bit of "home" while they were away.  In a way, we did the same thing when we moved here.  We brought a magnolia sprout from Laura Jean's magnolia tree.  We brought flower bulbs from my mom and Georgie's grandmother.  We brought photos and gifts and keepsakes from our respective families and placed them in the new house.  We have bits and pieces of "home" all around us in an attempt to make us feel more comfortable here. 

For our kids, this will likely be the "home" they remember.  Not the house, but the routines, the long term objects, and the associations with people, colors and textures. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

plantation plants






 crookneck squash



In truth, I don't eat most of this stuff.  The nectarines, berries and nuts "came with the frame" so to speak.  (The 'Burbs reference.  One of Tom Hanks finest performances.)  We planted the squash, okra and watermelon along with a couple of strawberry plants.  Wild critters ate the strawberries but the others are doing well.  I fried some yellow squash but did not eat it.  I stir fried some zucchini and mixed it with enough rice, chicken and teriyaki sauce to enjoy it.  I'll try the blueberries in pancakes and I'll look forward to picking out the walnuts but the others are just pet plants to me.  Too bad we can't grow bacon on a tree. 

I make no secret of the fact that I do not eat vegetables.  I know they are good for you and I know you think I'll die if I don't eat something green and gross but I do ok for an old guy and no, I don't take vitamins or supplements.  The thing is....I hate vegetables.  I abhor them.  I know that if you smash them up just right and mix them with enough other items you can make some great things like bbq sauce or grits (grits come from some type of corn, right?) but just vegetables, by themselves, they bother me. 

I trace this hatred back to my childhood when I was forced to grow all sorts of despicable things in the dirt.  We didn't just have a garden, at one time we had a produce stand and for years our Silver Queen corn was talked about all over town.  We grew everything imaginable that would grow in upstate SC.  I hoed it, plowed it, picked it, broke it, shelled it, shucked it, cut it, washed it and pulled weeds out of it and I think those experiences turned me sour toward the fruits of my labor.  But I was also forced to pick peaches and shell pecans so I guess my love for those things blows my theory a bit.  Maybe I was just a picky eater.  Fine.

My parents always had some type of garden.  Mom is a professional canner and preserver.  She and dad would eat the things they grew but they always ended up giving away most of the garden yield.  I used to joke with them and explain that in the modern world we had these things called grocery stores and we could just hop in a horseless wagon and go to Ingles and buy some produce if we were hungry.  They always said that there's just something about growing your own food that makes it worth all the trouble.  

As usual, they were right.  Perhaps there's some genome in my family that was coded with the desire to grow things.  Maybe it's just a natural human instinct.  But oddly enough I really enjoy growing these things even though I have no desire to eat them.  

Dad used to tell me stories about raising pigs.  Maybe if I do a really good job with the plants I could work my way up to a pig.  

Sunday, June 10, 2012

if it's the beaches

Last week we skipped out on real life and went to the beach.  Here's how we remember it...

 Last year the kids loved the overpriced Jimmy Buffet place.  This year Violet was not impressed.  Too loud.

She eventually warmed up to it but she was terrified of large brown bottles dropping down from the sky for the remainder of the week.  Perhaps this will keep her away from tequila forever.

 Blue loved it, but he loves everything about the beach.

 When I say "the beach" I, of course, mean the Grand Strand.  I know some of you coastal elitists think that Charleston is the only dignified beach destination and you consider Myrtle Beach the "Kmart by the sea" but let me remind you that Charleston is not even a beach by definition and is in fact, a man made heap of rock and debris.  It's a great and historical heap, but still not a beach.

 What you really mean is that you prefer Folly Beach or the Isle of Palms.  Fine, those are also great beaches but they are both a long drive from the food and fun of downtown Charleston.  Just because I'm smart enough to go to a beach that is minutes (or seconds in some cases) from my food and fun, you don't have to be bitter about that.

 Don't agree?  You wanna argue with Blue?  The boy knows his beaches.

 And Violet doesn't understand the difference just yet, but she knows beauty when she sees it.

 The truth is I can't be objective about it.  I grew up going here and still as a rapidly aging man this photo captures how this place makes me feel.  (No offense Charleston, we can still hang out)

 I found the second largest sharks tooth in my collection this week.  Blue found his first ever.

 What do you expect me to do when I'm staring at this potential sculpture material all day?  This was the little whale.

 We found a cheap babysitter too.  Just bury the kids in the sand (don't worry, it was above the high tide mark) and go have a quiet dinner for two!  Dear DSS, I'm joking.  No children were buried against their will nor were they neglected for any period of time.  They actually loved this because they got to break out of the sand like the Hulk.

 I did not get to be the architect for this project.  It was some kind of sand fort/swimming pool.  Blue insisted on drawing "plans" for it with his shovel in the sand while I did the digging.

 One of the days we had a cool rain most of the day.  We went out early and played in the rain and when all the sensible people got cold and went inside I stayed out and continued digging and playing in the sand.  The result was this giant fish/man hybrid and some very numb and cold fingers.  I was the only human on the beach for the morning.  Even the lifeguard climbed in his little storage box to stay warm and dry.  I felt like a moron when I finished and realized there were lots of people watching the idiot play in the rain.  The sun came out in time for a photo.

 This is the full moon rising over high tide.  We had astronomical high tides and I discovered how tough the tidal changes are to explain to a 5 year old.  Especially when the 40 year old doesn't completely understand them.

 Violet demonstrated her unique approach to mini golf.  She'd tee off like this and then grab the ball and run toss it in the hole. 

 We crashed the grand opening of the Lego place.  A whole place designed to let you play with Legos.  Oddly, they do not sell Legos.  Poor business decision if you ask me. 

 Lego pirate Violet.  It was past her bed time.

 Lego pirate Blue.  Note the ever growing void in his bottom row of teeth.  We learned that the tooth fairy can find lost teeth under pillows even if you're on vacation.  They just know these things.
Side note:  This was the first tooth I've pulled since I was that age.  It felt really strange.

 The Lego place had very cool Lego sculptures.

And then there was the worst moment of any vacation.  The one where everyone realizes that they have to leave and go back to real life.