Thursday, August 30, 2012

Just after we were married, Georgie and I lived in this little house beside her grandparents.  They have a big peach farm and lots of land and they had a chicken coop behind the little house we lived in.  Every morning I would walk through the backyard to feed the dog, sometimes pretty early and half awake.  One morning I stumbled out back still foggy eyed and as I walked under the big tree I walked into something hanging from the limbs.  I enthusiastically dislike spiders and since I assumed I had walked into a giant web I wildly wiped my face and head before realizing I had not walked into a spider.  I had walked into a hawk. 

Of course I found this odd but maybe not quite as odd as you may find it.  Hawks occasionally take chickens and there are those who believe that if you hang a dead hawk from a tree limb it will serve as a warning to keep other hawks away.  I knew this from my own childhood because my dad would proudly protect the pecans (pronounced pee-cons) by hanging blackbirds up in the trees.  We presume all these birds died of natural causes since it would not have been prudent to shoot any of them. 

My dad used to talk about hawks a lot.  He loved them.  Back in the days before red tailed hawks were a protected species he would demonstrate that love in a way that we probably do not understand.  He would shoot them.  I know how that sounds but hear me out on this.  Google did not exist in the 1960s.  Unless you were lucky enough to have a National Geographic with an article on your favorite animal or unless you were Grizzly Adams, you were not likely to ever get a close look at a wild animal unless it was unconscious.  And if your favorite animal had wings, well you were even more out of luck.  Pop was a great shot though, and he used his rifle to get a closer look at this animal.  Now I’m not saying this was a good thing to do, but at least he used a rifle to make it a challenge. 

Any ride in my dad’s truck up until just a couple of years ago would quickly turn into a hawk spotting trip.  It was like he had some crazy hawk sensor.  We’d be riding along with Marty Robbins singing us a cowboy story and dad would say “look at the size of that hawk!”  I’d scan the trees and see nothing.  After learning where to look and seeing just how hard it was to spot one, I wondered how he could focus on finding something so small while also driving a truck through traffic. 

And he had hawk stories.  He said that when he was a little boy shooting a hawk was like a badge of honor.  He told me that his mother shot one once and he’d never seen her so proud.  He told me about the moment when he learned as a young adult that you were not allowed to discharge a firearm from inside a vehicle….even if you were just shooting a hawk on the side of the road.  He talked about how he watched the hawks adapt to hunting by the interstate as he helped build the stretch of I-26 through our town.  He told me about the giant wingspan on one, right down to the number of inches it was across and how it had to have been a state record.  He told me that when we saw hawks hunting it meant a weather front was coming in.

You can imagine that he was not happy when hawks became protected from hunters.  He did, however find much solace in nature shows, nature channels and even watching the local hawks hunt doves in the pecan trees from the comfort of his porch chair. 

Since he was enamored with hawks before I was born, I assume he passed the hawk genome on to me.  On my drives to and from college I started counting hawks.  When I drove that path again in grad school I did the same, trying to understand why they seemed to hunt more in certain weather conditions.  I spotted them for 16 years driving to the old job.  There was even one that hunted in the big oak tree across the street from my office window several times each week.  I named him Hudson.  Now when I drive anywhere 99% of my mind is focused on driving but that 1% is scanning the landscape for hawks.  Every road conversation with Georgie is peppered with “there’s one”, “look at that one”, “did you see how big that one was?”.  Now I have the crazy hawk sensor. 


When pop died the family gathered at my parents’ house.  There were people everywhere so (surprise, surprise) I found my way outside to the porch where the people were fewer.  As I stood there listening to stories about him, I instinctively turned and scanned the tall pines across the road.  Just as I did, the hawk he loved to watch slid out of the sky into the tip of one of the pines.  He was enormous and beautiful.  He sat there for several minutes frozen in his perfect posture before taking off again for a better spot.

Of course I believe that this was entirely coincidental. 

Except when I don’t. 

Sunday, August 26, 2012

more images from the 2 day meeting

From the camera of renowed photographer, professor jon holloway...

Friday, August 24, 2012

meetings are hard

 This week the art department gathered for our kick off meeting.  This meeting is usually a lengthy one so we decided to make the most of it by turning it into a lake retreat.
 After a few hours of shop talk we headed out to the boat for some fresh air.
 Professor Snipes demonstrated her ski talents.
 As did Professor Holloway.  Professor Slagle did as well, but I must not have captured that on film.
 Afterwards we headed back to continue making profound decisions for the academic year.
 The meeting lasted late into the night.
 A small wax sculpture was made.
 The meeting continued the following morning.  After a brisk 6km run and a hearty breakfast, the department of champions put in just below the dam for a day on the Saluda river. 
 Professor Singletary stopped texting long enough to pose for a photo.
 I was in my hermit kayak.  My view down river:  The Slagle boat.
 My view up river:  The Holloway boat.
We accomplished a ton of stuff and made some decisions that will strengthen our program and make our students even better.  One thing this group seems to understand is that you can have a lot of fun and be really great at what you do at the same time. 
One more week of preparation before classes begin.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

challenge accepted

This summer I was invited to submit a sculpture for the SRAM Part Project.  I did a little research and realized that this was a pretty big deal and saw that it was a cause that I would be happy to support.  The SRAM Part Project invites selected international artists to create a 3D work of art using SRAM parts.  It's fine if you don't know what SRAM means.  I didn't either.  SRAM is a maker of high performance bicycle parts (  The works of art are shown in a high profile venue and auctioned off to raise funds for World Bicycle Relief ( an organization that provides bicycles to villages in Africa and other places where bicycles can be life changing additions to a family. 

I do not normally engage myself with mixed media or assemblage work.  I don't mind being honest with you....I'm just not great at working with "found objects".  But I was in the midst of a summer sculpture frenzy and it was a good cause, so I decided to accept the challenge.  After I agreed to participate UPS dropped a box of this off at my door:

Those would be SRAM high performance bicycle parts.  And that would have been the moment where I wondered just what I'd gotten myself into.  The box contained at least 100 parts.  Some were larger, some were smaller and most of them were unidentifiable to me. 

The SRAM Part Project contest requires that you use at least 25 parts in your sculpture.  The parts can be manipulated in any way but they must be present.  Some of you will notice that this sounds like one of my 3D Design projects.  If so you should take a moment to laugh at me getting a taste of my own medicine.

Blue and Violet loved the parts.  They sat in the floor and marveled at them as I unwrapped each one and spread the pieces out across my drawing room floor.  I quickly separated several parts that fit well with an idea I had and then spent the next few days answering "I don't know" when the kids continually asked "What are you going to make with those pieces?"

With a project like this it was important to me to make something that would fit in with my current body of work.  If I was essentially donating a small sculpture to this cause, I at least wanted the experience of making it to help develop and further my ideas.  I wanted the sculpture to end up looking like something I would make and something that would make me smile. 

And here's the result:

"The One With The Zizwheel"
19" x 16" x 18"
Powder Coated Steel and SRAM Parts

Soon I'll ship this one off to New York.  The fundraising event will be in a New York City gallery in November.  Prizes will be awarded by a jury panel and the art will be sold in a live auction. 

By the way, that's Pearlescent White powder coating and it is sweet.

The One About Scrimshaw

 "The One About Scrimshaw"
11" x 5" x 11"
Powder Coated Steel

The One About Smiling

 "The One About Smiling"
7" x 7" x 5"
Powder Coated Steel

The One About Seeing You Later

 "The One About Seeing You Later"
6" x 8" x 11"
Powder Coated Steel

The One About Tree Rides

 "The One About Tree Rides"
9" x 10" x 13"
Powder Coated Steel

The One That's Not Bad

 "The One That's Not Bad"
24" x 13" x 17"
Powder Coated Steel

detail of the purple with gold flecks

The One That Itches

 "The One That Itches"
27" x 29" x 31"
Powder Coated Steel

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

sucking out the marrow of summer

What happens when you have a very productive summer and spend lots of time making sculpture and drawing?

You get to spend the last few precious days of summer painting doors and someone asked you to do back in the spring.  I believe I've mentioned my disdain for painting. 

My summer break is officially over right about now.  I go back to campus tomorrow morning.  There are still a couple of things that need to be scratched off my to-do list but since all work and no play makes me a grumpy teacher, I decided to be kind to my fall students and work in a few more bits of fun.

Someone's Nana thought a Slip'N Slide would be a good idea.

And it was - for the kids.  When adults disregard the warning labels and age restrictions there are aches and pains to pay.  I'll save you the horror of those photos.

Blue had a birthday.  This is from his Super Mario birthday at his Nana's.

 Complete with Super Mario cupcakes, mustache and hat.

Tasty cupcakes provided by our sponsor, Delightful Dishes.  I think they have a website and an app for your phone.

 Violet helped with an errand that was technically work, but I needed a reason to put this photo here.

 I figure I've consumed about a metric ton of ice cream this summer.  And it's never just ice plain ice cream, there's always something even less healthy mixed in with it.  But I've discovered that if you run 3 miles every day it's OK to eat ice cream.  Today I met my goal of running every day during the summer break.  And I think I only had to run in the rain once or twice.  The trusted running shoes above were retired today.  They plan to by an RV and travel a bit before moving to the beach. 

 Blue and I went for one more hike before we start back to school.  He was kind enough to put away his Legos and his Mario game long enough to climb a mountain.

 Caesar's Head is higher than Table Rock (seen in the distance) and you can drive right up to the peak.  I'm not sure Blue was adequately impressed with the view.

 He seemed to think it was cool but he wanted to know exactly what he was looking out at.  He asked me to show him where our house was and when I pointed him in the general direction and told him it was a little farther than he could see....he started looking around for bugs and rocks to throw. 

 The ranger station/gift shop had a large 3D model of the area showing the Blue Ridge Escarpment with several points of interest highlighted.  He looked at the images and asked questions about them.  When he pointed at the photo of the cross on the Pretty Place Chapel I asked him if he knew what that was.  What I expected him to say was, "that's a cross".  What he said was, "Hey!  That's the place where God got dead!".

 While you don't have to hike to the overlook, there are lots of hiking trails at the park.  I let him pick a winner and off we went.  He talked enough to scare off bears and snakes and he only paused a few times to use my old phone to take some of his own photos. 

 He spotted this little snail hiding in a tree trunk and had to have a photo to show his mom.

And now I should probably go and try to find where I stored all the pants that are not cargo shorts.