Tuesday, October 30, 2012

running season

Last year I set what I thought was a crazy goal to run 1,000 km before the end of 2011.  When I reached that one about a month early I immediately started wondering if I could do more.  This year I set my goal at 1,500 km.  Ridiculous.  But thanks to an equally ridiculous streak of running every day since last spring, much to my wife's dismay, I met that goal on Sunday. 

I've only had to run in the rain a handful of times.  I saw a reeeeally close bolt of lightning once and had to duck inside for a while.  I was almost trampled by deer a few times and I almost needed to be revived after just missing stepping on a snake.  I ran early in the morning on some days and at dusk on others.  When G had surgery I got up early and ran before driving us to the hospital, then drove her home the next day, got her safely upstairs and put on my running shoes.  There may or may not have even been an ER visit where we were released and as we headed home she said "Well I guess you'll have to run before we eat dinner."  I did.

Here's something I never thought I would say....I love to run.  It's great.  Don't get me wrong, it hurts and it's difficult and you may have noticed that I'm no spring chicken, but I look forward to running.  There have been days this year when I've ran and my mind has raced faster than my legs trying to figure out solutions to huge problems.  Some laps were spent thinking up ways to make sculpture projects better.  Some were spent developing and rehearsing slide presentations.  Some laps were devoted to grading and going over projects in my head.  There are some runs where my mind goes silent and I think of absolutely nothing for 20 minutes.  But no matter what my head does when I run and no matter how numb my legs may be afterwards, I'm always a better human being when I'm done. 

If you're wondering how the bug problem worked out....none of the remedies, repellents, or voodoo spells worked great.  Deet did nothing but make my lips swell.  I tried Logan's suggestion of rubbing a dryer sheet on my skin and even tucking one in the waist of my shorts.  This didn't keep them from sticking to me and biting me, but I did get fewer bites than with the deet and I had the added bonus of smelling like "spring rain" for a few weeks. Now the cold temperatures and wind seem to have carried the plague away.  So thanks to those of you who made suggestions.   

Saturday, October 27, 2012

see zeke run

Yesterday I decided it was time to see if Zeke was smart enough to run with me.  He's just over one year old and while we have lots of yard for him to explore, we still try to keep him away from the road.  Nothing good would come from him getting too curious about the traffic.  I also prefer to not be jumped on by an 80 pound dog while running. 

But yesterday I walked out for my run and as I walked out of the porch he pushed his way inside hoping to rest in his bed.  When he raced in his bed he was attacked by a vicious 13 year old chihuahua who had taken up residence there in Zeke's absence.  It was a scary few seconds but wisely Zeke retreated while the chihuahua said something like, "that's what I thought" and flashed gang signs at him.

So Zeke was back outside with me and it was time to run. 

The first few hundred yards he tried to jump on me and bumped my feet a few times.  As we neared the road he slowed down and waited to see what I was doing.  After I made the first turn and got on the trail around the perimeter of our land, he followed pretty well.  He would race by me showing off his speed and then circle back to stay with me.  He fell into a good pace with me on the first lap but on the second lap he started to realize that we were just making big one kilometer laps around the plantation.  That's when he started cheating.  He'd round the corners off a little and he'd run ahead so he could lay down and wait on me for a bit. 

On the third lap he proved he was smarter than me.  He ran with me along the edge of the woods and then disappeared.  I did the rest of the lap alone only to find him laid up in the shade when I came back around.  Again he ran with me along the woods before doubling back to his water bucket and then seeking the shady spot. 

At the end of the 5th lap he jumped up and ran the last few steps with me as if he'd been running hard the whole way.  Then he looked at me like he was wondering why I was having trouble breathing.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

secac 2012: chicken, waffles & hawks

This year's South Eastern College Art Conference was in Durham, NC - home of the Durham Bulls minor league baseball team, lots of tobacco and some good food.  I presented a paper about my sculpture process in a session chaired by my own department chair Jim Slagle which meant he and I would be travel buddies for this trip.
 Durham has a great little downtown area where the past meets the present in odd ways.  Many of the old tobacco plants had been turned into upscale shopping centers or restaurants.
 The signs still pay tribute to the cash crop that I assume built this town.
 And the trains still run through town several times each day.  Not on this track, but the ones to the left.
 I took a hike around town and walked down to the baseball stadium to see the snorting bull on the left field wall.  Smoke blows out of his nostrils during the games.
 The Carolina Theater houses old cinemas and was the host of the SECAC keynote speech.
 The old buildings and signs made the hike worth taking.
 I also sat in on presentations by other professors.  There's some interesting sessions and it's nice to get input and expertise from others who may be dealing with similar situations. 
 Jim and I have a lot in common.  Besides looking alike and hating vegetables, we also love to eat good food.  This turned the dining portion of our trip into a food tour.  We had some great meals.  Pictured above was my meal at Dames Chicken & Waffles.  So many amazingly indescribable flavors on one plate.  So good we ate there twice.  Well worth the 4 hour drive to Durham.
 We also love pigs so we sniffed out the best bbq in town.  I forgot the name of the place but it had the letter "Q" in it somehow.  Great bbq and fries but be warned, they put onions in their mac and cheese.  Jim was angry.
 You should always try an Irish pub when you travel and if that Irish pub shares your last name....you should also take a picture of the sign and fist bump the manager.  Great fish and chips.
 Before our presentations I had to choose between going over my notes to make sure I was prepared or driving over to the Duke campus to see some art.  I'm sure I made the right choice.
 In Duke's Nasher Museum of Art there were some great surprises.  John Chamberlain's crushed car sculpture above.
 A huge Richard Deacon sculpture in the main lobby.
 It's always nice to see a Picasso, of course.
 The head of a saint from way back in the art history book.
 And some beautiful Flemish masters.
There was also a great contemporary show from the private collection of one of Duke's former graduates.  It included work by Keith Haring, Bruce Nauman, Eric Fischl, Robert Gober, Cindy Sherman, Jessica Stockholder, Sol LeWitt and Jeff Koons.  Photography was not allowed in that gallery and there were just enough dudes in black uniforms to make sure I obeyed the rules.  Very inspiring work though, and also well worth the drive.
My presentation dealt with my process of using hollow form construction to create organic forms with steel.  Since my dad taught me to weld when I was seven and he taught me everything I know about steel, he figured prominently in my presentation.  It felt good to give him the credit for his influence in my work and to be able to show images of the first body of work I've made since he passed away last spring.  That body of work features imagery inspired by my dad and his great stories. 
His birthday would have been Thursday, the day before my presentation.
If you've read other posts about my dad you'll remember that he had an interesting relationship with red tailed hawks.  Friday morning I went running near the hotel around a mall parking lot.  As I ran, I went through the presentation in my head and at one point a red tailed hawk of substantial size swooped down and buzzed by me no more than 10 feet away.  Hawks do not normally fly at humans and my lack of hair makes it certain he did not mistake me for a squirrel.  I'm not sure what an appropriate response would have been, but I laughed out loud at the event.  What else could I do?

Saturday, October 13, 2012

great moments in sculpture #52

Critique photos from the plywood project.  These are not all the photos and not all the projects and students are represented....sorry, I'm just not patient enough to load them all.
 Andre's device to stop him from smoking
 Tav's iPhone holder so she can't reach it
 Whitney's nail biting preventer
 Kelsey's portable stool of discomfort
 Megan's blinders, earmuffs and protective vest
 Sean of the dead's turtle shell to protect him from me
 The shell attracted a few visitors like Abby...
 and KJ
 Emily's sunflower for holding sunflower seeds
 Brandy's concentration helmet
 Lydia's sarcasm shield
 Anne's key holder bracelet
 Katie's reading nook
 Jaaziah's phone case
 Leigh Ann's pressure point machine
 Taylor's backpack
 Abby's ears and satellite dish
Shawny's bug slapper slapping the Cessquatch
KJ's blond "fro-hawk" and Amish beard disguise

Friday, October 12, 2012

great moments in sculpture #1009

This week's extracurricular projects centered around the new Lander University sculpture logo.  In between the week's worth of critiques and last minute fixes to projects before deadlines my trusted sculpture worker Ali and I planned to draw and paint a 10' wide version of the sculpture logo on the floor of our outdoor work space.

The patio floor suffered from years of over spray, scrapes and mystery stains.  The giant logo could only help.

Drawing the logo on the computer was easy, even with my primitive software.  Drawing it on concrete was a challenge.  After thoroughly cleaning the floor, I began drawing the logo using Sharpie markers.  The concrete was tough on the marker tips and my improvised compass scraped the tips off of 2 markers just to draw 2 circles.  Outlining the "Mighty S" was more of a challenge to my brain but less of a challenge to the Sharpies. 

Once the contours were in place we crawled around on the floor with a gallon of paint and two cheap brushes trying to color inside the lines.  One of us had a bit of a problem staying inside the lines......I'm not going to mention any names, but it wasn't me.

While we painted, the wind blew sawdust all over the wet paint, leaves fell off the oak trees into the wet paint and a sculpture student somehow managed to walk right in the wet paint leaving fading black footprints from his soccer shoes.

Graphic Design Guru, Professor Slagle stepped in to save me a few days work on the text.  He cut me a large vinyl stencil and after placing it carefully...

We painted it black...

And removed the vinyl to reveal the letters.  Much easier than using brushes.

That's what it looks like now from the next floor up.  A major improvement in the view.

While we worked on the floor, Professor Slagle worked on the glass doors leading out to the patio.  He had an idea to merge graphic design and sculpture by generating a 3D vinyl logo.  It's not easy to see in the image, but the logo above consists of about 17 layers of vinyl rising up off the surface of the glass.  It's tactile and awesome.  Slagle is great.

Oh and my students did some great things this week too.  More on that later.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Hey LJ

This blog is such a weird thing.  Although it exists primarily for me as a storage facility for narrative ideas and rambling art thoughts, I do realize it is publicly accessible.  And for a hermit and a terribly private person….there is sometimes a furious balance between what I need to document and what I’m willing to let you read.  If you’re reading this, I probably like you at least a little.  This is not the kind of blog you read to stay up on current events or to learn new things.  If you’re here, I’ve probably met you in real life or at least know who you are.  Or even more likely, I’m related to you in some way.  And if you are some human I don’t know, you probably came here because you were interested in sculptures or drawings.  Again, it’s the art that creates the need for such a storage site.  My creative work is closely tied to my everyday experiences and the narratives within them.  And while I came to grips with the sharing of some personal information here some time ago, it was only recently I realized another possible use for this site.  LJ checks it periodically to keep up with what is going on in our lives.

If you’re not current with my cast of characters, let me ‘splain…

In my previous life I was a graphic designer.  For 16 years I worked for an oxymoron of a company.  They were quite big in the international world of embroidery but their physical footprint was only a couple of acres on the edge of a peach field right between Greenville and Spartanburg counties.  My drive home each day took me by the old McAbee homestead and each afternoon I’d stop by and sit with my mom and dad to chat before driving across the yard to my aunt Laura Jean’s house.  There’s an entry on here somewhere about her if you want to search for it.  She is/was my dad’s oldest sister.  She was the queen of the Emergency Room in Spartanburg for many years, she’s beat down cancer several times, and she looks and acts about 20 years younger than most people her age.  That's her in the photo in 1957.

She’s lived next door to my parents since before time began for me.  She took care of my grandmother until my grandmother died and she’s spent most of her life taking care of everyone else in her life in some way or another.  When my brothers and I were kids she helped make sure we didn’t die of stupidity.  (It’s quite convenient to have a ER nurse living next door when you have 3 boys always thinking up new ways to cheat death.)  She’s always been part of our immediate family…whether she wanted to be or not.  She got dragged to every family event from Sunday lunch to Christmas morning and to this day, we’re still dragging her along with us.

As close as we all were to LJ through the years, I got even closer to her during those afternoon chats.  We’d catch up on art, family, politics and we’d discuss religion and theology.  I’m pretty sure we solved most of the world’s problems in those visits.  We’d tell funny stories and jokes or she’d tell me I needed to start eating vegetables or she’d tell me about the 3-4 funerals she’d go to during the week and how each one rated against the other.  Mostly though, we laughed.  We laughed a lot. 


When I changed jobs we were both thrilled about the new opportunity and we were both disappointed because we knew the weekday visits would have to end.  Still, for that first year we lived in the same county so it was easier to catch up on weekends and school holidays.  Then G and I moved closer to school making keeping in touch even tougher.  We email updates every once in a while.  I blame Steve Jobs for making that so tough.  I get most of my mail now on my phone and rarely have the chance to sit down with a real keyboard.  Steve’s minions made the tiny keyboard on the phone so small that I can usually only muster enough patience to email a couple of sentences. 

But LJ is smart and she figured out how to find the blog and now she checks it for updates.  She comes here looking to see what we’ve been up to and to see photos of Blue and Violet.  I guess from her end it feels like at least half of the conversations we used to have.  And since that works better than short conversations every two weeks at lunch, now I just need to figure out how to talk her into having her own blog.  If she can use Microsoft Word she can use Blogger, right?  That way I could keep up with her too.  If I ever talk her into it I’ll let you know so you can follow her blog.  She’s awesome, you’d love her.  Right now she's having a hair growing contest with my teenage nephew.  That's the sort of thing that should be documented.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

we like pigs

 Festival season is here and the kids couldn't be happier about it.  They love a festival because they associate festivals with rides and bouncy houses.  The adults associate festivals with bribing kids to behave in order to get to ride rides and play in bouncy houses. 

Friday we did the first festival of the season, Squealin' on the Square.  That's Blue up there doing what he does when you tell him to smile.  The boy smiles 23 hours of each day but if you tell him to smile he contorts his face into that strained display of teeth.  It drives his mother crazy.

 Small towns are great.  I like looking at the old buildings on the square and seeing all the crazy booths selling and giving away random items. 

 Blue got to shake hands with Spongebob.  Who knew Spongebob knew Laurens existed?

 Blue got scary things painted on his face.

 Violet got cute things painted on her face.

 And since they behaved while we people-watched and while we ate, they got to do the bouncy things.

 As we were getting ready to leave, Mac Arnold and the Plate Full of Blues were getting ready to play.  Mac Arnold plays these awesome homemade guitars made from old metal gas cans. 

 Some of the buildings on the square seem to be on the verge of falling in.  Their outer shells hold in the stories of their past.  You can see the history stains running down from the bricks below the windows.

There was such an entertaining mix of people there.  Rebel flags, camo clothes, entire families in matching college outfits, politicians, farmers, tattooed folks, tea-totalers, cops and Steelers fans were all walking around smiling and talking to each other.  The BBQ was great but the visual feast was even better.