Friday, October 25, 2013

what a week

The last week has been exhausting...both mentally and physically.  In addition to all the normal daily tasks, several extra curricular things have happened to keep me on my toes.

Last Thursday was the reception for "Independent Study", an exhibit of work by Lander University's full time art faculty.  We were told it's the first time in 30 years there's been a comprehensive faculty exhibit featuring Lander professors.  The work exhibited in the show is amazing...and no, I'm not talking about my work.  

Jim Slagle created several large scale signs created out of cardboard.  That's his name up there and the sign spins to show that the name "Slagle" is spelled out both upside down and right side up.

His "You are beautiful" sign, also in cardboard.  You should Google "you are beautiful" to read about that project.

 Drawings by Elizabeth Snipes and sculpture by Sandy Singletary.

 Books by Asma Nazim-Starnes in the background and another Singletary sculpture in the foreground.

 There's one of my students accosting one of my sculptures in the gallery.  Jon Holloway's photos are in the background and Singletary's tree hangs in the foreground.

 The highlight of the night for me was getting to do a live drawing session with Dr. Tom Pitts, our art historian.  Tom would start a drawing on a piece of paper and hand it off to me.  I'd add to it and hand it back.  After a couple of rounds we'd give the finished drawing to one of the people standing around and we'd work on another one.  This collaborative drawing approach is what we do during our meetings to pass the time.  I stole this photo from someone's Facebook thing.

 I also stole this one.  That's most of the faculty in the photo, minus Elizabeth Snipes and Asma Nazim-Starnes.  From left there's Jon Holloway, me, Tom Pitts, Sandy Singletary and Jim Slagle.  

 The reception was very well attended and we had tons of our students come out to inspect our work.  Or maybe they came for the free beer.  Either way, there were lots of people.  Our faculty are very talented and really fun people to be around and work with.  And our students are also really great.  We have so many involved and enthusiastic students that it makes our jobs even more fun.  That's a group of students up there, from left, Andrew (Gordon), Sean (of the dead), Brandy (Cessquatch), Katie (Katertot), and Danielle (The Tavmanian Devil).  Everyone but Gordon was squatting down so they could make him seem like the tallest one.

 Greenwood held it's Oktoberfest on the same night as our reception so after we were finished being silly, we walked down the street, through the vendors and past the live music to Millhouse Pizza.  I think there were 3 tables of students but I only got a photo of one when I was leaving.  Some of the same people are in this one but there's also Ali, Ashanta, Octavis, Emily, Anne, Kayla, and Colleen.

45 minutes before the reception started, Octavis and I ran 3.1 miles around campus.  He was lucky enough to get a shower before the reception.  I was not so lucky.  Sorry to those who got close to me.

 And speaking of running, Lander hosted the Moonshine Run 5K last Monday night.  Ashley and Sean told me about it and several of the art people signed up.  We all pinned on our numbers and snapped on our glow sticks and lined up to race.  Mostly left to right that's Singletary, Sean, me, Ashley, Cessquatch, Lydia, Slagle, Katertot, Shawny, a photobomber and Octavis.

We lined up at the front of over 300 people and talked trash to the other runners.  There were a couple of firsts for me in this race.  This was the first time I've ever been in first place during a race (only for about 2/10ths of a mile) and the first time I've ever won 2nd place overall.  There's probably going to be an asterisk in the record books though.  The race took a crazy turn when one of the race workers stopped the race leaders and told them they were going the wrong way.  I was in 3rd place at the time and we all turned around and took off as directed.  Moments later another race worker told us to stop and go back the other way.  We lost at least a 1/4 of a mile and a good number of seconds during this mishap.  What we didn't know then was that some other racers behind us kept going on the cut-through.  Soon the second place runner fell back and I was right behind the leader.  Then we noticed a group of people doubling back on us as if they were in the lead.  When that group finished they realized they only ran 2 plus miles which must have been a huge letdown.  They thought they had amazing time results until they realized they were told to run the wrong way.  Once it was sorted out, they awarded first place to the guy in front of me (who I know was the first place winner) and awarded me second place.  But I have no idea what my real time was because of the screw up and because my running app crashed on me during the first mile.  Either way it was fun to run with everyone and to be able to cheer them on when they approached the finish line.  Slagle finished right behind me and I think Ashley and Cessquatch may have been the next ones to cross the finish line.  

There's most of the group after the race.  Octavis had to go to rugby practice and Shawny cheated and cut the course short so she could go home.

Sean and Ashley agreed to run with me sometime if I would play racquetball with them.  When the race came up it was the perfect time for all of us to run so on Wednesday I had to play racquetball.  The last time I played racquetball I was 16 and even if you're not a mathematician  you know that's a long time ago.  Ashley and Sean play 2 or 3 times each week and they are half my age.  I figured I was in for a beating.  

They led me to the athletic center like a lamb to slaughter.  I borrowed a racket and listened as best I could while Sean explained the rules.  We practiced a bit before starting a game they called "cut-throat" where all three of us played at the same time.  I was terrible.  Sean seemed confident.  I got hit by the ball a couple of times and Sean cracked me in the head with his racket, but eventually I started to get more comfortable.  Once I learned how to serve the tide turned.  Sean led us all until the final few minutes.  
 Once I started seeing the racket as a hammer, I was fine.  The ball makes a wonderful sound when you smack it as hard as you can.  

 Colleen watched through the glass and made these photos for us.  This one is my favorite.  it shows the two college students realizing they are about to be defeated by an old man.  The look on Ashley's face is priceless.  The final scores were:  me = 22 Sean = 20 Ashley = 16 or 18.

The celebration was short lived though.  After the game I had to go running and I could already tell my legs were going to be sore.  Then I had to change clothes and go install a public sculpture.

 Haley (H-Dawg) made this "Gear Tree" interactive sculpture for the Therapeutic Riding Trail at the Burton Center.  There was a mishap due to wind on installation day and the gears needed some rethinking.  Haley was able to find acrylic sheets and have a friend zap them with a CNC machine over the summer.  She painted all the parts over the last few weeks and we reinstalled the sculpture Wednesday.  The gears actually work and the acrylic will not break down.  This more colorful version is much better than before.

Late last night I loaded 5 sculptures in the truck and after class today I drove them to Columbia to the 701 Center for Contemporary Art.  Thankfully they had an elevator.  These 5 guys will be in the South Carolina Biennial 2013 exhibit Nov 7 through Dec 22.  

Maybe next week I'll get a nap.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

the one about mom

 "The One About Mom"
5" x 3" x 3"
powder coated steel

Truth is, I wasn’t raised by wolves.

I wasn’t found under a rock or sent to Earth to destroy the dreams of my students.  I was born in a hospital in South Carolina and I grew up with the best parents.  My brothers are cool too, but this isn’t about them.  This one is about mom. 

My dad passed away in the spring of 2012 and since then I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the impact my parents have had and still have on my life.  More than anyone else, they molded me and formed me into what I am today and I’m lucky enough to still be learning from my mom.
She probably has super powers.  If you met her you’d know exactly what I’m talking about.  She’s constantly in motion and always doing things for other people.  In her seventies she can outcook you, outwork you and she can probably outrun you.  Seriously. 

In my earliest memories it seemed like she was always cooking or cleaning.  This is because she was literally always cooking or cleaning.  I should probably clarify for modern audiences what I mean by “cooking”.  My mom didn’t unwrap things and toss them in the microwave for her kids to eat.  She cooked from scratch.  She made biscuits with flour and lard, fried real chicken (bones and all) and cooked bacon on the stove top the way God intended.  And when she was finished creating each spectacular meal for her hungry husband and three sons (three times each day) she cleaned up the kitchen and washed the dishes.  By hand.  She had a strict “no dish left behind” policy. 

She picked, shelled, broke, shucked and froze or canned pretty much everything in the garden.  She cracked and shelled buckets and buckets of pecans.  She picked scuppernongs and muscadines and made the best jelly known to man (I have a fresh jar of it in my fridge right now).  She picked up after the aforementioned husband and three sons and cleaned the house every Friday.  And again, for modern audiences, when I say she cleaned the house I mean her floors were cleaner than your dinner plates. 

She taught Sunday School, was the volunteer church secretary, was the unofficial organizer of all family gatherings on her side of the family and she hosted Thanksgiving lunch on the other side of the family – a task she continues to hold on to year after year.

Oh, and she worked a full time job too.

Even with all that information, I don’t feel like you’re getting the gist of the kind of person my mom is.  Here, this will help.  I told you she hosts Thanksgiving lunch for the McAbee family, right?  To call that a big meal would be a huge understatement.  There can be 40-50 people or more at this lunch and mom cooks for 2 or 3 days to get it all ready.  A few years ago she had some chest pain the week before Thanksgiving.  An ER trip revealed her gall bladder was a mess and needed to be removed.  She had surgery, they yanked it out and ordered her to rest.  She told them it was Thanksgiving and sort of laughed at them.  A couple of days later she was deep frying turkeys and cooking casseroles. 

This may help even more.  Several years ago my brother bought an overgrown wooded lot and needed it cleared so he could build a house.  Since we do things ourselves, he had everyone come over on a Saturday with an army of chainsaws.  My mom didn’t sit the bench with the ladies, she grabbed a chainsaw and tore through the woods like a bulldozer.  One of my brother’s friends – a grown man - whispered to my brother that he was embarrassed that he couldn’t work as hard as our mom.  He said, “She won’t stop.  She’s like the Terminator!”  My brother refers to her as the Terminator to this day.  So my dad was a work-a-holic and my mom is the Terminator.  Now you know where my “work, work, work” work ethic comes from.

Mom hates cats with a fervent passion.  I’m proud to say she passed this honorable trait on to me.  She also passed her poor eyesight down to me.  I’ve been wearing contacts since 7th grade and mom’s been wearing them since way back in the day when contacts were these huge glass discs that covered your whole eyeball.  Before that she wore glasses.  I don’t really remember any glasses frames from my childhood but the ones I do remember were the ones she always had on in the older family photos.  We had these huge old photo books stored in closets and drawers when I was a kid and I loved flipping through them and staring at the images.  In the photos before I was born she always had a beehive hairdo and these big, curved horn-rimmed glasses.  We called them “spiderman glasses” because they mimicked the shape of Spidey’s masked eyes.  (My brother was a comic nerd and still is…Tangled Web Comics in Spartanburg for all your comic and game needs.)  My memory is etched with the horn-rimmed glasses.  And the chainsaw.

 yes, that's me on mom's back at Disney in 1972

Mom’s retired now and she’s just as busy as ever.   She babysits truckloads of grandkids, cuts acres of grass, cleans houses for fun and takes care of just about everyone.  Last year her doctor fussed at her because she hurt her knee.  Ok, not because she hurt it, but because of how she hurt it.  When he asked she told him matter-of-factly that she fell while climbing a ladder to prune the top of an apple tree.  She’s a machine. 

At least she wasn’t using a chainsaw this time.

Friday, October 11, 2013

When we left our heroes in the last episode they were battling to the death in the first ever Sculpture Deathmatch.  Night had fallen and at the deadline both sculptures were installed on Lander University's scenic campus.  When the sun rose the next morning, here's what we saw:  

 "The Cardinal" by my Advanced Sculpture class.

Ever the overachievers, they went big creating a sculpture that is about 10 feet high.  They used the heaviest things they could find to create an abstract scene of a cardinal sitting on a branch watching over an egg in it's nest.  The nest is a cast iron bowl with wires taken from an old electric organ.  The tree is made from old pipes and part of an old light pole from the university.  The cardinal is made from a discarded steel sculpture.  

 "The Optimist" by the underclassmen team.  

My team members chose to design their own sculpture without my help.  Since neither of them has ever had a sculpture class and only one has had the basic 3D design class, I offered my input early in the designing stages.  They listened and then chose to ignore me.  And this is pretty much exactly what their sketch looked like.  I was little more than a machine, welding the pieces of steel in place as they put each one where it belonged.  

 the view from the opposite side

Voting began Monday Morning and lasted for 24 hours.  It happened on Facebook and since I don't exist there, I'm not sure exactly how it worked but I think only people from our Lander art page voted.  When the votes were counted...

 Team Awesome won.  Kayla and Oscar, the underclassmen were rewarded for their great work in front of a group of art majors.  They received the official Sculpture Deathmatch trophy and they got to sign the official Sculpture Deathmatch flag made by Georgie.  

The Deathmatch was fun and it cost very little.  The sculptures were created with 95% recycled materials.  We bought only a few cans of spray paint and a few anchor bolts.  By far most of the money that was spent was for food and drinks.  I hope this will become a biannual event.  Heads up future Advanced Sculpture classes.  The bar has been set high.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

the sculpture deathmatch

Saturday was the 1st ever Sculpture Deathmatch at Lander University.  Two teams of sculptors gathered in the sculpture studio to design, create and install two public sculptures in a 12 hour period.

Left to right above is Gordon, me, Sean, Oscar, Kayla, KJ, Ashley and Shawny.  It is just after 9:00 am in the photo and the outdoor workspace is cool and shaded.  Everyone is smiling and no one is sweating or sore.  But not for long.

Soon the sun would shoot up in the sky and focus all it's energy on us, baking us at a humid 90 degrees in October.  That's Ashley again.  She was very sick but she showed up anyway, donated these very cool shirts, and brought us 2 dozen Krispy Kreme doughnuts.  

Inside the studio students and friends gathered to see the show.  I think they also ate our food.  We had a steady stream of visitors and spectators in the studio throughout the day.  It was also Parent's Day at Lander so there were plenty of curious parents dropping by as well.  Professor Singletary delivered lunch and made a paint run to Lowe's.  Our department chair, Professor Slagle helped get everything started in the morning and after returning from a day in Greenville, he came back to help us move and install the sculptures.  Our Dean, Dr. Love brought her family to hang out with us for a while and her husband made a Gatorade run for us.

Team Awesome consisted of Oscar, Kayla and me.  That's Oscar and Kayla above.  Neither have ever taken a sculpture class.  Oscar is a sophomore and Kayla is a freshman.  When they began designing, they had lots of questions for me and when I began to offer some guidance they promptly ignored me and created the composition on paper all on their own.  I showed them the process and they spent the next 10 hours or so cutting, forming and placing pieces of scrap steel to create their sculpture.  All I did was weld the pieces in place for them.  

Both of them were enthusiastic and they showed no fear at all.  They both observed the welding and after a while they both had the chance to do it themselves.  Kayla also got to use the plasma torch

The other team insisted on calling themselves "Team Kick___".  I insisted on calling them "Team Not Awesome"...since this was a competition and there needed to be trash talk.  That's Sean and KJ welding in the hot sun.

For most of the day their sculpture looked like this.  The blue thing, the bird bath and the vertical steel post.  By mid afternoon I started to worry on their behalf.  The sculpture did not seem to be moving along quickly and the pieces they had were very, very heavy.  Soon it would be getting dark.

But they kept plugging along, only asking questions when it was absolutely necessary.  When the sun set, they brought out the halogen lights.  And the darker it got outside, the harder they worked.

This was a mid afternoon break in front of the fan.  The only thing more surprising than a 90 degree day in October was that the school turns off the thermostats on weekends in the studio.  No air conditioning was an unforeseen obstacle.  With the heat and the hard work, we demolished some food and drink.  During the day we went through 3 cases of water, a pack of Gatorade, soft drinks and a gallon of milk.  We ate 2 boxes of doughnuts, a plate of muffins, two giant packs of individual sized chips, several pizzas, a platter from Chick-fil-a and a truckload of cookies.  And we were all still hungry and thirsty when we left.

As a special treat I arranged for a fireworks display at dusk.  It seemed to lighten everyone's spirits.

But then it was dark and panic started to set in.  Team Awesome was putting the final touches on their sculpture inside so most of the spectators moved outside to watch the panic.  

Sean and KJ added the last pieces just moments before the deadline of 9:00 pm.  

This is Team Awesome's finished sculpture heading to the installation site.

And right at the deadline, Team Not Awesome's sculpture heading to their installation site.

The interesting thing to me is that they did it.  They pulled it off.  It's not easy to make a small sculpture in a single day and I thought it would be nearly impossible to make and install two public sculptures in 12 hours.  I expected the sculpture ideas would shrink during the day to make the process easier and lighter.  But both teams stuck to their compositions, convinced that they had thought their ideas through.  

But while the sculptures are good, the students are even better.  Given this nearly impossible task, they worked harder than they thought they could and joined together as a team.  Leaders arose and students stepped up to fill gaps.  Once the first team was finished installing their sculptures, they could have taken their exhausted bodies home to shower and eat.  Instead they stayed, along with their families and friends and helped the other team install and finish their sculpture.  When installation was complete there was a small crowd of art majors gathered around for moral support.  There were fist bumps and high fives and a short victory lap back to the sculpture studio in the back of the trailer.  And even though they were completely spent, Sean and KJ helped me put up all the tools and return the studio to working order before they left.  

Voting begins on Monday to determine the winner of the Deathmatch.  The winning team gets to split custody of the official Lander Sculpture Deathmatch trophy and team members will get to sign the cool Deathmatch flag my wife made.