Inauguration

Inauguration:

 From French inauguration “installation, consecration,” and directly from Late Latin inaugurationem (nominative inauguratio) “consecration,” presumably originally “installment under good omens;” noun of action from past participle stem of inaugurare “take omens from the flight of birds; consecrate or install when omens are favorable,” from in- “on, in” (see in- (2)) + augurare “to act as an augur, predict” (see augur (n.)).

It’s January.

It’s cold.

It’s gray.

I am drinking Peace on Earth coffee and wearing ‘glittens’ as I write this blog. I am listening to the morning news on the radio.

img_3932Peace on Earth coffee is grown in Peru and Columbia and processed in Madison, WI. I know this because as a SERRV “customer care” representative, I was frequently asked questions about the growing and production of their coffee. http://www.serrv.org/product/organic-peace-on-earth/coffee-tea

poe-coffee

To learn more about the role of coffee in my art process refer to https://thestonepath.wordpress.com/2015/06/08/ing-part-2/

The mission of SERRV International is to “promote the social and economic progress of people in developing regions of the world by marketing their products in a just and direct manner.” www.serrv.org

 SERRV was started in 1949 by the Church of the Brethren – one of the traditional peace churches that include the Quakers and Mennonites. Peace churches are churches, groups or communities advocating pacifism or Biblical nonresistance. I first learned about the peace churches when creating Heifer Relief: Compass, Ark, Berth a multi media installation about the ‘seagoing cowboys’ of WW2. https://www.heifer.org/join-the-conversation/blog/2014/March/honoring-heifers-history.html

SERRV began importing handicrafts from the world’s least developed countries as a way to alleviate poverty. Recognized for adhering to fair trade principles, it currently works with 85 small-scale, cooperatively run producer groups in 35 countries.

I wish that drinking coffee and wearing handmade gloves could pave the way to peace – between people, between communities, between countries….

But as the BBC radio program ends,  I realize the road to peace is still long.

 

Inauguration: the beginning or introduction of a system, policy, or period.

All we are saying…is give peace a chance.

The Beatles’ song quickly became the anthem of the anti Vietnam-war and counterculture movements. In November of 1969, a half a million demonstrators sang it in Washington, D.C. at the Vietnam Moratorium Day. I moved permanently to Washington in 1975 after graduating from Gallaudet University to become a teacher of the hearing impaired at Kendall Demonstration Elementary School.

In 1977, I attended President Jimmy Carter’s inauguration and  interpreted his speech for hearing impaired friends. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=6575

His speech outlined a road map to healing – out cities, our country, our world –

“Within us, the people of the United States, there is evident a serious and purposeful rekindling of confidence. And I join in the hope that when my time as your President has ended, people might say this about our Nation:

–that we had remembered the words of Micah and renewed our search for humility, mercy, and justice;

–that we had torn down the barriers that separated those of different race and region and religion, and where there had been mistrust, built unity, with a respect for diversity;

–that we had found productive work for those able to perform it;

–that we had strengthened the American family, which is the basis of our society;

–that we had ensured respect for the law and equal treatment under the law, for the weak and the powerful, for the rich and the poor; and

–that we had enabled our people to be proud of their own Government once again.

I would hope that the nations of the world might say that we had built a lasting peace, based not on weapons of war but on international policies which reflect our own most precious values.

In 1978, the Camp David Accord resulted in a cessation of hostilities between Egypt and Israel. Anwar Sadat was named Man of the Year by Time Magazine. He and Menacham Begin shared the Nobel Peace prize._1632849_campdavidap300

In 1981 Anwar Sadat was assassinated. Since then, there have been other attempts at peace and other assassinations ending the progress. From 2003 – 2011, there have been 37 armed conflicts throughout the world – some still ongoing – most we know little about.

In A Land Twice Promised,  an Israeli woman and a Palestinian woman intentionally begin a dialogue to share their personal and political histories — one conversation at a time – over a long period of time. The author,  Noa Baum adheres to the belief expressed by the Quaker peace hero Gene Knudsen-Hoffman:

“an enemy is one whose story we have not heard.”

http://www.compassionatelistening.org/archive/gene.html

 

All we are saying… is give peace a chance.

The 1st Amendment guarantees the right to peacefully assemble.

Philadelphia 081

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

My first protest march was accompanying my mom at the Mothers March in Portland, Maine in the 1960’s. The local swimming beach had been closed due to sewage pollution. In a neighborhood populated by a large number of low-income school-aged children, there was no alternative. Parents were unable to afford private day or sleep away camps. Prospects for recreation during the summer were bleak.

The Mothers were victorious. The City of Portland not only constructed a pool but hired life guards – many from the Munjoy Hill neighborhood.

(Full disclosure: I taught swimming there for 4 years.)

As the seat of the federal government, Washington D.C. has “hosted “ protest marches since the inception of the country. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_protest_marches_on_Washington,_D.C.

1900 – 1949         7

1950 – 1999          48images

2000 – 2009         40

2010                           7

2011                           3ueuh_0001_0005_0_img0238

2012                           6

2013                           4

2014                           1

2015                           2

 

In the book Democracy’s Big Day – Jim Bendar tells the story of the history of protests. In 1913, prior to Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration, 1000’s of women marched for the right to vote. http://wamu.org/story/17/01/09/trumps-inauguration-will-bring-protests-part-long-tradition/

 

Inauguration: a ceremony to mark the beginning of something.

img_3929I live in a town of 900+ people that is approximately 1 mile square. Unknown to most of the inhabitants, the street names reflect its settlement by the Quakers in the 1700s : Farquhar, Shepherd’s Mill, Quaker Hill. The Pipe Creek Friends Meeting opened its doors in 1771 and still welcomes those who “ Seek that of God in everyone.”img_3926

I became a member of Pipe Creek Friends Meeting in 2001 as we prepared to invade Afghanistan. I wanted some place in which to build community and continue my search for “a lasting peace” – though now it would be a more intimate quest through personal prayer and non violent action.

In 2006, the American Friends Service Committee created a traveling exhibit – Eyes Wide Open – intended to “present a visual reminder of the human cost of the Iraq War and provide a place for public mourning….’

The exhibit contains a pair of combat boots to represent every American soldier and marine that has died in the war, as well as a pile of shoes representing Iraqi civilians who have lost their lives during the invasion and occupation. At that time, the exhibit contained 504 pairs of boots. https://www.flickr.com/photos/124651729@N04/28789922374

National Mall - Eyes Wide Open Exhibit

From my journal May 13, 2006:

It was the day before Mother’s Day.

Bookended by the Capitol and the Washington Monument, we marched in silence. The only sounds were the steady rhythm of our feet like a steady heart beat, Shush shush, shush shush, on the pebbled path. We walked – a small group of protesters – and then gathered to listen as names of the most recent casualties were read aloud.

I had seen her earlier, affixing a red, white, and blue banner to a pair of highly polished boots. Tending this tiny shrine, she was adding a personal note and a photograph. I averted my eyes because it seemed to be such a private moment, although it was occurring in the midst of a public protest.

I didn’t know what to say.

What do you say to a mother who has lost her child to war?

 Nothing. You just listen.

I kneeled next to her. We talked about her son, how she and her husband had become Gold Star parents against the war. We exchanged addresses. http://www.cbsnews.com/news/60-minutes-parents-of-fallen-heroes-unite-scott-pelley-2/

As a community-based artist, I attempt to create works that reflect individual feelings and ideas within a larger – often historic – context.

Not long after, I received a letter with a poem she had written – A Mother‘s Prayer. She hoped I could find a way to incorporate it into my artwork.

 

Inauguration: the formal admission of someone to office.

In classical Rome, augury sought the divine will regarding any proposed course of action which might affect Rome’s pax, fortuna and salus (peace, good fortune and well being).

INAUGURATIO was the ceremony by which the augurs endeavored to obtain the sanction of the gods.

The augur was a priest. His main role was interpreting the will of the gods by studying the flight of birds: whether they are flying in groups or alone, what noises they make as they fly, direction of flight and what kind of birds they are.

We cannot foresee the future. I could not have known that it would take 5 years to create a work of art that reflected the feelings of grief – in the nation, in the community, at a protest and in a mother that I witnessed on that day in 2006.

01dovejo

Sometimes it takes years for the disparate pieces of an idea to be woven into a fully realized work of art.

I dug the blood red clay at the Watershed Center for Ceramic Arts and it “marinated” in 5-gallon buckets for 10 years under a worktable in my studio.

I found the steel cage in a barn 7 years ago and stuck it in my garden where morning glories intertwined with it – making it invisible.cage-at-gallery2

It was not until five years ago that the sound of mourning doves echoed my heartache about the continuing conflicts .

 

Doves, are used in a variety of settings as symbols of love, peace or as messengers. Doves appear in the symbolism of Judaism, Christianity and Paganism, and of both military and pacifist groups.

And so I started to make ocarinas shaped like doves.

Each clay dove fit into the space created by my hands in prayer._llf3459

 

_llf3520dsc_0115

 

00placing-in-pit

With the help of friends, I pit fired the 365 small birds.

The doves survived the flames.

The ashes became the nest.

The steel cage became the Dovecote.

Each dove is an ocarina that sounds like a mourning dove.

 

 

It’s Not Always Pretty

The effectiveness of augury could only be judged retrospectively. I cannot predict the future. I cannot know if a Presidential inauguration unifies a country or if protest marches change the course of history or if art contributes to lasting peace.

Still, I am preparing for another inauguration.

Still, I am preparing for another march.

Still, I am preparing for another exhibit.

Each time I install Dovecote: 365 Prayers for Peace, I pray as I place each dove in the cage.

I pray for peace in the cities;

I pray for peace in the country;

I pray for peace in the world.

I pray for ‘lasting peace.’

 

 

 

 

It’s Not Always Pretty Exhibit – http://www.theartistsgalleryfrederick.com

The Artist Gallery

216 N. Market St

Frederick MD

January 7 – January 29

Hours:  Fri, Sat 12 – 9 pm  Sun. 12 – 5

By appointment: 301 696 8187

TR Wailes delivers Dovecote.

TR Wailes delivers Dovecote.

Welding Contractors llc built the base.

365 doves to be installed.

365 doves to be installed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Women’s March Controversy: To wear or not to wear a “Pussy Cat” hat.pussy-hats

main_600

1913 Women’s March – hats!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/the-womens-march-needs-passion-and-purpose-not-pink-pussycat-hats/2017/01/11/6d7e75be-d842-11e6-9a36-1d296534b31e_story.html?utm_term=.2be9fc8523b5

https://www.theatlantic.com/photo/2013/03/100-years-ago-the-1913-womens-suffrage-parade/100465/

 

 

 

 

A MOTHER’S PRAYER

O God

How do I pray for my son at war?

How can I ask you to keep him safe without at the same time

asking to not keep some other mother’s son safe?

I want you to end this war.

Now.

But, while he is there, please fill him with your holy spirit

and fill his buddies as well.

Guide them, give them the knowledge you wish for them.

Fill them with love and compassion

for each other,

for those that they fight for,

and for those that they fight against.

Please don’t let them become hardened.

Be with him when he takes the life of another, for we have taught him that life is sacred

Soothe his pain, his anger, his guilt

Most of all, God, don’t let him be afraid

Make your presence known to him.

Make the love of his family known to him

the near idolatry of his sisters,

the pride of his father,

and those undefinable emotions that stirred in me when I first felt him in my womb.

Please don’t let him feel fear.

I am afraid, God,

This feeling is awful

Nearly crippling

Please don’t let him be afraid

Please don’t let him be afraid

Please don’t let him be afraid

“A Prayer to a Dying Son” was written by Lorene Davey for her son Seamus. KIA 21 October 2005.

 

You Should Have Been Here Yesterday – Part 2

When you ride the Peaks Island ferry at night, the ocean sparkles with the reflection of the lights from Portland. The city skyline is vastly different from the one my Dad sketched in 1985 – when the highest points were the spire of the Cathedral and the dome of the Observatory.

Today, instead of decrepit wharves and fish processing plants sprawled along the waterfront, there are gourmet food trucks, cruise ships, oyster bars, and boutiques. Newly built hotels are located across the street from historic brick buildings constructed after the Great Fire of Portland, July 4, 1866.

 http://www.whatwasthere.com/

There is always nostalgia with regard to the past…for the history as well as the architecture. There are still cobblestone streets in Portland made from the ballast of ships that entered the harbor and stone fountains for horses that no longer walk the streets.

cobblestones

Following the demolition of Union Station to make way for a strip mall, preservationists within the community joined together to form the Greater Portland Landmarks.

The_Union_Station,_Portland,_ME

 

http://www.pressherald.com/2011/08/31/the-ugly-birth-of-preservation_2011-08-31/

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Margaret Mead

I was raised to believe it is possible to affect change. When the Munjoy Hill East End Beach was closed due to pollution (before the construction of the sewage treatment plant), mothers (including mine) marched to City Hall to demand a pool be built so that kids would have a place to swim that summer.

Recently, a referendum was put to a vote by citizens of Portland to halt the sale of the Congress Street Park to a developer. As a result, the city is now creating a city-wide plan for open space.

http://www.pressherald.com/2013/06/14/congress-square-park-part-of-a-global-struggle-for-public-space_2013-06-14/

Prologue

It was July 4th weekend when I finally arrived in Maine. Peaks Island traditions include a participatory parade, family picnics and cookouts on Back Shore, culminating in a fireworks display over Casco Bay.

When I was in 6th grade we had to memorize the preamble to the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. At that time is was a memorization exercise; now it is the blueprint for nations around the globe who are pursuing democracy.

When in the Course of Human…

When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths..….

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/declaration_history.html

I am still conflicted about the concept behind the pursuit of happiness.

Is it happiness for an individual or for the greater good?

Do we pursue happiness for its own sake or to benefit others?.

Guide to Being an Aging Activist

On a holiday weekend, I paddle my kayak between 5:30 am and 9:30 am to avoid boat traffic. It is a quiet morning when I approach the osprey nests located in the bell buoys at either end of House Island.

House Island osprey nests I have never been on the island as it has been privately held for many years. The owner purchased the island to preserve it and prevent development.

The doctor’s house, the old quarantine station and a smaller structure have always been visible. The 1904 immigration building had been demolished but the remaining foundation outlined the footprint of the structure.

Fort Scammel – built in built in 1808 of blocks of granite –anchors the opposite end of House.Fort_Scammel_East_-_3

As I circumnavigated the island, the sounds of the osprey and her fledges were replaced with the sounds of machines. There was excavation equipment clearing the area near the former quarantine station.

Demo pix House IslandSomething felt wrong. Yes, the island had been sold but no plans had been announced. Yes, the island did not have “official” historic designation, but Fort Scammel has long been a companion to Fort Gorges. I wondered if there were permits for what was taking place.

 

 

How to find a reporter on a holiday weekend

The Vinograds (David and Miranda) hail from England but have been long time summer people on Peaks. They have a penchant for old buildings – going so far as to dismantle one scheduled for demolition and then reconstructing it. (Their favorite bumper sticker: Gut Fish, Not Houses.)

When I shared with them the apparent demolition, they suggested I research recent articles about House Island and it’s sale. Sally Oldham (married to Ted the photographer of the 20,000 buildings in Portland….See most recent blog.) wrote an op ed piece in June, 2014 entitled: Properties in Peril. House Island was one of two properties featured.

She concluded:

…Physical preservation of the buildings and landscapes that embody these stories, such a rich part of Portland’s history, could make them the linchpins for successful developments.

We hope that there will be easy public access for Portlanders and tourists to the Portland Co. complex buildings and House Island’s Fort Scammel and at least exterior views of the immigration station buildings so important to this city’s past.

Over the coming months, Portlanders will want to carefully watch the developments proposed for each of these key complexes.

http://www.pressherald.com/2014/06/11/maine-voices-two-portland-projects-highlight-opportunities-pitfalls-of-historical-development/

Tom Bell is a long time Press Herald writer and has covered development issues. I emailed him and he wrote back. I sent him photos of the apparent demolition work and all the documents and photographs I had collected. He called me for an interview.

How to contact city employees on a holiday weekend

Sending an email to the City of Portland permits, zoning, inspection, and historic preservation offices on July 4th felt like putting a note in a bottle, casting it into the sea and hoping it would be found quickly.

Meanwhile, the sounds of the machines continued.

I also contacted anyone who might have even a tangential interest in the island including the Audubon Society, Preservation Maine, and Greater Portland Landmarks.

I researched the Seashore Protection Act, Maine endangered species lists, and the decrease in monarch butterflies due to milkweed loss.

EVERYONE was on vacation.

I had no idea if other options were available to me to halt the work – at least temporarily. I needed a legal advisor.

And the machines continued.

How to find a lawyer (quickly) on a holiday weekend.

How would I find a lawyer on a holiday weekend and one that would be familiar with House Island?

Across from the Peaks Island library and adjoining Brad’s bikes is a window advertizing legal services and a number to call if you need a lawyer.

TwainI called. He did not have the expertise I was seeking and referred me to Tom Federle. He provided his cell number. I called and left a somewhat cryptic message. I did not expect a response until the end of the long weekend.

Within a few minutes, Tom returned my call. He was at his summer home on a nearby island.

His advice:

Let the City Offices have time to investigate the situation. Let them follow the established procedures. But, let’s create a Plan B.

But, the machines were still working.

 How to gain the public’s attention on a holiday weekend

July 9, 2014 Portland Press Herald, front page headline:

             Maine Island With Storied Past set for new chapter

http://www.pressherald.com/2014/07/09/a-rewrite-for-island-near-portland-harbor-with-storied-past/

I decide to hide out in the Maine Historical Society (following my attorney’s advice) and conduct more research on the House Island quarantine station. A volunteer historian goes into the stacks and returns with a manila folder marked “ISLANDS.”

There were yellowed newspaper clippings, a few brochures, photographs of a variety of island and island events. Tucked within the mix was a small, 8-page booklet entitled:

Experiences of My Early Life on House Island on Casco Bay in Portland Harbor Portland Maine

by Roberta Randall Sheaff

Self-published in 1983, it is out of print.

It begins:

I was born on House Island, a quarantine station, in 1909 in one of three houses there.

IMG_1439I looked up Roberta’s obituary. She died in Minnesota in 2004 at the age of 95. ‘She is survived by a daughter, son-in-law, grand children and many nieces and nephews.” I found her daughter’s address and telephone number in Duluth.

I called.

Benita Fuller-Fugelso talked freely about her mother and her mother’s love for House Island. Like most surviving children, Benita wished she had listened more carefully to the stories her grandparents and mother shared. She would now have a greater sense of the contribution her family made to the local history.

As we concluded our conversation she added:

“I have about 100 of my mother’s remaining books. I would be happy to give them to you to use in your efforts on my mother’s behalf to highlight the history of House. She would be thrilled to know her words will be shared with those who care about “her island.”…..

Generosity: kindness – willingness to give money, help or time freely.

How to Start a Controversy with Emails after a holiday weekend

Email #1:  Zoning and Permits – Thank you for contacting us. I searched our records of the site and have not found any demo permits.

Email #2: Inspection Services – Inspections Staff will visit the island to ascertain the situation first hand.

Email #3: Greater Portland Landmarks – we request that a representative of the historic preservation office attend the inspection as well.

Email #4: Lawyer – I made the argument that he is re-engaging in demo work and that requires a demo permit. If he is removing foundations, I would argue it is demo, not clean up as he stated.

Email #5: Me – I request that House Island be considered a historic district.

Email #6:  July 16th, the Historic Preservation Board meets to determine if they will move forward with the nomination of historic district. There is a multi phase process that culminates in 2 public meetings:

Preliminary workshop – August 6th to share report on history and significance of House Island.

Public Hearing – September 3rd

Email #7:  Following the inspection, a stop work order was issued.

The machines stopped for 7 days.

 

Epilogue 

I realize I cannot prevent the eventual development of House Island. I hope to encourage an examination and documentation of the buildings, the land, the fort, the untold history. I hope that its historical significance will be proven. Because –

When it’s gone, it’s gone.

I spent the morning, once again, kayaking across the channel from Peaks Island to House Island to observe the osprey. On this particular day, the fledglings were poking up from the nest. Mom and Dad were bringing them food and discouraging me from getting too close.

There is no reclamation of history when the physical evidence is removed.

When it’s gone; it’s gone forever.

Addendum

Please take the time to voice your opinion regarding the historic district designation of House Island, by contacting:

Deb Andrews, Historic Preservation, City of Portland

DGA@portlandmaine.gov

Or attend the public meetings.

 

I wish to thank the Joel and Linda Abromson Fund for their generous support of my research of the history of House Island and its relevance to the immigrant heritage of Portland.

 

No Coincidence – No Story (Part 2)

Bashert…meant to be.

 Who were the immigrants held in quarantine on House Island in 1923??

I am a long time mystery reader. Following in the foot steps of my favorite detectives: Detective Porfiry,Sherlock Holmes, VI Warshawski, Kinsey Millhone, and my latest Flavia de Luce (an 11-year-old amateur sleuth), I begin my ‘investigation.’ I contact everyone in Maine who might have information about the immigration history of Portland.

Many of the early immigrants coming to Portland, Maine settled in the Munjoy Hill area. Italians settled on India and Middle Streets and started businesses such as Amato’s bakery (1903.) http://www.amatos.com/

Munjoy-Hill-Map

Aside: Mystery of the Black Dahlia

One of the greatest unsolved mysteries involved a woman who had grown up on Munjoy Hill and moved to Hollywood where she was brutally murdered. http://mainetoday.com/profiles/the-black-dahlia-lived-on-munjoy-hill-an-unsolved-murder-from-the-vaults/

 The Irish immigrants congregated in two main neighborhoods and the streets connecting them along Portland’s waterfront: the west end, later known as Gorham’s Corner, with its Saint Dominic’s parish (the oldest Catholic Church in Portland, dating from 1833); and the east end, better known as Munjoy Hill, with its Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception (1866). Michael Connolly http://www.amazon.com/They-Change-Their-Sky-Irish/dp/0891011102

Book Cover

I contact the Maine Irish Heritage Center www.maineirish.com and Italian Heritage Center www.italianheritagecenter.com in Portland. They generously send out my request for anyone whose relatives were detained or were processed through the quarantine station on House Island to contact me. No positive responses to date.

 COINCIDENCE: I went to school with the Maine Irish history expert as well as the editor of the Italian American Heritage newsletter. Both are from long standing Munjoy Hill families.

The other immigrant group that may have entered Maine via House Island were Jews.

Documenting Maine Jewry is a collaborative genealogy and history of Maine’s Jewish communities. MaineJews.org is a kind of crowd source web site for gathering and posting pictures, articles, oral histories, music, etc. related to Jewish history in Maine. www.mainejews.org

As an artist, I unravel my ‘art-related mysteries’ by spending hours in library stacks. Most of my ‘clues’ are obtained in face-to-face interviews and through personal networking.

This investigation will take place in on-line archives. There is so much information to wade through. It is daunting. The study and practice of organizing, preserving, and providing access to information and materials in archives is called archival science. Science is the operative term. Finding information requires thinking like a scientist – not necessarily like an artist. Fortunately, archivists (and librarians) are incredibly helpful individuals who are generous with their time and expertise.

Harris Gleckman knows the content of the MaineJews.org site – both catalogued and still to be catalogued. He directed me to an out-of-print book published in 1954.

COINCIDENCE: My aunt babysat for the web master when he was a child living in Forest Park. (Seriously.)

 Band, Ben,  Portland Jewry: It’s Growth and Development , Jewish Historical Society, Portland , Maine, 1954

Written in celebration of 300 years of U.S. Jewish settlement, Band wrote in his preface:” Jewish communities were asked to compile a record of their development and growth.” His book was a collaborative approach – an example of early crowd sourcing. There were 17 chapters that outlined the history of Jews in Maine beginning in the 1800’s. It is only available on line.

I read.

Looking in the past

Maine’s earliest Jews came from Germany in the late 1880’s.

They learned English and established “religious services, supplies of kosher meats and a burial ground. They often earned their living peddling, the junk trade and the second hand clothing and tailoring.“

tailorASIDE:

The skill listed by most immigrants coming to Ellis Island was “tailor” due to the great need for garment workers. Most had no training. They learned through word of mouth during quarantine that it was the skill to have to gain entrance to the US.

Most of the 2 million Jews that came to America in the 1920’s were from Eastern Europe. Often less educated and less affluent than their earlier counterparts, they came to America hoping for a chance for a better life.

In the 1920’s, the City of Portland struggled to assimilate the influx of Eastern European Jews and other recent immigrants. One of the largest anti-immigrant Ku Klux Klan rallies (by some accounts, 10,000 Klansmen) gathered in Portland in 1923 to protest the presence of these new “foreigners.”

I read more.

….When immigrant ships landed in Portland in 1923 and 1924, 218 passengers were detained on House Island. The Council of Jewish Women set up kosher kitchens there under the supervision of Mrs. Lena Perry. Chapter X: New Social and Fraternal Organizations-Band

Looking in the present

The names of the original settlers of House Island also appear on the gravestones at the Peaks Island cemetery. So, I send out my request to the Peaks Island list serv. Responses were supportive of my efforts but yielded no leads. Then a photo attachment appears in an email from Kim Mac Isaac.

Kim, a historian and archivist herself, is the former executive director of the 5th Maine Museum. Kim’s family has been on the island for generations. She even remembers rowing over to House Island to explore the old quarantine station before its demolition. She had a photograph. (So far, it is the only one I have seen.)

quarantine-lge

COINCIDENCE: While sculpting a memorial bench for my dad and creating a native plant garden on Peaks Island in 2008 -10, I was able to support myself by cleaning the 5th Maine Museum. http://www.fifthmainemuseum.org/

 

The Maine Jewish Film Festival features films that ‘explore the Jewish experience through drama, comedy, documentary and short film formats.’ Works are screened at multiple venues and in multiple cities throughout the state.  http://www.mjff.org/

I create a postcard to hand out to each attendee. I distribute the postcards in hopes of finding anyone who had family members that were detained on House Island or allowed to immigrate into Maine after being processed there.

ASIDE:

My short film – Chorus of Stones – that chronicles the creation of the memorial on Peaks was rejected by some of the best film festivals including the Maine Jewish Film Festival. https://vimeo.com/2999812

pcback500 postcards later, I had not received one solid lead. Everyone thought it was an interesting mystery but could not provide any additional clues.

COINCIDENCE: A researcher who works at the US Holocaust Museum in DC picked up my postcard while she was at the festival. She thinks she can help find the names of the immigrants who passed through House Island quarantine station. I work a few blocks from the Museum.

Looking in the Archives

I continue to delve into the archives of the Maine Historical Society, the Memory Network, the Portland Room of the Portland Public Library, the New England Archives in Waltham, the Osher Map collection and Judaica Collection at the Glickman Library, University of Maine. I read books about immigration and U.S. immigration policies of the 1920’s including those cited in the Congressional Record. The rhetoric and debate reflects the immigration concerns of today.

As the implementation date of the 1924 Quota Act approached, passenger ship companies worried about the loss of business that would result. So, they doubled the number of ships leaving for America. When Ellis Island and Boston could not manage the deluge of immigrants, some ships were re-routed to other quarantine stations: House Island.

Immigrants allowed to remain in the U.S. could then be sent by rail to New York or Boston. Others were returned to their country of origin.

  • What I didn’t find were all the names of people who were held there.
  • What I didn’t find were the names of Portland residents whose family members came into Portland through House Island.
  • What I didn’t find were the names of those returned to their country of origin.

What I did find were the names of the women who established the Portland Council of Jewish Women (later the National Council of Jewish Women) who set up the Kosher kitchen. *

A friend once described the State of Maine as a small town. If that is true, the Jewish population of New England must be a neighborhood. I have just enough postcards to send to synagogues from Maine to Boston.

It is Passover week in which Jews commemorate the exodus of the Jews from Egypt more than 3000 years ago. It is an 8-day holiday in which you are obligated to tell the Passover story. This year, I listen with a new perspective: Passover could be thought of as a story of immigrants.

It is also a week of consuming symbolic foods. We eat matzo rather than leavened bread as a reminder of the haste in which the Israelites fled Egypt. There was not enough time for the bread to rise. http://homecooking.about.com/od/foodhistory/a/passoverfoods.htm

MatzohA week passes. Passover ends.

I arrive home one night and listen to the message on my answering machine:

My name is Jim Waldman. I am the Controller at the Temple Beth Elohim in Wellesley, Massachusetts. Our secretary was out today and I had to open the mail. http://tbewellesley.org/index.aspx

Imagine my surprise when the first 2 names on the list of the founders of the Portland Council for Jewish Women were my great grandmother Millie and her sister.

Millie’s great niece  (Bunny) lives in Maine. She is 94 years old and has a perfect memory.

Bashert?

I had just purchased a ticket to Maine to visit my Mom. I guess now I am going to visit ‘Aunt Bunny,’ too.

 

 

*Portland Council of Jewish Women, 1920

Name First Name Home Address Husband’s business
MRS. Eldar MARKSONb. 1879 –d. 3/10/1925 Portland ME) Jennie 237 State St. Markson Bros. Clothing504 Congress Street
Mrs. Maurice MARKSON(b. 1880 – d. Feb 10, 1966) Mildred S. 100 Neal St. Markson Bros. Clothing504 Congress Street
MRS. Jacob SCHIEBE(b. 1873 – d. 12/12/1964) Jennie 94 Vesper St. Tailor22 Monument Sq #402
MRS. Jacob ROSENBERGd. 5/12/1949 Helen 48 Western Promenade. Rosenberg Brothers real estate85 Exchange St. Room 305,
MRS. Benjamin PRESS Molly 224 Eastern Promenade Real Estate
MRS. Jacob SAPIROd. 3/13/1968 Anna D 93 Morning Street Husband worked9 Plum Street
Mrs. Eli PERRY Lenna 170 Cumberland Ave. E. Perry and Co Junk117 Lancaster St.

Bird’s Eye View

You are invited:

Dedication of Liber will take place on June 6, 2013 at 6 p.m. at the Carroll County Public Library, Westminster MD. The event is free and open to the public. Video of the installation and photographs of the completed work will be posted at www.thestonepath.wordpress.com following the dedication.

Bird’s Eye View

It is spring. Birds are nesting in the eaves of the studio. Their songs greet me as I arrive each morning. It can be, however, somewhat cacophonous. They flit in and out carrying twigs, bits of straw, announcing their presence. There are starlings, doves, pigeons, crows and ravens.

Ravens and crows are relatives. Both are from the genus corvus. Both are black. Both are smart. Both are nosy and noisy. You can learn to tell the difference between the two from their calls. http://www.allaboutbirds.org/page.aspx?pid=2501

A raven* stops by each morning and evening to check on my progress.  The crew at the Maintenance Yard told me there is a nest in the rafters of the county’s salt dome.Salt dome

Peering into the darkness, I can barely discern the nest. Difficult to see – or photograph – is a baby raven.  To protect their fledgling, the ravens lure me out of the dome. I follow them into the yard. They call out warnings. They fly close to me then soar away – their blackness outlined against the blue sky. Perching in the nearby trees, they remained vigilant until I depart.

The Raven has a role in the mythologies of the native peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast and the cultural hero of the Alaskan Athabaskan tribes. He is a revered and benevolent transformer god who helps the People and shapes their world for them.

In one raven tale, Raven originally lived in the land of spirits that existed before the world of humans. One day, the Raven became so bored with living in ‘bird land ‘ that he flew away, carrying a stone in his beak. When the Raven became tired of carrying the stone and dropped it, the stone fell into the ocean and expanded until it formed the land that humans now occupy.

Bird’s Eye View: Space

Sculpture both occupies space and defines space. When looking at a painting, we stand in one place and let our eyes travel throughout the surface of the piece. Looking at a sculpture requires us to move our bodies to look at the entire work. As you walk around the sculpture, each step changes your viewing experience.

Stone rootsThe mass of the piece interrupts the space. The negative or empty space around and within the sculpture also holds your attention.  Other sculptures, buildings, even the presence of humans, contribute to the perception of the work. When installed, Liber will sit between trees and among plants. It will be integrated into the landscape.

Sculptors need to continuously look at their sculpture to know how to proceed. To prevent the brain from imposing a pre-conceived vision, artists use mirrors to “see’. By looking at the work in a mirror, a visual reality is reflected back. An artist sees what must still be reworked to be resolved. They also see the errors that must remain.

Bird’s Eye View: Form

I always wanted to make art. But I grew up at a time when practicality took precedence over dreams. While serving on a ship during WW2, my dad completed the matchbook cover drawing test. He wanted to attend art school when the war was over. But war changes everything. Dreams are set aside.

MatchbookWhen he was dying, he encouraged me to take care of myself  – spiritually and physically. His legacy to my siblings and me was to follow our dreams. After his death, I decided to make art. I quit my job, enrolled in art school and created the Firehouse Studio.

(I also bought L.L. Bean flannel shirts in a variety of colors. The shirts kept me warm this winter while sculpting outside. At the end of the day, I hang them like Tibetan peace flags along with my dust infused jeans.)

ClotheslineTwenty-five years later, I am standing on scaffolding to work on the top half of Liber. I have a Bird’s Eye View of the sculpture. From where I am standing, it’s obvious I need to make changes in the angle of the back. There is a section that should be smaller so the proportions are not so distorted. All sculptors seek the highest point wherever they are. We always want to see the big picture.

Close-up #5

When I travel, I always visit the tallest building, climb the stairs of bell towers, or just hike up a hill. It’s probably why I like hot air ballooning.

For most of us, our first experience with reading is sitting on the lap of a parent – helping to turn the pages of a favorite book or being read to as we cuddle in bed before drifting off to sleep. From these chair-like forms, we branch out to sprawling on floors, leaning against trees, reading wherever we can find a comfortable space.

The basic form of Liber  (pronounced with a LONG i) suggests a chair.  The root of the word “library” is from the Latin ‘liber’ meaning peel. Bark was the basis of paper – and eventually the pages of books.  The seat is sculpted in such a way to suggest pages. The surface of the trunk-like back of the sculpture references bark, lichen, tree limbs, roots. From this ‘solid’ foundation, pages ‘grow.’

Bird’s Eye View: Surface

The experience of a sculpture is not only by sight. The tactile quality of sculpture is surely as important as the visual to cause thought.

Isamu Noguchi

Moss

Stone mossA sculptor uses the interplay of shadow and light to create the work. Specific tools are used to create surface texture – rough, smooth, polished, raw. A tooth chisel makes multiple parallel lines that dig into the stone. A bush hammer makes dimples by stippling. A flat removes extraneous marks and leaves a smooth surface. NOT making tool marks on the stone creates a different texture. These varied surfaces capture or reflect light – defining the image.

Surface imagery

stone branch

Jun ichiro Tanizaki in his book, In Praise of Shadows, wrote:…

In making for ourselves a place to live, we first spread a parasol to throw a shadow on the earth, and in the pale light of the shadow we put together a house…and our ancestors, forced to live in dark rooms presently came to discover beauty in shadows, ultimately to guide shadows towards beauty’s ends.

 Shadows create dimension in a sculpture. The shapes arise from the darkness. As I finish the piece, I pay particular attention to the crevices. I work hard to clean them out in order to provide a place for the darkness to dwell. Working along each section of Liber, I realize that without the shadow, the rest of the sculpture does not exist.

As of late, I am conscious of the darkness in the world: some man made and some natural. Boston – Oklahoma – Syria and the list goes on and on. Making art seems frivolous when faced with the daily litany of events that cast a shadow over the lives of so many.

‘In another myth, the Raven was responsible for bringing light to the darkness of the world. At the beginning of the story, the world lies in darkness and Raven, who of course existed at that time because he had always existed and always would, was somewhat less satisfied with this state of affairs. It led to much blundering around and bumping into things. One day, he hears a man singing about how he keeps the light in a small box, inside another box, inside another, and so on and so forth. There are an enormous number of boxes.  Raven uses all of his considerable wiles and eventually worms his way inside the man’s house and steals the light from the man, with which he brightens the world.’

http://world-bird-sanctuary.blogspot.com/2011/12/myths-legends-and-tales-raven.html

The ancient library of Alexandria was comprised of gardens, walkways, area for shared dining, reading rooms, lecture halls and meeting spaces and of course, a collection of papyrus scrolls gathered from around the world. Legend has it that carved into the wall above the shelves was an inscription that read: The place of the cure of the soul.

Taking time to look at art – sculpture – takes us to another place.

Thich Nhất Hạnh is a Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk, teacher, author, poet and peace activist. He offers workshops on walking meditation. He provides solace through walking meditation.  The Pebble for Your Pocket Meditation encourages us to live in the moment. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TXJs9bdcnXw.

To create change in ourselves, we meditate.Stone roots

To create more light in the world , we must drop our pebbles.

We must be like a Raven.

 

 

NOTE:

For you literature fans, Edgar Allan Poe is a Baltimore native and author of the House of Usher – the poem featuring the phrase: Spoke the Raven, NEVERMORE.

For you football fans, the Baltimore Ravens are the home team.

Is Good Good Enough?

“…the seed for your next art work lies embedded in the imperfections of your  current piece.”                                                                                                                                                                       Art and Fear

Lavora, Lavora

Sixty work days have passed since the stone arrived from Indiana. During that time, I have worked in a variety of elements. There was a hurricane, a flood and a snow storm in which I was so mesmerized by the beautiful, big flakes I did not pay attention to  the accumulation. It took 2 hours to drive the 16 miles home.

snow

IMG_0540

From November to mid February, temperatures hovered around freezing. As the humidity drops,   the metal head on the sculpture hammer loosens on its wooden handle. To re-tighten the head, you soak the hammer in water so the wood will swell. One night, I left my hammer soaking in the bucket. The next morning, it was embedded in ice.

The rumble of thunder has also been a daily occurrence. The metal roof under which I work reverberates in the wind. The Beaufort Scale relates wind speed to observed conditions at sea or on land.  It describes near gale force winds as –“ Whole trees in motion. Effort needed to walk against the wind. Cars veer off road “… and blows limestone dust – everywhere (my note).

Fare una passeggiata

Everyday, I walk around the work space trying to get reception on my radio. If the clouds are heavy, I listen to Country Music. It’s Oldies if the wind is coming from the west. On clear days, it’s NPR. Because I never understood the magic of radio waves (nor how planes stay in the sky), I fare una passagiata using my radio like a divining rod, dowsing for a radio station.

Diane Rehm’s guest this week was Sheryl Sandberg. Sandberg is the chief operating officer of Facebook and is ranked on Fortune’s list of the 50 Most Powerful Women in Business and as one of Time’s 100 Most Influential People in the World. Her book Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead outlines issues that need to be addressed for women to be leaders. http://www.amazon.com/Lean-In-Women-Work-Will/dp/0385349947

In between intermittent grinding and hammering noises, I listen to their conversation. While describing her leadership style, Sandberg said:  Done is better than Perfect.

Paura

“Fears about art making fall into two families: fears about yourself and fears about your reception by others. Fears about yourself prevent you from doing your best work, while fears about your reception by others prevent you from doing your own work.” Art and Fear

The image of Liber has emerged but there are still more layers of stone to peel back. Every time I think I am done, another unresolved section appears. And that process spirals around itself – like the proverbial onion – until the deadline arrives.

 Self

My art journey began when someone asked me during a workshop icebreaker: Who are you? I responded: a woman, a daughter, a sister, a sculptor. But I had never sculpted. So I started.

For the past 20 years, my identity has been determined by what I create. After years of questioning my talent, doubting my commitment, and feeling like a pretender, I still have a hard time answering – ‘an artist’ – when asked who am I.

My license plate reads: Isculpt. The plate is like wearing a very big nametag. My truck registration is up for renewal. The cost of a vanity plate has increased. And I wonder: if I don’t renew the plate, will I still answer – a sculptor – when asked who I am?

Others

Artists are their own worst critics. The voices  we carry from our past – from our families, our community and our experiences – color our current perceptions. The difference between acceptance and approval is subtle. Acceptance means having the artwork seen as “real art.”; approval means having people like it.

Once installed, Liber will be on view for at least 100 years. It will be my legacy. I want both approval and acceptance.  I want it to be perfect.

Abbastanza buono?

I am learning to kayak. In preparation for this summer’s adventure, I decided to make my own Greenland Paddle. A Greenland paddle is a paddle in the style of those traditionally used by the Inuit of Greenland. It is made from wood and its form is more like a stick than a conventional looking paddle. I sculpt. It didn’t seem that it would be that difficult to ‘sculpt’ a paddle.  http://www.bealepaddles.com/paddles.html

I signed up for an 8-hour workshop with the Hudson River Greenland Paddlers after which (as promised in the brochure) I’d have a custom paddle by the end of the day.

Using a straight edge, measuring tape, a draw knife, a plane, and some elbow grease, I proceeded to create my custom paddle from a 7 foot x 4 inch piece of Oregon cedar.

Just as I completed “carving” the loom, the draw knife slipped. There was now a gouge in my heretofore “perfect” paddle. I wanted to stop. The instructor told us he had made more than 600 paddles – each one an improvement on the previous. My beautiful paddle – with one small imperfection – was no longer good enough to me.

Why isn’t Good – Good Enough?

Advertizing is based on the notion that good isn’t good enough. There is always a new and improved version of something that currently works fine as it is. But we are all susceptible to the lure of the better version of a product, our homes, our relationships and ourselves.

Schools, in an attempt to make children feel better about report cards, changed the A – E system (C being good) to one that required teacher comments. Overtime a ‘C’ was always followed by the comment: Needs Improvement. C became unacceptable and equivalent to a failing grade. Good wasn’t good enough.

Culture of Discontent

We apply this same principle to our relationships. Most of the habits or traits that my friends complain about in their partners are the same characteristics that initially attracted them.

  • Free spirited becomes irresponsible
  • Steadfast becomes boring
  • Self assured becomes close minded

There is even a book titled: Loving an Imperfect Man (Woman). Perfectionism seems to be deeply rooted in the expectations we have of, not only others, but of ourselves. Amazon lists 106 paperback books with the word ‘Perfectionism’ in the title. There is even one entitled: The Gifts of Imperfection. There are no books entitled: Good is Good Enough.

Ben Fatto

I finished carving the paddle, filled the small gouge with a little epoxy, and applied linseed oil liberally. My paddle is now a topic of conversation. And I have bragging rights. It works just fine (actually it works great; I need more practice.) The ‘mistake’ is a reminder of my journey – learning that ‘good’ is good enough. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The weavers of Oriental carpets create intentional imperfections as do Navaho rug makers. Each culture believes perfection can only be achieved by the Great Creator. It is hubris for an artist to believe they can create a perfect work.

The “Done is better than perfect” interview between Diane Rehm and Sandberg continued. The author then added:  “At Facebook, we put products up and we try to learn and do better….we have a very iterative style …the process of not trying to do things til they are absolutely perfect but putting them out there and getting feedback, has served us well.” http://www.thedianerehmshow.org/shows

I have 20 more work days before Liber is to be installed. The members of the CCPL Sculpture Garden committee are coming to review the progress and provide input for changes.  It is a challenge to be both an innovator and an interpreter and create a vision for the community –  but that is my work.

The lessons you are meant to learn are in your work. To see them, you need only look at the work clearly – without judgement, without need or fear, without wishes or hopes, without emotional expectations.  Ask your work what it needs, not what you need. Then set aside your fears and listen…

Art and Fear

Looking

I seem to have missed the month of January. Something happens after the holiday hoopla subsides. Maybe it’s the darkness. I feel suspended. I spend more time thinking. I wait for the sun to warm the stone. I wait for the light to return.

In the Greek myth, Persephone, while picking flowers one day, is abducted by Hades and taken to the underworld. Her mother, Demeter, depressed by the loss of her daughter, places the earth in continuous winter jeopardizing all who inhabit the earth.

In hopes of lifting Demeter’s depression, Hecate, a guide to the underground, offers to accompany Demeter to visit Persephone. While underground, they strike a deal with Hades to allow Persephone to return to the light. Unfortunately, Persephone had eaten six pomegranate seeds while below ground. For that action she must remain below ground for six months of the year – thus creating winter and spring.

Persephonedetail
Looking Inward

When you sculpt, you are alone with the stone. You are also alone with your thoughts. You can spend time going over the grocery list or complaining about the cold or planning the dinner menu. I don’t make New Year’s resolutions; they are too easy to break. I look inside – at my dreams, my hopes, my goals, my accomplishments and my failures.

There are many myths that tell the story of the hero that relinquishes his or her life on earth and all they love and possess to descend into the lower realms. There, they confront the darkness of Life. After confronting this personal darkness, the hero reemerges.

For several years, I created meditation labyrinths. A labyrinth is an archetypal symbol found in ancient cultures with mysterious origins and purposes. Although it resembles a maze, it is uni-cursal, having just one path into the center and the same path back out. There are many forms of labyrinths – Chartres, 9-circuit, 7-circuit. http://www.amazon.com/Labyrinths-Ancient-Myths-Modern- Uses/dp/0906362695

Crossroads Labyrinth

When you walk the labyrinth, it is suggested you meditate on a question to be answered or a problem to be solved. At some point  along the journey, you will receive an answer. Sometimes, it is an answer to the question asked. Sometimes, it is an answer to the question we should have asked. Sometimes, there is just silence.

Walking a labyrinth is thought of as a possible path to the self. Jean Shinoda Bolen, in her book, Crossing to Avalon, writes about the role of labyrinths in our lives.

Going into the forest requires us to let go of our old ways and identities: we shed defenses, ingrained habits, and attitudes, which opens us up to new possibilities and depth. We find what really matters to us and can reach the core or center of meaning in ourselves, which is the center of the labyrinth, and then we have the task of integrating this into what we do with our lives.

Looking Outward

Removing each layer of stone is like peeling an onion. The image is there. You just need to reveal it.  Determining where to cut requires looking. Really looking. You must hold the final image in your mind’s eye as you walk around the stone. You look for the next place to remove stone. You make marks and erase them.

I make marks on the stone with different colored crayons:

arrow

  • Yellow indicates a possible route, a movement.
  • Black signifies a direction or decision.
  • Red means STOP before you remove stone in this area. Look again.

When I am tired, I make more tentative marks.

Sometimes I am brave. I remove large pieces of stone with the hammer and chisel or make deeper cuts with the saw. Sometimes I am timid. I am more hesitant. I take away less stone. I spend more time looking.

Looking Ahead

When you are an artist, you have to be willing to change your plan. In 1961, Robert Frost wrote a poem specifically for the Kennedy inauguration. On January 20, the bright sun bounced off the snow on the ground and created a glare. Frost, then 86, could not read from the typewritten text of Dedication. Instead, he recited from memory The Gift Outright, a poem he published in 1941. He never expected the shimmering sun to be a barrier to his intention.

Manuel 2

When in Italy, I had the great privilege of visiting Manuel Neri’s workshop. Neri is an “American sculptor, painter, and printmaker and a notable member of the “second generation” of the Bay Area Figurative Movement.”

He creates stone pieces in his Carrara studio.

He maintains that at some point in the sculpting process, you need to let go of your original design. Although you work from a maquette, the stone itself, the light and shadows, the work space, the skill of the sculptor can alter the design.

You must be brave enough to relinquish your initial idea. You need to believe that choosing another path will lead to an even more extraordinary outcome. You look for the new guideposts and ignore the other ones upon which you first built .

One of the first poems I memorized in school was the Road Not Taken. As a 10 year old, it had little meaning. But to an artist, it is prescient.

We choose the road less traveled and that makes all the difference.

The Road Not Taken by Robert Frostpile2

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim

Because it was grassy and wanted wear,

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I marked the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way

I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

 

On the Path

Artists don’t get down to work until the pain of working is exceeded by the pain of not working.  Stephen DeStabler

The First Cut is the Deepest Sheryl Crow

When people discover I live in an old firehouse, the first question is:

                    Is the pole still there? *

When people discover I sculpt stone, the first question is:

                    Do you work by hand?

What they are really asking is whether I work with hand tools or pneumatic tools. There is some debate among sculptors whether working with air tools makes you less of a “real” sculptor. I believe it is the eye and the heart that determines the success of the image – not the tool.

When I first started sculpting, it seemed important to use only hand tools to create my work. With a 2 pound hammer and a variety of hand forged chisels, I worked slowly and deliberately. The work day was a long symphony of sound and rhythm: tap, tap, tunk; tap, tap, tunk. I worked intuitively. The stone determined the form.

When working on a large scale, it is difficult to imagine removing 10,000 lbs of stone with just a hammer and chisel. Yes, Michelangelo carved marble using only hand tools but never finished on time – engendering the wrath and consternation of his patrons.

Roughing Out Liber

Carving stone is a subtractive process. When sculpting clay, you create the form by adding material. When carving stone, you remove material to release the image.  Artists know when a line is drawn on a blank sheet of paper or a dab of paint applied to a new canvas, the creative path is determined. Once the stone is removed, there is no turning back.

Roughing out is the first step in creating a sculpture. You remove large pieces of stone to reveal the underlying form of the final sculpture. From the roughed out stage, the sculptor must then continue to peel back the layers of stone until the piece is finished –  or the sculptor determines the work is done. (Or the install date has arrived.)

It took 5 days to split off a 4000+ piece of stone  using a 30 lb rock drill with 18 inch x 1” bits (It came from Philadelphia. It was the only one available in the 5 state area.)

Rick with drill

For three days, Rick Rothrock drilled holes on both sides of the stone. It had to be flipped twice with the front loader. Once the holes were drilled, I set  the feathers and wedges.

Feathers CU

We lightly tap each set with a hammer – like playing a xylophone. Tap then wait. The shock waves travel through the stone seeking the weakest points. Tap and wait. Small cracks appear on the surface linking the drill holes. Suddenly the high pitch sounds that come from the tapping drop into a lower octave. The clink becomes a thunk and then kerplunk and the stone breaks off.

Split stone

Uncertainty is the essential, inevitable and all pervasive companion to your desire to make art.  And tolerance for uncertainty is the prerequisite.

Art and Fear  Bayles and Orland

 

On My Own

It is quiet after the Maintenance Facility Crews leave the yard for the day. I will have about 5 hours of light in which to work. While I wait for the sun to warm up the air, I suit up. Literally.

In many of the “How to Be an Artist” books, the authors advocate “donning the artist uniform”  before working in the studio. Like entering a monastery, you shed your ‘day  job’ clothing and change into your “heart job” garments. You leave the ‘outside’ work to conduct inner work.

Working with stone is noisy and dusty. Working with stone in winter can also be cold. I start with long johns and jeans, add two layers of work shirts. Next, I don my Carhart overalls. Over that, I add my down vest. Then I pull on my recently acquired super warm hiking socks and shove my feet into my insulated boots. (Good to -20 F.) I double knot the laces.

In Italy, the artigiani wear paper hats to protect their hair and eyes. While working in a studio in Pietrasanta, Italy among dust and noise and some good natured fun, I learned how to make a traditional paper hat.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1xb19WLkRLw

However, I need more than a hat made from newspaper to protect my hair, eyes and ears. I wrap a turban around my head , snug up my MSA Safetyworks respirator, slide on my safety glasses and complete the outfit with ear protectors.

(When I was a child living in Maine, we would gear up to play outside. First we donned our long underwear, next we added snow suits, double set of mittens with strings, hat, scarf, plastic bags on our feet and then our boots. It never failed: just before we went out the door, we had to go to the bathroom…. I heed that reminder before I start suiting up in my artist work clothes…)

A year ago, in an article about the reparations of the National Cathedral carvings following the earthquake…Michael Ruane wrote about the stone carvers:

For this work…(they) need their bare hands – to feel the stone, steer the power chisels and the hold the thin files and tools they use like an artist does a brush……The National Stone carvers doing repairs never wear gloves….’Gloves,’ the carvers said, ‘are for cleaning out the cathedral’s roof gutters.’ Washington Post, Monday, December 19, 2011.

 I, however, wear gloves. They help prevent carpal tunnel – a hazard of stone carving. I slip them on and cinch the Velcro straps. I am ready to work.

By now the sunlight has reached the stone. I set my goal for the day. I look for the next layer to remove in my search for Liber.

Pile 2

At the end of the day, I measure how much I accomplish by the size of the pile of stone on the ground .

I am finally on the stone path.

*         It was a volunteer fire department so there never was a pole.