Saturday, August 25, 2007

Big Things That I Used To Build

Excuse the horrible quality of the photo please. It's an old one I scanned and it came out crooked and I really don't have the patience to try for more than a few minutes to fix that. It's just a little token anyway to go along with a story I'm going to tell you. I have been working on the house but don't have all the photos I want to show etc. so I thought that I would answer a question or two that has been asked of me many, many times. FloridaCracker over at PureFlorida asked me this over on his blog but they are questions that are often posed to me by almost everyone who gets to know me at all.
First, "Where does my inspiration or artistic/creative talent come from and my ability for constructing things?" Now, I'm not saying that I have any, I'm just repeating the question.
Secondly, why in the world do I choose to work in the profession that I do since I have a college degree and should know better? This question I will answer in a later post.
Well, my mother is a very good artist and did study fashion design briefly before she got married. My father was an English major after he got back from Korea and enjoyed writing, however, both parents were raised in a time and place where such pursuits were considered frivolous and both abandoned their own talents to pursue more realistic employment. But it really goes back further and I tell you this because I look at the opportunity to meet and talk to other people as a great gift. I love to learn about people and their lives because what we each go through in our own lives is just a small fraction of the human experience. I know I'm telling you about me but I'm hoping that some of you may relate something back to me and we can share some of what makes us who we are. But back to my story.... as far back as I know, it (the artistic, constructive stuff) really came from my maternal grandfather. But he was not my grandmother's husband. That man died a couple of years before my mother was born. He suffered severe migraines and could not get any relief. The medical profession at that time really couldn't offer much, so he decided he could not bear it anymore and shot himself. Granny always told us, and everyone else I guess, that he died in the first World War. Southerners have always been very creative and absolute about covering up any impropriety in the family. My grandmother received some insurance money and used this to buy some land, where my mother lives now, and build a small house. She already had 5 almost grown sons and one daughter. Around this time my grandmother met a man who was a carpenter and became pregnant by him with my mother and her twin sister. I'm not sure about the details as no one in the family will say anything, but Mama's brothers then strongly suggested to the man that he leave the area for good. Everyone told my grandmother she should give up her babies so as not to be stuck with that stain of unwed motherhood but she refused and raised Mama and my aunt anyway. Years later, after a spiteful neighbor made an insinuating comment to my mother, my grandmother told Mama a little bit about the incident and said that the man, this carpenter, was also a very good artist; he would draw pictures of animals for my grandmother and that Mama must have inherited her ability from him. apparently was then all passed to me. I have often wondered if the stigma of the man was also passed to me because I have always been the black sheep of the family, the one that everyone else tries to sort of keep quite about. I wonder, do I favor this man? Do I have any of his looks, personality? I do not even know what his first name was and the one uncle that might would have told me died this past Friday.
As a child I was always building stuff, elaborate dog houses and such,and my mother was good to buy all of us kids any kind of craft kits to make things with. I even had a little, teeny potter's wheel. Could not make anything with that stupid wheel. Anyway, we were all encouraged in the arts until we got up to college age and then you were supposed to study something you could make a living at! I thought about going into architecture but decided I had to do something more hands on so I decided just to get an art degree. This did not go over well and I was told if that's what I wanted, then I could pay for it myself. To be fair, my parents did not have much money to support any more children in school. I am the last of four. So, I just plowed ahead on my own which has become the way I do everything and received a BFA from the University of Montevallo. Now, I tell you all of that because everybody seems to have this opinion that art is something that you are just born with or not but I don't agree. Yes, you must be born with a certain inclination towards it but everything I do, someone taught me. I had to learn how to see just like how to weld and how to use tools etc. But I think one of the most important things I learned from a wonderful college professor, was how to ask myself, " What if....?"

Oh, I forgot, the photo is from my seior BFA exhibition that we were required to present right before we graduated. If I look wore out, I was. I don't think I had slept in about 3 days. I still have that particular sculpture. In fact, it was inspired by my grandmother. It's about overcoming adversity, you know.


Rurality said...

Wow on several levels. First of all, cool sculpture! Second, I almost didn't recognize you in that dress. Third, interesting story... you are right about people in the south keeping things very hush-hush.

Sorry to hear about your uncle.

pablo said...

I just can't think of you as the black sheep, the one everyone tries to keep quiet about. You seem like the one that got all the good genes!

Creating is a very private, very lonely act, and you have to do it for yourself, not for someone else's favor. I'm sure you know that, but you're not alone in that.

edifice rex said...

Hey Karen! Thanks; yeah, you won't see me in a dress very often but I actually love to wear them. Yeah, that particular uncle I will miss a lot. He was a good man. He won the Bronze Star in WWII but never told anyone. My Mama happen to find it one day.

Hey Pablo! Oh, I'm very much the odd ball. Now, my siblings affectionately think I'm weird and they do brag on my artistic stuff but they do have some issues with me being a construction worker and don't like to spread that around. My father was quite embarrassed about that and would not tell anyone what I do for a living. And they think I'm a little weird on the solar house and natural living stuff too. I get picked on regularly about that. Most of my extended family will not even acknowledge I exist for some reason. Would not attend my wedding etc. I'm not sure what that is about.
You are right about creating; and my whole life, I have always tried to do what was in my heart, not what might please others and I think maybe that pisses some people off. My sister told my mother once after we were grown, "Annie does what she wants." Like it was a bad thing. You have to follow your heart, I think.

Floridacracker said...

The story of how you got where you are just adds to the respect I have for your technical and artistic skills.
The ability to build something practical, something beautiful, or a combination of the two is very impressive.

And you're right, you do have to follow your heart. This is no rehearsal, this is life.
Thanks for telling us your tale.

edifice rex said...

Hey, thanks FC! I hope I'm building something practical and beautiful; I wonder sometimes. I guess we all do.

pablo said...

But I have a lingering question:

Is that a song title you started the post with?

edifice rex said...

Hey Pablo! No, it's not a song that I know of! If I can get around to answering the second question in that post I have the intention of titling it," Big Things That I Build Now." I dunno.