Here, Over Here!

People in Warren, Arkansas–or Bradley County–don’t just like pink tomatoes: they live pink tomatoes.  In June, that is.  And those who moved away from that picturesque small town return to it from Tennessee, Oklahoma, and yes–even Texas–in June, for their box of “Bradley Pinks.”  They are greeted by the pink tomato logo staked in yards and hung on doors (barns and otherwise) as far away as Pansy and Calm, AR.  And by the time the Pink Tomato Festival Parade begins in Warren, the entire county community has lined the streets.  Kids scramble to catch hard candies thrown from a seemingly endless line of car and utility vehicle floats, celebrating everything from the Warren Speedway to winners of the Pink Tomato Festival beauty contests (ages 6 months – 18 years).  Parents jaywalk into the street to get that perfect photo of their beauty king or queen, their favorite high school band student, or of their family members and friends who felt led to hop on a car hood and be a “driveway entry” to wave and throw candy to the crowd. The parade signals the beginning of the festival, and the crowd moves en masse “uptown” for games, concessions (read barbecue and fried green tomatoes, here), and star entertainment, all clustered around the magnificent Bradley County Courthouse Square.  And then, I… was installed on the parade route: plein aire among camp chairs, strollers, ice chests, and walkers.  It was fun for them to be part of this wonderful melange of distractions: Here, hey!  Over here!

IMG_3863 Blog

Bradley County Pink Tomato Festival Contest Winner: Cutest Baby King, ages 12 months – 2 years.

Parade Speedway Blog

Warren Speedway entry, dirt track race car, Bradley County Pink Tomato Festival Parade.

 

 

 

In the Pink

It could have been hotter: June in Warren, Arkansas, can easily reach 100 degrees (with or without the heat index) by noon.  We timed our installations at the Bradley County Library and the Donald W. Reynolds YMCA in the morning, which meant a truly early departure from Conway, in anticipation.  But the only real heat we suffered from was putting our own feet to the fire for forgetting the screwdriver that perfectly inserts the tiny screws to secure the many dedication-card holders on each pedestal, AND: realizing there wasn’t a Wal-Mart within 50 miles.  Enter a wonderful friend Maribeth Frazer.  We serve on the Arkansas Committee of the National Museum of Women in the Arts together and she was pleased when I mentioned in conversation that  And then, I… would travel to Warren and the Bradley County Pink Tomato Festival.  She shepherded us about on our site visit, secured an almost unheard of vacant room for our return during the festival (at the lovely BRInn), and fixed us a fabulous lunch that day we enjoyed around her kitchen table.  She is Warren’s grande dame (that’s grahn-dahm, for those of us who pretend to remember our high school French) and Queen Bee who disproves the adage that they leave the real work to others.  Not only did she self-appoint to find a magnetic attachment to improve our screwdriver performance, she helped install (since we were behind schedule).  I had not asked her to come by on installation day.  She just showed up and said, “Give me something to do.”  My husband, from LA and DC, was incredibly impressed, especially when she found jobs to do when I protested about giving her one! Thanks to Maribeth, we got the installations in place in time to follow her to The Sandwich Shop on the courthouse square for another excellent lunch.  In the heat, in a hurry, in a fix–we were in the pink, thanks to Maribeth.

IMG_3767 Blog

Maribeth Frazer with staff in the lobby of the Donald W. Reynolds YMCA in Warren, AR. Maribeth wrote the grant and coordinated the % for art projects that grace this amazing community center.

Library Staff  Blog

Bradley County Library Staff pose with me and Figure 2 in Installation #2.

 

Catty-cornered is the Best Option

I saw the recently-refurbished car dealership showroom on my first site trip to Heber Springs.  “And then, I…” was already scheduled for 2-week displays at the Heber Springs Community Center, and the Mary I Wold Cleburne County Library.  All I had to do was find a place for the Springfest regional event display.  The showroom was catty-cornered from the entrance to Spring Park – the downtown site of Springfest activities.  It was perfect, it was empty, and it was for rent or sale, but the landlords didn’t give permission for its use. The suggestions for other locations took on a Goldilocks plot arc.  The Courthouse porches were wide and had ramp access, but the 2-story ceiling would leave us in a downpour in case of rain.  The Old Post Office had first floor access and a roomy front lobby, but the 30″ door to that area couldn’t accommodate the 37 1/2″ pedestals.  The DAY OF the festival installation, the landlords of the car dealership showroom relented, and agreed to let us occupy their lovely refurbished space with a restroom, air conditioning, and a huge side door that was – of course – big enough to drive a car through.  It was a fish bowl of the best sort, and I got to people-watch as much as they double-took me, the art work, and those who visited the exhibit.  The situation was nerve-wracking until the final resolution, but at last fun and gratifying: we asked early and then asked again, after the publicity about the exhibit had become public.  So the girls made it happen: Theresa and Arlene at the Chamber of Commerce, and the sculptures, whose presence appealed to the art loving landlords.

Blog HS Fest 2

People-watching at Springfest

Blog HS Fest 1

Visitors Browse in the Showroom

 

Blog HS Fest 6

Walking from Spring Park to Downtown Heber

Going to Heber

HSgferrydam1 Think of Greer’s Ferry Dam and John F. Kennedy traveling to Arkansas to dedicate it and view the recreational lake it created. Think of the Little Red River and and a day of floating and fishing. Think of the Red Apple Isle and a championship golf course.  Think of the Ozark National Park, a mountain that looks like a sugar loaf, a swinging bridge, and a relatively small town that nestles within shouting distance.  Close, casual, and fun, Heber Springs was originally promoted as a healing destination, similar to Eureka Springs and Hot Springs.  Seven of the sulfur springs, once purported to cure dispepsia, headaches, and biliousness, are still maintained in Spring Park where residents celebrate over 25 years of Springfest celebrations. It now is the home of golf courses and hiking trails in addition to the April festival, the July Annual World Championship Cardboard Boat Races, and the November arrival of Trumpeter Swans to winter on Magness Lake.  There’s a lot going on in Cleburne County to recommend a visit, and I’m delighted Heber has opened its playful heart to the “And then, I…” public art tour.

HSsf2

The installations will be divided between the Heber Springs Community Center and the Mary I. Wold Cleburne County Library for two weeks (April 11 – 24), and then re-installed together for Springfest (April 25) in the historic Old Post Office on Main Street near Spring Park, both of which were recipients of improvements compliments of Roosevelt’s New Deal during the Great Depression: Civilian Conservation Corps city park construction, and an historic mural that idealizes early settlers.  Another historic tidbit: Heber Springs was the home of Michael Meyer, or the eccentric photographer Michael Disfarmer, whose studio became a main attraction of a trip into town and whose reputation skyrocketed after recent rediscovery of his work.

 

HSoldpomural

Louis B. Freund, From Timber to Agriculture, 1939.

HSdisfarmer

Unknown Subjects, Michael Disfarmer, date unavailable.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

HSspWComClubbs

Women’s Community Club Band Shell, Spring Park.

HSpark

Entrance, Spring Park.

 

 

 

 

Run Away Box

I contracted with two shipping firms for the local “pop up” exhibit transport in preparation for my best roadie’s absence when the tour begins anew in April.  Watching my pennies, I let the delivery service go without them having to wait for the empty boxes, and asked said roadie to transport them back to our house for storage. Once the art was installed, we packed the boxes into Jim’s Ford F-150 like pieces in a Jenga puzzle: what man wants to make two trips when one is possible?  His beloved green tie-down straps cross-crossed the mass of cardboard as he happily began the 4 miles to our garage. I put the finishing touches on the exhibit, drove home, and found a hastily scrawled note: “I lost one box. Have retraced my route. It’s gone. Sorry. I’m at Lowe’s.”

FCLib 360

How does a 36″H x 24″W x 20″D foam-lined labeled wardrobe box fall out of a truck bed and not be noticed by the driver, or scare an adjacent traveler, or wreak havoc on the road, or be noticed in the yard it bounced into?  Most of all, how could it not be noticed by the person who made it, labeled it, and helped load it, when she traveled the same route just 20 minutes later?

I suddenly appreciated the shipping firms, their contracts, their hourly rates, their bonding, their down payments, and their attention to every detail.  I realized that I would have saved money letting them stay and haul those boxes to the house (counting materials and the time spent measuring/cutting/gluing foam for TWO boxes). If I had let them, I would at least have had replacement costs!  As it was, I had dinner out with my almost-perfect roadie who I will greatly miss when I head out for Heber Springs in April.  Good thing he’s finally learned to leave me a note…

 

Location, Location, Location

I’m so grateful for the “pop-up” exhibit “And then, I…” enjoyed the past two weeks at the Faulkner County Library in my hometown.  It gave me the opportunity to share the sculptures with friends and family who had only seen photographs.  And I got to see the 3 installations in the same space for the first time (Having seen them in my garage doesn’t count!).  I realized that the content of the series is very much about location!  Together, they helped each other.  Having them in one place established a familiar context: several small groups of women conversing.  And, together, they helped the visitors. Having 9 of them scattered about the room established different points of access: viewers could start with their particular favorite and move to those of secondary interest.

The “And then, I…” sculpture tour was designed for public spaces and general audiences.  In this local library, known for its community programs and educational enrichment, showing the 3 installations together encouraged great dialogue and written feedback.  It remains to be seen if the art work links to personal experience regardless of the location, or if the location of the exhibit affects the viewer responses:  will the display inspire different comments in a hospital from those contributed in a library, or a civic center?  I wonder if the art work has the gravitas to re-focus the viewer, regardless of location, to contemplate the series theme.

I’m fascinated with viewer engagement and am grateful for those whose thoughts returned to the subject matter after their visit to the exhibit, those who went to the exhibit alone to have quality time for contemplation, and those who took the time to complete the group ballots and fill out the exhibit survey.  And I will appreciate those who “Submit a Story” to share. The “Shared Stories” are also public works of art: the sculptures are telling theirs to inspire the viewer to do the same.

Faulkner County Library

January 2015, Faulkner County Library, Exhibit Interaction

ConwayLib2web

January 2015, Faulkner County Library, Artist’s Comments

ConwayLib1web

January 2015, Faulkner County Library, Nancy Allen (Adult Services and Reference Librarian) and artist Barbara Satterfield

 

 

Mz. Barbara Mz. Nancy

The “And then, I…” workshops at the Phillips County Boys and Girls Club reminded me of how much I love working with kids.  Within 3 minutes of starting each class, I was Mz. Barbara and I had something to show them that they wanted to try.  Each class flew by, with BGC staff person Mz. Nancy and I staying just one step ahead of the students.  Workshop #1 (Sept 29) created a maquette (small version of a figure sculpture) from a block of clay by pinching and pushing (usually forbidden), and Workshop #2 (Oct 10) created a tile illustrated with a face by pounding and poking (also usually forbidden). We read the signs (pose/stance, gesture, facial expression) in images and by re-enactment before creating the figures.  We focused on the face with a “One-Two: Make the Face” game based on situations: I stated a couple, and then asked for examples and gladly chose from 12 waving hands.  Standing to work, we simultaneously turned around twice before making the facial response to the situation.  From those prompts, we created and sketched 4 difference faces for 4 different situations, and then selected one to draw on their tile. They were at once curious, diverted, helpful, demanding, generous, impatient, challenged, celebratory, and eager to do more: a pleasure to wrangle and nurture.  Best to Mz. Nancy, Mz. Jennifer, and Mr. Mike at the Phillips County Boys and Girls Club!

Sculpture Maquettes

Sculpture Maquettes

Maquette in Color

Clothed Maquette

 

 

 

Coiffed Maquette

Coiffed Maquette

Mz. Barbara & Mz. Nancy

Mz. Barbara and Mz. Nancy with a class of twelve 6-11 year olds

Next Steps

Next Steps after “One, Two: Make the Face!”

Game sketches

“Make the Face” sketch samples

Workshop sample

Workshop sample

Workshop sample

Workshop sample

Workshop sample

Workshop sample

 

Pay No Attention to that Man Behind the Curtain…

Most of us remember the moment when Toto exposed the Wizard of Oz as a potential charlatan. With one swipe of a curtain, the “great and powerful” myth became a man struggling with bells, whistles, steam engines and no easy answers.  It has become one of my favorite parts of the movie. I’ve always wanted to see what was behind the scenes and learn the back story.  It’s one reason why I decided to embark on a public art project that would be installed in public view and subjected to the vagaries of public display.  Seeing art get put together can simultaneously demystify it, make it accessible, and increase its “use value”: its ability to inspire contemplation, discussion, and response.

The load-in and out of the “And then, I…” sculpture installations draw observers who chuckle, shake their heads, or utter a “my goodness” when they see how the art work is packed, how it is affixed to the pedestal, and how the appearance transforms from pieces to presentation.  It’s the best time for conversations about “what’s going on” with the public art project, and what “And then, I…” is about.  My 1-hour installation schedule for each location stretched: installations became informal workshops of varying times for anybody who was present for however long they could hang about to see the festivities. So in contrast to the title of this post, I’m going to promote what’s happening behind the curtain!

Volunteer Help

Volunteer Help at Phillips County Library

Assembling Group 2

Assembling Group 2

Miles with Milk Shakes

Say “road trip” and associations often veer to youthful abandon, risk-taking, and partners-in-crime in search of a good time. Transporting the “And then, I…” exhibit to its first venue in Helena, AR, felt youthful: it has been decades since I took a road trip, especially in a rental truck.  It felt risky: we had 8 ceramic sculptures bobbling over bone-rattling highway construction for about 20 miles.  And it felt criminal: we armed ourselves with Sonic milkshakes, resigned to a diet of fast food for the duration. And it was fun–lots of fun–and, amazingly, we unloaded and installed three 36″ pedestals and 8 sculptures without pulling a muscle or breaking a bone.

 

Transport alert: 16′ Penske rentals only have AM/FM radio.  Seriously, no Sirius and no built-in CD player.  And somehow that’s OK.  After miles of flower-rich ditches and flat-field horizons where even a lone plastic Wal-Mart bag grabs attention, it makes sense to listen to gospel music and agri commercials promising a high yield if you “start with superior seed…”  We were headed to the Delta: why be surprised at an advertisement to “Rent an Extra Combine” or decline to stop at an independent “Dairy Maid” in search of a chain Queen?  The road became our ritual entry into the temple of West Helena/Helena, where the Confederate Cemetery and hills of kudzu commanded respect.

 

???????????????????????????????

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Transport advice: An artist can never pack too carefully.  The amount of time dedicated to creating work deserves more than insurance: it deserves good boxes, hundreds of dollars of charcoal foam, and a Mother-Hen complex that would stifle the neediest chick.  Even with that, there is that moment of unveiling: the after-effort reveal of results that made primitive humans thank the gods or bemoan their displeasure.  Having had my share of kiln-god punishment prior to the trip (See “In the Studio: Tiny Bubbles”), I was relieved to find the sculptures intact and ready to go to work!

 

Kudzu2smlweb

 

3 Pedestals, 9 Crates, and Vitamins

I’ve received and installed, and organized and managed traveling exhibits for years.  However, organizing one for myself is suddenly very personal. No work study students (assigned at the Baum Gallery at the University of Central Arkansas), no staff (available at the venues of the Arkansas Champion Trees art tour), and no contract shipper.  Just me, a truck, 3 pedestals, 9 crates, and as many vitamins (and chocolate cookies) as it takes to complete the tour.

The first tour stop is Helena, AR.  My last trip there was as an Artist-in-Education with the Arkansas Arts Council, in the late 1980’s: I taught creative writing and enjoyed fried okra and skillet cornbread just about every evening of my stay.  I had originally planned to begin the “And then, I…” sculpture tour in Spring 2015, but didn’t want to miss the opportunity to share the sculptures in Helena before and during the King Biscuit Blues Festival on Sat Oct 11.  The Mid-America Arts Alliance slogan is “More Art for More People”, so–as one of their grant recipients–it made sense to me to show the art work where the people are: public spaces and regional festivals around the state (Click the blue button on the home page for tour info and updates.).

The ladies love the blues!
Festival Logo

I’ll install three different sculpture installations on Mon Sept 29 in three locations:  The Delta Cultural Center (Depot facility), the Helena Regional Medical Center, and the Phillips County Library. Thanks to library director Linda Bennett, artist workshops will be held in the library meeting room on the afternoon of Sept 29, and on the morning of Oct 10, after which I’ll de-install from the three locations and hope to set up the complete exhibit at the King Biscuit Blues Festival on Sat Oct 11 from 10 – 3 pm.  The festival is a HUGE event, swelling Helena’s population to over 50,000 over the weekend.  I hope the festival staff will help me find a place to tuck in and show the work: the ladies love the blues!

Thanks, Bill Branch (Curator, Delta Cultural Center), Sharon Martin (marketing Director, HRMC), and Linda for making it possible for me to share this series in your community!