2017 brought me a Happily-Ever-After ending to my 43-year-old dream:
In 1974 I lived in Berkeley with my husband, Dan. I taught orthopedically handicapped students in Fairfield, forty miles north. Dan was a PhD candidate in Political Science. Young-marrieds, we went from concert to picnic, to gourmet dinner.
Then Dan was offered a fellowship to do research through the Brookings Institute in Washington DCA for his doctoral dissertation. Dan was insistent. We could not afford for me to move with him to DC. I would remain in Berkeley, hold down my teaching job, get together with him several times a year.
At first I was devastated. I did not want to live alone. I enjoyed our life together, and could not imagine being almost single. I went out, searched for activities I could do by myself. I sought out a Newfoundland dog. Irmagarde and I took up backpacking. I trained her to carry her own neon orange backpack. She brought food and water for herself. I still smile when I remember the time we were hiking in Yosemite near the Hetch Hetchy Dam. These people came toward us white-faced. “You would never believe what just passed us—a Grizzly bear with an orange backpack!”
I needed a car I could use to get around in. Nothing fancy. Basic. My friend Lou found me a 1963 Dodge Dart. It had almost 100,000 miles on it, was a bit dented, but ran well. The ignition didn’t work, but that was fine. I did not need keys. My mother borrowed it one time when she was visiting. She made the mistake of parking at a BART lot. It was “borrowed,” but this being Berkeley, it was found two days later parked a block from the BART lot where it was borrowed.
But the best part of my life that year were the Adult Ed classes offered by Albany Public Schools. I tried several classes on basket weaving and self-enhancement. I wove some gorgeous hemp baskets I still have. Then I saw there was a sculpture class using live models. The plan was to make pieces out of clay, then cast them in plaster. I was in heaven.
I began by making a torso. I found I could translate the lines and shapes I saw on the body using my fingers in ways I could never draw them. After the torso, I moved onto a full body. My second piece was Lady. She is about two-feet tall, a realistic full figure. I moved from there to a bust. I worked for two evenings trying to get both sides of the mouth to match, the eyelids to be the same. In frustration, as I walked out of the class, I scooped out the offending right eye, left lip. The next evening I took the piece, worked the changes into the overall face. The back of his head joined into the abstractions I already had. All of a sudden art looked different. Zorb was born, and I have never looked at heads the same.
Just before we left Berkeley, I cast Zorb, perched him on a piece of driftwood I picked up along the Berkeley shoreline, and threw him onto the moving van heading to Bloomington, Indiana where Dan would be an Associate Professor. I had to leave my sculpting behind.
We planned a family. I became pregnant. We bought a summer-long ticket through Scandinavia as our final fling without children. Then I got an excited phone call from Dan. “I have been offered a position as an assistant to President Carter’s science advisor. I was entertained today at the President’s dining hall. I have to take the position.”
“But what about our trip?”
“We will have to make alternate plans. What would you want to do instead of a European trip?”
“The Corcoran Gallery offers classes.”
I signed on for six weeks of sculpture classes at the Corcoran. I was five months pregnant. It was a very hot summer which featured a three-week transit strike. I had to walk daily from Georgetown down to the Corcoran and then back up. But I was in heaven! I worked on a challenge with boxes, inspired by Louise Nevelson. I soldered a mobile together. I carved a two-piece sixty pound piece, an abstract seed from soapstone.
I spent the afternoons in the Smithsonian galleries nearby. This was the summer the Hirschhorn was opened. I spent hours in front of a sculpture of Picasso’s or a form of Giacamelli. The East wing was also brand new. I spent many afternoons perched on a seat in a gallery of David Smith’s pieces, or on a bench studying a Moore piece or a mobile by Calder.
After our time in DC, we still had time for ten days in England. There was an outdoor installation of Moore sculptures. We went there three different times. We got to Stratford on Avon. We trudged through the palaces and got lost in a maze.
We left England and moved onto parenthood. I did not go back into sculpture for the next almost 40 years. I have always known I have a gift for sculpture. I have never forgotten the feel of clay between my fingers. A few times I have gotten into some papier mache or pulp. Each time I have found the way to mould the slop into an abstract face. And, for a few moments I have traveled back into the heaven I found back in Berkeley in the mid-seventies. And for this entire time I have known I will find a place to get back into my sculpting.
Two years ago I took a workshop in papier mache. I made a couple of masks. I enjoyed them, but the papier mache did not respond to my fingers in the same way as clay did. I found I could use the papier mache to attach intricate desert woods to bases of different materials. I loved doing the art. I picked up more wood, mixed up more papier mache and moved into a studio up in Jerome. Something was missing from my art, but it was three-dimensional, and I was having fun.
Then this summer I heard about the Don Reitz Ranch for Ceramic Arts. Clay! Studio space. Multiple kilns. Affordable price. Now I have returned to the heaven I remember from 40 years ago. I have been going out about twice a week for five months now. I have about 25 ceramic pieces I have made and completed, several more awaiting bisque firing.
In the next few weeks I will add lessons to my ceramic adventures. My major accomplishment for 2017 has been returning to my passion for ceramics. My hope for 2018 is to find a way to get my art out where others can see it, hopefully purchase it. And I am happy!
The moral? Hold onto your dreams! It is not too late to realize them!
"With all the beauty surrounding me here above the Verde Valley, how could I not create more beauty?"