In the fall of 1975 my husband was awarded a grant from the Brookings Institute to research and write his PhD dissertation in Washington DC. He was insistent I needed to continue living in the Bay Area. I worked in a classroom in Fairfield, near Travis Air Force Base, teaching children with orthopedic handicaps. My husband believed wecould not aford for me not to work.
To prepare for a year living single I bought my own car, a 1963 Dodge Dart, I found a dog to keep me company, Irmagarde, a 130 pound Newfoundland, and I found several activities to keep me busy. Albany, the city where we lived, offered an adult ed program. I enrolled in a sculpture class.
I had never tried art. I felt inadequate with two-dimensional painting and drawing, but from the beginning felt an affinity with sculpture. We worked with clay, using live models. I made a torso, then a figure. I loved this art! My fingers, often clumsy, felt comfortable forming features of the human body.
Our third assignment was to make a larger than life bust of an older, balding man. Week after week I moulded cheekbones, ears, a chin. I got one eye perfected, his lips on the other side of his face. I spent one entire three-hour session trying to perfect the second eye, its folds and creases in the eyelid. At the end of the session my bust still had only one eye. I scooped out attempt after another. The left eye was fabulous, I could settle for nothing less than a matching one. As I prepared to cover him up as the the evening ended, I looked at his lips. The right side was fabulous, curving in jus the right way. The left lip was not proportional. I scooped that out as well.
I returned the following week. Here was a man with on perfect eye and a wonderful lip on the opposite side. He looked a bit weird, the the symmetry worked. I returned the next week, determined to leave him that way, I spent the following weeks sculpting his forehead, his sinuous ne. Eventually I completed my alien.
I completed the process of doing a plaster cast, colored his plaster, chipped out him out of his mold, mounted him on a base. The base’s wood was a large slab of driftwood I pulled from the San Francisco Bay. As Lou turned his head to tighten his seat on his base, Lou remarked, “That Zorb is a powerful guy!” My sculpture was named.
My husband and I moved from California to Indiana in the midst of the Bi-Centennial celebration. Zorb was the first thing we packed, and the first to be placed in our new home. I moved him nine times from one house to the next. Each time he has been the first piece to move into property, nd he has always been given the honor of guarding my front door.
On Monday Zorb’s appearance ws altered. The damage done to his shell is irreparable. His expression as become more sinister. Maybe that expression speaks to these times. Life is just not as carefree as it once was.
Was the act of trying to destroy Zorb anti-Semitic? In the middle of a group of rocks I have saved for their interest was a four-inch smooth stone with a decal of the Star of David on it. This stone was sitting next to Zorb, probably moved, when I found him. The police say, “Lot’s of people do not even know what that means.” My mind fixates of the ive states where bomb threats were called into Jewish Community centers yesterday. Personally, I felt threatened by all the hate rhetoric from last fall’s election.
So, on this day after, what does Zorb mean to me? Zorb marked the realization I could create art. He was original, and born from my imagination. He was the beginning of a dream I never thought I could accomplish. Zorb has always been my guardian, standing tall outside my home. He is also the witness to see what comes and goes in each house where I have lived. He will not move from his observation point in front of my house, maybe take a few steps back.
This incident reminds me of my vulnerabilities. I cannot escape the dangers out there by living in seemingly peaceful Clarkdale. I have been overwhelmed by the concern and love people have expressed. My self-esteem needs those sorts of boosts from time to time. I am sentimental. I do not easily shed meaningful, much-loved objects I have taken into my home. Zorb’s expression of my ability to create original art remains important. He is the promise I have carried within me for the pat 40 years.
"With all the beauty surrounding me here above the Verde Valley, how could I not create more beauty?"