Friday, January 8, 2016

One Shell of a Sculpture

Show and Tell

Good grief.  With all of the stupid politics our partisan brethren and sisteren keep making me write about, it's too easy to forget that life isn't about elections or public opinion.

Which is a good thing, actually, since public opinion probably wouldn't consider today's installment of "Show and Tell" any kind of genuine art.

But I kinda like to think it's some sorta sculptural thingy.  Can you tell what it is?

Okay, I'll give you a clue. The white plinth is actually an upside-down plastic birdbath, with the birdbath part facing the ground, and its base sticking up in the air, topped by a circular concrete stepping stone.

And atop the concrete disc is an old sea shell.

Still wondering what it is?  Well, it's not supposed to be a brain teaser.  It's just a little something I created for our backyard to symbolize two memories that we have of my dearly-departed Dad.

The birdbath he purchased years ago, after a couple of concrete birdbaths kept getting broken by raccoons who insisted on climbing up in it to bathe.

Unfortunately for Dad, what the concrete birdbath lacked in flexibility, this plastic birdbath lacked in sturdiness.  I don't know how many mornings I'd wake up - usually the first one up - go out into the kitchen to make my coffee, look out the window, and see the plastic birdbath tumbled on its side, with muddy paw prints all over it.  Yes, the hollow base of the plastic birdbath was full of sand, but that was insufficient to withstand three or four raccoons trying to wash their dirty little paws.

Even now, upside down, the underside of the plastic birdbath has fresh, raccoonish pawprints on it! 

Nevertheless, whenever Mom and I look at this new creation, although technically we see an upside down birdbath, we also see an object that Dad used to fuss over almost daily; either by going out and setting it back upright and re-filling it, or by sweeping leaves out of the water if the birdbath had managed to remain upright and full for an extended period of time.

Of course, during our brutal Texas summers, sometimes the water evaporated so quickly, Dad would have to refill it daily.

As for the shell - what some might call a "conch" - it was something the previous owners of our house left when Mom and Dad purchased it.  We don't know where it came from, but like all shells of this size, it reminds us of the ocean.  This particular shell is fairly old; newer shells have a pink hue inside; this one has just a faint suggestion of pink.  It's mostly white, while within its tiny cracks and crevices, black decay has set in.  There's also a sizable hole in its underside.

Even though it and us are a long way from any ocean, we've kept it all these years, and it helps us recall those wonderful summers in Maine after Dad retired, when he and Mom spent a lot of time up there in idyllic coastal Sedgwick.

Still... it is art?

Well, I'll admit:  It's not anything I'd pay money to see, or that I'd buy.  Yet it has value to Mom and me because every time we look at it, we know the things - and the person - that it represents.  Anybody wandering into our backyard would likely consider it a bit weird, or at least unimpressive.  But then again, Dad wasn't into show at all, or impressing other people.  Besides, he himself liked to repurpose objects after their original use was no longer necessary.

Dad graduated from Brooklyn's prestigious Pratt Institute, which has a world-famous design school.  Some of the stuff I've seen their graduates produce looks a bit weirder than my modest assemblage, and I'm sure that stuff costs a whole lot more.

But even the most snotty-nosed critic from the elite cultural salons and clubs of avant-garde New York can appreciate at least one quality of this piece:  it's green!  Environmentally-friendly art.  Keeping stuff that otherwise might be considered garbage out of our precious landfills.

Reduce, reuse, recycle; right?

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