Tuesday, February 7, 2017

A few thoughts concerning my first three weeks as Resident Artist at the Rensing Center Keith L. Andrews Sculptor

Let me tell you a bit about this experience on three levels.

First, I had never spent much time in the rural southeastern USA. After 20 days here, I can now confirm that the stereotypic southerners we who live in other parts of the USA “know about” in fact do exist. They are very real. You see them at the flea market, in the diners and in front of their trailers with their dogs. And, yes, 73.9% of the voters in Pickens County voted for Donald Trump. But – and this is the important part – the stereotypes are just a small part of a much larger, more interesting and nuanced reality that I am discovering. It’s a complex reality that I have very much enjoyed getting to know. Let me give you the positive side here.
I go out for walks here for about an hour most days - just as I do wherever I live. But never, not once, in Dallas, Pasadena, Chicago, Tallahassee or Guatemala where I have walked hundreds of miles, have complete strangers stopped and asked if I’m OK and if I need a lift. They do here. This is genuine rural courtesy and concern.
Even if they don’t stop, they almost always wave to me. The women and the men in sedans do the full open palm salute, while the men who drive big pickups usually only give you the lifted-index-finger-on-the-steering-wheel greeting. But they all acknowledge me, and I like that.
And I do love being called honey, darlin’, sweetie or sir wherever I go. Cheers me up. And I try to respond appropriately. 
And I gotta tell you that the fried chicken, collards, cobbler and other southern fare are really tasty here; but so are the vegetarian fusion dishes that are available.
And, despite what people from other regions might expect, I have seen a dozen instances in which white folks are chatting, sitting and laughing real friendly like with Latino/as or African Americans.
And then there is the fact that we don’t have to lock our car or house doors when we go out or at night. Poor city folks in other parts of the country.
Gimme some more time to get to know the culture better, and I’ll add some more details. (But before I move on, I have to report one more observation: the surname on the mailbox of the home with the biggest Confederate flag is “Black”. Kind of ironic. No picture yet….)

Second, Lemme admit it: I am a bit homesick for Central America. That’s odd because judged strictly on phenotype, I absolutely belong to this community. My coloration, facial features and, well, the big ol’ beard all fit right in; genetically these are my people. But I do enjoy it when I got to talk to the Spanish-speaking guys who were delivering the food supplies in a very rural grill I stumbled across, and I was really tempted to strike up a conversation with the women speaking a Mayan language in the fleamarket but didn’t.  As I say, this social setting is more complex than outsiders would expect.

And the sculpture?, you ask. The place I have is ideal for work and very comfortable for living. I have a comfortable 80 square meter work/living area with great lighting, access to tools and supplies, and a wood burning stove that I love (may the eco-gods forgive me for burning up a big chunk of South Carolina’s oak forests). The south wall is made entirely of sliding glass doors with a great forest view. And I can work on a very large back porch when it’s not too cold. Above me is a garden with half a dozen sculptures from former residents.  This is a great place to do a couple of pieces I have had pending for years. And there’s so much time to just think, catch up on the music I missed out on over the last four decades, and read when I am not sculpting.

Will post pics of finished works next time.

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