by Jodi Lea Stewart
I made an ironclad discovery recently while viewing Picasso and the Age of Ironat the Fort Worth Modern Art Museum. Walking among the wire, bronze, sheet metal and iron exhibits such as Picasso’sHead of a Man and Gonzalez’sWoman with a Mirror, a steely thought gripped me.
“My gosh,” I exclaimed to my most attentive audience—me.
“I, too, have lived with greatness—rubbed elbows with it—and did I really appreciate it? Did the world? No…a thousand times no!”
The sharp pangs of dread twisting in my chest, I continued my tromp through the abstract jungle celebrating metal and wire and scams. Cupping my hand over my face and leaving only a little slit for viewing with one eye—that’s all I could tolerate at the moment—I absorbed the metal blobbies before me.
My one eye, now becoming rather jaundiced and swollen with overwork, took in Alexander Calder’s Yellow Disk with an ironic observation. Contemporaries of Calder (1898 – 1976) should have told him that his “yellow disk” in the center of his creation was not yellow at all, but a bright tangerine instead.
My common sense told me that Calder’s buddies must have been direct descendants of those guys from way back who wouldn’t tell the emperor his clothes were constructed of nudity.
On and on I wound throughout the museum’s alcoves taking in everything from Alberto Giacometti’s Walking Man II, to David Smith’s Voltri VII. Giacometti’s creations made me mentally list why I should weigh 100 pounds less than I do, and Smith’s creativity eluded me, even when I swiveled my head around ala The Exorcist.
Through it all, disturbing voices were messing with the “back 40” of my mind…voices that stirred memories of my father, Red, and his own brand of art.
“Ah, greatness is seldom appreciated in this thorny life, Red,” the ghosts whispered.
Reaching out a clammy finger to trace the atrociously bubbled seams of a particular sculpture, I was instantly surrounded by a museum Gestapo troop who chastised me and reminded me to remain a pristine six to twelve inches from even the sculpture stands.
In fact, one uniformed person glowered at me, Don’t even breathe in the direction of these priceless pieces of art!
Of course, to be fair, I must mention that this message came telepathically from him to me as he glared at me and I stared back at the thick, straight, single line of black hair traversing his forehead where two eyebrows usually live.
“Hmm,” I thought to myself. “He certainly looks artful.”
At this point, I submitted to the waves of nostalgia that had been threatening to emerge. My thoughts turned back to another place and time and to my now gone gentleman cowboy pop—Red.
Red could hand tool elegant saddles and leather travel satchels like you see in old westerns. He could study a person closely, cut out a western shirt pattern from newspaper then sew up a perfect fitting shirt. Some oldies but goodies still remember the shirt label of times past, Red Myrick of Arizona.
One time, Red ran for senator of New Mexico. Instead of fence straddling politics, Red campaigned at charity benefits and boys ranches like Cal Farley’s Boys’ Ranch, trick roping and riding atop a galloping horse. He didn’t win the election, but he won plenty of hearts.
In 1965, he and his gorgeous white Arabian horse, Cutter Jim (also known as Jameel Rizpah), won the International Arabian Cutting Horse championship.
But what’s the connection?
Why were Picasso and Red arm-wrestling in my mind?
Because Red had another little talent—welding and metal working.
For fun, Red would weld (seamlessly, I might add) little horseshoe nail people doing regular stuff like hunting or fishing or dancing in glee. Once, he made a set of cabana chairs out of horse shores welded together in flawless array.
Another time, Red shot rivets into the sides of an Airstream-style trailer he designed that carried hunting dogs, hunting mules and boasted separate quarters for the hunters to use for sleeping and cooking. There seemed to be no end to his ideas and designs—and no end to his talent to create these designs from nearly “nothing.”
No one wrote endlessly about Red and his creativity. No journals, leaflets, or volumes describe his form or elusiveness or how his interior surfaces juxtapositionally complimented his exterior planes.
But I know if Red had been with me at the museum the other day, his eyes wouldn’t have missed one globby seam or assembled image from dissimilar parts.
I can almost hear that strange, unique laugh coming from behind his Hollywood smile. His eyes twinkling, he would have given me a look borne of the practical cloth he was cut from and said,
“Oh, *heck* Jodi, let’s go get a Coke!”
—The Collegian, Fort Worth, Texas, September 22, 1993—