Documentation May 27, 2011
thinking of writing the story of my life, it
seemed to me that the autobiography would be a
much easier read if I titled the chapters with
the names of men I been with rather than any
date or place. This particular volume
would have the title "With Tom in Armurchee,
Georgia." How and when I came to be there
with him is a lengthy story. I will not go
into it while documenting these sketchbooks.
Suffice it to say that I had not finished my
graduate studies at the University of Georgia
and had decided to go adventuring.
I was quite
disillusioned with graduate school. I had
come from a small university, UNC-Asheville, and
had worked with nor more than two faculty in the
art department - Tucker Cooke and Eugene Bunker.
How naive I had been. My undergraduate
studies were in practically a family situation,
so small was the university. Art history
was taught with studio art in mind and studio
art was taught with constant reference to art
history. No such thing existed at larger
universities. There was a great gap
between the two disciplines. The art
historians were stuffed shirts and the art
department were aloof egoists. The older
wiser faculty members, though, like Lamar Dodd,
never failed in his teaching to mention a great
artist to study through which me would
understand our own studio pursuits better.
But what was
I doing, talking studio courses along with
intense studies in art history with the likes of
Dr. Etta James, Dr. Tom Polk, Dr. John Sedgwick
, Dr. Desurko, Dr. Alan Collier? When I
met with my advisor in graduate school, I asked
if I would be able to take studio courses
intermittent with my art history studies.
"Of course!" he replied, and signed me up
for Mr. Dodd's drawing class. This man was
highly inept; he was a alcoholic, later released
from his job. I wondered if he had a nip
or two before my appointment with him.
Years later I found that the studio courses I
had taken on a graduate level did not count
toward the overall hours that I need to finish
my degree. It meant I had to take more
courses. Nonetheless, the somewhat
inebriated advisor allowed me to meet and study
with Lamar Dodd. That was a gift fate sent
to Italy in the summer of 1976, I had decided to
return to Athens, Georgia, and find a job; stay
out of graduate school for a while until I could
resolve my dislike for this "grand institution
of higher learning" at the base of which I saw
pretty politics and overblown egos.
happened, Tom (his name will be the "heading" of
this set of volumes) wanted me to come live with
him in Rome, Georgia as he began his first year
of full time academic teaching. He would
provide room and board when all I had to do was
paint and draw. Of course there was an
affair involved. Tom's inability to
maintain a monogamous relationship was one of
the reasons the heading "Tom" fades and another
takes its place.
sketchbook has many references to my first visit
to Italy: several crucifixions - trying to see
the composition in a more modern form.
Studies of nature: Rome and Armurcheee, Georgia
provided easy access to a day of walking and
studying. Too, I was able to return to
Athens to see old friends - to Salisbury, NC,
for a visit with my parents.
The winter of
1977 was an exceptionally cold winter for
Georgia; for the entire country. At Berry
College, where Tom taught, there was a large
good sized pond on the lower part of the campus.
It was part of a park, lined with trees and
trails. During this cold, the entire pond
was frozen solid. Never before had I
ever seen such a large body of water turn to
ice; having spent my life in the south, this was
an uncommon occurrence.
Also, a flock
of Canada geese settled in for the long freeze.
I had seen drawings, photos, and paintings of
these birds but never any live. I was a
dumbfounded by their simple, straight forward
strength and beauty. I tried several
sketches bu they moved too quickly. I
could barely capture an outline.
Upon a visit
to my parents who lived in Salisbury, NC, Dad
had found an injured red tailed hawk on the side
of the road. He was able to throw a large
cloth over it and put it in his car - from there
he would bring it home, keep it in the car, and
call National Wildlife people to come and fetch
it. The hawk could not fly and had to make
itself at home in Dad's Ford Bronco. This
gave me the opportunity to try and do a few
drawings of it. The hawk, however, like
the Canada geese, was hardly still for much
time. He wanted out of the car. I'd
never been that close to a hawk before; I tried
to do quick gesture sketches of his power and
his build. The drawings are only quick
marks made, however. They told too much of
a truth of a bird trapped, crippled, and wanting
people rescued it. They put it in a
rehabilitation unit. The bird never flew
again but was well tended until he died some
In 1977, I
returned to Athens, to live with a good friend I
had made in Cortona -- Mary Linda. She had
a housemate whose name was Andrew. Both
were artists. The house was located just
off the UGA campus. But I would keep my
distance from graduate school yet. I had
no car but I found a job as a breakfast waitress
at the infamous Eldorado, a vegetarian
restaurant located in downtown Athens.
Athens was a
kind of "Big Easy" for anyone who wasn't in
school there. The university ran buses for
the students but student ID's were not checked
before anyone boarded them. A bus stop was
located less than a block from where I lived.
morning hours required that I be at work at 6AM.
The buses did not run until 7. In Athens I
began a routine of walking - the town was
perfectly sized for one who did not have a car,
want a car, or wanted to be in better shape by
walking to and from activities. Upon
returning to that wonderful little city, I came
to be in better shape physically than I'd ever
been in my life.