I have been working on getting connected with more Art Festivals and events in this area. I’m not to the point, like some of my fellow artists, of doing 30 or more shows a year, but trying to ramp up from the three or four shows I have been participating in. Some events which I have gone to in the past have moved, changed or dried up, so I’m always looking for another opportunities. Established shows have the advantage of history, and often a dedicated following of attendees, but new shows can be fun too, as they give you a little more of a chance to shape the personality and direction of the show.
One such new show was the two day, Shamrock Arts Celebration, held in May, in the Shamrock park in Tyrone GA, very close to where I live. This year (2016) was the second year of the Celebration — last year they had a “Sidewalk Calk Art Festival” — but the first year where they invited fine arts people to come with their tents and displays. I signed up for the show, setting up that morning, sweating like crazy in the Georgia heat! I left the sides of my 10′ x 10′ display tent open to get lots of air-flow, and had several good conversations with people as they walked through. I especially enjoyed talking with the teens and young people, asking them about their own creative talents and interests.
The day was going well, but as we started to get into the later afternoon, we started seeing heavy, dark storm clouds building to the north of us.
As the winds started to pick up, it became evident that we were in for a pretty strong storm cell to come barreling through the area. I started picking up boxes and things which I had left behind the tent, and securing the sides of the tent to protect my displays. I’ve been through storms before, so I knew what to do. One of my first things was to add a couple of crisscrossing lines, tied to the two back legs of the shelter, to prevent the rear tent wall from being blown forward into the free-standing shelves I use for my display.
However, the main front of the thunderstorm hit a lot faster than I expected, with a furry that I was not ready for. The rain and lightning were just starting to intensify as I was in the process of tightening up the rear wall of the tent, when an intense burst of wind slammed into us, pushing the fabric of the tent wall into the shelves of my display, tipping it into me. With a sickening crunch and crash, all of the pieces flipped off of the shelves and hit the ground.
I had added an outdoor carpet to cover the grass in my display, so the ground was relatively soft, however many of the pieces came crashing into each other, shattering against each other as they hit. Sue, who was in a display shelter next to me (for the Quilt Guild) heard the sound and was just about sick.
It’s interesting how, when you go into a state of shock like that, you find yourself reacting with relatively little visible emotion. I pushed the shelves back up into a standing position, and tried to hold down the tent as the remainder of the storm cell quickly passed by us. Then, I just turned around and started picking up the scattered pieces. As things started calming down after the brunt of the storm, people started coming by and reacting in horror as they saw the carnage. I just shrugged and kept working.
In total, somewhere in the neighborhood of 17 pieces were either damaged or destroyed. Some were small breaks which could be fixed. Others were shattered beyond recognition. I patiently gathered as many small fragments as I could find on the carpet, knowing that some chips and pieces had likely been flung far out into the grass, never to be found. I collected these into a small box I had handy, creating a somewhat macabre collection of hands, feet, fingers and other body parts and chips too small to identify. It felt like I was wandering over a battlefield after the conflict has passed, watching the dead and dying.
Of course, even in the middle of wreckage, there were moments of hope, and even a couple of amusing moments. Several of the pieces, some of them extremely fragile, somehow flipped clear of the other pieces below them, and landed without a scratch.
Particularly ironic was one piece: “Sheltered in the Storm“. Somehow, even though it clearly slammed into another piece (as seen my the scuff mark on the underside), and likely shattered that piece in the process, it survived unscathed. Even in the middle of the storm, the figure holding up her head against the wind, was safe.
Another odd bit of irony was the fact that the show organizers had requested a “no nudes” policy on the artwork, so I had left all of those pieces home. As a result, none of those sculptures were lost in the storm.
Some losses, however, were much more poignant than others. While many of my favorite pieces survived either intact, or with relatively minor breaks, some of my best work was now laying in shards on the ground. One really difficult one was the “Sheltered, Mother and Child” sculpture which had taken on such a deep meaning for me the Christmas before. Particularly symbolic was the fact that the sheltering hands had completely shattered as they hit the ground, leaving the small figure of the mother and her child intact. The hands had sacrificed themselves in order to protect the life that they had held.
This sculpture, Mother and Child, was one which I couldn’t bring myself to try to reconstruct. Instead, I put the pieces together again in a different way, so that once again, even in their brokenness, they are supporting and sheltering her.
So, now I begin the long process of reconstruction and rebirth. I am already working on re-imagining some of the lost or damaged pieces, such as “Listening“. I lost a significant chunk of my heart in that split second, but now I’m looking at it as an opportunity to dip into that well of creativity once again, to see what comes up, and how both it, and I myself, may have matured and changed…