I have been working on getting connected with more Art Festivals and events in this area. Some events which I have gone to in the past have moved, changed or dried up, so I’m always looking for other 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 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, and the first time they had invited fine arts people to come with their work. 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 air-flow.
The day was going well. I’d had several good conversations with people as they walked through, and especially enjoyed talking with the teens and young people, asking them about their own creative talents and interests.
However, as we started to get into the later afternoon, we could see heavy, dark storm clouds building to the north of us. As the winds picked up, it became evident that we were in for a pretty strong storm cell to come barreling through. I started picking up boxes and things which I had left behind the tent, and securing the sides of the tent to protect my display. I’ve been through storms before, so one of my first tasks 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 on impact. Sue, who was in a display shelter next to me (for the Quilt Guild) heard the sound and was just about sick.
In a situation like this, you find yourself in a state of shock, 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 quickly passed by us. Then, I just turned around and started picking up the scattered pieces. As things calmed 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, around 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 in a small box, creating a macabre collection of hands, feet, fingers and other body parts, along with chips too small to identify. It was as if I was wandering over a battlefield after a great conflict has passed, watching the dead and dying.
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.
One piece: “Sheltered in the Storm“, had clearly slammed into another piece (as seen my the scuff mark on the underside), but somehow survived unscathed. Even in the middle of the storm, the figure remained, holding up her head against the wind.
Some losses were much more poignant than others. While many of my favorite pieces survived either intact or with relatively minor damage, some of my best work was now laying in shards on the ground. One 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 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 see it as an opportunity to dip into that well of creativity once again to see what comes up, and how both it, and I, may have matured and changed.