Bridgette Mongeon sculptor

Patsy sits on a bench under and old oak.

When I’m not sculpting monumental Alice in Wonderland characters, you may often find me making friends with the deceased.  That is what someone told me years ago. It took me aback, but I realized that is what I do.  I create posthumous sculptures, and like the video for Texas Country Reporter states, I get to know my subject very personally and at special times I’m now realizing, I get adopted into a family.  I can feel that now as I work with my new sculpture of Norma Zenteno, an incredible musician who died of breast cancer. The “feeling like family” and becoming friends also extends to those four-legged critters as  part of the Norma project I’m sculpting Kippy, a rescue dog from Barrio Dogs.  I feel the warmth of family in this new commission, and this weekend I felt the warmth of family as I visited an old friend.

Me and my "old friend" Patsy

Me and my “old friend” Patsy

I sculpted Patsy over 11 years ago in 2005/2006. Looking back it was an interesting time of transition. I had just built my new studio behind my home, began a regular blog on my website, and was writing a book on the process of sculpting the deceased- still unpublished.

Howard and I have a laugh

Howard and I have a laugh

A few years ago I began to receive invitations to a family party on the Patren Ranch. This is a ranch that has been in Patsy’s family for over 100 years.   David, Patsy’s son and his wife Becky live on the property.  David is also a musician so besides visiting the sculpture of Patsy under a large old oak, where “tree Whisky” hangs, there is always great live music.  Though it is a long drive home, I had to stay late, just to hear David play his fiddle and see the family begin to join in on the revelry. If you know me, you know I’m all about the music, either dancing or joining in on harmony, it is one of those other favorite things that I do.  The rolling hills and the old refurbished family home, now a museum complete with the German history of the area leaves me feeling nostalgic and sentimental.  Clusters of Blacked-Eyed Susans crop up in wild areas, and crickets hop over my sneakers on patches of dry mowed lawn as I wonder the fields.   An olive grove was put in by Patsy’s husband, Howard a few years back and I’m tickled to go see the progress. I ramble past the new old “kitchen” building.  Howard tells me they are  building it from reclaimed wood. I hear it will be the “music” building.  I have longed for property for which to grow my business, and for which to grow historical relevance and pass on to the family.  While walking through the main house, a charming young man grabs my hand, shakes it hard, and says, “I’m Cody, Howard’s grandson, I’m so pleased you are here.” His intensity, charm, and warmth radiate from him. I watch later as it spreads on stage with his singing.  I know very few people invited to this gathering save for Howard, Patsy husband and Jennie, Patsy’s best friend who posed for the sculpture. But the family embraces me like I’m a relative who has been away on a journey. With the tight schedule of the Alice Project, I have been away and have not been able to attend a Patren Ranch party in a while. It is good to be back.

tree whiskey Patren Ranch

“Tree whiskey “Patren Ranch.
The story is told that Patsy’s
grandpa had a still. Grandma didn’t believe
in drink, so her grandpa
would hide the whiskey bottles
high up in the trees.
The workers could be found taking
more than a rest under one of these old trees.

Howard and I sit by the new pool, as the sun sets over the rolled up bales of hay in the field, me dangling my toes in the water and talking as I watch the family dogs jump in and sit on the pool ledge slightly submerged in the water.  I am sure this was built for them. They bound out, sniff me and Howard, and then chase after their mates clearing the small stone fence like graceful equine jumpers. It is a playful ritual that is repeated several times during our visit and endears me to the family, and property all the more.  I sip a frozen margarita and Howard and I talk about the last ten years and my career. It forces me to reflect on my accomplishments. I’m glad I brought him a copy of my book. I’m extremely thankful for all of the commissions that have brought me to this point in my life.

Later, a  young woman gathers around my prime seat in front of the stage, my space where I have parked my things for the last several hours. She says, “I need a chair like that. It looks so comfortable.” I tell her it is my camping chair and stool. “Do you go camping a lot,” she asks. “I love to,” I say. Her reply makes me laugh, ” Well I am not a camper but I like sitting and that is a fine chair for that.”  Not long after that I pack up my “fine chair” and prepare for my long drive down the back country road to  Houston.

The music, the family, the incredible refreshing property that is Patron and the memories have refreshed me. I think of all the people who have referred to my sculpture and said, “I’m so glad we have Patsy to visit.”  I have become a part of a memory, a part of the history of this family and this property through my work. I’m so very honored. Thank you, Patsy.

Today I went to Evelyn’s Park. I have not been there since the grand opening April 22, 2017. The grand opening for me was exciting, but also a little bit sad, I had hoped my sculpture would be there for all to enjoy.

Alice In wonderland by Bridgette Mongeon

The dedication plaque is a separate piece. Here is the message from the Rubensteins. Remember the love, when you look at the whimsy.

Today I went to the park, and especially the memorial garden. Many may not know that there is a special place in the park. It is on the south-east corner of the park and is called Evelyn’s Memorial Garden. You will know it because the pathway changes. It goes from pea gravel to gray brick.  In the middle of this memorial garden, there is a spot that is filled with brown mulch and empty. That is where the sculpture of the Mad Hatter tea party will go.

I was delighted that the hard work of the Rubnestein family and foundation had finally come to fruition. It was a long road for them, and they worked hard to get the park to this point.  No one, but them and those who dedicated themselves to getting the park done, knows how hard that was.  I wanted to go there today and think about that. I wanted to think about Evelyn and how thankful I am that I have been a part of creating a memory in honor of a woman that will be cherished by many. A memory that two boys began, because they loved their mom.  I’m thinking back to the dedication plaque

I think we are all so caught up in the idea of the whimsy of the sculpture, and the hidden objects, that somehow the love, the true meaning of this sculpture has been overlooked. Today I went to Evelyn’s Park and talked to Evelyn. On my way. I was overwhelmed with the need and sorrow that I did not bring a rock. I am not Jewish, but my best friend is, and I grew up surrounded by the Jewish culture. Because I also create many sculptures of deceased loved ones I have studied death and the traditions surrounding death.  The Jewish traditions surrounding death are some of the most endearing.  But my urgency for a rock came from a simple custom combined with my absolute love of rocks. I collect them from wherever I go. Rocks line my window sills. In the Jewish tradition, it is customary to bring a rock to the grave of a loved one.

On the book sits a mouse reading the copy.  At the top of a book the white rabbit jumps down a hole.

On the book sits a mouse reading the copy. At the top of a book the white rabbit jumps down a hole.

In article I found on my Jewish learning  they quoteRabbi Simkha Weintraub, rabbinic director of the New York Jewish Healing Center . “They say that by placing the stone, we show that we have been there, and that the individual’s memory continues to live on in and through us.”

I don’t know where Evelyn is buried, but I want to celebrate her life. I have studied her as I was also commissioned to do a sculpture of her for the Evelyn Rubenstein Jewish Community Center.   I have been celebrating her life all through the last few years by creating this sculpture. Her children have celebrated her by creating this park, and by commissioning me to do this sculpture for the park in her memory.  I do know she was an amazingly strong woman, and I hope I can have her strength, courage and business sense as I proceed in my life.   I have decided that I may go and walk this pathway once a week until the sculpture is placed. Don’t be surprised if you see random rocks in the midst of the empty spot.  I will be culling through my personal collection and placing them there to honor Evelyn and her memory.

If you go to the park, after the sculpture is installed, look behind this book and dedication plaque. If you see a rock, now you will know what it means, and perhaps you will know that I have been there, or maybe others, and that her memory is indeed continuing to live on, in and through us. We are celebrating the memory of her and finding her love through the whimsy.

 

Dedication plaque reads…

Once upon a time,
In a land called Bellaire, there were two brothers,
Bo and Jerry Rubenstein.

The boys wanted to do something special,
To honor their mother, Evelyn.
Evelyn would often say,

“The way to make a difference is by giving and sharing.”
And so, in her memory,
The brothers created Evelyn’s Park
And placed within it
Wonderland.

-2016-

 

 

Jamie Teich, Library Assistant, Acquisitions, Sculptor Bridgette Mongeon and Jason Valdez Library Assistant, Serials and Reference.

Jamie Teich, Library Assistant, Acquisitions, Sculptor Bridgette Mongeon and Jason Valdez Library Assistant, Serials and Reference.

What artist wouldn’t be delighted to have their work a part of the collection in the Museum of Fine Arts. Well, I can say mine is.  Well, not my artwork, but my book. Today the Museum of Fine Arts Houston accepted my book into the Hirsch Library. Chief Librarian Jon Evans and I spoke at the end of last year, and this is the first chance I have had to get down there and bring my book. The book focuses on a lot of fine artists around the world who are using digital technology in their fine art. Last year I found a post on Linked in from Robert Kimberly, an art installer at the MFA. He purchased my book to understand more about one of the pieces he was installing. It was dragon bench by  Joris Laarman. I had no idea the MFA Houston even owned a work by the artist that I featured in my book.  There are many very prominent artists in this book. I’m honored to have had their acquaintance when writing it. I’m even more tickled that it is now a part of the permanent collection at the Hirsch Library. It may be a small thing to others, but for me, to have my book both in the Albright Knox collection and in the MFA Houston, well it is big.

Now, my next goal is to lecture at the MFA about these artists, their process and how digital technology is being embraced by many fine artists, as well as how it is infiltrating some of the traditional sculpting processes.  More on that soon… I hope.