Call them coincidences, some people would, I have accepted them as something else. They are the little things that I see happen while working with posthumous sculpture. My entire three semesters and the book that I am writing “Bringing to Life the Spirit of the Deceased—A Sculptor’s Journey.” is about the process and those little nuances. It has been a difficult and weird thing for me to even think; do I communicate with the dead? I know there is a connection, I don’t see the deceased, until I have pulled them from the clay, but I do sense things.
I asked one of my clients how they felt about the entire idea. Ellie’s mom said she knew I had a connection and felt a bit jealous. (photograph of posthumous sculpture of Ellie.
I have found that often I know things about the pose or the family, little things, Mostly it is something that I feel emotionally. They are things that I would not otherwise know.
For example, I try to have someone pose for each sculpture. I need concrete reference so I usually try and find someone about the same size to pose in the clothes that are provided. For Patsy’s sculpture her best friend flew down from Vegas to pose. When the photographs were developed I looked at the photographs and said, “This is not how Patsy would sit.” I had already begun the sculpture but called the family to ask them if I could change the pose. They told me they were thinking of calling me and asking me to change it, that I was right. How did I know this? I had never met Patsy.
With the sculpture of Jeanine I had three days where I felt a tremendous amount of feeling of pride over Jeanine’s accomplishments. I could not shake it and thought that perhaps I was focusing on a photograph of her in her graduation gown; after all, graduation was what I was hoping for myself. I just allowed those feelings to infuse my sculpture and the process. On the third day I received an e-mail from Jeanine’s mother explaining that she was feeling such pride for her daughter. Jeanine’s mom lives in Alaska and I live in Texas. Is that coincidence?
It is difficult to explain this empathy, this feeling or sensing thing concerning my sculpture, and it is taking me an entire book to define it. As they happen with the Dick Hathaway sculpture, I’ll be sure to let you know. The first that I want to tell here, and a few others that I will mention later, also deal with Charlotte.
Once I made the conscious decision to pursue this sculpture for myself, the school, and for Charlotte I found the only moment in a day during a very busy residency and called Nancy, Dick’s daughter, at her work to introduce myself. It was in the hall on the fourth floor of College Hall while waiting for Blythe’s lecture. A friend later told me that she got off the elevator on the fourth floor and felt Charlotte so strong it almost knocked her over. When she turned the corner she saw me on the phone. Was it coincidence that someone felt Charlotte while I was making the first steps to continue with this sculpture? I must say that this friend did not know what I was doing before she sensed this.
To me it was confirmation. Charlotte is still a part of the project.
At the culminating presentation that Wednesday in the April 2006 ADP cycle I brought my digital camera. As people gathered I was looking in the window of the camera trying desperately to figure out how to turn the sound off on my camera so that when I took pictures the camera did not chime. I floated through all the menus and then turned the dial to a different setting and saw Charlotte. It startled me. It turns out I was holding the graduation program under the camera and I had not realized that it was pointed at the photo of Charlotte that was put on the back of the program. A perfectly framed Charlotte stood looking at me.