Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Power figure, of sorts, from an old notebook

Today we received an image of an arresting new sculpture that Gene Harris has made in response to K. Curtis Lyle's poem "Nailed Seraphim" for Poetry Scores' 2008 Art Invitational.

The image, posted with a note about the Invitational on the Poetry Scores blog, reveals a sculpture that evidently is a meditation on African power figures. These scary little sculptures consist of a human likeness spiked with nails and other stuff that really hurts when you get spiked with it. Gene's piece is titled, powerfully and appropriately, "Nailed."

Since "Nailed" is the first word in the title of Curtis' poem, and since the title is the first part of the poem, and since we situate the work in the Invitational according to where in the poem the language chosen for the title of the piece appears, that means Gene's piece will be the first thing visitors encounter when they come to Hoffman LaChance on Friday, Nov. 21.

That's cool.

When I saw the jpeg of Gene's sculpture today, I had an experience that will be shared by many musuemgoers who gravitate toward the African collections (usually curated in the basement!). I remembered first discovering African power figures in the museums of New York in the 1990s, during my rootless twenties. I remembered sketching African power figures, for fun and to imprint the intentions of the artist in my hands and mind.

This evening, I thumbed through my old road notebooks, hoping to find those sketches. For a guy who was a road dog for a decade and homeless (ahem, I mena, without fixed address) for several years of that decade, I did a pretty good job of keeping track of my stuff - especially, my precious notebooks - but the power figure sketches eluded me tonight.

I did find a smattering of other sketches from New York museums in one notebook that I had labelled "Stranger in the Museum." That's how I felt, as a penniless indie rocker from St. Louis in New York City, strolling these vast tombs of the world's most expensive art. The poet Joe Esser and I started a poem sequence with that title, and we both have published individual poems from that sequence, but alas, we lost one another before we could finish and publish it as a collection.

This sketch, abive, is drawn from a piece in The Brooklyn Museum's Egyptian collection, the best in the United States. If any of us ever have the money to travel again, and if you spend the money to visit New York, and if you've not yet been to The Brooklyn Museum, then get over to Prospect Park and spend a half-day there, and a half-day in the Botanic Gardens. No, this message has not been brought to you by Brooklyn Tourism. If that entity exists, I guarantee it's as broke as you and me.

More of my "Stranger in the Musem" sketches are to be had on my Flickr site.

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