Wednesday, October 1, 2014

"If I Had a Hammer....": Pete Seeger Tribute, for EBSQ's August 'Toolbox'-themed Art Exhibit

8 x 10 Portrait of the folk legend, Pete Seeger, in tribute to his classic song

"If I Had a Hammer....."

EBSQ, the internet community of self-representing artists of which I have been a long-time member, features monthly, themed online art exhibits.  One of the shows this past August had the theme "Toolbox".  This was my entry (as can be seen here).

The following was my artist statement:

My entry for the EBSQ 'Toolbox' exhibit features a tribute portrait of the late American folk musician, Pete Seeger (1919- 2014).   

When reflecting upon the theme 'Toolbox', the first tool to come to mind was 'hammer'.   Thinking about hammers had the classic vintage folk tune, "If I Had a Hammer", popping into my head.  Written by Pete Seeger in 1949 in support of the progressive movement, the song has endured through the decades, recorded as it has been by numerous fellow musicians, and taken up as a freedom song during the American Civil Rights Movement.  I myself have many fond recollections of "If I Had a Hammer" over the course of my life -- singing it round the campfire as a young girl with my scout troupe, and then later to my own two children when they were small.  I always appreciated the simple melody and uplifting lyrics.  For my entry, I painted a portrait of the young Pete Seeger, who was 30 at the time he wrote "If I Had a Hammer" (after a lifetime of musical achievement and acclaim, Mr. Seeger passed away just this past January at the age of 95).  A prolific composer and performer, the "tool" of Mr. Seeger's trade was his guitar, with which he was often photographed playing.  I swapped out the one tool for another in this tribute to Pete Singer and his timeless classic.... 

If I had a hammer, 
I'd hammer in the morning,
I'd hammer in the evening,
All over this land.

I'd hammer out danger.
I'd hammer out a warning.
I'd hammer out love, between
My brothers and my sisters,
All over this land.


"If I Had a Hammer...",  First Place Tie.....

There were but a total of four entries in the Toolbox show, still I'm very happy to say I tied for 1st Place....!   I got to split the $100 cash award prize with my fellow winner, April Trice -- $50 for each of us, how lovely!  Thanks to any who voted for me -- and many thanks to EBSQ....!


(And now...., just a side note to add here, for interest and posterity.  As we all know by now (because I harp on it constantly in here), I no longer purchase new art supplies (aside from a few notable exceptions like paint and brushes) if I can in any way avoid it.  It's my own little, personal attempt to resist adding to our society's problems with over-consumption and the dreaded Affluenza  (and yes, I realize my small actions in this regard aren't likely to save the world any time soon, but can at least sleep at night in regards to my own personal artistic pursuits).  This personal moratorium includes the purchase of canvases, or even purchasing the ingredients to stretch my own canvases (too lazy to do that anyway)....because I often come across perfectly suitable alternatives when I happen to be out and about (tag sales, thrift stores, and the like (with a big emphasis this time on "the like")).  As a result, my paintings are typically created upon found wood or wooden plaques, or even supports I make myself using 2nd-hand picture frames.  I've amassed a decent hoard of these painting supports by now -- out of which the one for this entry was fished.  It's actually just a regular, gallery stretched, 8 x 10 store-bought canvas, but how it came to be mine is the more interesting part....

Years ago, when my husband and two very small children and I first moved back here to my hometown, we chanced upon a home to rent with which we fell in love.  With so many of the features we wanted in a house, we felt we had really hit the jack-pot -- cozy and old and with loads of character, a decent location, decent size (and nice to stretch out after apartment dwelling), nice yard, near the things we liked to walk to, and, most importantly, all at a reasonable rate.  We lived there for a time, until ready to purchase a house of our own.  And so we eventually moved out -- still, I always kept a very special place in my heart for our sweet old rental....

After we resettled, our cute little rental, which we were so happy with and had such good memories of,...turned into a something more of a haunted house.  It was within several years that we noticed it looking pretty beat up.  A few more years, and it was clearly run down.  Trashed even.  Hoarders, or something, had taken over, with piles of useless junk overflowing the driveway and yard, windows broken and patched with duct tape, chunks of stucco missing and shingles falling off.  What the heck happened?  Sometimes we would walk or drive by, and just pause to take in the mess that had become what had been a big part of our lives.  Where we'd had parties and celebrations, and heck, just lived. We couldn't image who could have done this to 'our' house -- much less that our old landlord would have ever allowed such a thing....!  That mystery was never solved.

Fast forward to just over a year ago, when my daughter and I were bike riding, cruising through our old neighborhood.  Passing our old house, it was clear by now it was completely empty and utterly abandoned, trashed beyond repair, and even slated for demolition.  We parked our bikes in the alleyway behind the house, and looked and looked.  She was young when we'd moved out (4 years old maybe?), but my daughter could still conjure up lots of memories.  We climbed through the gaping holes in the fence into the yard to get a closer look, pointing out nostalgic landmarks we once used to enjoy ourselves -- the patio, the outdoor brick fireplace (or, the place where it once stood anyway), the swing set, all while taking care not to trip all over the assorted junk and crap strewn about posing a booby trap.  We got a little closer, and closer still....until we were pretty much standing right next to it, staring at the gaping back door.  I'm sure you can guess what came next of course.   "Oh no, they didn't", you might be asking.  But yes, we did.  How could we not?  Our poor old house!  *OUR* house.  I know, I know -- risky, plus it was trespassing.  But I wanted to see it one last time before she was demolished for good....

Well, suffice it to say, time had not been kind.  Not easy to see the house that I'd loved so much, and held such fond memories of just 10 years before, in such state of wreck and ruin.  Still I'm glad my daughter and I had our chance to say goodbye.  And it was in there, amidst all the shattered glass and beer bottle caps (gazillions of them) all over the floor, that I stumbled upon this little, 8 x 10 canvas.   There was paint on it, but to call it a "painting" would be way too much of an exaggeration.  Just some color splashed around, and what looked possibly like some Chinese characters, although it could have just been some sort of attempt at 'abstract' something or other.  But, I took it home with me.  And when it came time to paint my little tribute to Pete Seeger here, I sanded it a bit, gessoed it, sanded it again -- and voila, good as new.  Was it stealing?  Technically, I suppose -- though guess what?   I can't say I feel much like a thief.

The house was pushed over and hauled off to the landfill just a few weeks later.  One thing I do know though...I sang this song many times over to my two young kids during countless bath times/bedtimes/naptimes, in that old house.....)

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