"The Bell and The Bug"
7" x 5", Acrylic on Gessoboard
The ChallengeAlice Thompson has begun an art challenge blog. I wasn't able to participate in her first challenge. However, I was not about to let her down for her second challenge entitled "Collectors." For the "Collectors" challenge she wrote, "I’d like for you to take only two things that you collect and make an interesting painting that reflects your personality and or history."
I was stumped at first, but then I started thinking about significant items that had been with me during my moves from the West Coast to the Midwest to the Mid-Atlantic and back to the West Coast. There, sitting on the shelf with my books on art and landscape architecture, was a Volkswagen Beetle-like wood toy, and quietly resting nearby was a cowbell.
I never had a desire to own a VW Beetle, a.k.a. bug, and I'm not a toy collector, but the beautifully fluid lines, the subtle graining of the wood, the chubby little tires securely doweled to deftly hewn axles, and the wonderfully smooth surface elevated this "toy" to a visually-rich and tactile-friendly sculpture. All these attributes were immediately identifiable when I purchased it at a Renaissance Faire in the early '70's. Branded into the wood on the bottom of this bug is the craftsman's name, Hugh Gundry, and the name of his shop, Whimsical Woodcrafts.
Mr. Gundry told me the little toy was so well engineered that it could hold several hundred pounds if anyone wanted to sit on it and ride it; why anyone would was beyond my comprehension. I have no idea where Mr. Gundry is today, but my thanks go out to him for creating such an amazing bit of craftsmanship.
Paul Thornburgh was a college counselor and a life-long friend. Paul embraced the "New Age" from Tai Chi to Mu Tea. In the last quarter of our senior college year a group of us met once a week to talk about life, love, annoying classes and incoherent professors, and to chant, sing, play intruments, and quietly meditate to the pulsing light of a strobbing candle.
During these meditations we drank Mu Tea. (No kidding, we did not imbibe or smoke anything else.) And, as I mentioned, we all played our favorite meditative instruments from Paul's' basket. I played the clapperless cowbell. It would make a beautiful reverberating "ding" everytime I hit the bell with a small drumstick. Somehow, I could make the candle pulse in rhythm with the ringing bell.
The only college graduation present I remember receiving and keeping was a shiny new clapperless cowbell. It came from Paul, because he said I played the bell so well.
The bell now has a forty-year old patina but still produces a wonderful sound. At a gathering of family, friends, and the old meditation group members, I last played my bell at Paul's memorial service.