Sunday, March 21, 2010

"The Bell and The Bug"

"The Bell and The Bug"
7" x 5", Acrylic on Gessoboard
© 2010

The Challenge
Alice 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.

The Bug
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.

The Bell
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.


Calypso Moon Artist Movement said...

Bernard, your painting is filled with so much meaning and history. The images you inspire me to have by your well written story as you and the two items move through time are entertaining. I have never considered that the striking/vibration of a bell would cause flame to pulsate and flicker ...I like that part very much.

Earthula said...

A weigh bearing bug and a silent fire bell anchored by the blue sky background holding thoughts.

The bell is luminous. And the bug eminently touchable.

Nice to meet you

Dabblerteer said...

Alice, Thank you for your kind words and providing the CMAM environment where us artists can come together.

Erthula, Ah, a kindred spirit that dost turn a phrase and create a poem. Extremely nice to meet you, as well.

Carol Horzempa said...

Great colors and stories of the bell and bug and how they have been part of you life for years.

I enjoyed visiting your blog and love your "en plein air" painting of James Dilley Park. Awesome!

Kevin said...

Great, Bernard. I also saw the yellow flower painting from September on older posts. I signed up on Google so I can see future paintings. Thank you also for my dad. Kevin

Kristin said...

The bell seems to be nestling into the bug, transmitting the feeling of your story. You may not know that we had a bug when I was a little girl. It was turquoise and held the whole family. I remember sitting in on the occasional meditation circle at our house with you long-haired, bearded college students. Your painting and words take me back to the smell of mu tea and the round candle flickering while everyone chanted, "nam myoho renge kyo." I thought all of you were wise men and women. Wise men and women who also liked to play volleyball. Your words at the memorial were the most meaningful to me. Thank you for this. Paul's daughter, Kristin

Ira said...

I recognized the quality of these toys back in 1976 when I saw them at his shop in Pasadena. I bought 14 of them (plane, cars, trains, van). They were "expensive" at the time but well worth it. They all still live on my bedframe where I see them everyday and their beauty of design just makes me feel good.

Dabblerteer said...

-I'm so pleased that you were able to find this post.
-It is wonderful to know that there is someone else "out there" that has appreciation and respect for Mr. Gundry's craftsmanship.
-Thank you very much taking the time to submit your comment.