The hands and “feets” were my most “favoritest” part of his work. They were big, big-big and I liked it. I didn’t have to ask why. I knew why. Everybody else around me asked in bewilderment…”why are the hands and feet so big?” I didn’t have to ask, cause I knew the secret, I knew why. And if you had to ask…then you weren’t ready…ready to go…ready to serve. And then if you thought you knew the answer and you were wrong, then people like me who knew, would end up having to carry the overload of your wrongness.
The crowd wanted to know…WHAT KIND OF WOOD DO YOU USE?… And when he spoke the gentleness of his voice betrayed the bigness of his skin, which in spite of its massiveness still could not house the artistry of his spirit. He was big, big-big and I liked it. One in the crowd said sounding proud…NO WONDER THE HANDS AND FEET ARE BIG…CUZ HE’S SO BIG!!! The audience laughed. I didn’t…wrong answer. I braced my feet and fisted my hands, I realized that if push came to shove, these folks would have to be carried.
He spoke of his types of wood as if they were his women.
That adoration and manly pride was in every pore of his handiwork. My Spirit, translated his Spirit. Touchy women were prickly like Douglas Fir, you have to study on them or you will get splinters and cuts. Knotty Pine women are the best to cut your teeth on. The unpredictable temperament and diversity of surprise in the female psyche, is similar in the contrasts and unexpectancy in the Knotty Pine, but “plain pine”, are the easiest of women to carve. Having lived in Kentucky, Poplar woods were the carved women of choice. There are hard women and soft women like Maple which also comes with both character traits. Then there are the hardest women of all, those in the Oak family, Red, White…the kind of wood and women that a man has to sit down with and take his time with and exercise his patience with.
He spoke of the best “finishings.” The tenderness in his voice again validated the women who had taught him and taught him well. “Hand rubs” he cooed– the oils from ones hands always give the best finish”
DO YOU JUST WORK ON ONE PIECE AT A TIME? He gave that television Jolly Green Giant laugh then admonished the question while still loving the audience, “Hemingway said, ‘never leave a page blank’”. He showed his think book, it was done all in ink. “Ink pens last longer and when I was starting out, I had no money, so I couldn’t afford to keep buying pencils.” He said, “pencils break the spirit flow…the lead breaks, you have to sharpen them…they break the flow…ink pens flow, like the spirit flows.” He smiled as if he knew something. I felt I knew the same something. The exhibit we were all there to see was called “Sweepin’ Heaven.” WHAT CHU CALL IT THAT FOR? .“The street I lived on changed almost overnight, stores were gone, buildings disappeared, others quickly took their places, it was as if somebody had come along with a broom and “sweeped” away the street that I had known and loved. Thus the name.”
The incessant need to categorize his art is an obsession in the multiplicity of art venues. They want to call him a folk artist, but when he and other folk artists stand beside their art, there are no other folks in the room whose art looks like his. His work is defined as having a deep southern pull to it, but there are no whites Nobody, nobody but nobody is carving wood the way he carves wood, except for his brother, but his brother just died. He calls himself an Urban Folk Artist. But outside of the United States, his International peers and jurors call his artwork…AMERICAN. Now that’s big, big-big, and I like it. See I know and the rest of the world knows that America for years was carried by the feet of Black People and shaped by the hands of Black People. And that took some ginormous hands and feet.
As a little girl in a deep deep southern church in Amarillo, Texas, I learned that once Jesus left the scene, he gave us the choice, the choice of being His Hands and His Feet. So our hands and our feets gots to be big, big-big so God will like it. See I know, I don’t have to ask.