Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Art of Life


Carvings by my great-grandmother's cousin
Since I still haven't done any of my own creative work lately, I am writing this post to update you all on the big project I'm currently working on: the house we moved into about a month ago. I lost my mind a little bit two days before Christmas and invited my parents and sister and her family to stay with us for the holiday. We still had boxes everywhere when I did this, so we all had to work like dogs to get the house ready and to produce a big Christmas dinner. I made prime rib and, with Jerry's help, mashed potatoes, carrots, and buttermilk biscuits. My sister brought vegetable lasagna and we had the truffles I wrote about in  my last entry. Jerry also special-ordered Esther Price chocolates from Dayton, Ohio for us, the exact same box my grandma always had out at Christmas. That was a big hit with everyone! My parents visited the week after we moved in and my mom was impressed with how different the house looks now that I have artwork up.

I have been blessed in my life to grow up surrounded by art. My grandfather studied typography as a young man. He dreamed of having his own newspaper and he wanted to write the articles and design the paper and set the type himself! His six children dictated the course of his career, though, and he had to settle for selling ad spaces in a newspaper to support them all. He had two huge art books, one on graphic design, and one from The National Gallery with many color plates of the collection, and when I was very small he would get them out and we would pour over them for hours. When I went to art school he made a gift of both to me, as well as his most precious typography book. We found we shared a love for Goudy; it was the favorite typeface for us both!

My grandfather commissioned a lot of paintings and a mural from artists in our little town, and he also inherited the carvings shown above. These are by my great-grandmother's cousin, Erling (pronounced "Elling") Brucet. Erling was pretty typical of the "Norwegian Bachelor Farmer" of Garrison Keillor fame, except he was a wood carver. Though a native of Norway, he was very passionate about the politics of his adopted country, and this was the subject of nearly all his work.
The carvings I have were inherited by my grandfather. He and each of his seven siblings inherited some work. These bas relief portraits of political figures were doors which adorned a giant cupboard. Unfortunately, a grass fire caught Erling's studio on fire and much of his work burned. He risked his life to run in and remove the doors from the cabinet, which was too heavy to remove from the building. The noses of the figures were burned off. Erling sculpted new noses from wood filler, which darkened over time, and that explains why the noses are so dark. As children we always thought they'd been scorched. The portraits I have are of Benjamin Franklin and Senator Bora of Michigan, who Erling admired enough to put in the company of Franklin!

Benjamin Franklin


Senator Bora
My mother's cousin, Carine, has the only Brucet sculpture in the round I have seen. I believe it is of the Lincoln and Douglas debate. She sent me this newspaper article about him:


My grandfather remembered Erling well and used to tell me lots of funny stories about him. Erling had no family of his own, so he spent a lot of time hanging around with his cousin, Anna Laura, Grandpa's mother. Once, Grandpa remembered, Erling was sitting in a rocking chair trying to light his pipe. It wouldn't light and he kept leaning forward trying to light it. He leaned and leaned until he fell right out of the rocking chair! Another time, Erling came to visit and left his hat behind. Great-Grandma reminded him of this the next time he came and handed his hat to him as we was leaving. Erling put it on top of the hat he wore that day. Later, he walked by a lady and went to lift his hat, only to remember another was beneath it! So, he was a funny, eccentric character, and I feel blessed to know the personality of my ancestor who died so long before I was born. Today is my father's birthday, so I need to reflect on good things that came from growing up without him. My cousin remembered and called me, so that is another good thing. My father never had a birthday cake until he got married and my mom made one for him. His parents just always celebrated it as part of Christmas.

Today we've been doing a lot of laundry so we can travel back home to celebrate Christmas with Jerry's family. We are also going to see the Edvard Munch exhibit at the North Carolina Museum of Art. I am excited about that! Poor Munch was so poor he had to paint on cardboard, so we are all very lucky to still have surviving examples of his work. I haven't ever seen any of his pieces in person, so I'm beyond thrilled.

We also went back to Mary Jo's to pick up the fabric for the bedroom curtains and bedding. I am really nervous, because the fabric I liked best is the most expensive I've ever bought. Mom said it isn't really bad for decor fabric, but I'm so used to doing everything on the cheap, I can't really imagine how I will cut it without being paralyzed with the fear I'll mess it up. Luckily, these are just drapes and pillows, which I've been sewing so long I could probably do it with my eyes closed.

The fabric and paint I chose for the bedroom.

Our contractor is supposed to start the attic conversions the first week of January, so hopefully I'll soon have a new office to work in! It will be a big change from working out of the bedroom, as I've been doing for the past few years. If I don't get around.to writing again before the 31st, then Happy New Year to you all. I hope it brings us all those things we most long to have.



2 comments:

  1. What a wonderful piece to own. I see where you get your artistic ability since the arts seem to run through your family. I hope all is well with you and Jerry. I hope things are working out for you guys. Have a happy new year

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  2. Thank you so much, Joan! I love hearing from you, as always!

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