Monday, July 19, 2010

Hey Jesus... Just Dance!

I’ll admit I own both The Fame and The Fame Monster by Lady Gaga. I can without missing a beat ramble off the words to Poker Face and Alejandro, and of course I tend to use the Bad Romance hand quite liberally; all while driving with my windows down and one of my best-friends in the passenger seat. I at times even like to wear my Red-Wings and pretend that I could easily change a tire or hitch a set of plows to one of the tractors that sits behind our house; but the truth is I like to appreciate art. I have come to accept that I am not the best at creating works of art. My skills in the field are pretty limited. Yes, I can take some pretty decent photographs, however I cannot paint, sculpt, or sew to save my life, and we won’t even get into my lack of knowledge in the field of paper mache. I am good with design, and culinary arts, but the rest I can only appreciate, and as far as my tractor hitching skills—they are about as limited as Lady Gaga’s ability to dress like a normal human. Last week we went on an exploration that I honestly wasn’t too sure of when I first heard about it; but soon after we arrived I was sold and fully immersed in the art that filled the property around me. We went to the property of Donald Bray on Rochester Road. The goal for the day was to explore the Rochester area, but with the absence of the ferry at the Green River we were left with only a visit to Mr. Bray’s home and a quick stop for photographs at the former locks on the Green River. The word "only" should be taken with a grain of salt, our stay at Mr. Bray’s was a several hour visit. Mr. Bray is by far one of the most talented artists I have met in the county. He seems to be well skilled in the arts of sculpting, painting, gardening, carpentry, and several other skills that I’m not sure the name for. After passing the entrance to his property several times I finally spotted a row of concrete columns at the base of a driveway and assumed we were at the right home. The green and purple concrete dinosaur sitting atop a hill behind the columns further proved the correctness of my assumption. We made our way up the winding hill to Mr. Bray’s home, which naturally he built himself. There we met him and his daughter Katrina Bullington. They quickly began our tour of the property. Armed with my new camera in hand we went to get a closer look at the dinosaur on the hill. Mr. Bray picked up a toy off the ground that looked identical to the sculpture before us, but was maybe five inches long as opposed to the sculpture which was at least 8 feet long. He told us how he had created the piece using concrete and rebar. I then asked what the tongue of the dinosaur had been created from, with a laugh Mr. Bray said it was made of concrete. At that point I was totally amazed. Strings of lights crisscrossed above us and led towards the columns at the foot of the hill. Mr. Bray told us that he was working on sculptures of da Vinci’s The Last Supper to go in front of the columns. I took that statement skeptically. I wasn’t sure how anyone would be able recreate The Last Supper in a way that would pay homage to da Vinci. This whole notion I had ended as soon as I saw the still unfinished pieces. He told us that the pieces were still being created in his basement and that we would see them later. We then made our way back to the house. There Mr. Bray showed us a collection of books that made the antique collector in me rather jealous, he also told us about how he had built the house and the stories behind many of the antiques that filled the house. As we made our way into the home’s basement I figured we would be greeted by a cat. No, instead we were greeted by the disciples and of course Jesus. One of them was standing right in front of the spiral stairwell seemingly ready to greet visitors. Instead of greeting the sculpture back I hesitated, stepped backwards and tripped on the step below me. Of course with all of my natural skepticism I had figured the pieces from The Last Supper would at most be a couple feet tall, but of course not, they were life size. I mean, really who would think of anything smaller? After taking a moment to regroup I decided to forget all of my assumptions and to instead expect the unexpected, which seems to be the overarching theme at the property. The pieces filled what seemed to be the whole of the basement, until you turn the corner to see the hand-dug wine cellar behind us. Obviously the walls were covered in murals in the style of Egyptian hieroglyphics and the floors were made of handmade tiles. This wine cellar seemed quite nice, until it was outdone by the handmade tiles in the mosaics that covered one of the porches. After I had lost my ever graceful composure over the nothing-less-than-amazing pieces in the basement we went on to see the main building on Mr. Bray’s property. This building housed a two story mural of a scene from the Civil War. The piece had been painted on stretched canvas and was surrounded by a three-dimensional continuation of the scene. While I could take the time, and space to describe the piece in detail I feel it is better to be experienced in person. The property is filled with dozens of works each created by Mr. Bray, the property has a log cabin, and grape arbors, and rows of strawberries, the property has hundreds of yards of lighting strung across it, and a plethora of antique pieces ranging from farm equipment lining the driveway to the book collection with books from around the world, yet all of this is not nearly as interesting as the man, and family that is behind it all. Mr. Bray has turned a hobby into a lifelong passion. In the living room of his home hangs one of his first pieces that was completed over fifty years ago, it is surrounded by the works of his children and late wife. Mr. Bray has created a collection that not only tells a story of someone who pays very close attention to detail, but of someone who truly follows his passions, and of a man who’s talent far exceeds the words I could possibly write about him. The exploration that we did last week adds another piece to my summer long journey to find what it means to be an Ohio Countian. This week I learned the importance of the individual. Often times it seems easy to lump the collective of a rural area into the words of a country song or the words of Miranda Lambert’s That’s the Way that the World Goes ‘round, but it is the members of the community that dare to be artistic, or bold, or outspoken that make the place dynamic, and they are the ones that create the places and events that are worth going to. And sometimes they are the ones who take the time to learn the lyrics to Lady Gaga songs, and dare to step out into the unknown.

1 comment:

  1. I love that you take the time to find the unique.

    I freaking love "Alejandro.":)

    I think great craft and great skill start with appreciation. Maybe you can't transform a field or a load of concrete, but you have a knack for helping those equally unqualified envision the respective trade as clearly as if they were the apprentice in the process. You, my friend, are a storyteller.