The question I suppose is what did I have in mind when I put this sculpture together?
I’m not sure if its true story or not but supposedly a student once asked William Faulkner the exact same question about one of his books.
He replied “I don’t rightly know what I had in mind back then because I was fairly drunk at the time…..”
I only wish I had the same excuse.
The best I can do is point out a few things I have been thinking about in connection with this sculpture and hope some of it makes a bit of sense
A project like this starts with a bunch of papers…..most of them coming from the people at the office of cultural affairs.
And it is up to the artist to wade through this stuff and figure out what they were driving at.
In fact the paper work was flowing pretty good in the middle of this project and also at the end but that is a whole other story.
I went back and looked at what the prospectus said, and the following is some of what was called for:
This is from the original document:
The sculpture for this site will be placed in the center of the roundabout and should attempt to relate to the themes present in the streetscape plans.
Well that sounded vague enough, so I figured I could do ok on that
Then it went on: “These themes include historic Native American, Hispanic and Anglo references. “ Well I’m a white guy from Texas so when it gets down to it I’m pretty dam ignorant in two out of three of those areas.
“Artists are encouraged to read the “Historical Background” for this location, available on the Opportunities for Artists webpage.
Please contact the neighborhood representative who is part of the Near N. Valley Neighborhood Association, Joe Sabatini. And Brendan added:
I’ve also attached some historical background info if you wish to use it.
Soooo not wanting to remain ignorant I started reading all this historical stuff from Joe and Brendan and a few other people and it soon became clear to me that every other word had something to do with cows.
It was “cows this” and “cows that”
I guess everyone in this area had a farm and they all figured that the people in Albuquerque had babies and the babies needed milk so the cow idea just sort of exploded at some point…and Creamland Dairy, which is over on 2nd street was the result.
Well I have to tell you this really worried me…..
I thought the selection committee would definitely go for some form of historical cow art.
And I don’t know why but I have never really got the hang of sculpting cows.
I resigned myself to the possibility that this commission might never happen. I assumed however, that it would probably put some eminent cow artist on the cultural map.
But I kept reading
The sculpture will also need to be narrow enough to allow for clear sightlines around the roundabout. And in another section:
Remember, this is a roundabout and sight-lines are important for safety. The sculpture should aim to be taller and thinner rather than shorter and wider…
Now after reading this I came up with what I thought was a really good idea….
“Maybe I can put something up on a base and call it a monument, ” I thought. “And that will kill two birds with one stone…. Monuments have a lot to do with history and bases are pretty cheap so I can probably save some money.
So I began to pursue this idea in earnest.
And it occurred to me that one of the major selling points for making a tall base is that kids would have a hard time climbing on it unless of course they had a ladder.
I knew from past experience that when lawyers look at a sculpture they see something they call “An Attractive Nuisance.” In other words to a lawyer a sculpture or a monument can attract someone and cause them to make a complete fool of themselves.
And I want to stay away from all forms of attractive nuisance trouble and also stay away from lawyers.
So that did it …. I decided I would definitely make a hard to climb monument.
The only problem was that I had no idea what I was going to make a monument to.
I looked it up on google and monuments had a lot to do with memory and memorials, history, and trying to remember stuff …and I was really not thrilled about remembering cows.
I made the observation that history happened a while ago so I wanted whatever I put on a base to look kind of old and beat up ….pretty much the way I feel these days.
Also it seems most monuments are made to remember something big and important and I did not have a clue what that could be.
It has always seemed to me that life is very rarely about big important things.
As far as I can see life is mostly about a lot of people just doing a lot of regular stuff day, after day, after day. The kind of stuff that is hardly worth remembering
I know my own life has been about doing the little stuff.
I’m stuck worrying about the mortgage, figuring out my taxes, and paying the utility bills. In my spare time I fix and re-fix the plumbing and work perennially on that wonderful device the MasterCool air cooler.
And probably the biggest thing I deal with is my fantasy life.
Besides, there are already some monuments to the big stuff around town. Outside of the museum there is a sculpture about some guy named Onate with a bunch of people and animals, and wagons and stuff. I think at one time they were wandering around New Mexico.
It’s called “The Journey” and if you look close you can see former Mayor Jim Baca and his ex wife wandering around with all of the gang.
But every time I go by that sculpture I forget to look at Onate or Jim Baca or any of the other important people…..……
Instead I find myself looking at a sculpture of a pig, which is out there wandering with the rest of them.
That pig looks clearly upset. He has a beleaguered look on his face.
I think he knows that no matter what the important people do he is still going to end up as a slab of bacon.
And so, once I had come to grips with all the verbiage in the papers I had received (from Brendan and the like). I submitted some sketches of my ideas and stated my rationalizations for them as best I could
Then strangely, I heard that the committee accepted my ideas, and “Monument”, which existed only in theory, began its journey into reality.
I have submitted many good ideas and drawings before with nothing more to show for them than nice rejection letters.
It was different this time however and seeing as how I had stated that “Monument” was an attempt to reinvigorate the process of remembrance, I set about learning more about what we might seek to remember.
Albuquerque started out as a spot on the El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro, which was originally a Native American trade route. Then when the railroad came west Albuquerque became a major railroad town. It was and continues to be a stop over point for people on the way to someplace else.
Trains arrived here about 1880 and today because of the benevolence of taxpayers and former Governor Bill Richardson, we still have some train service left.
It is hard to overemphasize the pivotal place of the railroad in the community during the early days of the 20th century
Automobiles, the highway system, and the coming of air travel soon followed the railroad.
Albuquerque was in a strategic location for both north south and east west travel.
At one point in the 1930s it was possible to cross the whole country in the unbelievable time of 48 hours.
People would take a train from the west coast to Albuquerque and here they would catch an airplane to Oklahoma and then continue on in another train to the east Coast. This idea eventually turned into TWA.
I don’t think its in the movie but the Joad family in the “Grapes of Wrath” had to have driven on Route 66 right through the heart of Albuquerque. They probably stopped for gas.
Bugs Bunny put this city on the map with the phrase “I knew I should have taken that left turn at Albuquerque.”
And Albuquerque was the childhood home of a character named Ethel Mertz. Ethel had moved to New York, married Fred Mertz and became the landlord of Lucy and Ricky Ricardo on a TV show called “I Love Lucy”.
Everyone who watched that show knew that someday Lucy and Ricky and Fred and Ethel would leave New York and move to sunny Hollywood, California.
And on their way they would go right through Albuquerque New Mexico.
To Ricky, Lucy, Fred, and Ethel…..to all those in the Joad family, and to all the rest of America, California was seen as the “Promised Land” ….” the Land of Milk and Honey”
Maybe Albuquerque was the land of “It will do for now” but some of those passing through did stick around.
When I was in the process of installing my sculpture, I would look up and see all these cars moving around and around the newly built roundabout.
I was really surprised at how many people used it. And there were several times when I would have to be careful or I would get dizzy if I watched them too long.
We are a people built on wheels and even now they continue to move…..around and around and around. >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
The Indian School
I wont pretend to be a historian
I did not in any real sense research into the history of this area.
I just grabbed some of the obvious things floating around, found out a bit more about them, and then used them to rationalize making something I wanted to make in the first place.
Who knows where the truth is in that process.
I see this as a chicken and egg argument. What came first ? The artwork ? or the rationalization for the artwork?
I will not be able to figure it out here.
I do know that I make stuff I want to make and I also know I try to stay open to other ideas as I make it.
The name of the road I turned on to get here is “Indian School” That’s because it used to have an Indian School on it.
I have known a little about the Indian School since moving to Albuquerque in the late 60s ….but not much.
The school lay in ruins twenty years later and I drove by those ruins all the time
When we were dating my wife and I walked through some dilapidated shacks that were still on the property.
I decided to find out a bit more about The Indian School before I got very far along in the design phase of this project.
So one morning my wife and I went to The Indian Pueblo Cultural center. We had breakfast and then sought out people to talk to about the Indian School.
After meeting Andrew Thomas, the assistant manager, who was very kind, I was treated to a fast and intense educational experience.
I learned the following:
Andrew Thomas was not from India therefore he did not consider himself an Indian. He is a Native American.
I also learned that the Indian School was and is deeply abhorred by the majority of Native Americans.
This raised some interesting questions for a potential monument builder.
Do we remember the painful things as well as the pleasant things in our history?
My answer is “Yes, Remember everything… It is all part of the same fabric”.
Once I had been awarded this commission I sought out some other Native Americans, Pablo Lopez and Arlyn John, to get their perspectives on some things.
Both are teachers in their communities.
According to my wife I would not shut up during our discussion over lunch, and I should have listened more…
but I assure you I did try….
There are a few things about the history of the Indian School I think I should mention.
For the most part, however, I would prefer that people do their own research and draw their own conclusions.
The Indian School was a boarding school, one of many in that era, which was built in Albuquerque in 1881.This coincided with the arrival of the railroad and the beginning of “New Town”
An Army Lieutenant named Richard Pratt is credited with instituting the concept of the boarding schools for Native Americans. Here is a quote about him.
Pratt’s solution was to “kill the Indian rather than the man” by indoctrinating youths into European culture and religion via boarding schools.
Presbyterians, who must have been running all over Albuquerque, started the Albuquerque Indian School but within five years it was placed in control of the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
The Indian School shut its doors in 1982.
Once again please remember, as I said earlier, I am a white guy from Texas. That is a long way from being a Native American.
In fact my brother says our last name Haddaway comes from Wales and in Old English it is translated something along the lines of “GO TO HELL”.
However my brother lies a lot, so who knows?
While I am an ignorant Texan at heart I can use Google, look at pictures, and read.
In doing that I came across a few concepts that have long been a part of Native American thought and culture.
On Google I looked up a number of things, among them were ‘The Four Directions’, ‘The Four Winds’, and ‘The Medicine Wheel.’
It makes sense to me that if you live in a place where the sky is virtually half of your world view, North, South, East, and West would have a great deal of significance.
Early on in the planning phase of this sculpture I received some papers (probably from Brendan at Cultural Affairs) with a very complicated drawing showing me where I could install this sculpture.
Because of site lines the architect did not want it placed in the middle of the circle.
It was to be located in a spot that was a little to the East and a little to the North of center.
When it came time to build the base I got help figuring out exactly where to put it.
I did want the architect to be happy.
If you look at the top of this sculpture you will see four pieces of steel that I think look like branches of a tree.
When we were installing it I told the people who helped me that it was very important that these branches point North, East, South, and West.
To determine what that was I asked Tim, Dupuy, and Ronny to point to the north.
They more or less pointed in the same direction. We spun the top a little bit until one of the branches was pointed in that basic direction.
I looked around and nobody said anything, so I said,
“That’s close enough,” “Weld it!”