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Portrait of the Artist as an Old Man


March 29, 2013

Photos by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

These guys are putting together an 8.5-foot-high sculpture that will be installed later this season on the East Street side of the Berkshire Athenaeum. Designed by Bill Tobin, center, welded by Mark Hanford, left, and assisted by Bill's brother Jay, the powerful sculpture is going together at East Coast Refinishing off South Street in Pittsfield.

Hey, it fits. What did you expect. This is no fly-by-night project. Designed by Bill Tobin using 3-D softwear, it is going to be impressive, judging from the model they put together . Especially after it gets its bold blue paint.



In case you didn't notice, this shot of the model is from the same angle as the shot of the real McCoy on the plant floor. Comparing the model to the sculpture makes you realize they have a way to go.


Bill - that's him in the photo below - said he tries to put in three or four hours a day and Mark welds on Wednesdays and Sundays. The city is expecting it to be ready at the end of April. But he's skeptical it will be ready by then. If it's late, it will be worth the wait.


Bill Tobin, 64, is a retired Pittsfield High School chemistry teacher. "I always had an interest (in sculpture)," he said. "But with work and kids - you know how it is." After building a new house and seeing his kids grow up, he was able to start devoting time to it in the late 1990s.

Mark Hanford, 62, above and below, started out as a welder with Beloit, and is now manager of field service for GLV in Lenox, which like Beloit makes paper-making machinery. He has done sculpture on his own but likes teaming up with Bill and Jay - all friends since their days at St. Joseph's High School. Mark was written up in Artful Mind in July 2010. Read Kimberly Rawson's colorful story about him at http://issuu.com/theartfulmind/docs/art_july_2010r . I had such a good time talking with the trio I didn't jot down much of what they said - the gibes and banter of really good friends.

So I'm stealing from Ms. Rawson's article - not to illustrate the free-flowing camaraderie because I liked what Mark said about his art:

"I come here to relax after a stressful day. I can bang on a piece of steel and decompress. Sculpture is my alter-ego and it's apart from what I do for a living. I can make it work for me."



Jay Tobin, 63, is an art school graduate who went on to become a captain (now retired) in the Pittsfield Fire Department. A painter, he had a show at Berkshire Community College's downtown gallery last fall. His icons were a knockout. (See my November 16 post)

While the new Tobin-Hanford sculpture will be going up, Bill and Mark's previous collaboration - a Melville sculpture in Park Square- will be coming down. It's called "Breach" and depicts Moby Dick surfacing, jaws wide open - with Captain Ahab's leg in his stomach. (This is the piece's second leg. Someone stole the first. This one's securely fastened.)

They ended up making art at East Coast Refinishing - a company that sandblasts and paints anything from a radiator to a cement mixer - because of the connection between Mark and Pete Melle, the late owner of the refinishing outfit. They are brothers in law. Mark was doing some welding for Pete part time. Pete who liked art and had worked with some artists in his sprawling shop - the former Lipton Steel fabricating plant on Industrial Drive. Pete died in 2010 and his son Ben has taken over the operation - and the art tradition.

One thing led to another and soon Pete, Bill, Mark and Jay decided to hold a big art show at East Side Refinishing. Pete commissioned F.X. Tobin - an Arizona artist who is Bill and Jay's brother - to do a large mural inside the plant for the show. Jay did one, too. . In the photo below, Jay's huge geometric fresco is on the left and on the right is F.X.'s wild painting of heavily muscled men refinishing a Pittsfield fire truck in the shop. To read my post about F.X. click on https://grierhorner.com/blog_0712.html .


Meanwhile, Bill Tobin was making a large gargoyle for the factory roof with  Mike Melle's spear thrower. Mike, Pete's brother, is widely known for his straw sculptures of people.

The gargoyle's thin cement finish deteriorated after a few years. "It got tucked away in the back of the building," Bill said. "Then Pete Melle, as he was getting sick, had these things he wanted to get done. So he got on me about fixing it. We got it back up before he died. It was a Sunday morning. He had everyone down there to rig it up." Including Pete Melle himself.

This is the late Pete Melle with Bill Tobin's refurbished gargoyle and the day it was restored to its place on the roof. The photo was taken by Bill Tobin.


The art show  in 2005 - it was a huge party - led to two more in the next two years. I remember going to one of these blasts. There must have been several hundred people there. I have seen estimates of 1,000 people attending over the course of the evening. F.X.'s daughter Jesse, also an artist, would like to revive the art shows at East Coast Refinishing. The guys are skeptical. The bad thing about them was it took a tremendous amount of work to get the place ready for a party.

In the article in which she interviewed Mark Hanford, Kimberly Rawson had a great description of the plant:

"A gargoyle with sinister, glittering eyes crouches on the roof, observing my arrivals are work spaces lit by pools of stark industrial lighting. Men are working on a motorcycle in an 800-square-foot paint booth." Rawson spots steel plates for armored vehicles and large urns and iron gates waiting to be refinished. "A 1957 Thunderbird is casually parked to one side, soon to be restored to its former glory days. And there are these amazing murals on the walls."

I asked Jay last night if anyone had made any money on the art.

"No, but its been fun doing it down there," Jay said. "We bust each other's chops and try to make something that's quality art." And they also consume some cold beer.









March 25, 2013

Photo by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

Linda Baker-Cimini, a talented Pittsfield artist, has been a good friend for years and I've taken photos of her in two bursts - the first about 11 years ago and the second this March. The one above was shot a few days ago. The first round of photos ended in a number of paintings. One of them, also in a baseball cap, is below.





March 22, 2013

Photos by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

You've seen this before if you read my blog. In fact the last time it showed up was March 4. The thing is I keep working on it sporadically. Take a look at the earlier version (at the bottom of today's post) and you'll see the changes, including the addition of a green glove, a wound in the girl's upper thigh and a skull  beneath her hair.


Here's the skull. It's not just any skull, but that of England's King Richard III who was killed in battle 500 years ago. It was discovered under a parking lot on the site of an ancient friary. DNA testing with a now deceased Londoner, a known descendent of the king, proved it was Richard. Since he died in battle, it seemed only fitting that my poor model should have a wound as well. I'm not sure Oscar de la Renta, the fashion house that designed her outfit and used it in the pose that mine was stolen from, would approve.


An unknown painter, a contemporary of the king, did this portrait of Richard. It bares a pretty strong resemblance to the head, below, reconstructed on the basis of Richard's skull.

Below you have the painting in it's previous configuration, which in itself had been through a number of guises. Do you think the latest version is better or worse? You can let me know by email.

The painting is 8 feet by 4 feet is in acrylic and includes photographs, most of them my own, and a scrap from the New York Times.








March 19, 2013

Photo by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

This is Nicole Rizzo again. The last time she made an appearance on this blog was March 7. Obviously I enjoy running photos of her.

Switching subjects abruptly, I'd like to report that the 2' x 4' patch Babbie and I worked on so valiantly (see my March 17 post) is now screwed to the joists. Our marvelous machine that lifted the big piece of drywall up to the ceiling and held it in place has been returned to the hardware store and the first coat of joint compound has been applied. Two more coats and some paint and evidence of the hole we had in the ceiling for 18 months will be obliterated.

One friend, Marguerite Zwingelstein Sherman, decided Babbie and I had worked so well together on this project that she called us Team Horner. 




March 17, 2013

Photo by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

Babbie and I are doing reconstructive surgery on the ceiling. I cut a 2' x 4' chunk out of the ceiling about 18 months ago so we could track down a leak coming from the flat roof over the section of the room you see here. It worked. We discovered where the water was coming from and the roofer fixed it.

What didn't work was that I got bored with that project and the ceiling went 1 1/2 years with a big hole in it. So Friday morning we rented the drywall jack in the picture and cut a piece of drywall to fit. When we spun the wheel to lift it to the  ceiling, it fit - almost. So I trimmed it slightly with my box cutter and then put in some screws, thinking they would draw it up against the joists. But there were some obstructions keeping it from going in all the way. That would have left us with a patch that wasn't flush with the ceiling.

We had to rent the jack for a second day so we could take the section down and put it back up after we fixed the problem. The problem turned out to be that the joist hangers at the front end of the hole were blocking a flush fit. So we chiseled out pockets in the upside of the board to accommodate the protruding joist hangers.

Up the panel went for a second time. It still wouldn't mount flush. Down it came again. We enlarged the pockets. Up again. I think it's going to go in perfectly this time. We were too tired late yesterday afternoon to install the screws. This morning we'll fasten it to the joists and return the piece of yellow machinery to Carr Hardware. Unless we screw up the screwing up.




March 14, 2013

Photo by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

The other day my granddaughter entertained us with a class-by-class review of her day at school and had us in stitches. There are days when being in school is a lot of  fun. That was true when I was a pupil at Washington Irving High School in Tarrytown, New York. That, my dears, was a mere 64 years ago.

I was 13 and had a crush on my social studies teacher, Miss Miller, who was very attractive. My way of expressing my affection was making wise cracks. I must have been a joy to have in class.

My desk was in the front row just to the left of her desk. One day in the middle of class I reached across the space between our desks and pulled a tissue from her Kleenex box. That got people's attention. She looked at me strangely and I said I needed it to blow my nose. A lie.

I don't think I had given it any forethought. I just did it. Why? I already told you. I was in love.





March 12, 2013

Combine by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

I created this picture in the last couple days by combining three different photos from fashions designed by Vena Cava and show on the Maryam Nassir Zadeh website. From the waist up it's pretty much the Vena Cava dress as presented on the website. The difference is that it was in black and white and I colored it. The skirt to the dress fell below the knees. I shortened it to a mini and applied my own coloring. The legs were from a different model. I extended and colored them. All this was done on the computer.

Originally I had planned to have this printed - 84 inches high - and glue it to a stretched canvas. This would take up the right side of the canvas and then I would paint on the left. But now I'm thinking of just having it printed this way as a banner that I can hang. We'll see. The "Ho" in the bottom right of the picture was my signature before I cropped the piece. which is presented here in two sections..

A funny thing happened to me at Bedard Brothers where I was getting my van repaired yesterday afternoon. I was in the waiting room listening to Shirley Jackson's novel The Haunting of Hillhouse. It was at a pretty spooky part. The two young women fleeing from the house come across a picnic in the woods, a picnic that is a joint hallucination. One of them looks behind her and starts screaming and they run right through the picnic in a panic, heading back to the house. I don't know, yet, what she saw that made her panic.

The next thing I knew Scott, the service guy, was tapping me on the shoulder. I woke up with a start, looked around and saw I had an audience of four women customers.

I pointed to a spot on the wall and told them that's where my bedroom window should be.

"Did I snore?" I asked them.  They said I hadn't.

"My wife and I can't go to Tanglewood anymore. I'd fall asleep on the lawn but she'd elbow me if I snored. But now we both fall asleep and there's no one to poke us. So we haven't been able to go for  couple years now.."

Then I said so long and left with Scott to pay my bill. I was still really groggy and almost stumbled when I got up from the chair. I had to stop at McDonald's in Coltsville and get an iced coffee before I picked Riley up at school

This pieced together composite was my starting point.



March 9, 2013

Photos by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

Finally, a sunny day. This is a shot out my bedroom window yesterday morning. Babbie and I took a two-mile walk through Ponterril, an adjoining neighborhood and along Pontoosuc Lake. The temperature was in the mid-40s. A lot of cars and ice fishers were out on the lake. Tell me when we had our last sunny day. It seems so long ago that it's ancient history.


This pair of ice fishermen was soaking up sun on Pontoosuc Lake Saturday. This is looking toward the south end of the lake.




March 7, 2013

Photo by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

Here's a photo collage I made yesterday using my photos of Nicole and an internet shot of a MAC 10 semi-automatic pistol.

Why did I combine them? I don't know. They're both beautiful in the eye of this beholder. If I was going to be a gun owner, the MAC 10 is the one I'd go for. Not because I'm a shooter. It's simply the gun that epitomizes gun to me.

If you're interested in having a gun to protect your family from intruders, the MAC 10 isn't a great choice. It's problem is that it's hard to hit an intruder with. It's know as a room sweeper. Something to clean out a room of people with. I suppose if you squeezed off a couple shots, most intruders would flee.

As you can see, I haven't made a case for teaming the woman and the gun. And you can probably think of a lot of good reasons for not doing it. If you go to Contact in the icons at the top of the blog, you can email me. Still, the picture is one I like a lot.



March 4, 2013

Photos by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

This is my latest painting. Not quite finished. But almost. The leg on the right won't end, as it does now, in a stump. For better or worse, this covers an old painting by Joe Goodwin who gave me two large canvases he was discarding when he cleaned out his old studio. This may be part of the Runway Series, but has a different look to it.

Seven of my photographs and one print from my group of computer-generated Joelle van Dyne pictures are collaged into this painting. You will notice that part of a front page from the New York Times is incorporated in the upper right corner. You can get a better look at that section below.

Wait a minute. I told you the painting included seven of my photos. I was incorrectly counting this internet print of a mini-dressed Kate Moss. For the photo at the top I pirated Robert Indiana's sculpture HOPE and used it as a prop for my photo of a nude, who in the spirit of Joelle van Dyne - an intriguing veiled girl in Infinite Jest - is masked.

The main figure - the backward-leaning woman in green stockings - was painted using an Oscar de la Renta ad I found on the web.

Also making the cut in this corner is a self portrait. There's another self portrait at the bottom of the work pointing the camera inappropriately. Forgive my childishness if you can.


The heavenly figure at the top center of the photo is a photo I took of a doorknocker in Provincetown.

The last detail, below, is of the section of the painting I think of as The Orange House.

The painting is 7' x 4' and is acrylic, pastel and collage on canvas.




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