Alison has been my muse for over 30 years now, though she doesn’t know it. Her happy crayons created !Good nite by Alison! in a millyard child care center after-school program circa 1990. I think I was the teacher, but now I’m not so sure. She was about 6 at the time of her masterpiece.
I’ve always kept !Good nite by Alison! close to my desk. The green faces on the stars, the bursting sun and the shaded light-pink sky remind me that creating things should be fun and at the end of the day we’re that much closer to the next happy nite and thus to the dawning of the next bright day.
Having fun and seeking out the next dawn with joy are valuable commodities these pandemic days.
Her work of art has endured four major moves, a divorce, the death of both of my parents, and a second marriage to Lorrie, who saved my life.
Alison saw my interest in her work, and as children do, readily offered it to me. Our conversation way back when went like this:
“My last name is Angelo,“ I said. “Do you know who Michelangelo is?”
“Sure,” she replied without hesitation. “He’s one of the Ninja Turtles.”
Paraphrasing Elvis Costello’s 1977 hit song, later covered superbly by Linda Ronstadt: “Alison…Your crayons aim true.”
I hope you’re still making art, Alison. I hope the pandemic did not harm you or those you love.
And do you need an agent?
The William B. Cashin Senior Activity Center on Douglas Street offers classes in coloring, acrylic painting, diamond art and knitting and crocheting, according to Senior Services Specialist II Kim Drohan. She was supervising the coloring class the morning I checked it out. The class covers detail and shading with pencils.
“We have six or so join us now,” Drohan said, “But pre-Covid is was about 12.”
She patiently explained diamond art to me. It’s essentially gluing small colored beads to paper or canvas. There are pre-patterns, freelance of one’s own design, and outline or dense placements.
I could only think of when my dentist told me matter-of-factly, ”You have big teeth.”
“I’ll trade them in for a smaller set in my next go-round,” I answered.
I saw all those teensy-tinsey colored beads and realized my 10 oversized thumbs would have to first be traded in before I could begin work on a Sistine Chapel reproduction.
The center picks a charity each year to send their knitted and crocheted work to. This year they sent several hundred pieces to the Salvation Army. That’s a lot of art.
About five years ago, I began cutting tiles in hope of creating bird baths, garden stones, mirror frames and a mosaic-mobile I could drive around town in and have people say, ”Wow! He’s ruined a perfectly good car.”
I found cutting the tiles to uniformity required more than a pair of liberated dental clippers. It required a skill saw, a guillotine, small explosive charges and a breeder reactor. I was soon dealing in shards.
When my ten thumbs got in the way again, and I’m thankful to still have ten, an idea hit me when I was wading through the junk in my basement…Found and thrift art creations! Put my OCD to work!
This was within a few months of the first descent into Covid time-out. Lorrie and I go for walks and with one car for 20 years, I’ve always plucked metal off roads while riding my bike, saving flat tires while building up an inventory of all kinds of found things, otherwise known as junk.
I start with a piece of found wood and work a theme around it. “Nothing Happens” lent itself to a City on a Hill, one that Snow White would have to be rescued from if she were to return to Disneyworld to sell soft drinks and fries. My friend Claudette looked the whole thing over and titled it, “When the S**it Hits the Fan.”
Success. Consider the audience moved.
My love of literature then caused me to daydream about more intricate dioramas. How about mixing Moby Dick with Jaws? The Grapes of Wrath with Talladega Nights? Custer Died for Your Sins with Little Big Man?
It was the wood again that made the decision. After Lorrie torched a cutting board over a stove burner and placed it on our porch for time-out, I knew I had to find a purpose for it. What you see is Oila! the climactic moment of The Great Gatsby. Daisy has crashed into Myrtle Wilson, whom she suspected her cad of a husband Tom of having an affair with. Gatsby, because he loves Daisy, told the cops he was driving. Myrtle’s husband George then kills Gatsby.
My entire Gatsby is 4’ long and is spread geographically from Manhattan out to Long Island’s East and West Egg. Blue Covid masks were perfect for the bay. It took me about 20 hours of unbridled juvenile work.
The 1980s Homie figurines add just enough humor to maintain interest. Narrator Nick Carraway, the only pure character in the book, is played by a Homie ice cream vendor in white. As he says, “I am one of the few honest people I’ve ever known.”
I temporarily set Gatsby up on our dining room table but I’d love to find an English teacher to loan it to.
Next up is Slaughter House-Five. Finding an old pizza stone in a thrift store was the beginning. In adding two more, I now have the three bases for the time travel central to the novel. The present is vanilla-plain Illium, New York. The past is Dresden, Germany, during the horrific fire-bombing of February, 1945. The future is protagonist Billy Pilgrim’s Happy Place in a dome on the planet Tralfamadore with missing Hollywood starlet Montana Wildhack.
Slaughter House-Five author Kurt Vonnegut has rightly been accused of living on the edge of black humor.
If you’re out there Alison, this diorama is going to need your happy crayons.