Sunday, March 11, 2012
Gene's mosaic art on the wall of his garage in Durham
I first met Gene when he joined a First Person writing course in the Durham Library in 1991. We read journals and autobiographies, and then did writing exercises related to the readings. Gene repaired heating and air conditioning units for a living, and he wrote in his diary when he had breaks.
Later he was in a number of poetry classes and became quite a good poet. We also became friends. I liked his directness, his honesty. He said what he thought, as do I.
By 2003-5 when he spent some Peace Corps time in Honduras, he was writing excellent poetry.
I saw his bent frame
walking toward the Mercado,
across his shoulders
a large pole with
huge bunches of bananas
hanging from each side.
through my mind
like corrugated sheet metal
used for roofing
in the third world.
I thought he was a troubadour
carrying many fascinating
odes encased with
a protective outer skin,
waiting for a chance
A little earlier than that, he also began working in metal sculpture. I have an iron flower made from old railway nails in my flower garden. I also have a stepping stone made of concrete with an iron design in the center. He did dancers, faces, a dragon that held his mailbox in its mouth, and many iron flowers, often using rebar. You can see them at his house in Durham.
A few years ago he began to work with mosaics. Last year, after many months, he finished a beautiful design of yellow and red flowers on the front wall of his garage. But it was the next wall mosaic that told me he was truly gifted, truly original. I’ve tried to describe this wall of undulating lines with large round shapes rising.
We have the beauty of your art, which
reminds me of the sea, and the bubbles
rising, the underside of the waves catching
[It was] like an ocean, like
the solemn, purposeful, ecstatic motion of
the waves and bubbles of joy lifting themselves...
You’ve caught incoming waves
in stone, with tiles, broken and whole, with
mirror fragments catching the light.
I’m so happy to see the artist Gene happy in his art, working still as a repairman, but in the evenings and on weekends, working on his walls and plotting new ones.