Spikes

The weather forecast for southeast Maine last Friday evening was terrible — wintry mix, rain and freezing rain — so we decided not to go until morning. There was a show at the Portland art museum that Arlene wanted to see, so we figured what we’d do was to go to Portland, go to the museum, and get to our house whenever.

The exhibit we wanted to see was sculptures by John Bisbee, (note! link only valid while that show is on — it looks like the address the museum uses for whatever show is on at the time) who welds nails together. Many of the pieces in the show, “Bright Common Spikes,” are made of foot-long spikes, suitable for railroad ties. You don’t want to stumble into the works, or be too close to them and have someone bump into you.

We ate lunch at the museum cafe before going on our way, and noticed a long line of people standing in the same room — not on line for the cafe, but waiting for something. Oh — the artist was going to be speaking on his work in 20 minutes! I hadn’t quite finished my sandwich and chips when Arlene came back from investigating and said, “come on, they’re going to close the door!”

Bisbee turned out to be a most engaging speaker. He said his current job title has four words, of which he has no trouble with the first three but is not sure about the fourth: part time visiting lecturer, at Bowdoin College in Brunswick ME. He likes making things, and works for four hours a day for several months to do each of many of the sculptures (and four or six other hours on other projects). People may not like his sculptures, but everyone respects the amount of work that went into them. People will ask him what his work means, but he said to the audience (I should say, the packed auditorium — it was standing room only by the time I got in) “I sort of feel that’s your job. I make the stuff, and the people who look at it can say, ‘Oh, were you trying to say such-and-such,’ and I say, ‘…. well ….. maybe.'” He hasn’t read a book since he was in eighth grade. That was _The Yearling_, and he didn’t finish it. His parents tried to get him to read, to the extent of not letting him go outdoors to play until he had read ten pages of some book a day, so he would read ten pages of some random book, but not read through any one.

So we had a great time at the museum, even though we didn’t get to spend much time at our house.

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