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2001

 

If I never did another sculpture, I would be happy because I did this one.

 

My fascination with Green Men began by accident.

Back in the early 90s when I was still teaching, I was driving on the freeway one day and tuned the radio to our local PBS station just as an interview with an author was taking place. Some time before, he said in a British accent, he and his photographer colleague were collaborating on a book about Gothic cathedrals. They had filled a long table with photographs, trying to decide which to use and in what order, etc.

What struck him as he looked at the photos, however, was something that he really hadn't noticed before - faces peering out through leaves and greenery, through fruits and vegetables. Primarily male, they were on the ends of the pews, the support beams, all over the place. He was so intrigued that after they finished the book on cathedrals, he and the photographer retraced their steps to follow the trail of Green Men, and the second book resulted.

As an English teacher I was familiar with symbols and images that have universal significance and had given many lessons on archetypes in literature. So when he said that this ubiquitous figure was an archetype, a symbol of man's relationship with nature, the hair rose on the back of my neck. It was one of those times when we think, I shall always remember this moment.

At that point the interviewer asked him if he would read aloud the poem he had written while he was working on the book.

"I will," the author said, "but you have to repeat the last line with me."

As I listened to the reading of that poem, I thought, I've got to have that book, and left the freeway at the next exit and headed straight to Barnes & Noble.

"I don't know what the title is or who the author is," I told the clerk, "but it's recent and I have to have it. It's something about Green Men."

Well, the title was The Green Man, and the author was William Anderson. I was as mesmerized by his book as I had been with the interview on the radio. Although I had been an English teacher for many years, at that time I had a writing center and did not teach literature as such. I practically begged members of the English department to let me come into their classrooms and make presentations on The Green Man archetype to their classes.

I filled a display case in the hall with the creations from one class that resulted after my presentation.


They ranged from this stylized mask with a handle, to others made of real leaves and greenery.

This painting is an example of the foliate Green Man, where the foliage emerges from his eyes, nose and mouth. The young man who did this stunning painting also did one especially for me. It is quite large, but as yet I don't have a photograph of it. I need to have it specially framed.

On the left is the book that resulted from Anderson's research and so affected me. His thesis is that the Green Man reappears during different periods in history when man's relationship with the earth is threatened in some fashion. Just look around and you will see Green Men in all kinds of fountains and statuary in gardening and gift catalogs, etc., right now.

The presentations made in the English classes also emphasized the environmental concerns facing our country and the world. The other book was one that emphasized how we as consumers can make wise environmental decisions in what products we purchase and use.

Over the 2001 Memorial Day weekend I had an opportunity to take a three-day full-size doll sculpting workshop with doll maker Marilyn Huston, and as soon as I signed up I knew who I wanted to do.

His costume evolved over the three-day period of the workshop. I had brought a piece of dark green fabric and some natural materials that I thought might work. Green wood shavings in a container of magnolia potpourri formed the capelet on his robe. (He even smells good!)

His necklace, a bracelet and trim on his belt were twisted dried pods from an oleander bush that my sister Ann had given me from her yard. "I figured you could use these for something," she had said

Gee, what an expression! lo

Another workshop participant had a lighter green fabric that reminded me of dessicated leaves found on the ground, where nothing was left but the skeleton.

"Here. Use it," she said, handing me a piece. It became his draped cloak, and lichen, mosses, small dried flowers, pine needles from our neighbor's tree, and even a tiny toadstool were inserted in and out of its open weave.

His hair is a combination of dried moss that I plucked from the trees near our place in Cloudcroft, variegated green mohair wool and a dark green silk from a messed-up dye job that another dollmaker, Beth Lane, gave me. The finishing touch was a bright little feather that I tucked into the back of his hair. It reminded me of the times I'd been in the woods and found just such a bright reminder fallen to the ground.

He is sixteen inches tall, his head and hands are sculpted, and he even has fingernails. His body framework is wrapped coat hanger wire with a weighted sand base. It was my first experience at sculpting and I absolutely loved the feel of the clay. Although I knew who he was before I ever made him, I was still amazed when my Green Man emerged. He looked like no one I had ever seen before, except perhaps in my psyche where all archetypal symbols reside.

And now he resides on the bottom shelf of an etagere in our living room.

Unfortunately, with time the real moss in his hair has dried to a much lighter shade of green. Had I realized at the time how it would fade, I might've painted it. My husband, on the other hand, says he just looks natural, reflecting the impact of the changing seasons. I guess so ....

 

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