Clyde Connell blew open a new creative space for me. It would be years before I would learn to weld and begin making sculptures in earnest, but the seeds were planted and . . . there was time for them to germinate. She had not started sculpting until she was in her 60s.
In 1983, my not-yet-husband and I were living in Houston when we were invited to join his Pennsylvania-homed parents at the Lake Bistineau, Louisiana home (or camp as it was called there) of Clyde and TD Connell, parents of my future mother-in-law's friend Clyde.Yes, mother and daughter both being named Clyde was why we called the elder one Mother Clyde and, yes, they were of Scottish descent.
My soul was immediately enthralled with Mother Clyde, her concrete, simple, window-abundant home full of her art, inside and out, her generosity, her concern for social issues, questions about human existence and her church-based civil rights work.
Mother Clyde's use of rattan and red clay of the forest, found pieces of farm equipment, and paper she made to resemble that of wasp nests touched on my childhood history of making secret places in the fields and forests nearby whatever home we currently occupied. One of her series was called "Habitats." Another was "Ritual Places." These pieces were visually and physically at one with the beautiful moss-laden cypress swamp in front of their home.
I was able to visit her again during our Houston years. Then, in 1998, shortly before her death, while I was visiting in Texas, I drove over to see her, by myself this time. I was able to thank her for her influence and, as frail as she was, her hospitality and genuine interest in others remained strong. (An aside, her son and his wife took me out for crawfish étouffée and were unsuccessful at getting me to suck the heads.)
As one of my treasured mentors, she was included in my "Ancestresses & Wise Women" sculptural series. I used her methods and materials for that piece - wood, handmade and brown paper, red clay, farm equipment pieces, stones - and infused it with my gratitude.
A place to decant my brain, to capture inspiration and share fresh insights. [Posts from 2015 onward]