March 16, 2005
A gift from a friend
A long time ago I became friends with a sculptor. His work mostly is meant to make a statement. He has done a lot of work related to slavery and equal rights and issues related to discrimination. When I first met my friend he was working as a security guard at my office building. Several years ago he was working on the piece that he gave to me today as a gift. I would stop by the guard desk and chat with him and see how the work was progressing. It was very interesting to see his whole process from beginning to end.
Over the years I have helped him in different ways, like photographing his work and editing his letters and grant applications, cleaning up his computer, getting his scanner to work, helping him to create brochures, helping him move his sculptures into showings, etc. And because of my friendship with him I also helped out his studio building during the St. Paul Art Crawl by volunteering as a door greeter. Iíve hung out at his studio having long discussions with him about life and family as he was working on his projects. He is a statement artist. Most of his sculptures are related to the plight of the African Americans from slavery to the present. His work has been shown in the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and other prestigious places. I can really relate to him as a sculptor because Iím a sculptor at heart. Except my sculptures are done in wood as a woodcarver. I can see his vision as he is creating a piece and appreciate the composition as itís revealed during the sculpting process.
When he gave me this gift today, I didnít really know how to react. I am not really a good gift receiver. I love to give things to other people, but I donít need anything. I donít crave things or desire things for myself. Iíll buy things myself, but when someone asks me what I want or need, itís hard to say, because I usually donít know I want it until I see it. Iím really a poor consumer because Iím much too content with life without things and I donít crave anything. My friendís sculptures made me think. I appreciated the craftsmanship and vision in his designs. But I didnít particularly have a burning need to have one. Now I received a piece I consider to be one of his best. I tried to refuse, but he said, ďI know I donít owe you this, and that you wouldnít ask for anything in return, but youíve helped me so much I want you to have this. I know you like this piece so I want to give it to you.Ē So I accepted. He wrapped it up in bubble wrap for me and I carried it back to my office. I still donít know how to take this gift. I am thrilled to look at it, because itís a very interesting relief sculpture that tells a good story. I like the bright color and it has a hopeful message.
On the way back to my office two people stopped me to see what I had. They were stunned to see I had one of my friendís sculptures. This sculpture would sell for about 450 dollars. But I didnít buy it, so I had to explain that I didnít buy it. This compounded my guilt in receiving a gift of such value. And I certainly donít want to incur any special favors because of things Iíve done. All I was trying to do was be a good friend to someone who needed a friend. And thatís what I did. Thatís what friends are for. I listened, I helped out where needed and I gave advice when asked. I never expected anything in return. Just because friendship doesnít really expect a return. I think thatís why I have an easy time giving gifts but a hard time accepting them. I donít want anyone to think I have expectations of a return. In my view, friendships are about giving to and uplifting another human being, helping them to live to their potential. I believe in my friend to keep creating his artwork and doing what heís doing to help people see a different view on life and reveal how we often treat each other as human beings. So I accepted his gift and now am wondering what I should do with it. Itís either going to hang in my cubicle at work or in my new library. My friend suggested I hang it in my library because itís new. And this piece talks about the value of life and friendship and lifting up our friends when they are down or downtrodden.
To me, this piece of work as a collectorís item has no value, but as a gift from a friend that shows his appreciation and that he values our friendship, itís priceless. I think before I move it to my new library at home, Iíll display it at work so everyone can see the message of hope in it. Then after a while, Iíll bring it home and keep it by my computer to help me think of my friend and his lifeís mission to get people to think about racism and itís effect on our fellow human beings. Regardless of where it hangs, his gift to me is really his declaration of friendship, which I will never forget. Here is my friend Frank J. Brown's sculpture:
Posted by carl1236 at March 16, 2005 11:17 PM | Love your Neighbor