and Short Narrative
THIRD PRIZE OF NARRATIVE
Gaudi and Whitman, Fountains of My Inspiration
By the Fountain Man
The sign read, "No Dumping." It was a hot, steamy day in Central
Florida, some time in the mid 1970ís. From the road I could
see outcroppings of Coquina rock that had always intrigued me, so
I had to stop and check them out. Lifting away debris, I discovered
a most beautiful stone. It was about three feet long and half
as wide and it somewhat resembled the head of an alligator.
As I struggled to free it from the soil and roots that held it fast,
it began to rain. From the vantagepoint of a lizard, prone,
head to mother earth, I experienced a moment of Epiphany. As
rainwater coursed over the roots, small lichens, and natural undulations
of the rock, I was witness to a miniature waterfall that nature created
before my eyes. It was as pleasing as any larger waterfall one
might see anywhere around the world. For years thereafter, I
admired that rocks beauty. It sat in my backyard in a place
of honor next to one of my fountain creations that was made of other
rocks I collected on that memorable, sultry, summerís day.
a backyard oasis can lose its ability to calm a restless soul.
Sometimes as a person sets out in new directions, he has to take that
beauty and carry it around inside his heart. But it wasn't my
nature to just keep that beauty locked inside. Rather, I set
out on a career as a self taught artist, creating water fountains
for others that resemble naturally eroded Coquina rock along with
the elements of moving water and areas for tropical foliage.
After a few
years of struggling to establish my art, I stumbled upon my next source
of inspiration, Walt Whitman and his lifeís work of Leaves of Grass.
A newspaper article led me to him. It told about the section
of poems in Leaves of Grass, which Whitman named Calamus.
Calamus is a plant that grows in marshy areas near streams.
With my love of water, I had to check out this symbolism. I
was deeply moved by what I read. Besides rereading the
book time and again, I have spent years researching Whitmanís life.
His love of nature seems to be behind his work, not just the content
but itís unique style as well. Leaves of Grass has been
criticized by some for "its innovation in verse form, the use of free
verse in long rhythmical lines with a natural, Ďorganicí structure."
a very determined man. Driven by his love of Nature and Mankind,
he persisted despite unappreciative critics, ill health, and the interruptions
of war. Time and again, Whitman and his accomplishments have
served to strengthen my commitment to my chosen career.
To make needed
changes in oneís art is a scary thing. What would it take to
make a doggedly determined person veer even slightly in a new direction?
The sign read,
"Parque Guell". It was a typical day in May 2001, in beautiful
Barcelona, Spain, cool and windy. Because
I had taken the city subway, I soon discovered that I had entered
the park through a back or side entrance. So I had to work my
way backwards down the mountain slope. Thus, the part that proved
to be the most memorable, for me, came at the end of my visit.
I walked down the entrance steps to discover a series of fountains
that include the famous mosaic lizard. Having
over eighteen years of experience making fountains for a living I
might have expected my first impression would be a bit different than
that of the usual tourist. Actually, I had to catch my breath.
I was simply blown away by what I saw. The fact that the fountain
series begins with a natural stone waterfall was the most amazing
had read before hand that Gaudi was inspired by the beauty of Nature,
which as a devout Catholic, he viewed as the work of Godís hands.
I was aware that many of the items selected for Parque Guell are symbolic
in nature. But I couldnít have prepared myself for their effect
on me or on my lifeís work. What that natural stone waterfall
reminded me of was the first Epiphany I had experienced years ago:
that Nature is at the base of all my creativity. I would like
to quote something that Walt Whitman said in Song of Myself,
a poem in Leaves of Grass. It was in answer to a childís
question, "What is the Grass?" "What is the Grass?" Whitman
repeated and followed with "I guess it is the handkerchief of the
Lord, A scented gift and remembrancer designedly dropt, Bearing the
ownerís name someway in the corners, that we may see and remark and
Gaudi and Whitman
shared forty overlapping years on this planet. Gaudi was born
in 1852 and Whitman died in 1892. I wonder if they were aware
of each otherís work. If so, what did they think of each other?
So far, I have only been able to spend a fraction of the time researching
Gaudiís life compared to my time learning about Whitman. Although
I sense that they were very different in many ways, still both of
their overlapping life spans have been an inspiration to me. It is
Gaudiís work, however, that has recently served as a remembrancer
to me. More than that, it has lead me in a new direction.
If he could have a fanciful mosaic lizard next in view as you climb
the stairs at Parque Guell, perhaps mosaics would be a logical direction
for me to follow in my own fountain creations. The next part
of the fountain series above the lizard confirmed this for me.
For again, at the center of the three dimensional arched mosaic fountain
that comes next is a small piece of natural stone, the same natural
stone that was used in the construction of the larger stone waterfall
at the base of the stairs.
What a mixture of fantasy, geometry, and the kernel of natural beauty
at the center of it all!
being inspired by two 19th century artists, I have started to incorporate
mosaics in my fountains.
include things that you might expect to see near a natural waterfall:
Koi, frogs, dragonflies, butterflies, birds, and the like. Recently
I accepted a commission for a baptismal fountain for a Catholic Church
named Our Lady of the Lakes. A mosaic of a different sort was required
for this fountain, a mosaic of the Virgin Mary and Baby Jesus.
When I look at this mosaic fountain, which I have entitled, ĎOur Lady
of the Lakes,í I realize how quickly and profoundly our lives can
be changed. Especially when we are open to the forces of Epiphany
and have great masters like Gaudi and Whitman to emulate!