Who's in control of what creations?
July 28, 2010
My conversation with artist Ron Leigh gets me thinking about some things.
The story's on this week's front page. I sought it out because some readers had called. They wanted to make sure people could benefit from the amazing sculpture that had appeared in a gnarly box elder on Village of Capac property outside of Leigh's home. The half-dead tree had been marked to come down, but Leigh just had to release the Native American Indian Chief that had haunted him through the bark for years. He couldn't let the tree go with the Indian inside of it. He knew he had to get him out now.
The callers said they'd looked for a story in the paper. Since a few weeks had gone by they figured we didn't know about it so they clued us in. They were right. We didn't know. I'm so glad they called.
Leigh has spent a lifetime carving out a living with his artistic talents. I get the impression that it wasn't always easy or smooth, but he stuck with it—almost without choice.
Almost. Leigh, a student of social sciences, says he realizes that creating art is all about control. With the carving tools in his hands, he's in charge.
"I have the almighty chainsaw and the almighty chisel. I am the creator," he laughs. "If I'm gut-level honest about it, I control what I create."
Of course our paths crossed professionally throughout the years, but I'll admit I never equated "Imlay City Signs" with fine art, though a recent encounter with former sign painter (and current Seven Ponds naturalist) Lois Rheaume should have clued me in otherwise. Until the digital age and all of its computer-graphics-availability, the sign business was a place where gifted-artist-types could actually make a few bucks for their work. Duh!
Anyhow, I'm particularly amazed by Leigh's drive to create. He says his ideas are constant, he's flooded with them. Sometimes when he and his wife are camping, he'll pull out a piece of firewood and start carving away. He made a pheasant flying out of a log and then gave it away. He says he sees things in the wood all the time.
I remember when I, too, was driven to create. It is a vague and hazy memory, though Leigh says he sees a similarity in writing and art. With both the creator is definitely in charge and definitely has power to make some sort of difference—good, bad or otherwise.
He has a point. So I think of a writer who penned this—sent to me by my aunt at a time I needed it most. There's nothing I can add to the mix. It was written by Nan Terrell Reed, and my aunt photocopied it from 'The Best Loved Poems of the American People' which was published in 1935.
They told me that Life could be just what I made it—
Life could be fashioned and worn like a gown;
I, the designer; mine the decision
Whether to wear it with bonnet or crown.
And so I selected the prettiest pattern—
Life should be made of the rosiest hue—
Something unique, and a bit out of fashion,
One that perhaps would be chosen by few.
But other folks came and they leaned o'er my shoulder;
Somebody questioned the ultimate cost;
Somebody tangled the thread I was using;
One day I found that my scissors were lost.
And somebody claimed the material faded;
Somebody said I'd be tired ere' twas worn;
Somebody's fingers, too pointed and spiteful,
Snatched at the cloth, and I saw it was torn.
Oh! somebody tried to do all of the sewing,
Wanting always to advise or condone.
Here is my life, the product of many;
Where is that gown I could fashion—alone?
Anyone with any clues is welcome to email me at
Catherine Minolli is Managing Editor of the Tri-City Times. She began as a freelance writer with the Times in 1994. She enjoys the country life, including raising ducks and chickens.