Every year, The Fair serves up the superb and the extraordinary.
In our last post, we visited Simon Hickman’s statue of the Grim Reaper.
In this post we return.
In its entirety, the Grim Reaper is impressive.
Let’s leave the entirety, and get to some of the details.
The main structure is made from the trunk of an elm tree that once grew at Bob Gothard’s house on Music Street in West Tisbury. The summer after the tree was cut down and the trunk was carted off to Simon’s Studio, it began to grow again, and put forth leaves, despite being separated from its roots and top structure. So strong is the power of life.
Hollowing out this trunk was a time-consuming effort in itself. No precise accounting of the hours spent on this work exists, but that labor has extended over years, and is not yet done.
The head, scythe blade, and skeletal parts are of rosewood. Years ago, Doug Dias acquired a load of exotic tropical hardwood, which had somehow found their way to the Vineyard. Those trees, or some of them, ended up behind the old Nobnocket Garage, which became the Artworkers’ Guild, which was then eventually torn down. The wood sat in the back of the lot for a while. About thirty years ago, for a few hundred dollars, Simon bought one of these boles, the rosewood one, which he knew would come in handy some day.
The next photo contains details of the arm and upper torso.
The Grim Reaper’s shoulders are sheathed with sheet lead. What an appropriate choice of material. For thousands of years, sheet lead has been used for roofing and flashing purposes. Lead is soft enough to form and to work easily. Copper nails are soft, too, but are hard enough to penetrate the lead, and the two metals have similar enough electropotential so that galvanic corrosion is minimized.
We slide downward along the overlapping hammered copper sheet scales of the cloak. Watch the sharp points. Go down, not up, please. The Grim Reaper knows about one-way trips.
At floor level, light gleams on sharp edges.
At the the base of the statue, lead-sheathed pointy shoes peek out from under the sharp scales of the hem of the Reaper’s copper cloak.
Pointy shoes have a long history. They were at times called “Cracows”, as they were thought to have originated in Poland. There are more modern English pointy shoes known as “winkle pickers”, named for the utensils used to extract the meat from periwinkle shells. They were also called “poulaines”.
At this moment, I got busted. Some lady saw me on the floor, with my camera peeping up under the Grim Reaper’s robes, and went to the Ag Society office, telling them that some perv was putting his camera up someone’s skirts.
What happened next?
Oblivious, absorbed in the immediacy of artistic concentration, I suddenly heard, “Oh! It’s you!”.
Fortunately, I got “busted” by someone who’s known me for about forty years. We had a great conversation about the statue, and about life in general. Conversation over, the camera went back underneath, and I carried on.
What do you see, when you put your camera up the skirts of the Grim Reaper?
On the plate of sheet copper flashing is the name of the creator of the destroyer.
We end with a portrait of the artist, Simon Hickman.