It’s a moment from one’s childhood that becomes a primal imprint. We were suddenly out in the warm LA backyard twilight. Dad had us all looking straight upward, scanning, scanning. He grabbed my shoulder and pointed when he saw it and I think I saw it too. It was not a bird. Not a plane. Not a shooting star. I’d seen all of those. This was different: a glinting dot moving in a speedy soundless arc directly overhead!
What lasts from that exact moment is his excitement and focus. It was crucial to him that I see this. Echoing my Dick and Jane basal reader: “Oh, look! See it go. See it go up.” Not so much a parental command as an enthusiastic contagious sharing. I didn’t know what a satellite was, of course, but then hardly anyone did in 1957. Unless you were an aerospace engineer, a person in love with cutting edge flight to space and beyond. Like my Dad.
As Maya Angelou says, one doesn’t necessarily remember all the facts about another person but one unfailingly remembers how they made you feel. For all his typical Greatest-Generation-Dad prickles, in this moment I was his sidekick in wonderment. The big-world-changing meaning of Sputnik 1 mattered not. It was a small father-daughter reassignation.
In the photo you see a detail of the second side of my ceramic incinerator sculpture, Homefire 1957, which for me pretty much expresses that moment of inclusion. Our silhouettes in the golden smoggy autumnal glare. His youth. My ponytail and pedal-pushers. His animation. My dutiful oldest child stance. And above, Sputnik 1, soaring through the evening sky with a hint of the red USSR hammer and sickle emblem. If this side of the piece held a subtitle it would be: A Fire in the Belly.
This autobiographical work is currently on display at the Pajaro Valley Arts Gallery HOME Exhibit where you can see three of its four sides. Shots of the full piece and the one side you cannot see are in the links below.
–Liz Crain, who wants to share one more photo of her dad pointing out the wide world to her. In this case, it’s the Grand Canyon. “Oh, look.” Another incredibly vast vista and more tender silhouettes!
Links for Posts About the HOME Exhibit and My Piece in It
“Homefire 1957” Sculpture
- Between Two Fires – An overview of the finished work, including photos of it
- R&D for Homefire 1957 – A look at the information and image-gathering that went into this piece
- The Soviets Thumb Their Collective Nose – A description of the imagery and meaning on the back side
- Bringing it All Home – Delivering my piece to the exhibit
- In Which I Find My Art Reception Mojo – Some tips on feeling at home at art receptions
- The Ur-HOME – A look at Dawn Motyka’s piece entitled “Sipa Pu: Hopi Creation Myth”
- The HOME of the Phoenix – Joan Tanzer’s “Lost Home Memory Box” assemblage
Exhibit Details: “HOME” Member’s Exhibit 2016, July 6 – August 7, 2016, Pajaro Valley Arts Gallery, 37 Sudden St., Watsonville, CA