Saturday, August 15, 2009

The story without an end

A few more words on John Holstead's sculptures, especially those he thinks of as cosmic, such as the three hanging in the lobby of Dingle's new secondary school, and the piece currently under construction called "The Story So Far."

These things are solid, but they are fashioned of layers of 18-mm plywood. They would have to be made of layers, because the finished sculptures have interior recesses that cannot be seen into from outside, and that the hand can grope for but not quite reach. These John has to finish and polish as he assembles.

You might well ask: Why finish and polish what no one will ever see or feel?

You'd have to ask John, but I'll hazard an answer. I said yesterday that I'd like to imagine the Creator of the real universe looking something like the fellow in yesterday's photograph (we all know God has a gray beard and wears Bud Light tees). And I'd suppose that the Creator of the real universe would like to make a part of it so deeply mysterious that it could never be fully known by a creature. But of course that elusive part of the universe would be just as important to the Creator, just as worthy of his spit and polish.

John has said as much: "I give my universe mystery by making it hollow. You will be able to see into it, but no matter how hard you try, there will be some part beyond your knowing. Some part whose light can never reach you."

That old curmudgeon H. L. Mencken once said of science: "Penetrating so many secrets, we cease to believe in the unknowable. But there it sits nevertheless, calmly licking its chops." As I moved about John's workshop, caressing his sculpture, trying to squeeze my hand into its hidden recesses, John stood at the side of the room -- licking his chops.