Sunday, April 30, 2017

Meeting those involved in fundraising.

Some of the fundraising team with Norma's mom in the middle. 
This entire project is full of history. Today I got a chance to meet the incredible gang of people who are working on fundraisers for this project.

We met at Morales Radio Hall. I just learned the Houston history of this building on the east side, It was one of the first Spanish speaking radio stations started in 1950 KLVL-AM.  Here is a link to some of the history of the television station started by Felix Hessbrook Morales.

The Morales family has been inspirational in fundraising for the Norma Zenteno project.

Thanks to everyone on the committee for their hard work. I encourage everyone to share the blog posts and the project on their social networks.  Remember, every bit of money toward this project helps. I think we should have a special preview viewing of the sculpture after approval at my studio for those who give the big donations.  Can't wait to get started sculpting.

Remember you can also donate on the Norma Zenteno Sculpture Project website. 

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Music And "Mine"

Today I had the incredible privilege to hear the Zenteno band play.  What a treat. I arrived out of a business meeting late at Sambuca's after scrambling to park my huge van downtown.  The presence of the band was impressive.  The personas of each of the individuals in the family changed when on stage. You can tell that for them... this was home.

This video is old and shows Norma playing with her dad.

It was an emotional night as one of the musicians Lindy Pollard was leaving Houston and this was his last time playing with the band. If I recall this history correctly,  he has played with a member of the Zenteno family for 40 years.

Zenteno Family at Sambucas- Houston
The warmth from family and friends and the looks on their faces when we began to talk about the sculpture was endearing.  Each person added to the intensity, passion and life of this sculpture through their sharing. I encourage you please share both stories and photographs on the Norma Zenteno sculpture page. These stories help me to bring life to the sculpture.

Time and time again, I have heard people say that they still feel Norma, or have had "Norma" experiences since her passing.  I listen intently as each experience is so very personal, so very touching. I get the feeling that Norma embraced the essence of each person she met. Cherished them and made them feel special.

Many know me as a sculptor. Few people know that when I was in high school I vacillated for a time about whether I should be an artist or a musician.  My  childhood experiences with music were like many. I took piano, because my sister took piano, it was in the house and what you did. Though I have to say that reading music and spending hours plucking out notes to songs that were way harder than I could play, was probably my first inclination that I was self motivated. I also played to sing. I love to sing.

In grade school I took flute, but family life and other distractions made it impossible to focus and so that was not a good experience. It was not until I was in Junior high that I thought I might like to learn guitar. I got a paper route and worked it long enough to get enough money to buy an acoustic guitar and a few lessons.  I still have that guitar. Somehow old musical instruments are like family members. Some friends nearby played and I asked them to teach me some things as well. A guitar suited me. It was different than what my sister played, and was transportable. I could play the Mommas and the Pappas, Melanie and other folk artists.

Also from grade school I loved music classes. When I found out there was actually a place where a group could sing called a chorus I was elated. Even today I will put down the guitar and sing harmony given half the chance.

My graduate school was a liberal arts college. Goddard College in Vermont let you design your own program and since I wanted a program that focused on 3D technology in fine art it was a win. It was a distance low residency program, which meant we had to go to Vermont twice a year, for a week. We lived in the dorm and planned our next six months learning schedule with our advisors.  What I loved most about this is that there were artists, actors, writers, musicians of all sorts.  The college came to being in the 60's so there is a lingering hippie vibe to the college on a farm.  Down the hill is the music building. When I was not preparing my studies I spent my time there. I did not bring my guitar but instead my coffee cup and my dorm key as I would play percussion and sing. I was not the only person improvising as some students played the bottom of drawers. The music room was also the place of a the fire pit. So even if it was snowing and freezing I would alternate between hanging at the fire pit and singing inside with the musicians.  It as at Goddard where I met musicians who were focusing on exotic instruments or things like overtone singing. It was a creative atmosphere.
Other musicians I have sculpted
Me and B. B. King

My other major music influence is my adopted dad Harry Shepherd. This jazz vibaphone artist and I have known each other for years, and I adopted him long time ago as my surrogate dad, he bought me my last guitar.  So, having Harry in my life has introduced me to a lot of Houston music.

 I spent more time playing in church than anywhere. I have been a music leader in a few churches.  I don't play that much anymore. But in honesty I did pick up my guitar the other day to learn True Colors from the movie Trolls, inspired by my granddaughter. I sing mostly to her. She has her own show tunes, and requests them each time I put her to bed.  Music is in my blood and would have been my alternate path had I not been a sculptor/writer. It brings me great joy to participate with other musicians and singers and it is that "high" that I can feel when I think of Norma's performances.

Other musicians I have sculpted.
Bill Monroe of the Blue Grass Boys
When leaving Sambucas that evening I said goodbye to Norma's daughter, Angie. She shared some incredible stories of her mom with me this night, as many others did as well. But Angie also was the recipient of something else that this process holds. Creating a sculpture of a deceased loved one and being a part of the process brings a closeness, a healing, a way to have a celebration and continuing bonds.   Angie  held out her arms and cried "Mia" which if you are not hispanic, I'll translate, it means "mine." We embraced and in doing so I felt Norma hugging us both.  I heard Angie's voice echoing with her mom's as she hugged us and watched on.  Norma is in this project, and I'm so honored to feel her presence and get to know her. She is an example for all of us in how we love and care for others.

The family is trying to raise money for the project. Please share this information and visit the blog to donate.

One of the first musicians I sculpted— Willie Nelson. The IRS
confiscated this sculpture and auctioned it off with the
rest of his art to pay of his IRS debt. 

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Sitting- and inspiration.

What a great day. We were trying to find the clouds and dodge the rain. The goal... Have Angie, Norma's daughter pose in some of Norma's clothes. I can then take pictures all around the subject to get the reference that we need.  Now, Angie does not play the guitar, so I did help her with the position of her hands.  I can hardly wait to get started.

Different clothes and trying to find Norma. 

Showing Angie some chords

Taking pictures all around

My saying is... You can never have too much reference. Send
me pictures everyone.  

Getting to know you.

I'm spending time listening to her music and searching through photographs. I found this video online and I am very thankful for those who compiled it.

Remembering Norma Zenteno.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The guitar

Ernie and David Zenteno with David's
grandchildren , Isabella and Noah Zapata
When creating this sculpture there are several ways that I can create the guitar.

  • I could hand sculpt the guitar with clay over foam. 
  • I could 3D scan Norma's guitar and have it reproduced in foam and clay
  • I could get a real guitar and modify it. 

For the budgets sake we have decided to go with the last option.  So, it was put in the hands of the family to find a guitar.  Ernie, Norma's brother and bass guitar player for the family band found the perfect guitar to be a part of this sculpture.  

I'm glad that they were able to do this. I may have to actually anchor the guitar to the sculpture and I needed something that it was o.k. to destroy. Even so, I'm a guitar player and hurting this instrument in any way will cause the musical muse and the artistic muse great dissension. 

The project is moving along. I can't wait for our photo sitting tomorrow with Angie, Norma's daughter.  

Lights, Camera, Action!

Lighting a sculpture is very important. Unfortunately there was nothing in the budget for lighting of Norma so we are trying to work with the lighting that is there.  We have two spots on the wall that we have been vacillating between. So we had a late night rendevous and took some photographs.

Monday, April 24, 2017

It is all about the family and friends and... food.

We all gather at the Brown Foundation on Harrisburg to pick
the perfect spot.  Originally Norma was going to be placed
standing in the gardens beyond this small wall. I suggested
She instead be mounted to the wall and playing her guitar. 

If you read my previous post you will begin to understand that the connections that I have and that are made to those friends and relatives of my subject are crucial to infusing life into the sculpture.

If there is anything that can make this sculpture "sing," pun intended, it is getting to know and hearing the stories of Norma. That is where you as the reader come in.  You know Norma, you have experiences with Norma, share, tell, teach me who she is, and slowly I begin to feel and see Norma. Then I see it happen over and over again, that passion is transferred to the clay and in the end... to the viewer.

Playing her guitar under the street light. I can't wait to get
started. I love the inspiration of the family. 
Here is one thing I learned yesterday- Norma was all about family.  I should have known that. I mean she played music with her family. But yesterday I felt it. And in doing so, it was as if Norma was right there behind my shoulder introducing me to everyone.

Plans were made to go to the proposed site and take some photo reference of Angie, Norma's daughter posing as Norma in Norma's clothes. Somehow that got lost in the translation of the day, and instead the entire family Norma's brothers  Ernie, Bobby and Javier, long with his wife Gloria, Norma's son Miles and his girl friend jackie and Norma's Daughter Angie and her boyfriend Chris all met at the place where the sculpture will one day reside.  Even Norma's mom Elsa Zenteno came.

Instead of being there for a photo sitting to take reference for the sculpture, the family all shared their thoughts about the placement, pose and outfit that Norma should be wearing. There were a lot of ideas shared, and when thinking about it— they were shared with huge smiles and a great deal of excitement that was infectious.  Somehow, I think Norma was probably that way—infectious in her charm, livelihood and presence.  One of the brothers mentioned their playing and said something like there is no longer a ... not sure the term he used, but when he said it a flood of pictures came to my mind. What was missing in this family band —the lead singer, the one that got the attention, that sparked the crowd on, flirted with the music and her brothers to bring a crescendo of intensity and involvement from both audience and musicians.  I never had the opportunity of knowing Norma. Right now I am sorry I never got to see her live in her element, with her family, creating.  I am sure it was something to experience.

We rescheduled the photo sitting for another day.  The family has work to do, in that we we need to see the placement of the sculpture at night. This means that the family will have to go and stage the piece to see what it will look like under the lighting that is already there. They will take some photos and send them to me.  Then, we did what close families do- we went and ate. I was so thrilled to be invited.

From left to right: Angie Hart (Norma's only daughter, first grandbaby),
Sculptor Bridgette Mongeon, 
Chris (Angie's boyfriend),
Ernie Zenteno, Gloria Zenteno, Javier Zenteno, Bobby Zenteno,
  Elsa Zenteno (Mama Z)

Those not shown, but there earlier in the day. Miles Towns Zenteno
(Norma's youngest son, who got the music genes) Jacki Davis (Miles girlfriend)
There is something about sitting down to a meal with the family for which I am creating a piece of art.  Believe it or not, in my long career of creating sculpture, especially posthumous sculpture, I rarely get to do this.  Many people I don't even meet as they live in New England, or Alaska or another state.  I am loving that the Zenteno family is here and so inviting.  I may often appear quiet at the table, yes even after a margaritta, but I'm absorbing everything and thinking.

Norma's mom shares a story of Norma when she was little and how she thought she would run faster than someone who road their bike.  She tied herself to the bike to prove it and came home all torn up. She smiled, the smile of a mom remembering. I looked at Moma Z and felt her love for her daughter, her strength involved in raising such a large family of boys and one girl- Norma- the oldest.  The endearing nature of the entire family toward Norma, and of total strangers that I have been introduced to. Many who meet me and hear about the sculpture project same Norma's name, with that same family sparkle.  This... this family, and friends, and love I can feel and inspires my muse.  How can I possibly infuse it into the clay, it is more than I have felt in any of my posthumous commissions.  OK Norma, I'll need some assistance here.

More to come:

Please contribute and share the news of this project. With your help we can make this happen. For more information about donations please visit the Norma Zenteno Sculpture Page. 

Getting to know Norma

Today was an exciting day as I met with the family of Norma Zenteno. I’ll soon be starting a sculpture of Norma for the family. The sculpture is of a vibrant Norma playing guitar while a dog looks on. The family will be placing this sculpture at the Brown Foundation Plaza on Harrisburg in Houston’s East End. The sculpture honors Norma and the work of Barrio Dogs. 

The family and I sat together and talked about the scheduling details, fundraising and contracts,  then parted, but at the last minute I asked if I could see the place where the family was installing her.

Let me back up a bit, If you don’t know my work, I am known for quite a few things in the fine art field. I often incorporate digital technology in my traditional process as I talk about in my last book, I love sculpting children, For a while there everyone referred to me as “the cat girl” because I created the Prairie View Panther for Prairie View University and the very large Grambling Tiger for Grambling State University. I guess recently people know me for the monumental sculpture of Alice in Wonderland’s Mad Hatter Tea party. This ends a 7 year project which will be installed in November and can be seen on both the Facebook page and the website.

In walking this one path of creating posthumous sculpture on my creative journey, I have found that there are some incredible things that happen. It has been a while since I created a life-size sculpture of a deceased loved one. I had almost forgotten about the connections and unusual occurrences that happen when beginning this creative process. It is strange, unusual, wonderful and incredibly inspirational. I am also known for my sculptures of deceased loved one. For many, this may sound like a very macabre thing to do, but I love it. A few years back Texas Country Reporter created a segment on this portion of my art. I love developing a relationship with the deceased; I love helping families and individuals come together around the likeness of a loved one that I create. I love giving recognition to an individual and honoring their life through my art. I have written much about this process of sculpting deceased loved ones, and one day I hope to publish a book about it.

That is what happened today. On the way to the destination for the sculpture, I began to get a “feel” for a part of the sculpture. There is a thing that happens during these types of commissions that I can only describe as a “knowing.” Though it has happened over and over again with countless posthumous commissions, it never ceases to excite me. In the case of Norma, it is like she is walking beside me, causing things to happen or showing me how things should go. She solidifies our connection and is in the details, and slowly I get to know her and develop a relationship with her even though we have never met.  Yes, it sounds strange but, I develop relationships with the deceased.

I’m delighted with what transpired today. I can’t wait for our next meeting when we prepare some photo reference for the project. The family will be a part of this sitting, a loved one is taking her place wearing clothes similar to Norma’s so that I can get a feel for this. I love this. In creating posthumous sculpture, I have found that those sculptures that have the most life are those that have a strong emotional connection brought on by the interaction and sharing by those who knew and loved the subject. Somehow, their energy and love is fused within the clay. It is very exciting. I can’t wait for the up and coming sitting. I’ll share that soon. In the meantime. I have a new friend. She is not on this earth, but I’m having a great time getting to know her, and watching the light in the eyes of her family as we bond.

Feel free to help to infuse this sculpture. Share your stories to help me bond with Norma. These stories, help me to connect to Norma. Your love and memories are transferred to the clay and bring Norma to life. The Zenteno family has set up a website to begin to receive donations for this sculpture. Thank you for being a part of the creative process.