I have always been fascinated by geometry and maths. Note that I said ‘fascinated.’ This is, in my case, clearly different than ‘enthralled’ or ‘enjoyed.’ I didn’t like either of these subjects in school. But my father used to tell me ‘there is mathematics in everything.’ Okay, he was right, and this tidbit of fatherly wisdom has manifested itself in some of the art I have been producing. The interconnection between geometric shapes and maths presents itself in many of the pieces I have done since moving to Sol y Mar. Such is the case with ‘Motown.’ But now you are probably wondering how I associate ‘Motown’ with this latest piece. Well, this piece, along with ‘Madeline Sparkle Pants’ that I showed you a few letters ago (in Chapter 77), are both related to ‘The Gordian Brothers,’ a two-piece sculpture I made whilst living in La Antigua. These were named because of their graphic connection to the fabled Gordian Knot, part of the legend of Alexander the Great. Okay, now follow this logic stream. The Gordian Knot was an endless piece of rope that was woven into an knot with no exposed end; Motown, was begun in the 1960’s in Detroit by Berry Gordy, Jr. Gordian Knot - Berry Gordy - Motown. Get it? Okay, now you are wondering how ‘Madeline Sparkle Pants’ is connected to this stream of consciousness. Well it isn’t. I stole the name from this adorable kitty that lives in Chicago because I just thought it was a great name. Regardless, here is ‘Motown.’
A couple of letters ago, I wrote about some of my ancestors, and I suppose you might have thought that I only had one set of family members. Well, that really isn’t the case. My mother’s side of the family had a tremendous influence on my life growing up, and whilst I don’t have letters that they wrote more than 100 years ago, what I do have are very special memories.
My grandparents on my mother’s side of the family had been best friends before they were married. Actually, the reason they were best friends was because they and their spouses were all good friends. But then my – pay attention now, this is a bit confusing – grandfather’s wife passed away about the same time my mother’s father died in an auto crash. My grandmother and grandfather ended up getting married to each other. My grandmother had two daughters, and my grandfather had a daughter and a son, so almost instantly, there was this family of four children. It never seemed to me that my mother and aunts and uncle were anything but naturally-born siblings.
When I was young, quite young actually, I can remember flying across Lake Michigan every summer to spend time at my grandparent’s cottage. This was such a special time for me, and my memories of each summer are far clearer than just about anything else I can remember about growing up.
I think I learnt a lot about ‘doing stuff’ with my grandfather. When I was about 11 or so, he and I planned a major travel adventure. No, he didn’t take me to the Himalayas or anything, but at the time, it seemed equally daunting. One day, we got up and towed my grandfather’s little aluminium rowboat to a spot on the Kalamazoo River, and motored all the way to Lake Michigan. Okay, so you might be thinking, ‘wow, how many days did it take to do that?’ Well, the answer was one day. Hey, come on…I was young and this was a pretty big thing. And it got bigger. When we arrived in Saugatuck, on eastern shore of Lake Michigan, we tied up the boat at a quay and waited for my grandmother to arrive with the boat trailer so we could go back to their house.
After a short wait, she arrived and I assumed that my grandfather would motor the boat around to the launching ramp so we could load it all up for the trip back. But my grandfather told me that I should bring the boat around. I think at the time my grandmother just about had a coronary, but my grandfather insisted that I was old enough to accept this responsibility. After some very polite excuses that gushed from my mouth, all the time my grandfather urging me on, I managed to head out into the lake (my grandfather did encourage me with all the confidence in the world to go pretty far out into the lake) and, all by myself, I motored out in a huge circle, and then motored back to the launch ramp. This was pretty high adventure for a young boy, and it left an indelible impression on me. Not just the fact that we went down the river. Not the fact that I was encouraged to bring the boat around all by myself. But the fact that my grandfather had immense confidence that I could do something that I didn't believe I could do left a lasting impression on me.
"Motown," another view
my Mother and my Grandparents
wearing a trendy white suit at a family wedding
me, pondering geometry and maths a few years ago
copyright 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, James B. Rieley