Let me tell you the story about the BIGGEST piece of art I ever made. Even now, every time I look at it I'm still amazed that it was ME who built it. In May of 2016 Scott and I were visiting the The Christine Center, a spiritual retreat center in Central Wisconsin. On one of our walks we came across a small grotto (shrine?) that someone had built. Instead of it being a shrine to Mary or Jesus or some biblical character it had a painting of the Tree of Life mounted in it. It was pretty cool....I was impressed. I half jokingly said, "I need one of those in my yard."
Over the next few weeks I realized that I didn't just want to HAVE one in my yard, oh no.....I wanted to BUILD one in my yard. Big difference.....especially considering that in June of 2015 I had a cancer diagnosis. I was lucky that they found it early and it was stage one. I didn't have to go through chemo, but after some major surgery it was still a long healing process.... physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually.... Building this grotto would be part of my healing process.
I decided that I wanted to make it out of materials found around my own yard and neighborhood. My way of repurposing and cleaning up a lot of stuff that was laying around in the alleys. Scott rigged up a little cart for me made out of dolly and a big plastic crate. I wheeled that little cart all over my neighborhood collecting bricks and stones that my neighbors were more that happy to have hauled away. It was sturdier than using a wheelbarrow and I could hook my dogs leash to it and bring her with me on my hauls! I'm sure it raised a few eyebrows when people saw me pulling my little "wheely cart" with the beagle attached to it. It didn't take me very long to accumulate a HUGE pile of bricks and stones behind my garage.....but I still had no idea how to even begin this project
One morning, at the breakfast table, I announced to Scott that my goal for that week was to find someone....anyone ,who could at least show me the basics and help get me started. That very weekend I was at an event talking to another artist. I happened to mention my grotto project and the fact that I had no experience working with concrete. I explained that I was looking for guidance from someone who could show me the ropes of brick laying and setting stones. Turned out that the very person I was talking to used to do masonry work! Matthew John George became my teacher and friend. We broke ground a week later......