Broken Angel (Last Call)

What I have been up to. Beside being a daddy, working in the movies and etc. Here is a picture of a work-in-progress. Wax at this point, about 22 inches tall, ready to gate and vent and cast in bronze at the NMHU foundry. I think of it as a broken angel, or maybe a Wild Hunt survivor.  This is the third iteration as it has fallen apart or broken three times during making, gating and venting, and the work has been interrupted two or three times by out-of-town movies. I hope to finish and cast it over the summer. In the meantime Calliope has turned one, Broadus has turned fourteen. Ada will be six on the fourth of July and I’ll be one hundred and six in February. Naomi is, as always, timeless.   broken angel

Posted in "...where danger is there arises salvation also...", ada corinna, Broadus Mobbs, Calliope Zelma Pearl Swinton Mobbs, naomi swinton, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

living with one bowl?

Putting back more than I take? Good Orderly Direction? Not things I’ve been thinking about. A lot of bowls would have to go. I try to back to life. Good Orderly Direction? No. Maybe time for inventory? Look at who I am again. After all these years.

Posted in first steps, issues of long term sobriety | Leave a comment

Coal Miner’s Granddaughter

Looking over these photos I posted elsewhere I thought they might be of interest to some of you.

The photos are from a movie called “Country Justice”, filmed in Tazewell Virginia. (For a while it was known as “Coal Miner’s Grand-daughter”.) This was George C. Scott’s last movie. I was Scenic Charge, responsible for interviewing miners and collecting reference photos inside a working West Virginia low seam coal mine. This required traveling two miles inside the mountain, the ceiling never more than four feet above the floor. The miners spent their working lives crouched, crawling and shifting. I directed a crew of scenic artists and foam carvers in making a modified replication of what I saw in the mine. Our work was above ground, and light, compared to theirs.

A miner on his mining machine. (In West Virginia, across the state line from Tazewell, Virginia)

A miner on his mining machine. The grinding head is in the nose of the machine, about fifteen feet in front of the miner. The miners follow the coal seam, leaving pillars of coal to hold up the ceiling. Once the seam is exhausted the miners back out, collapsing the pillars and collecting the coal as they go.

Should the ceiling collapse on the miner, rescuers will dig in and grapple onto the back of the drilling machine and pull it out. It will quickly return to service, controlled, very likely, by another driver.  As you can see there is no overhead protection for the man.

This photo shows the actual West Virginia miners.

Despite the working conditions they were a hardy, cheerful lot.

A crew photo in the re-imagined mine.

Taswell Virginia had one motel at the time. Crew (and leads who wished) were housed with mining families. We were well fed and cared for. The local and family histories we heard did give us cause for reflection; me anyway. Generations of men worked the mines and everyone had lost someone to accident, black-lung, cave-ins, methane explosions which turned mine shafts into canon barrels, shooting miners across the valley to crash into the opposing mountain. We learned of strikes and shut-outs, shoot-outs and union-busting; the times and the economic hardships; the lack of choices for the young people. But there were also music, cheer, laughter and comfort to be shared. People are people, where ever we go. I’m glad I took this gig.
The set rigged for cave in.

Five thousand gallons of water rushed in on the actors. Among them was George C. Scott, who had to leave his oxygen bottle whenever he worked. A strong union guy, he refused to cross a picket line during the show. The production backed down.

Another shot of the real mine.

We prettied things up a bit.

Another wing of the set. When the shooting was over people from the community asked us to please leave the set in place. (We used a large municipal warehouse for Art Department and set construction.) Production agreed. We learned that for all the generations of men that had worked the mines, the women -wives, mothers, sisters, daughters – had never seen the inside of a mine, the places where their men spent their working lives. Viewing the sets gave them some idea of their loved ones working environments. A very approximate idea, as you can tell from the pictures. For other set pictures and examples of movie work – backdrops, etc. – please visit New Mexico Storyboards and Art to Go.

Posted in "...where danger is there arises salvation also...", "Country Justice" movie, Coal Miner's Granddaughter, george c. scott, lead scenic, low seam coal mines, scenic artist, set building foam carving, set painting, Tazewell Virginia, West Virginia coal miners | 1 Comment

ann, again

A note, and a response.
New comment on your post “Ann Bunting-Mock”
Author : Jeanne Scheerbaum
May, 2012
I just read a wonderful article by Ann Bunting-Mock in American Quilter magazine, January 2008.  Just want you, whomever you are, to know that she still is helping people with her ideas, words, and quilts, I am sure. It went on to explain that she began making anonymous women’s quilts from old quilt tops, rearranging, combining, repairing and finishing them, along with a ‘letter’ hidden, explaining who she was as a woman, but evidently without name.
What a marvelous way to continue ones legacy and belief in the “kind, character-building small acts such as picking up some trash, giving money to a charity drop-box, allowing someone to make a mistake or be unpleasant without getting angry….. . I find that taking myself out of the picture begins to shift something in my life and connects me to a great anonymous river of positive emotion.  The unexpected benefit of allowing and nurturing myself to embrace a bit of anonymity connects me uniquely to the world.”
Sounds like a special, giving and gentle woman to me. And she is swimming in that ‘great anonymous river of positive emotion’, a wonderful place to be, swimming in the good.  Quite a good and gentle woman!  Glad this site is still here.
Dear Jeanne,
When you left this note on my blog I was touched and pleased. I meant to get to you right away. It was thoughtful of you to write and tell me about the article, and to quote it at length. She was that good and gentle woman, and more. She had fire in her heart and expressed that, too. She helped where and as she could. I think she saw the big picture and the very small, the very human. She was smart and bright and human herself. I think she saw herself and the rest of us pretty clearly. She blessed our frailty and foibles and encouraged our gifts and strengths and was one with us, not apart. I know she suffered and she endured. She was student and teacher, darkness and light, spinning around a core of awe at the simplicity and the complexity of her universe. I’m glad you recognized her. I believe she would have recognized you.
I am waxing poetic. I live in Northern New Mexico with my small family. Our lives are quite crazy and we do our best to manage but things (like responding to mail) do slip through the cracks. Let me know if you are still out there.
I’m working out of town. I’ll post some pictures of the quilts she made for us when I get home.
This link is to a piece of writing dedicated to Ann’s memory. As is the painting I gave to her of a calf I saw in the mountains above Merida, Venezuela, while I was visiting friends there.
Posted in aan, ann bunting-mock, auld lang syne, callings, love | 1 Comment

back again

About finished with Tin Star, a pilot for a proposed Western series. If all goes well then there will be continuing gainful employment for at least some of the film community here.

Lone Ranger crewing up in ABQ. Building an Old Western town west of ABQ as well. Working on a big show can be like working in an art factory. Creative, but still a factory. I prefer smaller shows with lots of room in between for family, friends, art and travel.

I wonder, continue this blog, or set it free?




Posted in Elmo in Grouchland, film and television, film work, Gypsy Movie Trash, Lone Ranger, Merida, Muppets from Space, scenic artist, set painting, Tin Star, Venezuela | 8 Comments

Rest in Peace, Troy Davis

Troy Davis, Born October 9th, 1968. Killed at the stubborn whim of the state of Georgia September 21, 2011.

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

looking for lost etching press

Kelton etching press

Kelton etching press, missing in action

Hello, my Wilmington NC, ex-creative community (Printmakers in particular!). I seem to have misplaced a very large (6 ft wheel), very heavy (burned out the clutch in my truck driving it down from Boston) and very old (120 years, plus or minus a few) etching press. This press was (if I recall) manufactured by M. M. Kelton Co, (Brooklyn ?) New York, in the late nineteenth century.

It was last seen at The Independent Art Company gallery. Someone asked to borrow it and I said ok. Later we took a 3 month gig in New Mexico that turned into 5 years and I managed to lose track of it. Recently I have needed access to a press and I remembered – everything except who I loaned it too. If anyone knows the whereabouts of this old, large, heavy, beautiful object please email me at or call: 910-233-2497. Thanks you so much. I miss your faces. See you soon, I hope.

Posted in etching and engraving, Kelton etching press, lost and found, lost Kelton press, MM Kelton Sons Brooklyn New York, Wilmington NC printmakers | 4 Comments