Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Marble Carving Gymnast

Cari Amici (Dear Friends),

Many years ago, I had an idea . . . yup, just one ;-) It began back in 2003 or 2004. I created a maquette (French word for a small sculpture that will be used to create a larger one) in plastilina of a gymnast in a pike position. I needed to make it so that I could calculate what cut of marble I needed. I had been itching to work larger for a while now.

I then contacted the quarry in Colorado and ordered my marble. I had them cut out a block of stone above the gymnast’s head to save me the effort, but more importantly to save the stone for another project. Until I can get enough of the proper tools (for example, a diamond-bladed chainsaw), it is best to outlab these kinds of things. The idea for this sculpture is a symmetrical vertical composition, with a bit of asymmetry in the feet for a fun element (the way no proper gymnast would pose).

I have been collecting stone whenever I have my van with me and a few bucks (or more) in my pocket. The Colorado Yule Marble for "The Gymnast" (center) sat around for many years, but it is the second of the three large stones that I brought home over time. Going to Italy for extended stays postponed this project. In the summer of 2008, I decided to work on the stone a little bit, knowing that I may have to finish this over a long period of time.
Unfortunately, the railroad ties I bought for support and height began to rot and, as you can see in the 1100-pound block of marble to the right, some leveling needed to be done.

Despite the years of dust covering this raw marble and the impending storm (leaving only a diffused and subtle light for my photography), one can still see some translucency in this marble near the top edge of the block.

After cutting away some of the marble block, I had to redraw my design. I am a direct carver. That means that I do not make a large sculpture out of plaster, clay, or wax and then measure and copy it into a block of stone.

Instead, I draw directly on the stone and cut what I do not wish to have there. Yes, I have my maquette, but that is only a tool to help me determine my basic proportions. Soon, I will abandon it and work only with the stone.

And now, for a little self promo of another kind:
Wow -- something I wrote made the # 1 Business Tip on MorenaMedia's blog. So cool!

(Click on the image to enlarge.)

Happy Birthday, Lexi!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Lana Thompson Tribute

Cari Amici (Dear Friends),

I heard about Lana Thompson before I met her. I was told that this woman was a powerhouse, turning heads, changing minds, and making lots of art sales in the small community of La Grange, Texas. Lana and her husband Joe Mole ran a gallery, filled with a large variety of art. As a fabric artist herself, Lana promoted all creative efforts and carried her enthusiasm with her wherever she went. Lana was thrilled to exhibit and sell my art in her gallery and even got me connected to a gallery in Chicago. She was always sharing and helping others.

Lana and Joe closed the gallery several years ago so that Lana could focus on determining just what was wrong with her health. Lana Thompson left this world on November 2, 2009. She had a form of leukemia and her marrow transplant never took hold. She fought this disease with her exuberant energy, saying, "death will just have to sneak up and catch me." After a three-year battle, Lana allowed herself to be caught.

Lana’s changing diagnosis and problems with the US healthcare system has been blogged about in detail by her step-daughter at http://savelana.blogspot.com, but as I checked my links, I discovered that this site has been removed.

I feel honored that Joe asked me to come over and take Lana’s paintbrushes and create more art with them. I also received many other wonderful things of hers – clothing, music, art materials, and art books. While I was visiting Joe in their home, he shared with me the following and gave me permission to share this about Lana and his life with her.

Our Miracle

Lana J. Thompson, my wife of twelve years was an artist, writer and poet, and had been very ill with acute myelogenous leukemia. Her symptoms started nearly three years ago but her first bone marrow biopsy proved negative. She had no definitive diagnosis until early January of this year. She died on November 2, at the M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas. Twenty-four days earlier she had had a bone marrow transplant but it did not regenerate. They could not keep blood in her; even daily platelet infusions were no help. Her blood simply would not clot.

I held her hand as her heart beat for the very last time and she breathed her last breath. It is not altogether a sad story, in fact we did get a miracle it just wasn’t the one we were looking for. At 2:30 Sunday morning the 1st of November while I was at home in La Grange, Texas, and in bed asleep I had a vision. Lana had been in room 23 in the C pod on the seventh floor of the hospital, the ICU floor. Her room was the first room you see as you come around the corner from the ?F? elevators and look into the C pod. All of the rooms have patio doors so that the end of each room is glass to make it easy for the nurses to read the monitors without coming into the rooms.

What I saw in my vision was light – ten times brighter than daylight – streaming from her room. I knew that angels had come to escort her spirit up out of her body. As soon as daylight came I drove to Houston which is two hours away. The first person I spoke with was the RN on duty in her room. She was not busy and we spoke for half an hour. I told her of my vision. During the next two hours, twelve to fifteen MDs and RNs wanted to speak with me concerning end-of-life issues. A chaplin also wanted to see my legal papers, medical power of attorney etc. Every thing was in order. Their decision Sunday was to give Lana another five days, so I came back to La Grange.

The next morning at 10:30 I got a call on my cell phone from her transplant surgeon Dr. Ciurea. He said to come back to Houston as soon as possible. I arrived at 12:45. The same RN was attending Lana and made the comment, “Mr. Mole, do your remember the story you told me yesterday about what you had seen. The ventilator (the machine which was assisting her to breath and which is a computer and has a monitor) recorded the time you said as the time your wife could no longer breathe on her own. After you left yesterday your wife had a CT scan of her head and it showed swelling in her brain.” In other words, Lana became brain dead at 2:30 Sunday morning.

During the next hour and a half I talked with all the people involved in the process of “termination-of-life supports.” Finally I was connected to an MD by phone who said that all I need to do was to say yes to terminate life supports and Lana would be put on “comfort care” only. That involves only a sedative and painkiller. Lana had been on dialysis and that was the first thing to be disconnected. With that done I was able to go and stand next to Lana’s bed and hold her hand. Over the next 20 minutes the RN disconnected the 22 IVs which were on three stands, and then she left the room. The monitor above her bed was displaying her pulse, which initially registered 64 beats per minute. Every minute the number was one less: 63, 62, 61, 60. When it fell to 32 the next reading was 0. I noted the time, 15:33. One minute later the RN came back into room and said, “Mr. Mole, your wife has just died.” I waited another minute then left the Lana’s room.

Of all the people I spoke with during those two days none thought I was a crackpot or some kind of weirdo. Basically what I had done was to tell all of them when Lana had actually died. The machines simply kept her body alive for another 37 hours. Life supports were terminated at 2:45pm and it took only 48 minutes for her to pass away.

I am a classical music fan and had been a Chicago Symphony Orchestra season ticket holder for many years. Concerts are rebroadcast on the Internet and the radio every week. A week earlier I had recorded one from the Internet at cso.org but had forgotten what I had recorded. It was a two CD set, a recreation for the very first concert ever held in Orchestra Hall, Chicago, one hundred years ago. When I went to Houston Monday morning I played the first CD and all but ten minutes of the second. Ten minutes after Lana died I left the hospital and began driving towards the freeway. Just as I reached it what should come next as the final selection of this concert but Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus from Messiah. I played it over and over for the next two hours about 24 times.

The sun began to set as I neared Columbus, Texas. There were no clouds in the sky and it was a perfect day. The sunset stretched for miles across the vast Texas landscape. When I turned off interstate 10 towards La Grange I looked over to the right to see the most beautiful perfect full harvest moon which had just come up over the horizon. It was glorious! What this meant to me was that all creation was celebrating for Lana. She didn’t just get some old spare parts from another woman to keep her going for a while but a whole new body.

Obituary of Lana J. Thompson

Lana Jean Thompson age 64 of La Grange, TX died Monday November 2, 2009 at 3:33pm in Houston, Texas, from a three year illness. She was born Wednesday December 13, 1944 in Ellicottville, New York. She is the daughter of Elizabeth Hilbig and Chester Konieczka, a merchant marine who died November 29, 1966 in the shipwreck of the Daniel J. Morrell off the thumb of Michigan. It was the sister ship of the Titanic and also split in two in a storm. Lana’s mother had no attending physician or midwife. Bernard Thompson, who later married her mother and raised Lana died this year on July 25th. Her mother died in 1994.
Lana is survived by her husband of twelve years, Joseph L. Mole and her daughters Anna Christen of La Grange, TX; Carol Armstrong of Yoakum and a son Leonard who lives in Hallettsville. She has one brother Bernard Thompson and three sisters: Mary Drake of Johnson City, TN; June Lyness of Winter Haven, FL and Betty Moss of Kissimmee, FL; five grandchildren, and two great-grand children and plus one due in a few months.

During her life Lana was an award-winning artist working in all forms of water media and collage as well as fabric arts including fine art quilts and wall hangings. She is also a poet and writer and was an avid reader. For six years she and her husband owned and operated the Thompson ? Mole Gallery in La Grange. The gallery was closed due to her illness. Tommy Taylor is handling her final arrangements; there will be no funeral service or wake.

A pink glow at the edge
of the horizon
heralds the arrival of the sun.
The earth is quiet,
in hushed anticipation.
The wind holds her breath.
Beams of light explode over
the rim of the earth,
rising to the heavens
like the arms of angles singing
Allelujah! . . .
Allelujah! . . .
Lana Thompson

Be A Rose
A rose is a rose is a rose,
an unfolding of petals
much like the unfolding of life.
The scent growing
stronger?robust with life.
Even after death the scent of life
lingers, holding memories of its once
glorious life.
Be a rose
Caress the delicate
velvety petals as
you would a lover.
Kissed by the sun
moistened with dew drops.
Note: during this time Lana was confined to bed at the Seton Medical Center in Austin. She had had chemotherapy in late May and now had the dreaded “neuprogenic” fever. Her white blood cell count was 0.00. She nearly died on June 2nd from dehydration and again on June 11th before the correct medication was administered.

Journey Home
Humans: on a journey home.
It begins somewhere beyond the stars.
Fill your cup with the juice of life
for the return trip home.
The Gods are very thirsty.

Lana had a long and difficult struggle with the medical system. Lana and Joe were denied some coverage and treatment at times. Joe could always use more help financially. If you can help, please enclose a note saying "Please deposit to the Lana Thompson Medical Fund" and mail checks to:

National Bank & Trust
P. O. Box 310
La Grange, TX 78945