“Breastplate” Contemporary Mosaic Art
This is a priest’s breastplate that I made in the late 1990’s. The two Indian-head pennies were both minted in the year 1907. I found the penny on the right when I was a boy. I found it on the bank of the Buffalo River in Arkansas after I almost drowned in a spring flash flood. It was on the mud of the bank where I coughed up water and recovered.
I found the penny on the left in 1993 in Athens, Georgia, where my sister Lydia was a graduate student at the University of Georgia. This was just after I had graduated college, and I was visiting my sister and walking around Athens deciding what I should do, given that I had a lot of bills and no job offers. Specifically, I was wondering if I should stay near my sister and pursue graduate studies at UGA, or if I shouldn’t make a bolder move and leave the South and get as far away from Mississippi as possible.
I was walking down Lumpkin just beside the UGA campus and saw a penny in the sand that had washed out between the road and the sidewalk. Strangely I knew it was a 1907 Indian-head penny before I picked it up, from the moment I first saw the green spot in the sand. The penny wasn’t what convinced me to stay near my sister and pursue graduate studies at UGA, but it didn’t hurt. It’s still gives me a weird feeling.
The bottlenecks were found one day helping my grandfather plow a rented field. The field was on the other side of Greenville, near Old Leland Road, so my job was merely to follow the tractor in the truck to the field because the tractor and plow had no brake lights.
While my grandfather plowed, I walked the edge of the field and spotted some scraps of rusty metal and charcoal and crumbly red brick that the plow had turned up. Apparently a shack had been there years ago, but now only the trace artifacts remained. The bottle necks were among them.
Actually, the bottlenecks aren’t the actual bottlenecks from that day. I used similar bottlenecks because I didn’t want to use the ones from that day. My father’s family had spent generations tenant farming for 12 hours a day in the Mississippi Delta, and that leisurely day was the only day I ever participated in it. It was also the last day my grandfather bothered with tenant farming. On the way home, he hit some scrap metal in the road and ruined his tractor tile. I remember him cussing and saying that the tire would cost more than what my uncle would probably make on the field.