“Hermit Crab” Contemporary Mosaic Art
This is an early mosaic made while I was still working as an engineer. I guess it is an important piece for me because within a few months of making it, I would quite a secure job and start an art supply business as a means of pursuing my art.
Underwater scenes were popular themes in ancient Greek mosaic. Usually they were multi-figured with all sorts of fish, dolphin, squid and even sponge divers. Growing up in the Delta, I spent about half my time in the library and the other half fishing on the banks of nearby bar pits and bayous. I would come across all sorts of crawfish, grass shrimp, sirens, salamanders, etc. I remember the first time I read about marine biologists, and I was amazed that people actually earned a living doing that kind of work.
Of course there weren’t any marine biologists at the pipeline company where daddy worked as a welder. However, there were engineers. These engineers at the pipeline company were men only one generation off the farm, men that had managed to squeak by an engineering degree at Mississippi State and forever changed their lives for the better, at least in my fathers eyes. I think I was six or maybe even younger when he first told me that I should go to State, if I could get in, and get an engineering degree. He would repeat this almost daily, including the part about if I could get in. He would even be saying that part after I took National Merit Honors and a subsequent scholarship.
My father has never spoken about his life, and he isn’t a story teller, but I have some idea of how little opportunity he must have had growing up in the Delta. I understand that now, but I didn’t as a boy growing up. Growing up, it was always impossible to talk about future plans with him. His lack of vision was outrageous to me, ridiculous.
I would have not one but two engineering degrees, including one from Mississippi State, before I stopped living my father’s dream and started living mine. Having said that, I have to admit a few things about the path my father chose for me. I remember coming home one particular night on the Hyde Street cable car to my three-bedroom apartment at the top of Nob Hill in San Francisco. The apartment was paid for by the home office in Paris, as were all my expenses there that year, which is saying quite a lot because this was AFTER the dot-com collapse. Even though the rent for my apartment was astronomical, it was still cheaper than the corporate apartment in Paris, so I was under the expense radar. My boss was in Paris anyway, in a completely different time zone, so I wasn’t closely monitored. I was relatively free-range, set my own hours, etc.
That night I remember taking a bottle of wine to the roof and looking out at the Golden Gate Bridge and down at Alcatraz in the San Francisco Bay. There was a wall of fog coming in from the Pacific, but the sky overhead was crisp and clear, and the moon was bright. The sound of Mile’s Davis “Kind of Blue” was coming up from one of the apartments below. I remember looking out at the moonlight on the Bay and thinking, “I guess Daddy wasn’t too stupid after all.”