Below is an excerpt from a continuing story about my recent road trip. It is a tribute to a friend.
My plan to head further south the next morning was altered by a phone call from John Farrer, the artist. I generally try to see him for at least a little while when I am in the area. He has requested repeatedly that everybody from the farm stop in to see his studio, and coincidentally this turned out to be the day. My sisters and brother and I took a drive to Huntsville to see Johns studio.
John R. Farrer and I lived near each other during high school and often rode motorcycles together. His dad owned a machine shop that I went to whenever I needed a part altered or fabricated. We went to different high schools but we did manage to find some of the same trouble. He spent some time at Auburn University studying architecture, and spent some time in the southwest US. I am not sure if he was studying Indians or chasing women or hiding out. He spent a little time in Alaska selling vacuum cleaners, and he spent some time in my dad’s wood shop. My dad showed him a few tricks about making square boxes, as in SQUARE boxes, and some brain teaser type wooden puzzles. My mother created a mosaic turtle out of wood chips from my dad’s shop that, on at least one occasion, John viewed as supernatural. Hey, it was the sixties.
John was an avid arrowhead hunter and has a beautiful collection from areas near the Tennessee river in Decatur Al. He picked up an old stump and carved a coffee table out of it with a chain saw, then mounted his collection on it under glass. He worked with his dad in the machine shop for many years but always had an artistic project in the works. Eventually his artwork became his livelihood and his accomplishments are unique. There is a story that goes with or about each piece, sometimes in verse, sometimes by title only. The words combined and spoken by this north Alabama redneck liberal polish his masterpieces with a glaze as thick as molasses. Thought provoking, colloquial, simple, complex, and astonishing, disguised by a slightly twisted sense of humor, and an accent you could not cut with a blow torch.
During our short visit, John showed us the mock-up of his latest masterpiece the Whiskey Wall, and several of the pieces of the nearly completed work. He displayed and discussed several pieces in his studio, unfortunately I do not have the correct names, but there is Wind Walker, and some version of a Time Machine, incredible candelabras, several paintings, sculpted stone vases, block prints, and Geronimo’s Unicycle, to give you an idea. It was a great, exclusive one man showing, presented to an invitation only audience. This special showing took place on Tuesday November 13, 2012. John Died December 1, 2012. Peace my friend, hoping to see you at the Whiskey Wall, riding Geronimo’s Unicycle.
John’s graveside service is today 12/4/2012, in Madison Alabama, at 2:00 PM