Friday, October 19, 2012

Ghosts, Bottlecaps, and Australians

I feel like a kid in a candy store! October is totally making up for the pounding September put on me. I have been super busy at work and super content at home, so much so that it leaves very little time to catch you guys up on what is actually going on in my little world.

For one, we have a phenomenal exhibit opening tonight - "The World of Mr. Imagination." Tonight, the Tubman Museum will celebrate the opening of a very special exhibition. Entitled The World of Mr. Imagination, 1948 – 2012, the exhibit features thirty works by the renowned visionary artist known to the world as Mr. Imagination.

Mr. Imagination was born Gregory Warmack in Chicago, Illinois. As a child Warmack
 rendered religious paintings and signs on pieces of cardboard and rocks.  While in his teens and early twenties he carved wood and stone, and made jewelry from cast off objects, which he sold on the streets.  In 1978 he was mugged, shot and left to die.  During his recovery he had an out of body experience.  In it he saw himself as an inheritor of a lineage of kings and artisans that stretched back to ancient Egypt.  This vision inspired him to dedicate himself to a new regenerative art for the people.  In the late 1970’s he began working on sandstone relief sculptures of the African and Egyptian imagery he had seen during his astral travels.  Around 1980 he took on the name Mr. Imagination.  A self-taught artist, Mr. Imagination was known for his prolific output.  He transformed discarded materials into arresting works of art that could at some times be childlike and playful, and at others serious and ritualistic.  He was perhaps best known for incorporating hammered bottle caps into his works.

Beginning in the 1980’s Mr. Imagination showed his work extensively in the Chicago area, but also participated in group and one-person exhibitions across the U.S., in Europe and West Africa. In 2002, after the death of his brother, Mr. Imagination moved from Chicago to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. He turned his dwelling there into a studio and community arts center. A house fire in 2008 destroyed the majority of his art, and took the lives of his beloved pets. After this tragedy, Mr. Imagination moved once again, this time to Atlanta, Georgia seeking a fresh start.

In 2009 Mr. Imagination settled in Atlanta, in the Riverside neighborhood near Vinings. Once again he turned his home into his studio, and set about making new work, incorporating the salvaged remains of his burned works into new sculptures. In 2011 he had his first solo show in Atlanta at the Barbara Archer Gallery. The following year, shortly after committing to show works at the Tubman, Mr. Imagination suddenly fell ill and died. With the support of his surviving family, the works for this exhibition were chosen posthumously from the artist’s Riverside home.

The opening reception for this exhibition will be at the Tubman Museum, from 6:00 P.M. to 7:30 P.M. The World of Mr. Imagination will remain on exhibit at the Tubman through January 5, 2013. Admission to this event is Free for Museum Members, $8.00 for the General Public. Contact the Museum (478-743-8544, for more information about this and other programs.

Last night I hung out in a cemetery. Seriously! Check that off my Fall/Halloweenish to-do list. The good news is, it was all for a good cause. I am volunteering for "Spirits in October," it is a wonderful fundraiser for Historic Riverside Cemetery. The cemetery is celebrating 125 years and by doing so recognizing Macon's "Incredible Firsts” such as the first person interred in Riverside Cemetery, Tallulah Belle Woodall, raised at the Methodist Orphanage, who died of consumption at the age of 28 and Clemiel Barto "Pop" Walden, father of R&B barrier breakers and Southern music entrepreneurs Alan and Phil Walden.

Back this year, the tour's final stop will be a visit inside the beautiful and spacious Macon Public Mausoleum, where light refreshments are served among exhibits about featured spirits and local history. I'm working the gift shop - check out my "haunt," if you will:

Finally, I am so EXCITED that my foreign exchange student from Melbourne, Australia (Matt Cook,) is coming to visit. Matt lived with me in 2005 as a high school senior. He lived 1/2 of his year in Macon and spent the other 1/2 in Birmingham. So yes, he experienced the big MOVE. I have not seen him since 2005. He has been hiking the A.T. for the past couple of months and needed a reprieve. He will literally arrive any hour now (by bus!)

I don't want to forget to mention, a dear friend of mine from Birmingham is coming to visit. Christie found out about a church pianist/organist conference being held in Macon (which she is one!) and thought, "Let me kill two birds with one stone!" I can't wait to see her!

Hope you guys plan to have a great weekend. I have a long night ahead of me, then a 7:30am commitment to meet with my fellow Rotarians to clean up the highway. Good times, for certain!

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