It was Memorial day
and we took the road to Jerome - a small town- known as a place for artists
- thats what they say - and an old mine town.
I was in the
mood for art.... Sun was hot that afternoon and it was great that the
first gallery we saw, was just at the edge of Jerome, just before we had
to drive up to the montain. There was an old hospital and an old school-house.
Signs at the entrance told us to visit the art gallery of Margot Mandette
and Mr. Anderson. So we did.
Nice cool rooms filled with pictures of landscapes and pictures of animals.Nice,
neat and colourfull. Nothing in this buildung reminded of a hospital.
We left and crossed the yard to one of the other buildings near by. It
looked like a school-house. Tall, square and seriuous, as most schoolhouses
We entered through a big door and walked into a school corridor. The smell
of school was still in this building. Large doors led to what was once
classrooms and are now - I think - studios for artist. We followed another
sign which said 'Gallery' and we took broad stone-stairs down to the basement,
following into the darker shade of the building. Another large corridor,
longer than the one before.
My eyes were just about getting used to this dimy light, when I heard
a voice from the very end of the corridor, asking us: "I do those junk
sculptures, what are you guys doing?".
And all the sudden someone like a person took shape between sculptures
of old metal and wood. This sculpture in motion has white long hair and
was holding some papers in his dangling arms. Coming closer I looked into
a laughing face of an old man. He was skiny and seemed very tall. While
talking to us his movement was like a slow dance. He showed us the papers
he was holding. Fotos from a magazine - nice girls - he would take it
for a collage, so he said. With an expansive gesture of his arms he introduced
us to his junk sculpture "Musical scales" which was posted in the corridor.
There were some more sculptures standing around, but we were so perplexed
about this charming man, that we first did not realy recognice them. "
Are you interested in this kind of art?" he asked. Sure that was exactly
the kind of art we were looking for. And we hadn't expect to even meet
the creator of it.
He turned around to a huge wooden door, opened it and there was a heaven
of junk collections- standing, sitting, laying or laughing in front of
He was the God of it all and he had assembled sculptures we saw and sculptures
which were still as an idea in his mind. Assorted together how they would
look like in a few months or days. This was not a place were someone just
had thrown old garbade on a floor or collected things like in a messy
thrift shop. This was a well sorted collection of what others threw away
and what he would give life to in an new humorous way. The room was an
old school cinema or auditorium, one could still see some of the old cinema
chairs standig on the floor.
Behind it a sculpture of "Lady Ford" had the overlook of everything around
her feet, and she could even look down to those two rusty figures, playing
their game on the springs of an old sofa. Title of this game? "Oh... who's
on top!", he said.
He, that is Don Bassett,designer of a world of junk-guys . Smiling and
talking about the humour he puts in his sculptures, he explains,that he
has only one sculpture which works with a motor.
He turns around, walks to that game between the two on a sofa, touches
what are supposed to be feet of the upper person and shakes it a little.
Soon the springs of the sofa goes into the rythm of a shaking, which is
so typical for one of the most important thing that makes the world go
round. Don Bassett has his fun while we watch the motion of them two on
this junk sofa.
I asked him about the sculpture of "Lady Ford", wanted to know whether
he knew her "No, I never met her",he answered. "I just knew she was a
very sportive woman", he said. Well that must have been enough to make
such an impressive woman just out of rusty metal.
We walked over to the stage. Walking means, to put one foot before another
and watch our step not to touch any of the future forms laying on the
floor or it means, watch out for broken floorboards. Don Bassett walks,
like he knows every inch of it. Seems he doesn't touch the floor nor does
he touch any of his junk material. He points to parts of a sculpture standing
on the stage. One can only see half of a former complete body, made of
"quaker oats" papercans. Long legs, no body, no head..
He says something like.. "when it will be finished it will look like me....".Well,
Mr. Quaker had as white long hair as Don Basset has. My eyes move around
soaking up everything what is to see in this room.
It will take days to see everything and it needs a memory like a big lake
to remember everything. And although there are so many things in this
room, I feel Don Bassett like one huge sculpture filling the whole room
and everything my view falls on, with his spirit.
He talks about his age... 83 last May....sometimes bad memory because
of some strokes he had lateley. I listen to his words. To me,he seems
young, fullfilled with his ideas. Through his wisdom speaks humor.
He takes us into his private room. I feel like I am visiting someone around
his twenties. Colourfull walls, papers of art all over the place. A photo
of a huge metall sculpture, completly different of what I saw bevore.
I ask him what it is. And all he says is:"That was one of my works I designed
for Spectrum Industries, Grand Rapids,MI; 25 ft high, made of stainless
Another sculpture I made, was shown at the airport of Phoenix,AZ. A collage
he once made out of rusty metal hangs over his bed. Underneath bedsheets
in blue and red. A curtain of painted metal plates of old oil cans hangs
at the wall. So many things to see, so many life is living her. Little
pieces of paper taped at every corner, telling him to take his pills "morning
and evening".. are the only thing reminding of someone old or ill.
I imagine his age all the sudden and I think, he might be right with what
he said."May be I'm not that young anymore and might not be there tomorrow
or next month or next year...." I dont know if I can do all the things
I want to do, sometimes I am very tired..."
I ask him, if I could take a photo of him. "O yes", he says. "I dont like
artists telling other people that they dont want to take pictures of them
or of what they made, because they are afraid of copying."
So, I take my fotos and he knows how to smile and I pic a proud and wise,
happy old man, who is younger in his mind than any of us.
While we go, he offers us to camp on his parking lot behind his house.
He mentions it, like he would ask us to turn of the light when we leave
the house. At night, we decide to go back to his place and ask him again,
whether we realy could stay on his parking place. "Sure", he says. "You
can use my bathroom."
We parked and slept in front of his house, looked into this dark Arizona
sky, thought about him, who was sleeping in that big house beside us.
We saw one of his sculptures in front of the house throwing a shadow on