Photo by Dean Isenberger
THAT WHICH MIGHT HAVE BEEN - ALABAMA 1963 by John Waddell
Cornville, AZ -- Sometimes one does not know where to begin for the story of today may have roots where men began to question many mysteries and discovered Bronze.
Does one goes to Greece and see ancient coins being melted to stand later on as magnificent sculptures?
No, today one goes to Cornville, Arizona and meet Master John Henry Waddell and discover Bronze.
Who is John Waddell? I know him as a wise man, a teacher, a sage perhaps, but his life’s work makes him a sculptor. His work can be viewed worldwide.
Some of you may have heard of the robbery of art in Cornville, Arizona some of you have read about it or seen the nightly news reporting the incident on television. Why tell you again you might say? I am insulted, enraged because I live in a world with few boundaries, where respect of one’s work is regarded as another man’s cash crop.
Mankind seems to have lost the questions, our values seem to turn on a coin so we rob more coins for our greed demands to be serviced. We lose our sense of ethic if we ever had any, we forget how to be human.
To tell about this robbery I must tell you about John Henry Waddell, his sculptures and his wife and also in this case, I must tell you about myself.
I read about John Henry Waddell in the mid 60s when I was pregnant with my first born, when the United States was experiencing its awakening to the civil rights of men of black skins. When men killed men because they were different, when men bombed churches because those attending were the wrong color. This was the prelude of an article I read in a French newspaper about this American Sculptor. It appears that this man was so outraged he decided to single out four little black girls killed in a church in Alabama.
He was a sculptor, he was not going to march or carry a torch. He could only do what he was born to do, he was going to melt bronze and create “That Which Might Have Been, Birmingham 1963” You actually can take an excursion to the Unitarian Universalist Church on Lincoln Drive in Phoenix and see, touch and experience this installation. You can even walk up and stand tall in the middle with the four women who never were.
There are those of you who cannot get there, a picture of this installation is provided for you.
The many mysteries I question often and still do not understand, brought me to the Sculpture Garden in Cornville many times. One does not have the words to tell of very personal experiences… the stuff memories are made of… the subtle stuff residing deep in the core.
Only memories now remain, for an evening in Cornville became a scene of violation.
My first visit with the Waddells was overwhelming filled with emotions never experience simply because I had never been in a place where humanity was playing with me. Sculptures in repose, some playing their harps, some reading, some playing with the invisible ball I could almost catch. I also remember John taking a dance step or two with some dancing damsels . All bronze and life size sculptures.
The sculpture of Andrea is gone. One magnificent tall young woman ready to greet you as you entered the garden up above the foundry, Andrea is no longer the sentinel on top of the mountain, she has been tossed aside, away to a place unknown.
Photo by Dean Isenberger
by John Waddell
Further down a few more steps, a man with the glory of Abraham arm in the air calling his family. The man of course was another bronze and Generation of his family had just been banished from Eden.
Walking toward this installation, I could almost hear the voices, I could feel the fear of women and children running away from where they would reside no more.
Waddell has a way of capturing the mystery of being, the essence of his subjects. His sculptures have a life of their own. They become you or perhaps you see your own image because of feeling that he captured.
The generational grouping has been stolen, ousted from the garden! It is ironic that the shame of the removal falls to a grouping that reminds us of our demise.
Speaking with Ruth Waddell for John is very busy restructuring his garden, positioning what is left where it will mean the most, I was told “it is our life that was violated, but we are alive, we have learned a great deal these days, we now must have improved security. The coyotes or the mountain lions can no longer do the job. We have been reminded that within us reside great beauty and the beast lurks just at the edge of our awareness.”
The bronze will be recycled. Everything has a season Ruth reminded me. Some of us will remember great art and a life’s journey. Some will know the value of many coins. In terms of dollars the beastly thieves took nearly half a million dollars in art. The FBI, Interpol and the various policing agencies will not allow the passage of the art to the wrong hands. The thieves will provably melt the bronze… over 90% copper; a commodity these days some forget their humanity for. That is the society we have become.
Master John Henry Waddell will continue for he must finish his dancers a series in celebration of life itself.
Both John and Ruth Waddell are those who walk among giants, they are those who can hear the voices telling them that balance is but another mystery they must regain for there is much work to be done and few to do the work. They are both over their mid eighties now they know that they too will be recycled. What memories and lessons this sculptor gives to so many?
Conversation with John and Ruth Waddell remind me always, no matter what, you go on doing what you were born to do. Giving in to my anger or being outraged only robs and dilutes my memories of great works. I am reminded to be grateful for I was touched by those no longer in the garden.
Pictures taken at the Waddell Sculpture Garden, Cornville Arizona USA and also the Unity Unitarian Church, Paradise Valley Arizona.
Article partial and entirety also found in Sedona Biz, April '07, The Sun City Living of April '07, and Renaissance a French literary journal .