Now and then, not often, but occasionally, my favorite cowboy would stop by the house on his quarter horse. He asked my mother if I could ride with him into the hills to find a horse that he had left out to graze in some high meadow.
P.D. Hogan was a Black Hills cowboy and that’s probably just a shade different than being a cowboy on the prairie. He had to know where he was, how to find his way out of deep canyons, ridges, thick forests, and still find the horse. I would have gone with him without my mom’s permission and she probably wanted me out of the way for the day anyway.
The smell of saddle leather was intoxicating, and everything seemed to be made of it, including his vest, the saddle, bridle and saddlebags that I was sitting on, while gripping his leather belt that was buckled to leather chaps. The rifle scabbard was leather but the 30-30 Winchester in it was steel and so were his hunting knife and spurs. I wore overalls, t-shirt, a wool jacket and high-top, work shoes.
Seems like a lot to take on a sunny day’s ride into the hills but you couldn’t count on everything going well. It has snowed there in July. The leather was mostly old and had been passed down in the family a couple of times. The color of an old, well-oiled saddle and bridle varied with age and use, and the beat-up chaps were covered with rich textures of scratches and scrapes. His calfskin vest was stained with sweat mixed with a little blood left over from a rodeo. He was a big man in his early twenties and I was just twelve. You’d be wrong if you think that I forgot anything.
Cowhide, buckskin, calfskin and buffalo hide are each distinctive, and I try to get the differences in their color, texture, and age in my images. I can only symbolize these things, and I’m not into realism, only the shapes, color and textural effects. I soak, crush and add paints to the wet paper and then flatten and dry it out, and may do that over several times. I never work with wet paper, only dry, and I use paper, and only white paper, in the sculptures. No colored paper or physical objects are ever used. If I can’t cut, color and assemble something, it’s not in the finished art.
I use the results in backgrounds, bundles, shirts and anywhere that the color and texture enhances the composition. I make piles of this “leather” and choose from the many variations as I work.
P.D. was walking the horse up the middle of a crick because the sides of the canyon were so steep, when suddenly he and the horse leaped up the bank, but I didn’t. I fell back assoverteaketling into the stream. I got up and all P.D. said was, “I told you to hang on.”
Building a paper rendition of a saddle is like trying to put one over on P.D. Hogan. I can’t make something that doesn’t become me at some point. It’s not a saddle, it’s just some manipulated paper, so give me a break, P.D… I’m going to make more of these, because it was hard but interesting.
P.D. Hogan got old, like I did, and passed away a few years ago. He lived next door to my mother in Custer, SD, was a family friend, and he’s still my favorite cowboy to this day.
Steel, cast iron, copper and tin seemed to be everywhere when I was a boy. A lot of it was used in mining, but mostly I remember metal rusting and corroding, left behind by early miners and prospectors. Hand pushed ore cars with the bottoms rusted out, sitting on rust-red rails that disappeared into collapsed tunnels, with steel and cast-iron fragments scattered all over. Abandoned farm equipment and old cars half buried in dirt, like a rust graveyard, all ready to be dug out of my memory.
Recently, I attended a memorial service for my younger brother, Carty Monahan, in the Black Hills. He was an avid photographer and I took two of his photos, of an old tractor and an abandoned pickup, and made this rough, paper sculpture composition.
Good night, sweet prince.
When I want a rust color or corroded copper green, I use metals in solution and then spray them with reactive agents. I get real rust, corroded copper and bronze, and the appearance of age and use incorporated in my work. My art is the nostalgia of a Huck Finn like childhood that was difficult in many ways, but I miss those patched overalls, raggedy-ass days.
Thanks for visiting me…
I’m never content with what I know, only with what I can find out.
‘Spur Color Wheel’ is at the Cut, Bend, Fold, ColorColorColor exhibit at the Grovewood Gallery. $750.
‘Saddle I’ is also at the Cut, Bend, Fold, ColorColorColor exhibit at the Grovewood Gallery. $1400. Sold on 9/24/16.
‘Rust’ sold to a private collector.
The Grovewood Gallery represents me in Asheville, NC.