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Apr 4, 2012

An Astonishing Story!

I have to admit that in the age of internet scams it was with some skepticism that I read an email from a stranger who said he was in the military and now he served as “a policeman for my country”. He said he was a great fan of art– mine in particular– since one of my bronzes (he didn't know the name) has been one of his favorite objects since he got it when he was 11.

Well my skepticism turned to amazement when he described the distinctive pose which I recognized right away! I wrote back: "Dear Mr. Rodriguez, thanks for your interest in my work. The sculpture you refer to is called “Awakening” and it's one of 30 bronze castings that were made of it in the early 80's, and sold for about $500. The good news for you is that now it's worth maybe 10 times that. PS: I've sold a lot of art, but never to an 11-year-old kid. I'm curious how you obtained the sculpture in the first place."

He wrote back with a very strange story. His best friend's family had bought a house, in which was left the sculpture and he loved it so much they'd given it to him. It was so important to him, he said, that during his Navy stint he took his bronze sculpture all over the world with him on an aircraft carrier (oh, he's American?) He said thanks for telling him the value but he doesn't intend to sell it! Now I was really intrigued, especially with the image of this Navy recruit standing on the dock, ready to ship out with his duffel bag in one hand and his bronze sculpture in the other.

Well that reminded me of another strange story I'd heard some 15 years before...
I met a woman who told me she'd bought a casting of that same sculpture, which she dearly loved. Some years later a friend was helping her move to a new house. Well at one point she directed the friend to a pile of stuff to haul out to the truck and next to it a pile to go to the dump. It wasn't til in her new house she eagerly unpacked what turned out to be a box of trash that she realized that the sculpture had mistakenly gone to the dump! She was crestfallen but there was no way to recover the art! For years after I had visions of some archeologist thousands of years in the future picking through a pile of 20th century trash in a nation once called America and discovering– still in pretty good shape– my bronze!

Elias Rodriguez with "Awakening"
Well the next day I heard from Elias again who said he'd contacted the childhood friend from his hometown and combining their memories they pieced together the story as follows: When they were kids they were visiting the friend's grandma's restaurant in a small town of Rising Sun, Maryland and were horsing around in the alley when they found this sculpture in the dumpster! What he didn't know was that the woman who had moved had lived in that same town! I was very eager to write back: “Dear Elias, Are you sitting down? Because you are not going to believe the rest of this incredible story of which you are the major part!... “

I often get paid for my work. But my real compensation comes from when my work touches someone deeply, as in this case. And now not only that but I'll forever after have this incredible story that I can share with others! ... Meaning, in the end I've been paid three times for the same sculpture!
Consider this: what are the chances that: 1) a valuable artwork would be thrown out, 2) but then recovered, 3) by some child who not only recognized its value but, 4) didn't just turn around and sell it? What are the chances that in this wide world that he would, 5) love it so much that these many years later he would, 6) locate and write to me, allowing me to then 7) piece this amazing story together?!? The answer: none! Coincidence is God's way of staying anonymous!

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Tim Holmes Studio

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I'm a sculptor/filmmaker living in Montana, USA. I am using art to move the evolution of humanity forward into an increasingly responsive, inclusive and interactive culture. As globalization flattens peoples into a capitalist monoculture I hope to use my art to celebrate historical cultural differences and imagine how we can co-create a rich future together.

I see myself as an artist/philosopher laboring deep in the mines of joy. I've had a good long career of exhibiting work around the world and working on international outreach projects, most notably being the first American to be invited to present a one-person exhibit in the Hermitage Museum. Recently I have turned my attention from simply making metal sculpture to creating films and workshops for engaging communities directly, tinkering with the very ideas and mechanisms behind cultural transformation. I feel that as we face tragic world crises, if the human species favors our imaginative and creative capacities we can cultivate a rich world to enjoy.

For me the deepest satisfaction in making art comes in engaging people's real life concerns rather than providing simple entertainment or decoration. Areas of conflict or tension are particularly ripe for the kind of transformative power that art uniquely carries. I invite any kind of challenge that serves people on a deep level.