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Apr 23, 2018

My Forrest Gumpy Life: Mom of the Ages

My mom was an amazing woman! Polly Holmes did some incredible things in life, from training fighter pilots instrument flying while she was still a teen, to boldly and bravely renovating the Montana prison system in the 1970's as a Montana legislator, to introducing some of the first smoking-awareness legislation in the US. Though she technically died twice after a horrible car accident in the 60's, which troubled her the rest of her life, and suffered with a congenital heart condition, she was constantly devoted through her life to empowering "unpowered people". As a result, I have not only two siblings, but a whole raft of appreciative people who've claimed my parents as their own after being saved by them in one way or another.

Our family lived in poverty while my dad got his doctorate. One day my mom went to the neighbors to sell them a 1¢ stamp so one of us kids would have enough money for milk at school! (I try never to pass up a penny on the street any more, in honor of the untold sacrifices Mom made.) Nevertheless, I recall a blissfully happy childhood of family camping and car trips to places like Alaska (yes, driving!) We got to experience not only adventure, but witness the everyday battles and thrills of living for the greater purpose that were my parent's lives!

I was astonished later in life to hear the story of her engagement to my dad. When he popped the question she said "Yes, under one condition: that you never make me speak in public!" She of course overcame that fear, but never lost it. At 80 when she was going in for heart surgery my sister asked her if she was scared. "Oh goodness no," she replied, "This isn't half as scary as speaking in public!"

Though she could calmly take on the toughest, meanest politicians, Mom was universally beloved as a person. What qualities I cherish most from her are her inability to hate anyone and her boundless optimism. After seeing how cool and effective she was as a Montana legislator (referred to as "the conscience of the House"), even the meanest politicians carved her a wide birth.

But since this collection is about me, enough about Mom! Let me tell you about my first act of heroism. Somehow by the time my folks were having kids, my dad'd recognized Mom's talents and had talked Mom into finally preaching for him on Mother's Day in 1955. My great rescue came early that morning when I was born, saving her from her moment in the pulpit!

One of the most moving moments at Mom's funeral was when her dear friend and ex-Speaker of the House Hal Harper simply read the titles of some of the legislation she introduced during 10 years as a pioneering woman in the legislature. The breadth of her compassion brought me to tears. Even to her last day she still wrote intelligent hard-hitting editorials for local newspapers. And she never quit working tirelessly to make the world a kinder and gentler place.

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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.