Odd Thoughts: Art lesson hammered home

Close your eyes for a moment and think of an artist at work.

What do you see?

Chances are you pictured Da Vinci capturing Mona Lisa, or Rembraandt sketching the start of his Night Watch.

Perhaps your tastes run more to Picasso or Dali.

Or your mind’s eye may have focused on your youngster’s Grade 2 project stuck to the fridge door for the past seven years.

If you’re a bit out of the ordinary, you may have zeroed in on Michelangelo releasing the contents of a block of marble.

Did you envision Beethoven banging away at his harpsichord with one hand, quill pen in the other?

If you didn’t automatically identify with a favourite novel, at least you probably don’t have any difficulty recognizing that writing can be art, given the right pen – or typewriter – guided by the right hand.

I’ll bet your first thought wasn’t a guy in a ball cap and suspenders sitting on a backhoe.

It’s not what comes to your mind’s eye, I’ll warrant. But in real life…

The way some of those guys make those machines move is nothing, if not art.

There are some renovations going on next door, and I found myself mesmerized by a fellow pounding away on a thick slab of concrete with a jackhammer attached to the front of his tractor.

Just inches from the front door of the house, the giant steel chisel etched and crumbled the slab as cleanly as Michelangelo discovering a lock of David’s hair.

It brought to mind yet another artist, who dug a new water well for us last year.

Working in tight quarters, he lifted sand and gravel out of an ever-deepening hole, sometimes coming within a hair’s breadth of obstructions, working quickly to maintain the opening while nimblyplacing tons of concrete sleeves 15 feet below the wheels of his tractor.

I recall our first backhoe on the farm.

It was a rickety piece of second hand (probably third or fourth hand) equipment.

One of my brothers, still in his teens, got on the tractor, wiggled the levers about for a couple of minutes… and operated that machine like it was a natural extension of his own arms.

That’s art, too.

The result might not be suitable for hanging in the Louvre, but watching it happen is more fun than a grizzled nerd tap-tapping on his keyboard.


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