Recently I was interviewed by Homer News concerning the Asaiah
sculpture debate. As one of a small group of friends who cared for Asaiah’s body, interred him and was privy to his last wishes, I thought it was important to repeat what I was told by him at the end of his life and was not just my opinion on the subject.
That said, it is quite possible that Asaiah had
different opinions on the subject of his memorialization at different times which is obvious by his posing for Leo Vait and even making sure his pigtail was included in some future work.
As with most of us, Asaiah was a man of contradictions and could have different ideas at different times.
Having said this I would like to address here another subject which I have not heard discussed, and that being appropriateness of any statue of a person in Homer.
When I was asked to do a memorial of some kind for Jean Keene I agreed that as long as it wasn’t a statue of Jean I was willing to consider it. I ended up making a usable bench with the eagles Jean loved carved on the back.
It seems like statue-making is an idea that has run its course for most of us in these times. In ancient Greece and Rome there were statues of people and gods on every block. In America at the turn of the century, every small town had a statue of a general or a founding father in the town square. But that tradition has died out and possibly for good reasons.
A statue implies extra special status far and above the ordinary. A person so rare and inspirational that their memory should be preserved for years or even thousands of years as bronze implies. Who deserves that status is problematic. I can think of half a dozen local people at least as deserving of the honor as Asaiah, people like Steve Wolfe, Sam Pratt, the Hoedels, Paul Banks, Don Rhonda, maybe Hazel Heath. And I’m sure everyone could add a few more people to that list.
Why don’t we see a bronze statue of Paul Banks out in the parking lot? Is the only reason we have not put up these statues lack of funds? Or has this statue become appropriate simply because funds have suddenly appeared? Is the fact that someone’s best friend is willing to put up the money sufficient reason for a permanent installation on city property? For all times?
Society in general has decided to honor special
people either symbolically such as the statue in the Mariner Memorial on the Spit which represents all fishermen and no one in particular, or by naming places after them as
we have done with Paul Banks Elementary, Karen Hornaday Park, Alice De Witt Gymnasium, Poopdeck Platt Trail.
If we have a strong desire to memorialize Asaiah as a special person, it seems the appropriate thing would be to rename the park. Another possibility is making a symbolic artistic representation of the ideals Asaiah espoused, if we can ever agree what that was, or I’m sure a gift of any amount of money from Mr. Nazarian to a local charity would bring a blissful smile to brother Asaiah’s face wherever he may be.
Finally, on the subject of specialness, I think Asaiah’s sentiments of “walk away from my grave and don’t look back” had less to do with humility than a belief in the transitory experience of the individual life and the universal presence of the divine in all not just a special few. Statues don’t really hit that note for me personally.
Brad Hughes has worked as an artist in Homer for 40 years.