D. F. Brown
Courtesy Menil Archives, The Menil Collection, Houston
Photo by Marcia Carter
I give to this one something given to me
and changes itself again
you almost see
the paw prints human
claws becoming fingers
tools the Wind Gods left here when they flew
Born in Amarillo in 1927, sculptor Jim Love found far enough in Houston. He lived there in harmony until his passing last May living, as fellow artist Randy Twaddle noted, well within the limits of the Hippocratic notion of first, do no harm. He enjoyed the enduring love and admiration of friends in Houston and beyond. A respected elder and founding member of Texas thriving contemporary art community, Loves influence extends through two generations of artists. He is sorely missed and will be fondly remembered.
After serving in the Army in occupied Japan, Love was educated at Baylor University in business, which now seems odd. He sidled into art via set design, romance and friends. His legendary relationships with Roy Fridge, David McManaway, Jermayne MacAgy, John and Dominique de Menil and Donald Barthelme created the critical mass of ideas and energy that brought contemporary art to life in Texas. (The Unholy Trio of Love, Fridge and McManaway was recently reunited in a lovely exhibition, the last curated by the late, eminent Walter Hopps for the Menil Collection. David McManaway and Friends: Jim Love and Roy Fridge closed September 18, 2005.)
Everything Love was, he worked with his hands. In the 50s, he pulled grace from the bent and rusted detritus of mechanical America. Then, after periods casting bronze and working with plaster, he fell in love with new steel, mastering the cutting torch to leave us a comic bestiary of insight into the human predicament. Embodying a kind of playground-variety existentialism, Loves work recalls the times spent peering into the worlds mysterious heart, in learning how things change without announcement. Known for meticulous craftsmanship, he rubbed steel to render us alone, perplexed and wondering about the worlds good sense. And, like Mark Twain, he knew humor is crucialkey to opening up peoples thinking.
Everything he was, he held in his heart. He cared deeply about his work, his friends and Democratic politics. He loved reading James Joyce and Samuel Beckett, Dylan Thomas and Don Marquisand James Thurber. He loved Puccini and the Astros. He loved notes and lists. He loved working in his studio, with compost that recreated the salvage-yard scenes of his early successes. He loved the well-wrought thing, and it didnt matter how long anything took as long as it was done right! He loved reaching into steel to put that torch to our hearts and cut out a toy land of puns and puzzles.
Jim Love left us a dream. He trusted, shared and rescaled our hearts and notions of heroic romanticism. He left behind the thriving art community that he helped to root in Texas. He left thirty years of sobriety and a five-ton crane. He left a lot of dear friends and lovers. He left the children in us, fixed in a portable Trojan bear at Hermann Park and a blue pumpjack airplane at Hobby Airport. He left us the idea that there should be mirth, but he never left us smirking.
The writer is grateful to Lisa Barkley, Ron Gleason, Paul Kittleson, Betty Moody, Randy Twaddle and Paula Webb for their recollections and access to Loves work and memorabilia and to Robert Dyer for his kind permission to quote from Oracle of the Turtle, (Singing Wind Press, St. Louis, 1979).