In the Beginning

I come from farming stock in rural Oregon. My family home was near (two miles west of) the little community of Lacomb: an elementary school, grocery store, gas station, and Baptist church. It did have a post office for a while. My paternal grandfather owned the farm, 10 miles away, on the north bank of the South Santiam River. The nearest town of any size was Lebanon, as I remember, about 5,000 inhabitants. All of this was nestled in the west foothills of the Cascade Mountains, midway down the Willamette Valley. Lebanon was an eight mile drive, or Albany about 20 miles if we really needed something important that Lebanon didn’t have.

All of this has meaning considering that what we knew was farming and forests, tractors, crops, livestock, wood, and guns, but not art. I spent as much time as a young teenager helping my grandfather process his hay and grain, and tend his cattle, hogs, and sheep as I did at home helping my father. My grandfather’s farm was 400 acres more or less: about 75 acres of rich bottom land along the river front; the rest was hillside pasture and forest. When I wasn’t busy toting irrigation pipe, bucking hay bales, or cultivating the corn fields, I spent my time in the forest, and that meant hunting – me and my .22 single shot rifle. The rifle was a tool that I carried, like a pocket knife. I was encouraged to shoot the prolific ground squirrels that burrowed through my grandfather’s fields, as they were considered vermin, like rats. Anything that I brought back from the forest was a bit of a trophy of sorts. If it was deer or quail (in season) we had special delectables for dinner. If it was the squirrel tails, we knew that there was that many less little mouths eating our grain. There was little thought given to the value of the lives of the creatures that I pursued. They were mostly there for our use. Mostly the hunting meant long, wonderful, peaceful walks in the forest.

My father was a stern taskmaster, given to fits of rage. He was born in 1918, at the end of the First World War. He was a product of the Great Depression, during which time the family mortgaged the farm for subsistence funds and paid it off logging the forest the way they knew best, with oxen and hand tools. Even though his extemporaneous temper made things quite difficult for me as a child, I am ever so appreciative of what he taught me about the use of hand tools, antique hand tools, the scythe that he is mowing with in the photo below, crosscut and drag saws, axes, picaroons and peavies, wedges, and splitting mauls. For me, he served as a bridge between the 19th and 20th centuries. A very 19th century fellow, my father. I can imagine my great-great grandfather Andrew Jackson Rose crossing the great plains with the wagon migrations of the 1850’s as hard bitten and tough as nails as my father. Clarence Truman mellowed with age. When I became an adult, and he retired from 35 years of labor at Western Veneer and Plywood, we got on quite well. He even gained a nice respect for my artwork.

Clarence Truman Rose, 1953 and his new house

What does this have to do with art? Not too much really, and that’s the point. My family admired my skills, but didn’t put any stock in their importance or value. They had no basis for evaluation. I had no grandparent, or famous uncle to take me under their wing and provide guidance and encouragement. If I was going to be an artist, I had to figure it out myself, which I did. But as I said at the beginning, it has taken me most of my life. I have a hunch that it takes most people most of their lives to figure out what they are doing. Regardless, it has taken me that long, and I am ever grateful for what I’ve learned. What I do is a genuine expression of me and not a reflection of some famous art teacher, or the current movement, whatever that might be. I learned long ago that there was no benefit in being disingenuous. Trying to be someone else was not nearly as effective as being myself.

That’s not to say that my life experiences, my family and studies have not influenced who I am and what I do. Of course they have. But the choices, long deliberate choices, have been genuinely mine, and the expression thereof is uniquely Albert.

I welcome all comments on my comments or anything else on this site, as long as it isn’t slanderous or libelous. I want to share your wisdom and goodness. Anything destructive or counterproductive is not at all helpful, and won’t be accepted.

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