What we leave behind is a conversation my musician brother, Steve Toub, and I have been having for a while now. As artists, we leave behind visible remnants of our endeavors. For him, recordings that he is proud of and others he wished he worked hard on. For me shelves and walls of experiments that didn't work alongside successes in my studio and the homes and offices of my collectors.
The question naturally leads to pondering what we, collectively as humans, have been leaving things behind for millennia.
Years ago I was visiting with my cousin in the Scottish Highlands and when I asked where to take a walk, her young son piped up nonchalantly, "Up to the Pictish ruins." This ruin sits unprotected from people and nature up on a hill near a loch. As I sat inside what must have been an interior space, now left open to the air, I wondered who these Picts were? Who lived in this home? Raised their families? Buried their loved ones? What we know of them has been revealed by lore, their ruins, and their art inscribed in stone and metal. My cousin's boy was happy to share that the ruins below the Pictish ones were from a later group and that the Pictish home supplied the stones for this "newer" one. His nonchalance about these historical wonders was born of time spent in and around these remarkable ruins. In fact, I'm sure he and generations of Scots have played on the ruins the same way I scrambled over the Pre-revolutionary War rock walls that wind their way through the woods near my childhood home in New York. Isn't that wonderful? What they left behind still has a purpose. The joy of children.
So what do I want to leave behind? A lasting treasure? A fleeting expression? Or maybe something that will just join the conversation? Do I need to be "known"?
As I work in my studio today, I keep this photo I took of a memorial angel in my mind. On my travels, I have visited many cemeteries from Pere Lachaise in France, where the art of cemetery sculpture is at its apex, to Bonaventure in Savannah, where Silvia Shaw Judson's "Bird Girl" once resided. I am always on the hunt with my camera for memorial sculptures like the one pictured. They embody my fascination with what we leave behind in a very tangible and poignant way. Who was the artist that created this serene and devout face? What we leave behind in these spaces are mostly anonymous sculptures for hire to commemorate the loved one of strangers. However, these memorials have the power to move us and to make us still, and they outlast us all. Ironically, in Silvia Shaw Judson's case, the intersection of writing and art in the publishing of "Bird Girl" on the cover of the book "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" brought her out of the shadows and into the light internationally. The statue became so famous that it was moved from Bonaventure to the Savannah Museum of art where it now lives under the watchful and protective eye of a security guard. I would have preferred to have seen her as she was initially meant to be, standing vigil over a child's grave surrounded by Spanish Moss.
For more information:
To hear what guitarist and recording artist Steve Toub and his partner, Rana Farhan are leaving behind go to: https://ranafarhanmusic.com/
Bonaventure Cemetery: http://www.bonaventurehistorical.org/
Pere LaChaise: https://en.parisinfo.com/paris-museum-monument/71470/Cimetiere-du-Pere-Lachaise. Forget Jim Morrison, his bust likeness has long since been stolen, but the Holocaust Memorial Sculptures at Lachaise are the most remarkable memorials I have ever seen.
The Picts: https://www.ancient.eu/picts/
Those stone walls: https://www.nytimes.com/1998/09/27/nyregion/stone-walls-clues-to-a-very-deep-past.html
And Andy Goldsworthy's modern homage in Upstate New York: http://stormking.org/artist/andy-goldsworthy/