Now for something completely different. About two years ago on one of my endless back road wanders, I stopped at a house that I passed in Heckscherville, Pennsylvania. I stopped at this particular house, because the house was covered with what I might call, “folk art.” Decorated plastic bottles, and plastic objects were festooned everywhere and on everything; there were touches of pure whimsy all around. There were children’s toys painted bright colors, and bountiful arrangements of artificial flowers and rocking horses fastened on poles, and on and on it went. An endless barrage of color, and form, and pure imaginative fantasy. The things that really caught my attention though, were masks; faces painted brightly and attached to the inventive faces, were all kinds of knobs and do-dads, bells and whistles. The faces were made out of concrete and painted with objects pressed into the concrete. The faces were pure inventive playful fantasy. A man saw me looking at the scene laid out before me and came over and invited me in to have a better look around. That man was named Mr. Daniel Leroy Shaffer, who told me he was a retired mason and he made all these things for his own amusement, and maybe for other people to enjoy he hoped. He told me that sometimes people stopped to look just as I had. I ended up spending a wonderful afternoon with Mr. Shaffer and left with two of his masks, which he gave me as a gift. We spent the afternoon talking about everything under the sun, but talked the most about art. When he found out I was an artist too, and a retired art professor he just beamed and was surprised that I would be interested in his untrained art. I was intrigued, fascinated endlessly surprised and mostly just plain delighted. I returned a few more times, and each time was greeted by my new friend Daniel. Well as life does sometimes, time just passes by quickly, and even with the best intentions I hadn’t stopped by to see him in quite a long while, so one day when a photographer friend and I were near Daniels house, I though I’d stop by to introduce him to my days traveling partner. We knocked on Daniels door, and a man I didn’t recognize answered. It turned out to be Daniels son. We asked him for Daniel, and he slowly told us that Daniel had passed away a few months earlier. He had a massive heart attack and had died instantly. I was shocked and saddened. I will miss him and his uniquely creative art. I’ve been back a few times after that shocking visit, and his wonderful wife and son let me purchase quite a few of his faces. They are truly wonderful and I love them dearly. In the spirit of the way that Daniel had them displayed, I nailed them up and down a tree at the end of my driveway, so whenever I come home, or my family arrives home, we are greeted by the “happy tree.” Thanks for adding so much joy to our lives Daniel.
The panel on the left of this post is a photo of the doorway between Daniels house and his yard. The photos shows a metal box written on in black marker, with a letter, “From the desk of TOTO” “Dear Dorothy took the Ruby Slippers, find your own way home. TOTO”
The panel on the right is a photo of the “Happy Tree” at the end of my driveway.
I guess we all find our own way home?