My husband Ken Flynn is a metal sculptor and he’s taught me a lot about writing. He always loved metal, and playing with it, working with it. Heavy metal: Racing sports cars, working assembly lines, making his own airplane, flying very big ones as a Naval Aviator. And he was at the same time always a visual artist. When he came home from the unfathomable experience of Viet Nam – he promised himself (that if he ever came home) he’d never put off his love of welding; and the first thing he’d do is buy leathers, torch, and all the fixings. This was 1964. He had this howl in the belly and wanted to turn that over to the powers of invention. Ken had watched his friend, Chuck Klusman, get shot down and captured as the first Naval Aviator POW in Laos. He tried to rescue him (that’s a whole other essay) and was nearly lost in trying. This memory resulted in a (not naturalistic) rendition of Chuck that was juried into an all California art exhibit. Ken was too reticent to submit his first work, so a neighbor artist did this without his knowing. Ken’s works are beautiful organic shapes, smooth to the touch of bronze on steel but pierced with sharp and dangerous piercings within. This we could call memory. His process is now patented and is from carving wood shapes, covering them with molten metal, and burning the original form so nothing is left but metal laced with light and space. Here is where I learned my lessons in discard. Writers would be so much better off they believed the waste basket was not sacrosanct. Ken may spend 9 months on a wood carving and, after the dripping and the welding, he will purposely destroy the wood. I can honestly say I’ve worked 9 months on something no one wanted, but that’s different from starting with the intention of destroying it. Even revision, even plundering our own work is not quite the same. This is because Ken’s wood carving is in itself a work of art. I learn something every day about our arts. I’m lucky because I can carry a pen or laptop wherever we go, anytime, anywhere. His procedure is so complicated, the equipment so heavy, materials so expensive, the convenience is not at all. Also writers can stuff their work into drawers and discs. Ken’s is always visible, once on 5 acres in West Virginia, now crowding a smaller place in Maryland. I know 3 things about sculptors: They like solitude, they hate marketing, and they will do anything to make what they want.
Here is a photograph of Ken, me and beautiful bronze Mary Corita. Photo by Dan Murano.
Here is Ken’s online gallery, courtesy DiDi Mendendez and MiPOesias Magazine.