|Satchel Paige (ref.)|
“Don't look back, something might be gaining on you.” – Satchel Paige quote, from his tombstone
|Paige's gravemarker (ref.)|
“Go very light on the vices, such as carrying on in society. The social ramble ain't restful.” – Satchel Paige quote, from his tombstone
“Avoid Fried meats which angry up the blood.” – Satchel Paige quote, from his tombstone
You won’t see very many angel statues in the book, which may be one reason I neglected it on my bookshelf for so long. This may be due to a paucity of such statues in the cemeteries visited by the author, or simply his avoidance of the more common cemetery statuary as subject matter. The book, however, does not suffer from this. Brown documents some wildly imaginative monuments that more than hold one’s interest (for example, the Harding family plot in Nebraska City which is a full-sized marble rolltop desk and the 1925 Chevy engine mounted in stone as a grave marker in Garden City, Kansas!). It must be said, however, that Brown’s photographs of even the most simple and spare grave markers are as fascinating as the elaborate ones – a tribute to his skill as an artist (he paints as well as makes photographs, as his website indicates). He seems to infuse many of the cemetery stones he photographs with his own soul.
|Soul in the Stone, by John Gary Brown|
While on tour of Italy in the early 1900s, Herman Luyties, owner of the first proprietary drug store in the city of St. Louis, Missouri, met and fell in love with a sculptor’s model. Luyties proposed marriage to the beautiful lady, but she declined his offer and he returned to St. Louis brokenhearted. Before leaving Italy, he commissioned the sculptor to produce a twelve-foot marble statue based on his beloved model.
After the statue was delivered to St. Louis, he kept it in the foyer of his home, so that he could see it every time he arrived or departed. Because the several-ton sculpture was thought to be damaging the structural integrity of the house, it was eventually moved to the family burial plot in Bellefontaine Cemetery. After Luyties died at the age of fifty, he was buried at the foot of what came to be known as “the girl in the shadow box.”
Herman Luyties was probably unaware that the statue produced for him was based on a cemetery monument that his love had modeled for previously. I found and photographed this voluptuous angel in Viturbo, Italy, long before discovering the Luyties monument. The addition of wings makes her seductiveness all the more unsettling, bringing to mind a Mae West voice that coaxes us to “come on up to heaven and see me sometime.”
References and Further Reading:
|Soul in the Stone available at Amazon.com|