The George Stavropoulos Tree

Here is the masterwork that took me far out of my creative element of Robots, Starfighters, and Castles (my staples!). It’s a Lego build of a tree, itself a portrait and symbol of Mr. George Stavropoulos, a friend, and my boss at work.

It’s impressive, and I didn’t mean it to be. I meant it to be the size George gave me–about the size of a beer can. What do I do? Build him a tree about 15 inches high with a radius that’s crazy–about 19 inches. I wanted to do as I was told so that my art would be welcome in George’s space and add something to it. Not make him have to clear a shelf or more to make room for it.

I displayed this tree very, very proudly at the Lowe’s lunchroom. Good people at Lowe’s– managers, too. I’m anti-corporate. I find I work for people, not companies. Not brands. George is my boss at Lowe’s, and his gift is turning work into play. Everyone at Lowe’s loves this guy for it. This tree is full of play; in every bough and leaf, there is dance, experimentation, lightness, whimsy, whim, decoration, articulation, and fun. That’s George.

Let’s have a look at more play in this build.

Notice the black-painted sandbox on the bottom right with a handsome sandcastle newly made. From a bough hangs a brightly painted happy swing and some gleeful flowers growing among the first decaying fallen leaves. Soon the children who play at the roots of this tree and in the nearby sandbox will be able to pile all of the fallen colourful pungent leaves into a big enough pile to soften the landing from a dive right into it.

A late thrill comes to the children who outgrow the sandbox and swing. They, like everything about this tree, grow.

The magnificent, towering, nearly colossal tree that they never even imagined trying to climb (for the height of lowest bough is eight feet off the ground), now beckons them to climb! A little stepladder is all they’ll need to grab the first bough. From there, if you look at the photo below, a teenager might manage to get to the top of the giant that holds their childhood swing.

Play was essential. That was George. First big decision made. This is the conception part of the job. What a person is, and what they ain’t. What energizes them, what they do, how they work, how they relate to others. Play. So George wasn’t going to be a tree on a solitary island, growing by the side of a cliff, or deep in a forest full of wildlife and danger. He was a family tree. He was owned by someone, in the best meaning of ownership, owning the heart. George was owned. And he owned the family.

The tree bends about a third of the way up. That was important and my hands reached for the bricks that would lay a foundation for the curving trunk before I thought. (Manipular intelligence, I term it. It’s part of my fiction-bricks process of generating art and fiction at once.) Thought with the hands, not the brain. Or, with the brain in a demoted position. Demoted so that what can take its place, I know not.

This last photo I’ll share with you of the George Stavropoulos Tree, as does the best photo of a sculpture, captures only a sliver of its presence, the space it displaces, its radiance and even the disturbance it causes. Sculpture is so where it’s at. Look at that bend. Weak or strong? In a strong enough hurricane, I say a tree the same size and straight would be over. George would weather it.

The boughs. They are quite poseable: a side-effect of a weird solution to the problem of how to make convincing boughs out of Lego. When arranged properly, they provide a pleasing spherical shape. I’ve just noticed now as I type you all that the boughs, I swear, look like they reach. George reaches. He tries new things. He did his BA, I think he’d not mind my sharing, in Italian cinema. He’s uprooted and travelled for long periods of time (months at least), which I can’t do any more than a tree could. So, I’ve learned that George’s tree has a moving, energetic essence–a dynamism. Good art does. The still tree can be felt, it seems to me, to be moving, acting, reaching outwards. To me, the tree immediately invites and welcomes. George.

I’ll wrap with a final observation or two: the foliage is lush and provides a canopy. Protection. This tree is a protector, nurturer, playmate. It changes and grows but never grows old. That’s why one of the first things I knew in my head (where you think ideas come from) rather than my hands was that George would be no evergreen. George changes and delights. That is symbolized most obviously by my making the tree leaf-bearing and with the leaves turning, looking about mid-October in Toronto.

Last thought. I just knew George was a tree, not a dragon, starfighter, shapeshifting alien, walking castle, female cyborg gladiator–all areas of comfort for me. I had to take on a new theme to suit a very unique person.

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