Roger’s Art

My cousin Roger McLeod, who happens to share my father’s birthday, June 26, suffered a heart attack last week – apparently, by a different order of coincidence, around the time that I was snapping the photos above, during a M(a)cLeod cousins get-together, the second since my father’s passing.

roger_2014Roger is a unique and uniquely talented individual. As his brother Martin put it recently, Roger doesn’t just sometimes follow a “different drummer”: He is a different drummer. He is also the eldest of the children of the five M(a)cLeod brothers (I’ll explain that spelling question some other day). The photos are of toys that he created from scrap for Martin 50-some years ago, when they were boys, and the toys represent, as you might expect, just a small fraction of Roger’s creative output. Martin reports that the bulldozer was his favorite… I’ve also included what I’ll call an “industrial Christmas tree ornament” that Roger made on a much later day.

As skilled and imaginative as Roger is, however, he has never quite been seized by the possibilities of digital technology. The purpose of this post is really just to show him, if he’s willing to look, when I visit him in the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit at the hospital, the beginning of possibilities for promoting, exhibiting, explaining, and, when appropriate, selling his work – not that work like his can ever be fully appreciated without seeing it and getting your hands on it – preferably with his guidance and explanation, which we all hope will be facilitated not just by creating one or more web-sites for him, but by live exhibitions featuring the live Roger, after, we pray, successful heart surgery sometime very soon – or as soon as he gets tired of lying in the CICU and eager to start a new chapter in his and all of our lives.

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  1. Nice tribute.  I hope to visit Roger’s “museum” when he recovers.  My love and prayers go out to him.

    • Hi Cuz.

      Roger turned out to be in much more sociable shape yesterday than on previous days since his heart attack, just about ready to do the operation himself now that he can visualize it as a kind of construction or corporeal home improvement project.

      He seemed to like the presentation of his works from long ago, and filled me in some more on the origins of these particular items. I’m not sure I have all of the details exactly right, but, apparently, Martin’s “Dinky” toys had been thrown into Big Bear Lake by someone when the family was on an extended Summer vacation.

      Roger responded to this crime against boy-humanity by replacing his younger brother’s lost toys as best he could, appropriating waste materials and spare hardware from in and around a workbench that had belonged to a deceased former resident in whose former garage he and Martin were staying. Apparently, it took Roger – who must have been a middle-to-late teenager at the time, so not so much a “boy” – substantial effort, over weeks, to make these items, working with whatever tools were at hand and without drawings (which is his usual method, even for much more complicated and “mature” work).

      The Industrial Xmas Tree Ornament was one of a series of eight he did in the late ’80s. Though they began as constructions from found/waste objects, once he determined what elements he wanted to use, he adopted a more systematic approach, purchasing some of the basic hardware.

      He’s sold some of these items over the years – at criminally low prices.


  2. Speedy recovery to Roger!

    I really liked the tree ornament and would like to see more of his middle/later work.

    As you might recall, I discussed others’ more penetrating discussion of the relationship of photography and current art here.  I’m guessing that Roger thinks not at all about how his work will photograph which by itself places him apart from the mainstream but certainly within the broad tradition of outsider art.



    • …though I think they do, or could, photograph well. When I called the photos “snaps,” I meant it. I was just taking snapshots of the toys – no effort to improve lighting, backgrounds, angles. Some intense “macro” work’d be fun, too. High quality photography and internet presentation, in conjunction with careful live exhibition, could be seen as further extension of the salvage or “deep restoration” that Roger engineers – reversing the wastes of mass production back into artisanal handicraft and eventually “high art” or something like it: Found Art + Craft.

      The Xmas Tree Ornaments, which weight several pounds each, point to their own interesting display possibilities… I was thinking Xmas trees, but maybe it would be appropriate to re-claim yard waste instead of using storebought plastic trees or seasonal Christmas trees (from tree lots). Have to think about it, or could try all three approaches…

    • Looking good so far, VB, thanks for the thought. Report today of minor complications of a usual sort (blood clots) so probably heading to a rehab/convalescent facility rather than home, but has been in good spirits overall.

      A couple days ago, I asked him about what it was like being a Conscientious Objector ca. 1970, and he ended up telling me a long story over a hospital veggie-burger delivered by a possibly Hindu nurse about having gone to a Northern California Quaker High School whose sex-negative headmaster ended up getting revenge near-electrocuted by the school’s other student named Roger, who went on to become an arty pornographer… I told him that even though or because I spent a decade in the movie business among other things reading thousands of screenplays, I would not urge him to try to make a movie out of the story. I mentioned that as for myself I’d be happy never to see another screenplay again for the rest of my life, and would rather write about Hegel than write stories. “Hegel?” Yes, that Hegel. Which led us after a brief review of Wes Anderson’s oeuvre to watch the Monty Python Philosopher’s Song on my smartphone.

      So, all in all, seemed to be doing great.

        • While the class was on retreat in Mexico helping to build a school, part of Headmaster Delbert _____’s (detail needed) disciplinary campaign was a strict lights-out policy at 10 PM, which was disliked by the students not only because it discouraged late-night hijinx, but because the students depended on thin electric blankets to stay warm. In order to enforce the policy, Delbert would flip the switch on a transformer or fuse box (detail needed) shutting off power to the primitive dormitories (a communal arrangement for the girls, small-group cabanas for the boys). The other Roger rigged a bucket of water to spill on Delbert when he flipped the switch (details needed), causing an electric shock that threw Delbert 15 feet backward (details needed re witnessing and degree of complicity in the assault on the part of our Roger). Delbert went into seclusion for a couple of weeks, during which time his wife fled with their kids. When he recovered, he also departed, possibly to go looking for said wife and kids, possibly to attempt a career change (selling life insurance? – detail made up).

          Adding a recent-ish snapshot of our Roger to the post (better picture needed).

          I wondered whether the word “electrocution” could also stand for severe electric schock causing injury, but OK-Googled it, and verified that the term refers to lethality. No word specifically for injury rather than death by electric shock was supplied, I am not aware of one, and I have not conducted any further research on the matter (detail needed).

          • Delbert Reynolds. And the alternate career he went on to was working in the administration of the local public schools, where he was much happier than with us miscreants. Cultural mismatch, in 1964, between this rather nice and prissy man and us bunch of aspiring hellions.
            I’d love it if you would give Roger my email address, and to hear from him.

            • Hi, Dave! Last I checked, Roger didn’t have his own email address – so stood as one of the last, possibly enviable holdouts on that score. Martin gave in a few years ago. Anyway, it’s a good excuse to get in contact with them, so will do. Maybe it’ll be motivation for Roger finally to get connected.

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