Lawrence Reid Bechtel
Over the past three years, I have been working on a commission from the Blacksburg Presbyterian Church, which entails sculpting a set of Nativity figures, each one about 12" (h), and each with a unique backstory. Hesitant at first about the religious subject matter (given my own upbringing in an evangelical Christian home), I have turned at last, willingly, to the wealth of Western art illustrating Biblical stories, in this case the birth of Jesus, and found there a rich tradition of personal interpretation. With that as precedent, I have enlarged the conception of the “Christmas story” as far as I can, and hope with this latitude to continue expanding a “cast of characters,” Biblical, apocryphal, and contemporary. These stories I have developed into an integrated narrative, and recorded as "Miracle" at Four Loud Barks Studio. I am also a writer currently working on a historical novel entitled, "This Man! Isaac Granger Jefferson in Philadelphia, as told by himself." The writing of this book, which has taken me five years, and which I hope to have ready for publication by the end of this year (2017), began with sculpture: a over lifesize bust of Thomas Jefferson, and a companion bust of one of his slaves, Isaac Granger Jefferson, You can view a 7-minute documentary by Swinging Gate Productions, on You Tube, about this project, entitled, "A Long Arc." The background to the novel is this: in the fall of 1790, Thomas Jefferson traveled to Philadelphia, then the nation's capital, to take up his duties as Secretary of State under President Washington. He brought Isaac--a young man of 15--with him to be apprenticed as a tinsmith. My novel concerns Isaac's experiences in Philadelphia, a city known at the time as the "Athens of American," and home to a dynamic African-American community.