My Friend, The Artist Ed Gulley

Ed, his “Tin Man” and Jon

The first time we went to visit Carol and Ed Gulley, I noticed Ed’s art.  It was actually hard to miss, it was all over the farm.

I knew immediately that Ed was an artist.

He didn’t think of himself as an artist.   He was a farmer who made things with the scraps he found around the farm.

One of the beautiful things about Ed was that he didn’t argue with me when I told him he was an artist and asked him if he wanted to show some of his work at our Open House.  He took the idea and ran with it, like he had been waiting his whole life for someone to see the artist in him.  He later told me he had been hoping for just that.

I knew how he felt.  The same thing happened to me when I got some encouragement from Jon over ten years ago.

Ed had his art around the farm (he eventually told me he thought of it as Junk Art, a term I love) but he didn’t take it too seriously and never showed it to anyone who didn’t happen to see it when they visited.  That’s how I knew he was a real artist.  Anyone who keeps making art without encouragement and sometimes even ridicule from the people around them, is an artist.

They’re doing it because it’s what they do.  It’s who they are.

Since that day, Ed and I have had a special relationship.  Like one I’ve never had before.

The Bedlam Farm Open House became Ed’s Gallery and I became his curator.  Suddenly Ed had a purpose other than the need to create to make his art.    And he thought about selling it.

We talked art, something I don’t think he ever did with anyone else.  I learned that I knew things about art, and sculpture in particular, that was helpful to him.  And the more we talked the more Ed came to see that his ideas about his work, his process and the way he saw the world around him was unique, important and worthy.

Ed came to see the value in his art, not just in terms of money, but as an expression of who he is.

I’ve helped to encourage people before, and some have gone on to do good work.  But I’ve never been involved with another artist’s work the way I have been with Ed’s.

We keep in touch and he shows me what he’s working on.  I love going to Bejosh Farm and seeing his latest sculptures.  If he’s working on them he tell me his plans, or how he’s looking for just the right piece of “junk” to make into a bull’s hoof or a Tin Man’s nose.

He’ll tell me the story of how, when he looked at a broken shovel, he saw a turtle.  Or how a bent nail, that he saw as a leg,  inspired him to create a whole horse around it.

This is Ed’s vision and I understood it and its intrinsic value,  in a way that no one else in his life had up to that point.

The thing that was different about Ed was that he as interested to hear what I had to say about his art as I was interested in his art.  We spoke the same language.

This is how we became friends.

Yesterday, as so many of you already know, Ed was diagnosed with inoperable brain tumors.  He has decided not to be treated and wants to make the best of the time he has left.

Carol, Ed wife,  wrote about it all on their blog this morning.  Reading her words made me sad and lifted my heart at the same time.

Carol’s ability to write about what is happening, so directly and with such grace, is stunning to me.  I admire the decision and choices they are making about how they want to spend the rest of their lives together.

They’re planning several driving trips around the country, and will be blogging about it along the way.   This is the part that lifts my heart.  They know what’s important to them and what they want and they’re going to do it.

The sadness I’m feeling is mostly selfish.

I’m going to miss Ed.  I’m going to miss stopping by Bejosh Farm on a Sunday afternoon seeing what Ed is working on  and talking to him about it.   I’m going to miss visiting him and Carol and their farm animals.  I’m going to miss seeing his latest sculpture and him being at the Bedlam Farm Open Houses.

Our friendship is like the good kind of family.  We’re  there for each other without obligation.  To encourage and inspire and help each other in a bounded way.

I don’t feel outrage that this has happened or a sense of injustice. I feel sadness, but also  joy.  Joy at the idea, that in Ed’s words, He’s “finally free”.  Free to do just what he wants.


2 thoughts on “My Friend, The Artist Ed Gulley

  1. I love your writing Maria. I of course only met Ed and Carol once and spent time talking with them at the Open House I attended, but they are just the kind of people that make an imprint on your heart, so genuine and kind. I love Ed’s description of feeling “finally free.” He is many things, and teacher is among them.

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