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Alex Kovacs Metal Wall Sculptures Posting Page
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Well, I hate to bore you to death, you just might click me out of your life...so I'll make this simple for you...
What should I tell you about myself? I would like to keep this page short, due to my "one-finger" typing style. So here are some bits and pieces... I might not remember correctly, but I guess I dropped out of school in the third grade (I hope you do not take this seriously... :) at a tender age. I'm still trying to figure out, how I became almost as great, as Muhammad Ali. Guess, I forgot... The few moments of my life that flashes trough my mind, I will share with you though.
When I was about 10 years old, in 1957 (one year after the Hungarian revolution against the Soviets) I used to hang out at the local, picturesque park like area. Artists from all over traveled here to paint the scenery. Oops... it is located at Budapest, where I was born. Not only was the country poor, but my parents had seven kids to feed. So to buy paint for me was out of the question. I hung around these artists and watched them doing their magic... bless their good hearts, I ended up with a bunch of tubes of oil paint and a few brushes. I got myself some thin plywood somewhere and I was ready to conquer the world... so I joined in... I guess I must have felt important to paint landscapes alongside by some of these well known artists!
It was time to further my studies... I lived next door to an artist, Aniko Lunzer... she is actually a famous artist nowadays, but at the time she was still studying. As I recall, I had a crush on her, but she was five years higher on the scale, than me... she used to sculpt also, besides painting. You do not need more inspiration than Aniko's bust- I mean the one she sculpted of her grandmother... :) So I got to work and went down to the shore of the Danube river, where I collected some clay...for weeks to come, you could not separate me from that thing...even I was puzzled of the outcome. I can't help it folks, I was just simply born with some mysterious qualities. I created some awesome sculptures... I wish I had some of them today to show off!
Next thing I remember, I was playing drums very seriously. It reached a point on the local Budapest level that girls recognized me on the street...I had a nick name at the time- Kopasz (Baldy) ... it had to do with the long hair I had. I recall that I felt envy of Ringo Starr and my being in a communist country, did not have a chance.
Part of the reasons that I decided to escape Hungary was that I wanted to play in a famous and well to do band in the west...easier said, than done. The then Soviet block and communist country had an Iron Curtain surrounding it. Those of you who have heard this term and would like to know more about it, read on.
The four of us, two of my friends from my band and the fiancé of one of them approached the border by bicycle. I guess we traveled for five days to get there. We dressed like rednecks, not to bring attention to ourselves. Even this way, we pedaled most of the way down there at night...once we got to the border, we hid in the woods behind some bushes, from where we could see the soldier up at the lookout tower that was constructed at the middle of the mine fields. These towers were placed apart from each other, so the soldiers could keep an eye on just about every square inch of the mine field...keep in mind, they would have machine gunned you down in a moments notice, if needed! At dusk they abandoned their post and began the foot patrol. We had good information of the workings of the border. One of us was a soldier stationed there a few years prior... we had a window of seven minutes, not being in the sight of the foot patrol. When the moment arrived, we cut an opening in the first fence on the Hungarian side. Every twelve feet or so, there was a cement pole. The fence itself was made of 3/16 steel wire. About seven feet high at the top there were a few rows of barbed wire. Next to the first fence, there you stepped on the "no mans land," about a ten foot wide road like area, (parallel to the fence) that they raked freshly with a tractor daily. The idea being, that if someone crosses the border, then they have foot prints left behind. Sometimes an animal breaks in there, which of course would not be a concern for the government. They wanted to see if some western spies somehow might have come through, how many were there, and so on...
Any of the Hungarian citizens with a right mind would never even think to cross this Iron Curtain... we were told later by an Austrian Intelligence officer, that ours was the third successful attempt to escape through the mine fields since they built it!!! Now at the other side of this raked strip started the mine field. It was about twelve feet wide, maybe wider. They used plastic mines, strung together. If you stepped on one, then a whole bunch would have blown up. The explosion was controlled in a manner that it would have blown up your feet only -a humane gesture- so they can catch the "spies". Next we used my designing talents... I constructed a rope ladder, specially made for the mine field. There was a metal hook at the end, to which I welded two rings and a piece of tubing to insert a long steel bar in at the center. The rope ladder had two guard ropes on the sides, to hold on to as a rail... it is tricky business to walk on a flimsy gadget like this one was... we had some short lengths of different diameter pipes hidden inside the bike's frames, under the seats. These rods snapped together making a one piece 15 foot long bar. The end of this rod snapped into the hook. Now, one guy was pushing the hook forward, while the other two were pulling back on the guard ropes. This gave the hook a lift, that otherwise, would be impossible. It was like holding a broom handle at the end and trying to lift it. NO WAY!!! Now, when the rope ladder was hooked on the cement pole at the Austrian side of the fence, the metal rod was removed by twisting it half way around. We then tightened this end of the ladder to the ground by some spiral spikes, at the edge of the mine field. Andras went first, (this guy had voice like the great Caruso, he was the singer of the band) while Janos and I held the rail ropes, so he could hold on while climbing. Then Marika, his fiancé next. For Janos I was holding the side ropes to hang on to, to keep his balance.
Once Andras jumped down to the Austrian side, he started to cut the fence there, so the rest of us did not have to get hurt by the barbed wire. He got lucky, he only ripped a gash in his pants... while Janos was climbing, he lost control, and turned upside down. He barely missed the ground, hitting the mines. He finished the climb hanging like that, but in the struggle he loosened up the cement pole the hook was attached to and the ladder was touching the first 4-5 feet of the mine field on my side. I remember it vividly, like it was yesterday... from the tears in my eyes I could barely see... they left me for being the last one to cross, for I was the youngest (by 5 years) and could climb like a cat. Keep in mind we had seven minutes to pull the whole thing through. I had no time, nor enough strength to re-tighten the rope ladder. Two choices left- run back in the woods, and hide, for they would have surely tracked me down with the guard dogs. Or to stay there to give myself up was out of question, because to meet the patrol was too risky... Janos told us a story about how trigger happy the soldiers were. I have learned that by regulation the soldiers should warn you to surrender, before shooting. But not to blame them if they shoot first, because their life is at stake. A western spy would surely shoot at them. So I guess this was a kind of self defense on their side. The definition of being scared was me at that moment! I made a split decision...GO FOR IT!
I climbed through that thing in a record time... (we were practicing this for months.) Surely, I was stepping on the mine field half way through. I missed the mines. Folks, I do not need to win the lotto... that was the biggest jackpot ever, I hit instead... on the other side I jumped down through the hole Andras cut in the second fence and ran through the prickly raspberry bushes like a scared wild animal. I heard soldiers discovering the whole thing... their exited screams through the woods. The next day we made the newspaper headlines in Vienna. A few weeks later someone asked if we got a job offering at the circus yet??!! Turns out, one of the headlines read like this: "ROPE LADDER ACROBATS ESCAPE RED HELL!"
I was afraid to come to this great country because most of the things the communist media had shown was the violence- cops beating black protesters, or "millions" of poor homeless and jobless people hanging around on the streets. So I registered to immigrate to Australia. While awaiting my case to be processed, at one time I went to a movie. Back then they showed odds and ends before the movie started. This time it was a short movie of America. They showed the parking buildings with all the cars and the American "waste" at the dumps... that was it!!! I figured I could fix any items you guys had thrown out and make a fortune... :)
The next day I re-registered to America! It was 1967. After arrival to this great country, I ended up in New York State. Working at the time as a toolmaker, I had limitless access to non ferrous material, like brass, copper and nickel. I started to make some sculptures in my spare time, like a Knight in armor, owls on tree branches, chess designs, Don Quixotes, city skylines, a Rolls Royce sculpture, butterflies or figures like a clown playing the base violin in a top hat... over the years I designed and made hundreds of different sculptures like that. Anyhow, a friend talked me into entering a local art show, in the summer of 1968. The place was Tarrytown, New York... Not only did I get the first place prize in the sculpture category, but sold all my available work the first day of the show! Now I did not need to be a genius, to figure out that this was nothing like the old country! The next twelve years I was making sculptures full time, traveling to art exhibits at the eastern side of the US. Being a full time artist had its good and bad sides, like most of the things in life. Actually it was not easy. I guess when you are young and full of energy, it does not matter much... I tried just about every place possible to make a buck. I supported my family by making sculptures full time for about twelve years.I lived on Long Island, NY, during those years. After these years I went back to work in the plastic business, but this time ended up in a better position, thanks to my employer, whose memories I cherish above just about anything that was dear to me in life. He hired me to work as a prototype designer and sample maker at his huge plastic company. The kind of place where you get tired from walking from one end to the other... I recall telling him, that it does not seem normal to own a large company like that...you name it, I worked on it there...from the six foot long tooth brush you saw in TV ads those days, to packages for the Brawn electric razors, Gillette, Duracell, Craftsman, Kodak, Toledo Scale and Black&Decker to name a few, were among on the list of the the hundreds of clients the company had. After a few years, I was itching of going back to the arts. So I quit my job and moved to upstate New York, where I bought an old house with a barn. That is where I wanted to set up my sculpture shop. Set it up I did, Barry Hershaft made sure of that. Not only did he double my salary, but set me up with a complete tool shop. He packed my barn with machinery!!! The deal was, that I commit my time for five years to the company and I keep the equipment. Folks, this was not a small gesture! Now I really thought that this was a great country! To set things straight, it is the people who make it to be so... Barry was a front runner among them! Thanks to him, six years or so later I sold the tool making equipment he gave me and that financed my diving for treasure trip in Florida. It was fun, and I did not end up empty handed... still, this was not for me to make a full time living. You must dive, to understand how difficult and tiring it is! Never mind the Tiger shark that attacked me for my shining shovel/scoop!!! I gave all my equipment away and came back to New York. I guess being an artist,is not the best thing if one likes to have a family without braking up... However, I am blessed to have three wonderful children and five very lovely grand children.
The first ten years or so at my career as being an artist, I had been displaying my work all over the place... I had attended hundreds of art shows, mostly on the east coast... traveling to every corner of it. More times than I can remember of, I won awards at these art exhibits. I participated in events like the great Greenwich Village Art Shows, displayed my work at the Madison Square Gardens, West Hampton Beach Shows on Long Island, Hyannis Port in Massachusetts, Dover in Delaware, Cherry Hill New Jersey, Boston, Pittsburgh, Washington DC, Miami (where I have a six foot sculpture of mine in a museum) Scarsdale, White Plains and Albany of New York or ventured to some shows in Chicago... guess I have scratched the surface to name a few.
I had my work displayed at The Gift Building at 225 Fifth Avenue in New York City... That is as high as an artist gets commercially, if you know what that place is... :) Department stores like Stern brothers in New Jersey, some furniture outlets, private shows at some well to do persons places, or religious fund raising events... I could go on and on, but my tired old brain decided to shut down... It happens all the time nowadays... :) Over the past twenty years or so, I made countless, mostly smaller size sculptures, that I sold just about anywhere. Department stores, Galleries, Jewelry or Gift shops, I could go on and on...
Well, I'm retired now, and built myself a nice shop in upstate New York, in a small town called Mohawk. Actually I moved up here, since as a money making hobby, I took up breaking rocks at the Herkimer Diamond Mines. I did that for about ten years on weekends, whenever I had time. To those of you who wonder, yes I did find zillions of diamonds, the trouble is that they are only called diamonds... they are a unique kind of quartz crystals, that look like already cut diamonds.(Google it folks.) The story is that in the revolutionary war, General Herkimer wanted to finance his war efforts by selling them. You see, life is full of disappointments! At the time I built my house and workshop that was meant to be for building miniature black powder cannon replicas. (I have ended up using it as my studio of course....) After a couple of major operations (heart and aorta,) I had to give up mining. It takes a lot out of you swinging a twelve pound sledge hammer all day long! I guess you would like to hear something about my art also! Making sculptures is like a disease...you just cannot walk away from it. Over the years I have developed new metal art styles- one of them is what you see here at my website... At the very beginning of it I named the style "Rainbow Art"...
After the recent years of being alone, I have decided that I'll find someone to love and cherish... I guess I got very lucky... I met my wife Linda, a beautiful, smart and lovely young lady from Italy. She has accepted to put up with me for the rest of my life. So I put the ring on her finger on Jan. 31st 2013. I nearly forgot, we have two little doggies named Bembee and Happy... they are cute and also very loyal companion.:)
As you notice, I'm shy when it comes to talking...LET MY SCULPTURES DO THAT FOR YOU INSTEAD!
Sincerely, ALEX KOVACS
by: Alex Kovacs Metal Wall Sculptures