Nickel Plate Boys

My friend, Bruce Neckar has worked out a deal with Liz, the owner of Big Hat Gallery 6510 Cornell, in Broad Ripple, right next to the Broad Ripple Brewpub, to exhibit our art, paintings and drawings by Bruce Neckar, oil paintings by John Reynolds, carved wood duck decoys and finished tables by John Bundy and handmade rustic willow furniture by Greg Adams (me.

Bruce has suggested that we call ourselves the Nickel Plate Boys, after his band, the Poison River Boys and the fact that we have closely aligned ourselves with the Nickel Plate arts gallery at the Judge Stone Arts Center in Noblesville.

At any rate, we put some of our art in the upstairs gallery, a beautiful space in what appears to be an old Victorian mansion along the Monon trail in Broad Ripple. Bruce and John Reynolds will hang their paintings on the walls and John Bundy and I will place our tables around the room and he will place some of his duck decoys on the tables. Our main focus is on Nature and the natural world, in preparation for the artist signing by author Brian Kimberling,whose first novel, Snapper, will be released at the Big Hat Bookstore in April. His book will be released April 23rd, and he will appear for a signing at the gallery. His book chronicles the adventures of a southern Indiana birdwatcher, a wry and comedic tale of life in the Midwest.

I must admit, I am anxious to read this book as it seems to hit close to home. I also am anxious to meet the author. He sounds as if he could be one of us or be writing about one of us.

Bruce Neckar.

Bruce and I went to Ball State at the same time in the 60's and 70's, and recently discovered that we knew the same people, but never knew each other. Bruce is a highly talented artist whose drawings/paintings evoke the spirit of the birds he sees. His technique is reminiscent of drawings from Leonardo DaVinci's notebooks, somewhat incomplete but completely capturing the spirit of his subjects. Bruce is the eternal gadfly, the person who is able not only to imagine something, but to also motivate people to move forward to accomplish it and to get it done.

Given the times, it is amazing that if we ever crossed paths, we did not notice each other. Of course, back then, to admit you were a birdwatcher her was tantamount to admitting you were a communist or mentally defective.

John Reynolds

John Reynolds also went to Ball State, but we never crossed paths either. He is an oil painter. He has had a studio at the Stutz, which I have visited every year for the last twenty years, without knowing him, and I always have admired the tremendous spirit and soul that his paintings of ordinary farm animals reveal.

He and Bruce share a studio at the Judge Stone House, a much more comfortable venue for John, a Noblesville resident, than slugging the way down to eleventh and Senate every day. Although I have known John for a much shorter time, he and I have a strong connection. His paintings possess an electricity that makes them jump out at you. His paintings of animals seem infused with energy and spirit, to the point that they seem to possess human characteristics. His portrait of a rooster makes me think that the rooster has been highly dosed with LSD and seems to be identifying with the viewer. He sees himself as part of the natural world and his subjects seem imbued with human sensitivity.

John Bundy

Craftsman John Bundy, a Purdue graduate, was unknown to me until he walked into my shop twenty years ago. I have partnered and collaborated in selling and creating rustic furniture with John, master finisher that he is, creating his highly finished tops and me doing the rustic base. But his main deal is his carved duck decoys that are in the collections of kings, presidents, governors and people of impeccable taste. He has been producing his decoys for thirty years, exhibiting at shows throughout America.

Even more notably, John ramrodded legal action against General Motors after the infamous White River fish kill of 1999, and nearly singlehandedly guided the restoration efforts that provided numerous new access points to the White River and restocked it with fish to the point that it is now a world-class fishery for Smallmouth bass that is the envy of the Midwest. His yeoman-like practical efforts to support the environment have become a force of Nature in themselves.

Me, I have been making rustic furniture for thirty years and operate a retail shop in Lapel. I have done hundreds of shows throughout the Eastern United States. I am a retired social worker, and like John Bundy am a member of Indiana Artisans. My family has been involved in woodworking since their arrival in America in 1800. My great- great-grandfather was a cooper who produced barrels for the whisky he made in Western Pennsylvania. My great grandfather operated factories that produced barrel staves for barrels for John Rockerfeller to ship his kerosene in, and my grandfather and father operated lumberyards.

As a group, to say that we march to the beat of a different drummer is to miss the point; if we were to hear drumming, we would slide out of sight and carefully slip away. To say that we are not mainstream is to also miss the point. We see the natural world in a way that puts us not at the pinnacle of life, but as fellow travelers with the other creatures that inhabit our world.

We would be more comfortable being members of the Dead Poets Society or the Dirty Dozen than the Lions Club or old farts eating breakfast at Denny's.

It seems really amazing to me that we have found each other. We are the kind of people who could come from four different horizons to intersect at a common, mystical point in the woods, at a hidden waterfall or an unusual grove of trees that were the home to the rarest species of bird. We shun the birders who keep score. We see them like frisbee golfers who have lost the point of throwing a frisbee, which is, of course, not to keep score.

We are accustomed to working on our own, in spite of the pressures to conform that surround us every single day. We are relentlessly ourselves, even hesitating to be members of a group to which we so clearly belong.

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