Saturday, May 29, 2010

Another adventure with Artist at Exit 0.

Bright and early this morning, my pal Albertus Gorman swung by my little cabin. I showed him my two newest videos, one of which (Radioactive Fairytale) had never seen the light of day. It was so nice to get a response to these pieces from a fellow artist.

After the little screening, we set off to get brunch in darling Bardstown. We went to a kitschy little diner called Mammy's Kitchen, where I scarfed down french toast for the first time in what felt like AGES! It was fun to be sitting at a restaurant, drinking coffee and chatting happily--one misses that sort of thing being alone in a wee cabin in the woods for 2 months.

While sitting at Mammy's, we drew up a plan to visit the Loretto Motherhouse, an energetic and progressive community of Catholic nuns in Nerinx, KY that Wren Smith happened to have been telling me about the night before. Albertus particularly wanted me to meet his friend Sister Jeanne Deuber, a woodworker and sculptor whose art is on display on the grounds. As we drove toward the Motherhouse, I wondered what this place would look like. Would it be very spartan, with ladies dressed in habits wandering to and fro? Would there be a heavy aura of religiosity? As an atheist visitor, would I feel like a trespasser?

Albertus had brought a printed map, and we started winding our way through the beautiful countryside to find the Loretto Motherhouse. Initially it seemed that we were making our way there. Signs for the town of Loretto appeared, and we made our way into a small village. But then the map and the landscape seemed to separate from each other, and we found ourselves quite turned around. I tried to get us back on track with my GPS on my phone, but the signal kept hopping from place to place, sending us in strange directions, even in circles. I joked that the atheist in the car was to blame, and that we were being sent heavenly rays of confusion... Maybe my lack of faith was blurring our path?

Eventually we pulled up into a little diner to ask for directions. The ladies in the diner were very sweet and told us how to find our destination, so we hopped back in the car and carried on. After wiggling through farmland and backtracking to a road we had previously been on (and that Yours Truly had steered us away from, using my worthless GPS directions) we finally made our way onto the beautiful grounds of the Loretto Motherhouse. It wasn't what I had expected at all! It looked like a small college campus, with beautiful old brick buildings, one of which, the Badin House, is apparently the oldest brick building west of the Allegheny. I didn't see a single habit, but rather, a community of ladies who were dressed comfortably and walking happily around the grounds and exercising.

The land was graced with ponds, a small grotto, a well-groomed cemetery, and of course Sister Jeanne Deuber's incredible sculptures. Many of Sister Jeanne's sculptures are enormous. They are made of tree branches and driftwood and welded metal, and stand erect on the grounds as well as in a gallery that's devoted to her work. One would have expected Sister Jeanne to be a large and burly sort of nun. She was nowhere to be found, though. We wandered here and there, entering several doors in the art building that seemed to lead to nowhere. We made our way into her studio workspace on the ground floor, where Albertus wanted to leave her a note. As we were about to complete this task, Sister Jeanne came in and found us. She is a tiny little pixie of a lady, with very short hair, long, strong hands, a friendly and welcoming nature, and a vibrancy about her. We chatted for about 15 minutes, and I passed along a message from Wren, which was, cryptically, "I love the dead birds." (Apparently Sister Jeanne had found several bird skeletons that she thought would be useful for Wren's sculptural projects, and sent them along to her.)

Me and Sister Jeanne Deuber, next to one of her sculptures.
Photo by Albertus Gorman.

One of Sister Jeanne Deuber's welded works.

After speaking with Sister Jeanne, we explored the grounds and the cemetery, fascinated by the memorial stones that spanned back into the 1800s. The ladies at the Loretto Motherhouse are doing something very right, because the majority of the recent stones show that the Loretto Nuns typically live to be in their 90s. We also found this wonderful and surprising inscription on one of the buildings:

Dedicated to Virtue and Science

We wrapped up our wonderful exploration of the grounds and drove back to Bernheim, where I sad goodbye to Albertus with a heavy heart. I hope that he and I will cross paths again sometime. Albertus wrote a wonderful post about the day as well, which you can read here on his magnificent blog.


  1. Thanks for sharing the experience!

  2. It was such a great adventure! The perfect close to my time here in Kentucky--thank *you*.