RSA Pavilion – Anxiety Over The Sculptor

Larry Godwin

Sculptor-Artist-Tinkerer Larry Godwin and I in Quiet Reflection Over the Clay Images of Two of the Six Honorees. Work on the Honoree Tablets was Carried on Simultaneously with That of the Era Panels.

Robert Lawrence “Larry” Godwin, the 60-year-old sculptor from Brundidge, Alabama, who designed and executed the bronze panels at the Pavilion Park, was an eccentric little man, as talented as he was strange. Larry Godwin’s contribution to our project was an essential part, and he carried it out with great zeal and credit.  But that is not to say that every step was smooth and without anguish.  Larry brought a wealth of knowledge about many of the subjects and historical events which we were depicting, but with that knowledge came personal prejudices which he continually tried to inject into the tableaus.

Larry is what you might call a natural talent, one more trained as a commercial artist than in the classics.  I believe he would attempt anything in any medium if it caught his fancy.  He works in a tiny country town, assisted by his brother when the mood strikes.  He lives with his domineering mother.    Loves  hats.  I guess  you  would  call  him  the  working  man’s artisan, and probably his peers in the art world look down on him.  The $240,000 fee proposal which we received from Larry was just half of the proposal that Clydetta Fulmer gave us.  Clydetta was the Montgomery County sculptor who fashioned the Lemuel Montgomery statue for the County Courthouse.  I really wanted her to do the park work, but her $ Half-Million quote would sink our budget.

It took Larry Godwin almost two years to complete the 13 panels, and not a day passed during that time on which I did not utter a silent prayer that he would not kill himself somewhere, or become bored, or just vanish, leaving yours truly holding the proverbial bag.  I would have created a history park with no history to put in it, because no other sculptor would complete Larry’s work, nor even replace it, for less than double Larry’s fee.  It’s the story of life–Larry’s triumph would be Larry’s, but Larry’s failure would be mine.

We concealed Larry’s commission in the park construction contract, and all payments to him passed through the contractor.  It was carefully doled out as he accomplished each step, but he was always short of cash and constantly admonished me for impeding his progress by being too stingy in processing his payments.  Larry would say, “I’ve had to stop work because I ran out of money!”  I would retort, “Larry, you have spent all your RSA money on that damn swordfish you’re doing for some motel in Florida,” or something else in that vein. Larry was always working on several projects.

One Saturday night around 11:00 p.m., Larry’s 89-year-old mother–a real character herself–called me at home to exclaim that “My Larry is hurt and in the hospital, but they won’t treat him because we have no money, and that’s because you won’t pay us!”  I went pale on hearing this, not at the insult over the money, mind you, but at the thought that he might be so physically impaired as to not be able to complete our project.  The incident turned out to be minor and my sudden panic was an overreaction.

-Charles Humphries (“Peril and Intrigue Within Architecture”)

This is one of many RSA Pavilion Park stories. The rest can be found here.

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