on newsstands Now!

eNewsletter Sign Up

Bookmark and Share

STREETSEEN  |  Fletcher Golden

Photo by Steve Roberts

Fletcher Golden: Horses led him on the path to becoming a sculptor

Story by Emily Adams Keplinger

From his childhood in Midtown Memphis to California, points in between and back home again, sculptor Fletcher Golden discovered his passion for equine art.

“My mother was a talented artist,” recalled Golden. “She went to the Memphis Art Academy when it was located on Adams Avenue. I remember that there was always a sense of style in our family home. My mother was crazy about fashion and both of my parents were great dressers. Plus, our neighborhood in Central Gardens was filled with homes that had interesting architecture and were surrounded by giant oak trees. It was a very picturesque area.”

As Golden matriculated through school, first at Immaculate Conception, then at Christian Brothers High School, he didn’t take art classes. When he went on to the Memphis State (now the University of Memphis), he majored in business and was still no closer to his artistic calling.

“I completed three years at Memphis State, then I was drafted during the Viet Nam Conflict,” said Golden. “Luckily, I stayed stateside. I had a lot of time to think and I realized that when I got out of the service, I wanted to go see the world.”

His travels took him to multiple locations for jobs with TGI Friday’s; first in Dallas, then Shreveport, then Houston. Ultimately, he decided to return to Memphis and finish school. Once his education was completed, Golden felt the pull of wanderlust again and moved to Berkley, California.

“While wondering how I was going to see the world, in a unique moment of inspiration, I came up with the idea of buying a horse and riding it from California back to Memphis,” said Golden. “For the next six months, I saw life from a saddle.”

When the adventure was over, Golden returned to the Berkley Hills. While working as a salesman for a steel company, he became interested in learning carpentry and “apprenticed himself to the trade,” teaching himself as much as he could.

“I would cruise through art museums and found that I was attracted to sculpture,” said Golden. “I really had the desire for sculpting, but I didn’t have the requisite training. However, I found opportunities to work with various sculptors and other artisans.”

By 1987 Golden had returned to Memphis where he started a nonprofit organization, Chelsea Farms. For five years he ran the urban farm, then he started working as an outdoor guide for the Maria Montessori School at Harbor Town.

“I enjoyed working with the school’s nature study program,” reminisced Golden. “During the 20 years I was there, I built sculptures with the kids for silent auctions, Christmas presents, etc. My goal was for everybody to make sculptures of driftwood from the Mississippi River that they could take home to keep.”

Golden says that this endeavor was the beginning of his path back to art.

“It was time for a silent auction at school, and, in honor of the 30th anniversary of my cross-country horseback trip, I got the idea to build a driftwood horse with the kids,” explained Golden. “I found a big log with the look of movement and thought it would make a great horse’s head. But, I still needed a body. When the sculpture was completed, it was life-size and stood about 8 feet tall.”

Harbor Town resident and local artist Jeri Ledbetter saw the school’s horse and commissioned Golden to make her a sculptural horse. After constructing a garage in which to build “Jeri’s Horse,” collecting wood at the river and gathering the right tools from pawn shops and garage sales, the commissioned piece was finished. Linda Ross, owner of L. Ross Gallery, saw it and invited Golden to have a show at her gallery with Ledbetter.

"I made a whole herd of horses,” recalled Golden. “That was the turning point for me and the starting line for me as a sculptor. I began collecting books about sculpting for my private library and went back to the University of Memphis for classes.”

Golden’s work, a mix of wood, metal, and marble or stone, was shown at the 2015 RiverArtsFest Invitational. It can be seen at International Paper and was formerly on view at First United Methodist Church.

“At this point of my life, sculpting has become my end game—I’m serious about my art,” said Golden. “I’m doing horses until I’m not doing horses, it’s truly a passion for me. I love the challenge of sculpting and being all crazy about projects—like getting up at 2:30 a.m. because I’m figuring out how I’m going to do a particular piece.”

Currently Golden is trying to initiate another project that would be available for public viewing.

“I’m proposing a 1 mile-long processional monument made of limestone boulders, salvaged from the restoration of the Frisco Bridge, that would follow the original route of the Trail of Tears,” explained Golden. “With the Big River Crossing pedestrian bridge, we have the opportunity to give testament to the 1830’s forced migration of five Indian nations. I want to create a beautiful monument for this nationally significant site that would span the distance between the Harahan Bridge and Big River Crossing and the Hernando DeSoto Bridge.”

STREETSEEN  |  Melissa Bridgman

Photo by Steve Roberts

Melissa Bridgman: Art is her means of personal expression

Story by Emily Adams Keplinger

Working from her home studio 30-50 hours a week, Melissa Bridgman is one of many local potters who makes a living with her craft. She began throwing clay in 2000, after receiving several pieces of McCarty pottery as wedding gifts. She was enthralled with the idea of making her own pieces and learned the craft while job-seeking, a quest that led to a three-year stint as a teaching artist for pottery with the Center for Arts Education.

“I have a master’s degree in Southern Studies from the University of Mississippi,” said Bridgman. “My focus was on folk art traditions in the South. Primarily, I studied self-taught, religiously inspired artists, focusing on the works of artists like Howard Finster and Theora Hamblett. I also explored the folk art pottery tradition and conducted oral history interviews with over a dozen self-taught and folk artist, exploring themes I drew on in my own teaching.”

After returning to Midtown, Bridgman established a home studio practice while she served as a teaching artist in the Education Department of The Memphis Brooks Museum of Art.

“This was another three-year span that allowed me to teach while my son, Nash, was in nursery school through kindergarten,” recalled Bridgman. “It was ideal because I was able to align my work hours with his school hours and work in the studio when I wasn’t teaching.”

In 2009, Bridgman switched to working as a full-time artist from her home studio, Bridgman Pottery. She redirected her focus from stoneware to porcelain tableware inspired by traditional blue and white china.

“In the last eight years, I have pushed my explorations in surface design, as well as adapting classic, traditional forms of tableware,” said Bridgman. “Additionally, I’ve learned more about glaze chemistry. I’ve stopped using commercial glazes and now I make my own. In addition to my blue and white work, I use a limited palette of white, aqua, cobalt and a copper-green. This year I’ve been working to develop a rosé pink.”

Bridgman continued, “I work from my home studio and my focus is pieces for daily life rather than on special occasions. All of my work is durable enough to be used on a daily basis. Small pieces such as plates, cups and berry strainers are usually decorated with nature-inspired designs based on local flora and fauna. A few animal motifs, like birds, bunnies and moths, find their way into my designs, too. And inspired by trips to the Maine coast, occasionally I include abstract designs based on stone shapes.”

Most of the forms of Bridgman’s designs are reminiscent of things that you might find in your grandmother’s cabinet — footed compotes, egg cups, and tureens  — shapes inspired by pieces of vintage ironstone transferware.

Not only are her pieces unique, but Bridgman’s approach to sales is a bit nontraditional, too. Throughout the year, she uses social media to announce her Open Studio Days on Facebook and Instagram. And following the method of CSA’s (Community Supported Agriculture), Bridgman offers a subscription service through her website (www.bridgmanpottery.com) where people pay an amount up front for items like bud vases, bowls, cups and serving bowls.

“Basically, this was a way for me to explore new ideas without having to commit to a huge run of something, and send them out only to people who have subscribed,” explained Bridgman. “The larger serving bowls have floral designs that allow customers to build a collection through the different seasons, (i.e., poppies this spring, zinnias in the summer and elderberries this fall).”

Last October, Bridgman helped relaunch the ABC program at The Brooks and is once again teaching there on a part-time basis.

“Because I have fifteen workday hours a week at The Brooks, plus more time dedicated to preparing for what I’m going to teach, I am more aware of what I need to accomplish in my days devoted to working in my studio,” said Bridgman. “For me, art is definitely a means of personal expression and being able to share it with others through my teaching is a way for me to give back to the community.”

Bridgman concluded, “I don’t think I could have my business and my teaching practice work so well anywhere else. Memphis gives professional artists opportunities to expand their outreach through education, as well as numerous chances to mix and mingle with the public.”