Paul’s interpretation of “overalls” began with a reflection on why he, himself, wears overalls so much of the time.
“In a way, it’s an homage to Dad,” he says. He talked with other guys who also wear overalls, asking why. One friend shrugged, saying he guessed it was simply because his own father wore them.
“I think that’s the way it is with guys who wear them comfortably,” Paul says. “You can tell the people who wear them, compared with the people who just put them on. You can tell a guy who’s wearing them for the first time, because they just don’t stand comfortably.”
While Paul wears Imperial Keys brand overalls, our father Wesley wore Roebucks.
“That’s all he would wear,” Paul remembers. “He’d wait to buy when we could get to Sears,” even if he desperately needed to replace a pair so threadbare they were barely a shield against the daily perils of farm work.
Paul compared a farmer’s overalls with an organized workplace. With pocket watch and pencil and all other essentials always in the same place, you feel put together. “I know where everything is. I know if I’m missing a pocketknife without looking, because it doesn’t feel right. To change would be like changing your office or workspace.”
Where might all these insights show up in Paul’s artwork? He envisions taking a pair of overalls and spraying them down with plaster to make them hard. Then he’ll carve and add a few keys to go into the pockets—one to represent his wife and kids, one to represent delivering the mail (his day job) and another to represent his Harley.
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As much as our reflections reminded us of our parents’ work ethic, all three of us also discovered that “overalls” connected us to the way Mom and Dad encouraged and supported the art in us. Dad read poetry to Norma, and Mom let her grow all kinds of flowers just for Japanese flower arranging—even if Japanese flowers were not exactly Mom’s thing. Paul remembered that they always took us to plays, taught us to work with our hands and gave us instruments to play. And I feel fortunate that they gave me the freedom to be super-involved at church and school, where I could explore many types of self-expression, even though the cost and time of those activities put a strain on our household.