Tesserae: A Memoir of Two Summers
by Mathias B. Freese
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“Tesserae: A Memoir of Two Summers stands above much of the crowd in its commitment to ask, ‘What is it to remember?’ Mathias B. Freese, tenderly plaiting a web that spreads from Woodstock, Las Vegas, Long Island, and North Carolina, locates friends and family, lovers long since gone, desire and passion sometimes quenched sometimes unrequited, and the harrowing agony that comes from that most soul-crushing word of all, regret. But Tesserae is not a work of sadness and grief. Rather, it is an effort from a trained psychotherapist adept at understanding the feelings that we all have. The quiescence found has a staying effect upon the mind; this memoir lingers in the reader’s memory for some time.” — Steven Berndt, Professor of American Literature, College of Southern Nevada
As I reflect now, Woodstock instructed me in how to be open to life. I remain open until this day. I revel in it. I draw sustenance from it. It brings power and meaning to all my writing. And I have observed that my expansiveness, my being alive and reveling in that, make some uncomfortable.
Schmidt “lived” on Ohayo Mountain in Woodstock, and what I have discovered is that from 1940 to 1972 he worked on erecting his home, Miracle on the Mountain, as he named it. The house itself burned down in between the winters of 1968 to 1969. I was told that it had covered an entire side of the mountain, that it had many levels and glass windows, and myriad mirrors as well, for in the sunlight the entire house flashed. When I first came upon it the house was in shambles, fit for Miss Havisham. He is now labeled by the art community as part of the found-art movement, and here we can think of the Watts Towers built by Simon Rodia and parts of the buildings built by that Barcelonan genius, Antoni Gaudi (Parc Guell, for instance). In the sixties Schmidt was the subject of a documentary which I have never seen nor choose to see, for he stands out beyond celluloid.
I was told about him by Hal, and I decided to take a look. Hal also informed me that the price of admission to his property was a six-pack of beer. So Woodstock. Unfortunately I was slow on the uptake and thought that a bottle of beer was sufficient; it proved not to be. Walking through the brush and flowering summertime saplings and scrub, I came upon a circular place that had been cleared. In this oval was a “nest,” a kind of gothic Lego interlocking contraption that a child’s brilliant mind might devise. As I dimly think back I recall that beer bottles and cans elaborated themselves upon every surface of this “house” in orderly fashion, a crenellation.
Indeed, I learned later that Schmidt slept in a casket-like part of his “nest.” So he had made another piece of found art to substitute for his destroyed masterpiece on Ohayo Mountain. I gave him one bottle of beer (schmuck!) and he commented about my niggardliness, which was apt. Schmidt had a long and scruffy beard and he was clothed in carpenter’s overalls. I asked if I could look around and he agreed. By this time everyone from down under flocked through Woodstock, and perhaps he had tired of the notoriety. I had no idea what I was looking for, but I found it. As I browsed through many yards of trees and shrubbery, it hit me: Schmidt had broken off legs, arms, torsos, and faces of every imaginable kind of children’s doll and had painted them in a dull silver paint. I wouldn’t call it eerie; it was like a bad night in The Shining (“Redrum”). I’d walk a foot or so and another silvered and weathered grotesque would pop into view. Schmidt apparently was a kind of Johnny Appleseed, seeding his woods with art. All was random and happenstance; it was a “happening,” to use the term coming into the American lexicon. It was not a Dantesque hell, but more of an outer expression of an inner artistic disturbance. I will not label it. I will not place it into some movement. It was Clarence Schmidt tiptoeing through the tulips with a sculptor’s hand. Certainly different and outré, I took it in without interpreting it, which was a better response than any other I could think of. I was learning to look at everything as if for the first time.
Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir
Formats: Paperback & eBook
Published by: Wheatmark
Pub. Date: Feb. 15, 2016
Number of pages: 236
Content Warning: 19+ for mild sexual and graphic content
Also by Mathias B. Freese:
I Truly Lament: Working Through the Holocaust, 2014, ISBN 9781627871617
The i Tetralogy, 2005, ISBN 1587364042
Down to a Sunless Sea, 2007, ISBN 9781587367335
This Mobius Strip of Ifs, 2012, ISBN 9781604947236
> The i Tetralogy: Allbooks Review Editor’s Choice Award 2007
> Down to a Sunless Sea: National Indie Excellence finalist Book Awards 2007 & Allbooks Reviews Editor’s Choice Award 2007.
> This Mobius Strip of Ifs: National Indie (Winner) Book Awards, 2012 & Global Ebook Award finalist, 2012.
> I Truly Lament: Working Through the Holocaust: Finalist in the 2012 Leapfrog Press Fiction Contest out of 424 submissions
> Tesserae: A Memoir of Two Summers: 2016 Los Angeles Book Festival Honorable Mention & Great Northwest Book Festival Winner in Biography/Autobiography Category