2015 November

Words with Hiram Mesa

Throughout November, the Post Art Library is showing Hiram Mesa’s The Magic Mirror, which is comprised of mixed-media artworks, screen prints, jewelry, and wonderfully cut cabochons. Earlier today, I had the opportunity to ask Hiram some questions about his art.

Jill’s questions/comments are in bold,
whereas Hiram’s are not.

You’re making a name for yourself cutting stones. Could you tell me about what drew you to pursue lapidary work?
I was traveling with some friends through Colorado and New Mexico and we stopped at a rock shop. I noticed a nice piece of turquoise jewelry on display and I thought maybe I could do something like that. So I bought a rough, unfinished stone and I started buying Rock & Gem magazine and set about teaching myself lapidary work. Eventually I joined a gem and mineral club in Joplin and started borrowing some of their equipment and cutting stones. That was about 12 years ago.

Although you do buy some stones, you prefer digging for them. Where have you dug for stones?
Colorado, mostly. I’ve been to Canada, some places in Arkansas, and New Mexico.

What’s it like to dig for stones?
It’s the most amazing thing EVER!!! When you pull something out of the ground and it’s been there forever and no one has ever seen it and the light is shining on it—it’s very, very cool… I’d rather be digging for stones than doing just about anything else.

But tell me about the process. What types of tools do you use?
It’s actually a lot of work. It’s funny, I work harder on my vacations than when I’m working. I use shovels, pry bars, picks, chisels, brushes, things like that.

How do you know where to go?
This is a tricky question. I’ve read a lot of books and field guides so I have a pretty good understanding of how to read the geology. You have to know how to read the rock itself, the geology. There’s a host rock that most of the stones form in, so you have to know how to read the host rock and it will tell you where you need to be digging. But a lot of it is intuition and luck.

Some of your mixed-media art incorporates specular hematite. Could you tell me about specular hematite and why you like to use it?
Specular hematite forms in large masses. I take two of the stones and rub them together over a piece of paper and collect the flakes to use in my art. I love stones, so I feel the need to apply stones to my art. I like specular hematite because I like the way it feels.

You’ve mentioned that you’d rather be digging for stones than anything else. So how do you turn your attention away from that to your other art forms, such as metal work, jewelry fabrication, and mixed media?
The abstract images that I envision are more easily conveyed through paper and paint. Besides, I really enjoy painting.

What are some of your favorite mediums to use in your mixed-media pieces?
Markers, watercolors, fingernail polish, and acrylics.

Aside from the art that you make, what are some of your favorite forms of art and who are some of your favorite artists?
I like photography, poetry, music, watercolor, ceramics, and most all forms of art. In regards to my favorite artists, that’s tough. I like so many art forms and artists that if I answer this question I’ll just be thinking of the most famous and that’s not fair.

Thanks, Hiram, for answering questions about your art. Is there anything you’d like to add?
Thanks, Jill.

Left: “Seascape” by Hiram Mesa
Right: “Waterfalls from the Heavens” by Hiram Mesa

Joplin’s Jasper County Courthouse

Joplin’s Jasper County Courthouse once stood on the southeast corner of 7th and Virginia. The following information is taken directly from the Post Art Library’s album Joplin’s Historic Buildings and Houses, which was compiled by former Director Leslie Simpson. If you’d like to see the album proper, then visit the Post Art Library! In the meantime, enjoy…

jc courthouse

JASPER COUNTY COURTHOUSE – Joplin, Missouri – Southeast corner of 7th & Virginia

In 1883, the Jasper County presiding judge determined that it was time to build a courthouse–in the center of the Carthage square. Joplin opposed building on in Carthage unless it had one. Several hot meetings ended in violence. One incident involved Joplin founding father Patrick Murphy, who had been “free with his abuse of Carthage men.” Prosecuting Attorney T.B. Haughawout punched Murphy in the face several times, leaving him bashed and bloody.

After the 1883 election failed, the ruckus continued with no resolution in sight. Things heated up again in 1891 with a proposal for two courthouses–one in Joplin and one in Carthage. This time, Webb City caused trouble, arguing that it should have a courthouse, too. Newspapers published scathing editorials suggesting that “such simple-minded business men ought to go to the insane asylum.”

In spite of all the mud-slinging and fist-slinging, the issue finally resolved itself at the polls on May 9, 1893, with the decision to build courthouses in Carthage and Joplin. Two grand halls of justice were erected in 1894. The limestone courthouse in Carthage cost $100,000, while Joplin’s brick/stone one cost a comparatively paltry $20,000.

A crowd of 15,000 turned out for the cornerstone-laying ceremony on May 8, 1894. Fifty-one organizations participated in a festive parade, followed by a round of patriotic speeches. Architect T.R. Bellas designed the impressive structure with its four corner towers, the tallest one standing 92 feet high and crowned with a cupola. The raised basement, contructed of Carthage limestone, house the janitor’s room, four prisoner cells, and the furnace and coal storage area. The first floor held the sheriff’s room, two petit jury rooms, a grand jury room, a large waiting room, and “water closets.” The main stairway led up through the large corner tower. On the second floor, a 16 x 40 feet balcony rose about the 40 x 53 feet courtroom, which seated 400 spectators. Also located on the second floor were the consultation room, circuit clerk’s office, 8 x 8 feet steel vault, jury rooms, and closets.

On June 13, 1911, a can of disinfectant in the basement exploded and engulfed the building in flames. The three people inside at the time jumped to safety from a second floor window. The fire spread so rapidly that firefighters, who could not get sufficient water pressure, could do nothing to stop it. The cupola fell to the street with a crash and the topless tower acted as a funnel to feed the blaze. The entire community turned out to watch the exciting event. Firefighters dynamited the remaining tower to keep it from collapsing and injuring any of the foolhardy spectators. Fortunately, all the important county records, locked in a fireproof safe, survived the blaze.

County offices then moved to7th & Main; in 1917, they moved to the McKinley Building (southeast corner of 5th & Joplin), then to 6th & Pearl in 1954. Once again plagued by fire, this building burned in 1972. The present courthouse on the same site was built in 1975.