Terry Allen giving sculpture made with Guy Clark’s ashes to Wittliff CollectionJanuary 14, 2020
Sometime soon, possibly this week when he’s in town to play the Paramount Theatre, Santa Fe multimedia artist Terry Allen will bring along a very special sculpture he recently created that he’s donating to the Wittliff Collections at Texas State University in San Marcos.
Allen’s good friend Guy Clark, a legendary Texas songwriter who died in 2016, had asked Allen to incorporate his ashes into a sculpture. Allen recently completed the piece.
The two friends shared an offbeat sense of humor, and they’d joked about the sculpture often while Clark was still alive. In “Everything for All Reasons,” an hourlong documentary about Allen that screened in Austin late last year and is now available on streaming services, Allen said his running gag was to tell Clark, “I’m going to do a bronze goat and shove your ashes up its ass.” Allen says Clark would respond, “That’s perfect.”
Moments later in the film, though, Allen took a more serious tone, admitting that he wanted “to do something that he (Clark) would feel good about.” What it ended up being was a crow, for which there’s an intriguing backstory that relates to a song Clark and Rodney Crowell co-wrote on Crowell’s recent album “Texas.”
In Clark’s final years, Allen said, “Guy got intrigued with a windmill museum in Lubbock. Every time he went through, he’d go to the museum.” He was especially fascinated with two nests that birds had built into windmills during the Dust Bowl era nearly a century ago.
“The nests were made out of barbed wire and baling wire, because that’s all these crows had access to,” Allen said. “He was borderline obsessed with those nests. The last couple of years he was alive, every time I talked to him, he talked about those crows and those nests.”
Clark painstakingly worked on a song about them called “Caw Caw Blues,” which finally surfaced on “Texas.” But Allen had other visions for turning Clark’s experience into art. “Talking to Guy,” he says, “it was like everything he was saying was really talking about what was happening to him, physically. So it became very poignant to me, that image of the crow.”
The final result, Allen reveals, is “a sculpture of a large crow, about the size of a raven, that incorporates his ashes in the body of the crow. But also, I opened it up and put the bulk of the ashes inside the crow. So it’s like an urn as well.”
Allen has, perhaps, just one regret. “I put his ashes in the breasts of this crow,” he says, “but I should’ve maybe shoved them up its ass.”
By Peter Blackstock