In describing The Home Coming, the group of figures envisioned by Richard R. Troxell and currently in the studio of Timothy P. Schmalz, we have talked about different varieties of people experiencing homelessness: military veterans, TBI and PTSD victims; members of racial and ethnic minorities; children; women; and even animal companions.

Richard describes some dimensions of the sculpture’s symbolism. The father is a veteran whose idealism led him to the military: “As a young man, he really didn’t understand the dynamics of war and the forces behind it… that our republic is based in capitalism.”

No matter what capitalism was meant or intended to be, it has devolved into a “waste product economy” driven by built-in, planned obsolescence. “If you make a bullet, you have to expend it… so you can make another bullet,” Richard says.

“Now, John’s young daughter Colleen sees a different path, one of sharing, offering comfort with another human being… a stranger just like everyone her father ever met on the battlefield. But unlike her father, she greets the stranger with open arms…,” says Richard. The young take the lead and show the way, and hopefully, will continue lighting the path ahead.

The Home Coming celebrates the moment in which Ms. Anateen Tyson, homeless, depressed and with night vision impaired by cataracts, stumbles into the radius of warmth, the circle of not just acceptance but welcome, and realizes that life — complete with a tail-wagging dog named Joey — is taking a turn for the better. Another section of the House the Homeless website contains an expanded version of the imagined histories of the figures represented here.

Another aspect of the project

Now let’s move to the creation of the object itself. Several years ago, Richard R. Troxell, most habitually known as co-founder and President of House the Homeless, also took on the role of artist, and studied sculpture for a year under Steve Dubov of Austin’s Atelier 3-D. News of the project stirred interest among some local institutions and segments of the press. The American-Statesman printed an interview with Richard (front page of the Metro section, above the fold, thank you very much!). Then, there was another interview, by Andrea Ball, on the front page of the paper itself.

Internationally renowned sculptor Timothy P. Schmalz got involved. During the time when interest from many quarters was focused on Schmalz’s glorious and often notorious Homeless Jesus sculpture, the maestro also collaborated long-distance with Richard on developing his concept. This was not a project to be rushed, and they explored more than one avenue, modifying and refining the vision as they went along.

Throughout the early stages, all the usual toil and turmoil continued, of course, notably the ongoing effort to ameliorate the devastating effects of the local No Sit/No Lie ordinance. The UMLAUF Sculpture Garden and Museum hosted a knock-your-socks off fundraiser, where a smaller version of the group of figures was unveiled. The list of supporters grew explosively, and donations accumulated.

For a number of tediously bureaucratic reasons, The Home Coming cannot be placed at the originally intended site, and we urge interested Austinites and indeed everybody to follow the saga of finding a home for The Homecoming. Appropriately locating this work could help it become a tremendous example to the rest of the nation. You, dear reader, might be the one who suggests a brilliant solution that will allow for happiness all around!

If the spirit behind The Home Coming were to be boiled down into one statement, the work is an homage to people who have little or nothing, and who are still willing to share with others whatever they can. That’s what it’s all about. That, and the belief that tomorrow will be a better day, and the determination to make it so.

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Image by House the Homeless