Paul Nixon, a native of Ireland stepped into the unknown and, in North Carolina found an unexpected calling.
In front of Greensboro's Fire Station 1, on busy North Church St, three bronze figures are frozen in time. The first figure, a fireman looks forward with patriotic determination. The second, a small girl with a Band Aid on her knee, reaches back to hold his hand. And the third a young boy on the fireman's hip, points to something in the distance.The fireman's posturing and positioning here where the constant wail of sirens signals danger in the distance, implies; this man knows uncertainty and fear, but he's OK. He and his creator, Paul Nixon, have this faith in common. Nixon came to America based on a hunch-some small voice that said: "Leave, Go find yourself." He grew up in Clondalkin, just outside of Dublin City. His time was also shared with his grandmother in the West of Ireland who lived in a cottage on the side of a 2,000-foot mountain. Spell bound by his grandmothers notions that trees have spirits, and that every plant, vine and blossom had a story. Nixon has an old soul -spiritual wise, sensitive. Living in Ireland fostered that, and leaving the place where he grew up wasn't easy.
"It broke my heart when I left home, family and friends 30 years ago."" Somehow I knew that I had to leave the security of family and friends to achieve that independent dream."
Nixon found himself working in New York in the automobile industry. He met a girl named Francesca. They married and moved to Mcleansville in North Carolina to be near her family in Greensboro. In 2001 Francesca's Aunt Mary and Uncle Raley came to visit and noted Nixon's woodwork-a casual hobby-and offered Nixon an old woodworking lathe. Nixon gave it a try and eventually emerged from his shop with cane. Francesca amazed suggested that he present it to her aunt as a gift for Aunt Mary. It was then that Nixon picked up a knife with the goal to carve something special in order to make this cane unique. it only took Nixon 3 1/2 hours to grow frustrated and quit. He didn't have the talent for it, he thought. But later, Francesca asked him about the project. "I told Aunt Mary you were doing something special for her, "You have to finish it." So committed, he did.
Aunt Mary sobbed when she first held the walking stick. She cried for the surprise of it, a surprise just crafted for her. Nixon remembers the moment as a blessing on the other side- The signal to take a risk, like when he left Ireland. To quit his job and make art.
At the fire station, the small bronze girl with the small bronze Band Aid on her knee reaches for the fireman's hand. But really say's Nixon, she is leading him forward. She is inspired by Francesca who served as an encouragement and guide. Evident here too is Nixon's fascination with providence, the interplay of the natural and the divine. You can see it in his seemingly whimsical totem poles, playing with the natural grooves of a tree. Nixon carves fairies, dragons and other creatures from Celtic folklore. And in his other works; in the grandeur of his bronze winged lion at the entrance of the Grandover Resort. In the comfort of the droopy eyed terrier statue welcoming patients into Hospice of Greensboro. In the beauty of carefully carved rosettes on a confessional at Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church. In the steadiness of the gaze of the soldier bust at Summerfield Veterans Memorial. And in the fire station 1 memorial, which prompted a WW2 Veteran to cold -call Nixon to say, with tears in his voice, "I made it to Normandy on D Day, but my brother died on the beach." "We were both firefighters here in town before the war. Now you have given me a place to remember him for the man he really was."
Nixon's portfolio is so varied that its hard to believe that each piece was created by the same artist. But together, his individual works speaks a universal storyline. We have both loved and suffered. They bring into vision our deepest emotions. Like a father hoisting a child onto his hip to see the world better, Nixon gives us places to process these feelings. The bronze boy is no one in particular, Nixon says. That's code for " he is a little bit of you and a little bit of me." The boy points to something you likely wouldn't notice rushing by in your car. You need to stand in front of the fire station to see it-an American flag some hundred yards toward the parking lot. Though certainly meant to inspired patriotism, the point of the statues action. Nixon puts it this way. "Something deep and powerful is a play, but you have to open your self to it." He means looking ahead with trust at the future. He means stepping into the unknown when you feel the pull- The kind he felt in leaving Ireland The kind that led him to gamble on life as an artist. To try at being fully known.