“Psychologists say, once you learn how to be happy,
you will not tolerate being around people who make you feel anything less.”
Before the days of art murals there were these. Ads were painted on buildings and barns, large and small, city and country. This RC Cola painting adorns a wall in Whitesburg and I couldn’t help but admire it. Happy Saturday to us all!
“Turn your face stubbornly to the light, and keep it there.” ~ Elizabeth Gilbert
A few weeks ago Crystal traveled to Austin, Texas to attend a Photogrammetry workshop. This type of photography involves many photos, multiple angles, and a single object from which a map or a 3D model can be created of said object with specialized software. Basically, the software uses the photos to measure the object.
This afternoon Crystal decided to photograph the giant Abe Lincoln head in the Special Collections lobby from which to create a 3D model. Abe is a hollow bronze created by Gutzon Borglum, the artist who created Mount Rushmore. Our Abe was a model for that larger work. I lent a hand (and a flash), and I learned a lot about Photogrammetry along the way. One thing we both learned: close your eyes before the flash goes off.
“Do something wonderful, people may imitate it.” ~ Albert Schweitzer
Lori-Lyn Hurley had an opening reception this evening at St. Raphael’s gallery. Her beautiful paintings lined the gallery walls in few but mighty numbers. I’m so proud of her for doing the work she loves and putting it out there for the world to enjoy and appreciate. And that man of hers, Tracy; still one of the finest human beings ever. The two of them together fill me with more joy than should be allowed, and any time in their presence is a gift. I got an unexpected treat at the reception, too. Stacy and I met St. Raphael’s interim rector Rev. Karen Booth. She was engaging and her story was very familiar. She has a BA in fine art photography from EKU (who does that sound like?); and she left the church for a time before coming back to earn her Masters of Divinity. I don’t have the latter, of course, but I do identify with why one would take an extended break from organized religion. It’s amazing to me how many people I know who have had similar experiences. They’re brought up in the church, leave or become disillusioned for one reason or another, and then called to return. Most if not all are the most genuine, compassionate Christians I’ve ever known, so there was little surprise that I connected with Rev. Booth. I got to see two of my favorite people, hang out with Stacy, and meet a new awesome person. I win Friday.
“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” ~ George Bernard Shaw
As I mentioned earlier this week, I crossed paths with a few new murals. First, let’s look at this surprise art I found by Two Keys Tavern. I love to see folks sculpt their dead tree stumps instead of grinding them to nothing. They can be great art pieces, or at the very least wonderful conversation starters. Take this wildcat for example. I think the artist could have used a drink or four from Two Keys because the wildcat looks pretty depressed. Nobody likes a depressed wildcat, least of all depressed Wildcat fans that hang out at Two Keys. Maybe he was carved after this year’s NCAA loss, or the NBA Draft announcements by most of the team. They’ve both become yearly depression events. In any case, I think the sculpture is fun and I tip my hat to Two Keys for adding a little art to their backdoor entrance.
Now, about those murals. This long piece (top) sits across from Lowell’s where I took the car for repairs. I really enjoy bright colors and abstract work, but this mural doesn’t really have either, and it’s a bit too Disney-esque for my taste. If it was near, say, a school or daycare I could see it as a good fit, but it faces a car repair shop and not much else. Maybe if I had kids I’d understand it, if in fact these characters are based on a Disney show like I suspect. The mural below faces the parking lot of Joe Bologna’s Italian Restaurant. While more aesthetically engaging, I admit to not understanding one bit of it either. It feels like a Ren-&-Stimpy-meets-Godzilla-on-the-basketball-court video game or something. It has great colors even if I don’t understand the imagery. All in all, I’ve concluded that just because you have a wall doesn’t mean you need to put a mural on it. Sometimes a plain wall just needs to stay plain. I may be showing my age with these critiques. Next thing you know I’ll be screaming at the kids to get off my lawn. Then, I’ll come into the house and laugh myself silly. Still, I whole-heartedly applaud these mural artists. These things aren’t easy to do, and I’m really pleased they get out there and get their feet wet. That’s how great art gets made.
“Think positive and positive things will happen.” ~ Unknown
It was finally time for Ky Crafted: The Market. It was a totally rotten weather day; perfect to be inside soaking up lots of good art. I met Annie Bassoni, fellow art soaker upper, and off we went. We were on the lookout for a few people, and sure enough, we found them. Our first victim, I mean, friend encounter was the ever beautiful Deb Chenault. As usual, she shied away from my camera. Annie somehow thought that this silly symbol would stop me. pfffftttt We continued our meandering ways when we spotted Rebecca Campbell, sending Annie into recon mode looking for David so I could spring the paparazzi on him. It was not a successful mission for David saw us first. Nevertheless, a good time was had by all. It does my heart good to visit with my people however short the time. And visiting among art? As good a day as it gets in my book.
“Life: It’s about using every crayon in the box.” ~ Unknown
You could have knocked me over with a feather when I opened the package today. Inside was this gorgeous hardcover coffee table book put together over many months by my soul friend Pam Thurman and her colleague Shawna Cain. It’s stunningly beautiful – seriously. Cherokee National Treasures highlights “Cherokee Nation citizens with exceptional knowledge of Cherokee art forms and cultural practices…” A book devoted to these gifted folks is not only an honor for them (bestowed by The Nation), but it gives the rest of the world the opportunity to enjoy and honor them, too. It’s vitally important that cultures cherish their torch bearers like this, but it’s especially important for U.S. indigenous cultures to do it because, historically, the country has committed unspeakable atrocities to destroy every last one of them. Modern U.S. politics has a long way to go to convince me that they’re not still trying, what with the North Dakota pipeline being just one of the more recent tragic examples. That’s why I’m especially proud that the Cherokee Nation formally embraces the people keeping the culture alive through the arts. They could have picked no one better to put this book together than Pam. When she’s not busy flying all over the world making it better and being a kick-ass academic, she’s busy being an artist and musician. As someone who has devoted her life to her native heritage, I suspect Pam will be a Cherokee National Treasure before long herself. One thing is certain: she’s a treasure to everyone who knows her, and I am deeply honored to call her my friend. I’m sure Lance is beaming right now.
“Never say there is nothing beautiful in the world anymore. There is always something to make you wonder in the shape of a tree, the trembling of a leaf.” ~ Albert Schweitzer
I came home to a box in my mail. I opened it to find this book, coffee mug, and the sweetest handwritten letter from Ellen Fagala. She read my post last week about my love of Kenya, Out of Africa, and Peter Beard. It seems I’m not alone in those loves. I recognized the book cover. I’d just seen it online last night, and like Peter Beard’s work on the Fleetwood Mac album, at first I didn’t make the connection with Beryl Markham, the subject of the book. But when I held the book in my hands today I realized on a shelf nearby sat ‘West With The Night‘ by Beryl Markham, one of the first female aviators and the third person in the love triangle of Karen Blixen (Isek Dinesen) and Denys Finch Hatton in Out of Africa. Ellen’s timing was eyebrow raising, and the book selection outstanding. Oh, but the best part was the coffee mug. You see, Ellen has been learning the art of ceramics as a way to work herself out of her grief over losing her Danny Boy last year to a heart attack. She made this cup just for me. I’m deeply honored. It’s the perfect Kopana color. The last two weeks have been a little trying for me on almost every level of my existence (growth will do that, so I don’t see it as a bad thing). This gift lifted my spirits at the right time. Even though we’ve always lived far apart, I’ve felt a kinship with Ellen since day one. Thank you, Ellen, for perfect timing, and your gracious, giving soul. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m taking hot tea in my new mug and curling up with a good book.
“Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. That is not our business and, in fact, it is nobody’s business. What we are asked to do is to love, and this love itself will render both ourselves and our neighbors worthy.” ~ Thomas Merton
I’ve been doing some fun work the last two days. As you know, I’ve had a hand in a literary journal called Solidago. I threw together the website in a hurry last year, so there were some things we – myself and co-editors Catherine Brereton and Susan Stewart – never really liked. As we opened the submissions window for the Spring 2017 issue, it seemed the right time for a make-over. The grooviest part, I think anyway, is that header images revolve, and their titles change to highlight whatever we want, such as featured artists and past issues. I really love doing this kind of work. I hope you like Solidago’s new look, and if you’re a writer or artist, I hope you’ll consider letting us bring your work to a wider audience. It’ll be fun. It pays nothing but it’s fun!
“The Lord will bless you for being kind to people.” ~ Reva Hubbard
Last night as I was pouring over Fleetwood Mac’s Tusk, relishing the ancient art of vinyl album covers, something caught my eye. Tusk is an elaborate vinyl package, even among double albums. There are slips inside slips inside the outside cover. Of particular interest were the outer (or middle) slips. Instantly, it was 1979 and I was back in my tiny bedroom, sitting on the floor in front of a second-hand stereo, where I scoured the intricate collages for hours. Now, they reminded me of Peter Beard‘s work. In 1993, I came across a book called “The Adventures and Misadventures of Peter Beard in Africa” by Jon Bowermaster. It captured my attention for two reasons: 1. Beard is a fascinating artist known primarily for his collage diaries (he sometimes uses his own blood to draw on them) and 2. I’ve loved Africa since early childhood, particularly Kenya where Beard has a home called The Hog Ranch. As Tusk continued to spin its quirky pop tunes, I pulled out my copy of the book. I rifled through the pages, memories flying back to me; Beard’s friendship with Karen Blixen (Isak Dinesen who wrote the autobiographic Out of Africa, one of my all-time favorite books), the sheer beauty of Africa, the shame of big game killers, the privileged life that afforded Beard such an adventure that most people, certainly most artists, could never have. And then I saw it: a photo from one of the Tusk collages. Beard made the collages for Tusk. I knew about Peter Beard before the Bowermaster book. He’s listed on Tusk’s credits. As someone who used to absorb every piece of information from albums, the connection between Beard and Tusk had been buried in my brain all these decades, subconsciously rolling around, waiting to resurface. It was a beautiful moment to reconnect with these two things I loved so much when I was younger. I hope one day I’ll have the opportunity to go to Kenya and Tanzania, roam the Masai Mara Wildlife Reserve, and wake up “at the foot of the Ngong Hills.” What a blessing that would be, but it certainly doesn’t diminish the blessings Tusk and Peter Beard have given me for decades. I’m lucky that they’ve come back home.
“Find a place inside where there’s joy, and the joy will burn out the pain.” ~ Joseph Campbell
Over the holiday break, even with all the cooking, visiting, and hospital business, I managed to read two books. This is a big deal because I have, over the last several years, become increasingly distracted to the point of having zero attention span. I can manage to get about 50 pages into a book, but that’s about it. Things began to turn around last year when Michael Slone loaned me Terry Pratchett’s Dodger. Immediately, I fell in love with Pratchett. I mentioned this to Bobby Ray who then recommended Wee Free Men also by Pratchett. Who doesn’t love a story about tiny Scottish sounding men and a teenage witch in training? Still, it would be months later before I read Margaret Verble’s Maud’s Line. The rest of the time I just felt bogged down with a bunch of non-fiction and other stuff that just wasn’t very good. Just before the break a co-worker and I were commiserating on our lost passion for reading after Graduate School. Maybe that’s what did me in, instead of the lackluster material. Maybe it was both, I don’t know, but I knew I desperately wanted to reconnect that part of my brain. So, the first book I read over the break was News of the World by Paulette Jiles, recommended by Jen Reynolds. It did not disappoint, and it set the stage for the second book, which I picked it up with my usual Christmas gift card from Doug Boyd. It was Ron Rash’s Above the Waterfall. Here was a book that’s been stalking me since 2015. By stalking I mean it’s a book that keeps showing up in every bookstore or grocery line I walk into until I read it. I have yet to be disappointed in these stalker books, and Above the Waterfall was no exception. Rash writes about Southern Appalachia as a smooth, contemporary storyteller, devoid of the expected dialect or dreamy theme. It was refreshing, to say the least, and the story was excellent. I made myself a promise when I finished it this morning: I’m not buying any new books until I’ve read the two stacks I’ve already got, and that’s going to be hard because I really want to read more from Rash. Still, reading more – specifically more good writing – is my goal for 2017. I’m off to an excellent start.