A few more days of Langford art in Yellow Springs!


Friends, you are in luck, but you better act soon: There are only a few more days to see and purchase Jon Langford’s art at Emporium. Get your hides over there to bask in the light where art, music, and the human spirit collide.

The show runs through April 30, and there are still some pieces for sale. Tell your friends! Don’t miss it!

Loving a school

Teacher Bev Price and students (including me) at the Antioch School sometime in the 1970s

Back in the 1970s when I attended the Antioch School, the building itself seemed to be alive and breathing.  (Here’s a piece about the school and the building by alum Tucker Viemiester.)  In the Red Room (now Art & Science) we dipped candles, sewed clothing, fired glass, made pottery, and fixed our own lunch.  My love of making things with fiber and words thrived.  One year, teacher Bev Price made each student a stuffed toy monster, each creation somehow fitting the child’s personality.  The Antioch School is a community nourished by the teachers.  The teachers respected and celebrated our humanity.  Being a child who was taken seriously by adults has resonated through my life.  I try to give this back by really listening to children.

Last autumn, my daughter began in Nursery.  Through the kaleidoscope of time and memory, I see the school anew, see what rare magic happens there.  I see what education should be.  In the midst of what looks like chaos, the teachers’ work seems nearly invisible, but with patient intention, they create a school where children are trusted to follow intuition, indulge natural curiosity, and take real risks.  The teachers provide safety and offer gentle, effective leadership, asking children questions rather than giving them answers.  They know children can–and should–find their own solutions.  It is a place that allows children to grow into creators, innovators, problem-solvers, and sometimes, teachers–a place that allows children to grow into themselves.

I look forward to connecting with alumni at the Alumni Reunion in July.  (For more information about the reunion, go here.)

Ode to Jon Langford (and Interdisciplinary Aesthetics) Part 2

Jon Langford, “Don’t Be Afraid” mixed media painting

In Part 1 of my Ode to Jon Langford, I only mentioned his visual art passingly.  But his artwork is not second to his music.  The visual and sonic are entangled in the best kind of way.  As Langford wrote, in his song “Pill Sailor“:

“These ropes are all knotted and tangled round me, I’m a sailor who wandered a little too far from the sea…”

And in an interview on Blurt (“A Fat Welsh Bastard”) Langford told Lee Zimmerman:

My theory is that the art and the music all come from the same place in my brain. This may or may not be true, but I have convinced myself.  And it all flows back and forth quite nicely…. killer bees pollinating Venus fly-traps for ever and a day!

This image (“Don’t Be Afraid”)  has been haunting me since seeing his work up close at the Clay Street Press in Cincinnati.  It’s hard to convey his jolts and textures on a computer screen.  They’re iconic and distressed and distressing and and there are also these gorgeous hopeful bits of aquablue everywhere.  I guess it’s just more of that life stuff seeping through, the stuff that is usually the reason an artist keeps at it regardless of the tendency to have to climb up steep hills to do anything aside from the default.

A wee wearable print of Langford’s, a gift from my husband, from RockCandybyHelen on Etsy.

Maybe my vision of interdisciplinary aesthetics really comes down to not accepting defaults.  Put another way, if we stop thinking, what is the point?

Seems to me the point is to make things that weren’t there in the first place.  To make things from nothing.  Is that what making art is?  Music?  Writing?  There’s stuff (somewhere, in a tube, in the brain, somewhere we find it) and we make new somethings.

The stuff and the brain or soul or gut collide and make new somethings.

Ode to The Unembellished

Fragment of marble statue of woman's head, Greek, ca. 350 B.C.; believed to be from a funeral stele.

Driving to Yellow Springs from my home at Sanity Creek, again I noticed the beauty in the lines of the barren trees.  Winter used to depress me, and it still does in some ways, but there was a winter, soon after I’d moved to the country, when I could not believe the beauty of the trees without their dressing.  As if I had never seen them, they appeared, a revelation.

I’ve long been fascinated by line drawings, and wire sculptures, much more than paintings and color.  Seeing artists’ sketches, their studies, before the emergence of the painting, is fascinating.  (Possibly I’m obsessed with process.)  In college art class, the blind contour drawing was one of my favorite assignments–pulling together several ideas that still resonate:  the idea of starting and continuing until a natural end, the idea of gesture, the idea of trusting “the force” as a warrior might–both Buffy and Luke closed their eyes to discover their power.   The paradox of seeing while not seeing, and the idea of simplicity.  I loved the drawings produced by this technique, the movement, the essential truth of the process.

There is something about the unembellished that I find much more inspiring than all the paint and gold leaf you can flash in front of me.  A million years ago when I first went to Europe (actually, it was 1989) I traveled quickly through so many countries, five short weeks, the blur of time makes memory fuzzy.  But I recall when I got to Greece: after regarding the gorgeous decadence of Italian art, the unembellished and sometimes broken forms of Greece allowed me to slow down, to appreciate what is underneath.

I wish I could be more minimalist in my writing.  I crave slowness, and more silence.

Interdisciplinary Aesthetics

“Interdisciplinary Aesthetics”

I thought I came up with this term the other day, but alas, a quick google reveals I cannot claim it.

Interdisciplinary Aesthetics. I thought, “This should be an academic field!” In my dream department, the teachers would be people like Joy Williams, Joss Whedon, Lynda Barry, Dave Chappelle, Tom Waits, the guys from Sleepybird, the creators of “Mad Men” and “Nip/Tuck” and “Deadwood” and whoever thought up that “Think Different” campaign for Apple computer. And lots of other people who seem to get that the disciplines of 2-D and 3-D art and literature and theatre and music seep into each other and can and should collaborate on a cellular level.  (6/15/12: I’m adding Jon Langford and anyone else he wants to bring to the guest list.)

We could have some scientists and other thinkers, too. I’m sure there are plenty of others who should apply when we open the department.

In those halls, you would find painters and writers and quiltmakers and dancers and drum-bangers and all kinds of rowdy, quiet, thoughtful, brilliant people. And maybe even some people who use (gasp!) computers as the primary medium.

Maybe we should pool our resources and everybody move to Denmark.