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…”
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.
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.
My soul has been itching to post about seeing Jon Langford in Cincinnati. Now, spring evaluations turned in and a writing deadline met (with almost 2 hours to spare) I can breathe in and out and recall that evening…
I had a lovely conversation with Skull Orchard violinist Jean Cook, told her how my four-year-old daughter (beginning fiddler, who loves the music that swirls around Langford) is a big fan of hers. Jean Cook was kind, and wonderful to watch play. Langford is one of those people who surrounds himself with other great people, whose work fits into this fantasy I have about a group of creative humans converging to forge an exquisite tool that splits open the world, reconfiguring it into a place where people make instead of trash things, where the work people do brings honor, intrigue, and inspiration to the inside of the soul’s corners…
I just wanna be there.
Dream alert: This morning I had a dream. I was in Seattle, working at the Annex Theatre with some of the people who were there in the 1990s. (It’s notable that I worked there briefly in the real 1990s but never felt cool or connected to the core of the place, to its inner tribe.) In the dream, it was 45 minutes to curtain, and I kinda knew my lines, but wasn’t confident. I had a small role, and I decided I really didn’t care if I knew my lines–I’d wing it. (This is progress. Usually my theatre dreams center around having to go onstage in five minutes, having just gotten the script. Classic, clichéd performance anxiety dreams.) In this morning’s dream, as we were getting ready for the show, in the velvety backstage light, I put Langford’s Skull Orchard Revisited on the turntable and on came “Tom Jones’ Levitation.” I asked one of the Annex guys what he thought of the music. He dug it; everyone did. It was one of those peak moments where art meets heart and you really can fly, like Tom Jones. Someone gave me a bag of home-grown dried peppers. I asked if they would help me stop sweating and feel less nervous, or if they were the kind to have with chocolate. (Yeah, chocolate was the answer.) The moment was one of ensemble. Of generosity. We were doing our work, and all was well in this badly broken world.
Taking me back to Jon Langford. Watching, witnessing, meeting one of the remaining anti-sellouts fed my creative soul, swept out shadows, sweated out, through peppers and chocolate and dreams, the chaff, jettisoned all the gunk that stops me making stuff. Lifted me from the daily overwhelm, through silence and apathy, allowing me to write anything.
I think people who do stuff like this give others license to create.
Eternal gratitude to all who are even considering what we do, and make, and how we live.