Coalesce [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

in the woods copy

Sometimes, when we are walking through the woods, I imagine myself with none of the labels that I claim as important. What if “artist” did not apply? Or “teacher.” What if none of my opinions or ideas or justifications had any merit or substance? What if they were bits of armor or heavy clothing that I could drop as I walked? So much lighter, less encumbered, who, then, would I be? Divested of my made-up-meaning and my hard-fought-for stress, what might I experience?

These imaginings, my questions – at least to me – are not nihilistic. They are the opposite. When I am walking in the woods and all the clutter and noise and the oh-so-important-to-do-list falls away, when all of my investments in my-very-important-ideas and my-resistances-to-immovable-objects drops off, when my frustrations and anxieties evaporate, I come back to my senses. Literally and metaphorically. The cold air. The limbs waving and groaning in the breeze. The quiet chatter of the brook that ambles through Bristol Wood. I become the moment I inhabit. I inhabit the moment of my becoming. That’s it. My “meaning” takes on a proper proportion, no greater or smaller than life itself.

Listening to the brook, the sound of our feet crunching the snow, I remember something John O’Donohue wrote. “The river is a miracle of presence. Each place it flows through is the place that it is…In a river, past, present, and future coalesce in the one passionate flowing.”

 

read Kerri’s blog post about THE WOODS

 

 

footprints in sunlit snow website box copy

Check Your Reality [on Two Artists Tuesday]

ice copy

We parked the truck in the Kemper Center lot, far enough from the shore not to be hit by the flying debris, the chunks of seawall and pavement being hurtled from the impact of the waves. Kerri has lived here for over 30 years, “I’ve never seen anything like this,” she repeated as a towering wave engulfed the gazebo, took down a piece of the wall of the art center, a hunk of coastline disappeared.

Later, after the storm, we went back. Trees were down, encased in ice. Huge sections of the walking path were shattered and tossed into the flooded mess of the parking lot behind the center. Walking was treacherous. Like the trees, the ground, the rocks, the destruction was coated in a thick layer of ice. It was beautiful and inconceivable.

Words mask all manner of reality. We have a word, nature, that can’t even begin to touch the magnitude, the power of where it points. Mother Nature. I have been thrown out of bed in an earthquake that brought down freeways like they were so much satin ribbon. Go to Pompeii or Herculeneum, visit Mt. Saint Helens, watch with disbelief any of the news  footage of any one of the tsunamis that have wiped communities off the map. Wrap your mind around it, if you can.

We are cavalier in our conversations about global warming. We impact, we do not command. We reduce it to questions of business, of protecting the beef industry. Which economy will suffer most? We make up these strangely insignificant divisions. We imagine that we are the center, holding all the controls. We imagine that it is all about us. So small, a chihuahua yipping at a forest fire.

Sitting in the truck, feeling the boom of the waves in my chest as they tore off chunks of the shore, I felt tiny. I remembered a snippet of film I saw about a man who wore a superhero suit and stood in the face of an oncoming storm. He flexed and stomped and raged for the camera. And then the storm hit. The best he could do was run for his life.

 

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read Kerri’s blog post about THE STORM

 

bonfire website box copy

 

ice ©️ 2020 kerri sherwood

for prints of “ice” go here

 

De-Swash Your Font! [on Merely A Thought Monday]

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20 and Kerri can fill an entire evening with conversation about fonts. Serif and sans serif. They grimace and make faces. Some fonts are praised for their simplicity while others are disparaged as presumptuous or gauche. Baseline, Cap line. I listen with amazement. They’re both designers. To get a rise out of them, I tell them that I’ve never really thought much about fonts. They look at me with shock and disdain. Then, one or both slam me with the ultimate insult: “Well, apparently, you’ll read anything.”

At first I thought the font obsession was unique to Kerri and 20 and then I learned that Kirsten caught the font gene from her mother. Kirsten won’t take a book off a shelf if she doesn’t like the font. “Who designed this!” she shouts in the library. “Why would anyone use that font!” she adds to the patrons averting their eyes and scurrying to hide from the dangerous lady.

And then there was the frigid night in Chicago when I realized that it was a family fixation. We were walking with Craig to find the zoo lights when we passed a Barnes & Noble. Craig shook his head and said, “They really need to upgrade their font.” I stopped in my tracks. Thinking my stopped motion was a comment on his font-thought, he added, “Well they do!”

Now I spend my days worried that I, too, will soon become hyper-critical about fonts. I wonder when I will begin to scrutinize stems, ascenders, and shoulders. Will I recoil when confronted with Comic Sans or wrinkle my nose at Didot? Will I find myself asking, “Why didn’t they use Frutiger instead of Futura? Will I contract the font virus?

I pretend. I shake my head when Impact is misused. I snuff when cued at the improper use of a serif, the too-expressive vertex. The pressure to belong is intense! But, in truth, I remain a font goat. Much to the disappointment of 20, Kerri, Kirsten and Craig, I read with pleasure, absent of almost any font awareness, whatever is put in front of me. Gadzook! Bad serif!

 

read Kerri’s out of control rant about FONTS

 

 

feet on the street WI website box copy

 

 

Give Over To The Music [on KS Friday]

organ pipes copy

Kerri earns her daily bread as a Minister of Music. Each week she plays two services. The early service is “traditional” and she plays the organ. The second service is “family friendly” and she plays the piano with her band. Music, I’ve learned, serves as the great mountain range between the traditionalists and those seekers who are friendly as families. Just try and play contemporary music to a traditional crowd. I dare you [wear protective gear].

Partially, I suppose, the great divide makes sense. Music opens the door to the inner life, to memory and musings. It can reach beyond reason and language to the heart.  In other words, if you associate your spiritual life with pews, the pipe organ and a hymnal, then even a hint of a guitar provides reason to snap a lock on your door.

Navigating musical entrenchment is, I think, the hardest part of Kerri’s job. There are a few dedicated complainers dug in on both sides of the divide. They miss the greater experience. Lying in wait to find offense they actually miss the music. The divide, after all, is never in the music. It is the creation of the listener.

More than a few times I have opened the door to the organ and stepped inside while Kerri plays. It’s a very big instrument and there is literally a door on either side. If, like me, you desire to be inside an instrument while it is playing, seek a big organ. You will vibrate with the music (…well, you vibrate with every note you ever hear but the intensity of the inner-organ experience makes it obvious). I used to have pals that played the didgeridoo and standing within a pipe organ has a similar feel. Ancient. Deep rumble. It shakes the gunk from your soul.

And then there is the piano. There is the player. And, in Kerri’s case, the piano becomes an extension of the player. Playing the piano is how she shakes the gunk from her soul. I’ve written about this before so my old-guy-apologies for telling the same story again and again: the first time I heard her play I was standing next to the piano and the energy that came through her almost knocked me down. She is little and she became a giant. Vast. Deep. It was so powerful I had to hide my weeping. The irony is, of course, that, being in the center of all that power, she has no concept of what happens when she plays. These days, all she really knows is that when her heart hurts or she is hurtling into despair, the only parachute available is to stand at the piano and play. It breaks her fall. The magic comes through and provides lift. The gunk falls off. Her personal divides disappear. That is art.

And, that’s also the greater point. Give over to the music, let it come through, and the dedicated divides disappear. The gunk falls off. The door to the deeper place opens. We vibrate.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about THE PIPES

 

moab.k. out there. copy

find all kerri’s albums on iTunes

organ pipe people website box

 

Read The Symbol [on DR Thursday]

daisy framed copy jpeg copy

When I was flying in to meet Kerri for the first time, she told me that I’d recognize her because she’d be the one holding the daisy. Consequently, were you to scrutinize my paintings these days, you’d find more than a few daisies.

Her daisy-greeting-idea cemented what I suspected before I met Kerri. She is special. This was my thought process/reasoning: This woman has 15 albums in the world.  Her picture is everywhere in the Google-sphere. Yet, it never occurred to her that I should or would know what she looks like. She’s humble.  Also, point #2, I did my research. The maker of extraordinary pianos, Yamaha, consider her a “Yamaha Artist” or [translation] a modern master who performs almost exclusively on their pianos. With that kind of resume, with that size of gift and notoriety, you’d think she’d have mentioned it during those many months of conversation that preceded our meeting. She didn’t. She’s an unassuming artist (the best kind).

Humble. Unassuming.

The second time I flew in she greeted me at the gate with a veritable bushel of daisies.

My paintings are filled with symbols. Some conscious. Most not. I discover them after the fact [like those *#@^! three spheres that populated most of my early work. Jim had to pull out my paintings and point them out to me…] The daisies? I know exactly what they represent. I know without doubt when and why a composition requires a daisy.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about DAISY

 

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daisy – all of them ©️ circa 2013

Look Beyond [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

cameras copy

“Technology is anything that wasn’t around when you were born.” ~ Alan Kay

On the one hand, this could be a display of old technology. Shelf after shelf of what was once understood as a camera. Not so long ago a camera was a device that employed a once-revolutionary-invention, a light sensitive plastic strip called “film,” to capture images. These film devices, the miracles that populated my youth, are now antiques.

On the other hand, this could be an art piece, a commentary on the contemporary world. Many, many, many cameras, all with their lenses pointed back at us. There are cameras in phones, each a trafficker of the relatively new obsession known as the “selfie.” There are cameras at almost every major intersection of my town. Traffic selfies that come with tickets. In stores I am told to smile because I am on camera. There are cameras in doorbells. Many medical procedures employ teeny tiny cameras capable of fantastic voyages, inner selfies. The cameras shot into outer space transmit back to us images of a tiny speck in this vast universe, a dot called Earth.  Our art piece reveals to us that we are the central object of our study.

Standing in front of the shelf, looking at the myriad lenses looking back at me, I understood with some sadness that the cameras on the shelf used to be understood as arbiters of truth. There is a now an antiquated term, you may have heard it: photographic proof. Proof. It is not so much that the camera – film – is antiquated – but it’s purpose is most certainly passe’. Truth is out of date. Proof has no reliable root. We have replaced ‘photographic proof’ with a new concept, a ‘post-fact’ world.

Buckminster Fuller once said that, “Humanity is acquiring all the right technology for all the wrong reasons.” Were this beautiful unintentional-art-piece-found-in-an-antique-mall one of my creations, you can bet that I’d scribble Fuller’s quote someplace on the shelf, though, you’d have to look beyond the cameras to find it.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about CAMERAS

 

savannah selfie WEBSITE BOX copy

Fill The Box [on Two Artists Tuesday]

toolchest copy

Among my most prized possessions is the small wooden paint box that DeMarcus gave to me. He was a brilliant painter and director of plays. I am one of the keepers of his legacy. The box holds a few sacred (to me) items: the nutcracker my grandfather used, a woven frond from Bali, some stones and notes from nieces and nephews.

Another treasured possession is the small box that John K made for me. He is a master woodworker and is dear to me so the box is also dear. He is impeccable, among the best men I have ever known, and it shows in his creations. His box reminds me to strive to be-more-like-John.

Kerri and I learned early on in our relationship that we both have a thing for boxes. We call them special boxes. We gravitate toward them when we are wandering through antique stores. Sometimes they look like old suitcases. Sometimes they look like old tool boxes. We’ve learned that we need to admire them and put them down. That, or we need to give in and open a Special Box Store.

Stand in the middle of our house and look any direction and you will see one or more special boxes. The box in the sun room holds watercolor paper, paints, colored pencils, India ink and nibs. It was the keeper of the promise for our cartoons and children’s books, Chicken Marsala, Flawed, and Shayne. The stacked suitcases in our dining room hold the artifacts of our relationship. Tickets to concerts, playbills, menus, feathers, train tickets,… The wooden box in the living room is filled with stones that we have collected in our travels.

Okay,  an amendment: we collect boxes and stones.

The other day we were strolling down the aisle of an antique mall with Jen and Brad. Mostly we were coming up with ideas for performance art pieces or conceptual art knock offs or listening to the wisdom from Riley-the-Realist. Kerri grabbed my arm, “Look at this one,” she said, showing me an old green tool box. “Don’t you love it?”

“Where would we put it?” I asked. It’s my go-to answer when I actually do love a box but also know that we need to walk away. Kerri squinted her eyes. We took a breath and stepped away.

The real problem with opening a Special Box Store? It’s a very bad business premise. We would be unwilling to sell any of our merchandise. They’d all be filled with special rocks or memories or hopes and dreams in the form of paper, Sumi ink and brushes. You could look but not touch. Though the stories we could tell…

 

read Kerri’s blog post about BOXES

 

old suitcases website box copy