See Beyond [on DR Thursday]

I am amazed by nature. We learned in our visit to the botanical gardens that plants in tropical climates are a study in waterproofing. Waxy leaves prevent excess water from accumulating. Holes allow water and sunlight to pass through. It’s a masterclass in protection from algae. Adaptation, not resistance. Working with rather than fighting against.

My adult life has been a meditation on whole systems – which is quite simply a study of perception. It takes a human mind to separate the leaf from the branch from the trunk from the root. Separation and categorization is how we make sense of things. Analysis requires breaking-it-down. It’s easy to forget that those distinctions are in our minds and not in the world we observe. There is no separation of leaf from rain, not really. There is movement. Concert. Equilibrium.

Understanding requires reassembly.

To live creatively is to discover rather than invent. Thank goodness for the scientists teasing apart, deconstructing, uncovering, analyzing. I would not be alive today without their passionate pursuit.

And, while the scientist dissects, the artist reassembles. The reach for wholeness, the pull toward universal experience that cuts across division…I thank goodness each day for eyes that see beyond the separations, the capacity for utter delight and awe – standing in a garden – staring at a leaf made colander over eons of time.

read Kerri’s blogpost about HOLES IN LEAVES

eve © 2006 david robinson

Chisel [on DR Thursday]

The conversation in the car was about astrology. I am an Aquarius. Confusingly, the water-bearer is an air sign. Kerri is Aries; fire. “Air is necessary for fire,” she laughed. As in most metaphors and models, each element transforms the others. It’s creation-in-motion. Life is a great shapeshifter. A single element is undefinable without the others.

The same is true with people. We only know who we are relative to the others in our lives. The heat of our relationships transform us. Transformation is a daily reality, a common experience, but so ubiquitous that it goes unseen. We only notice it when the volcano erupts or when we wake up one day and say to ourselves, “I am different now.”

The beautiful canyons in Utah were, over eons, carved by water. Zion. Arches. The Grand. Everyday, water meets earth. Heat and wind. Sculpture.

Long drives bring reminiscence. Something sparked our conversation about the canyons we’ve carved in our lives. Everyday, trickles of water. Relationship. Slow, almost imperceptible changes. One day, after years and years, you look in the mirror and see the colors revealed by erosion and time. The chiseled shape. Pieces and parts that felt essential, washed away. What remains?

Beautiful. Crucial. Elemental. Still transforming.

read Kerri’s blogpost about WATER

face the rain © 2019 david robinson

Ramble [on DR Thursday]

I’m like a two-year old: I want to know “Why?” For instance, the lichen growing on the birch tree is Hypogymnia physodes, but it’s also known as “Monk’s Hood.” Why?

There’s a wildflower also known as Monk’s Hood. I read that the flower gets its name because its petals resemble the cowls once worn by monks. However, the flower is also known as “Wolfsbane.” Why? What does the bane of a wolf have to do with the hood of a monk? I’m capable of inventing a slew of possible connections but they will be just that: inventions.

In an attempt to bore you beyond rescue, I’ve lately been fascinated by how much of our world is a blizzard of unhinged information in search of a context. For instance, conceptual art needs an explanation. Without a curator, it’s nothing more than a banana taped to a wall. Twine with a dirty sponge. Oddity seeking to be taken seriously.

In the 21st century, we measure relevance by the number of followers, not by the substance-of-the-matter-being-followed. It’s a popularity contest. Lots and lots of flowing information, most of it useless. Without use. Without substance. And, scarily for us: without being questioned.

What is empty content pushed through a fabricated context? “Breaking” news. MAGA. Q.

It occurs to me that society needs more two year olds! A healthy practice of asking “Why” would spare us from certain death-by-bloviation.

A cowl, by the way, is both a monk’s hood AND a loose neckline in contemporary women’s clothing. Wouldn’t the monks be surprised if they’d confused their cowls!

Now, get out there and find context for this bit of useless information.

read Kerri’s blogpost about LICHEN

pieta with paparazzi © 2010 david robinson

Reach Through The Trees [on DR Thursday]

When my time on the planet could be counted in single digits, I drew the same picture over and over and over again. A cabin in the forest. A tree in the foreground. Among my first oil paintings was the cabin-in-my-mind.

For years, my cabin hung on my grandfather’s wall. When we traveled to Iowa for a visit, I was pleased to see it nested in a modest frame in his home office. It may be my first painting to make an appearance beyond the walls of my boyhood home. When he passed, my parents claimed the painting and it circled back to their house, where I painted it.

Last year, with my dad in assisted living, while moving my mom into her new apartment, I brought the painting back with me to Wisconsin. Full circle. We put it in a new frame. It rests in my office, sitting on the floor against the file cabinet because we can’t decide where we want to hang it. Each day, standing at my desk, I am, for a moment, pulled back in time to the boy who had to draw this cabin again and again.

Why? I certainly didn’t feel as if I was inventing it as a drawing exercise. From this vantage point I remember it as a recall, the invocation of a memory. My child-brain never questioned it. My cabin, as if I lived in a world before photographs and was trying to record what once was, trying to reach through the trees to what could no longer be touched. I had to draw it so I might remember it.

Now, with hundreds of paintings between me and my cabin in the woods, I wonder if every painting I’ve ever painted comes from the same impulse, reaching through the trees to what cannot be touched. Canvas on the easel has always pulled me into it, like a good story pulls a reader into a book.

It’s also a great definition of art and artistry. Just try and wrap your fingers around King Lear or grasp the deep well of Martha Graham. Kerri’s piano bounces when she plays it; she is little and her piano is grand. The force that comes through is beyond comprehension.

I laughed when my doctor told me that we rationalize things because we want to control them and, sometimes there is no rational explanation. No way to control it. Art regularly blows through the question “Why?”.

read Kerri’s blogpost about REACHING THROUGH THE TREES

Feel The Stir [on DR Thursday]

“It has bothered me all my life that I do not paint like everybody else.” ~Henri Matisse

The canoe glided silently through the lily leaves. I counterbalanced the canoe as she stretched over the side to take a photograph. Leaning, I stared down at the leaves. Vibrant color and pattern, Matisse might have painted them. They stirred within me the deep desire to paint, something I haven’t heeded for too long. Nature is a great artist.

The trees surrounding the lake signaled autumn’s imminent arrival. Crimson reds and yellows dotted the shore. Fall paints me melancholy and I felt the first whispers of the coming-sweet-sorrow. Deep quiet. Still water reflection. Hearing rhythms beyond sound. Nature, I am told, is a great healer.

Although I’ve painted all my life I’ve never thought of myself as a painter. For me, painting is not about the image I produce. It is about walking into the dark cave or soaring into the blinding light. Icarus. Nature’s call.

My sister remains confounded that I have not given myself over to the wealth and riches of pet portraiture. Early in my life I was paid-not-well to copy masterworks, alter the colors so they might match a client’s couch. I can paint anything. I can paint like anyone. I left that behind. It was soul draining. I paint to answer Nature’s call, to discover how to paint like myself.

Counterbalancing the canoe, staring at the Matisse leaves, the brilliant white lily, I acknowledged the stir. I promised myself, my easel, like autumn’s imminent arrival, “Soon.”

read Kerri’s blogpost about LILY

icarus © 2008 david robinson

Be The Feast [on DR Thursday]

This time of year, if you want to walk the Des Plaines river trail, do it early in the day. The mosquitoes come out in the afternoon. They are vicious little critters.

The Des Plaines mosquitoes are subject to one of the great mysteries in my life. At home – in fact, everywhere else on the planet – the mosquitoes prefer Kerri. I can be mosquito-free while she’s a mosquito-buffet. Not true at Des Plaines. Those wicked flying needles feast on me and give her a pass. Why?

Last week we started our walk a little later than planned. It’s as if the folks in the Des Plaines control room throw a switch. One moment, there’s not a mosquito to be found. The next moment, the mosquito dinner bell is rung and I am the main course. I run-walk, slap and silly dance my way back to the relative safety of the car. Kerri walks leisurely asking, “Are there any on me?”

It’s been a great equalizer in our relationship. For years, in the early summer evenings, writhing, she asks in desperation, “Are you getting bitten?” My smug response has always been, “No. Are they out?” Now, as I wiggle and swat my way through the forest, she strolls and smiles and asks, “What’s the matter?”

Equalizer. Compassion-builder. Though, now I understand why she suggested a later start for our walk in the woods. “What about the mosquitoes?” I asked.

She smiled.

read Kerri’s blogpost about MOSQUITOES

earth interrupted I © 2012 david robinson

Protect The Heartwood [on DR Thursday]

Conk!

No, that is not cartoon-speak for being hit on the noggin. It’s a formal name, the body-shape of the shelf-fungi that grows on local trees. Not having grown up here, the first time I saw them, I thought they were aliens. Trees with tongues. A Little Shop of Horrors; Audrey II. Get too close and tree-Audrey would feed on me. Conk! Chomp! (burp).

Polypores. Now, there’s a word that rolls trippingly off the tongue – and is made more fun because polypores actually look like a tongue. Shelf-fungi (a polypore) is not a good thing if you are a tree. In fact, it has no interest in feeding on me but consumes the heartwood of its host.

Heartwood.

I’m not kidding when I admit that, in passing this shelf-fungi, I imagined the conks to be visible stories. Each conk represented a story of insecurity or fear. The stories that feed on our heartwood. What would we look like if our conk-stories where visible on our trunks?

If the rot-story was visible, what might we do to tell a self-tale intended to protect our heartwood and eliminate the conks? How might we help our children tell life stories of self-love, knowing they’d wear their conk-stories? How might we address our neighbors? What would we do to protect the heartwood of the forest from wearing rot-stories?

I think I’ll stop there. Conk!

read Kerri’s blogpost about SHELF FUNGI

shared fatherhood © 2018 david robinson

Find The Universe [on DR Thursday]


“There is nothing more truly artistic than to love people.” ~ Vincent Van Gogh

I don’t know why but Van Gogh is lately on my mind. He died at age 37. Most of his paintings came through him in the last few years of his life.

He wrote letters to his brother. That’s why we have so many of his words. His contemporaries thought he was mad. They had plenty of evidence of his mania so that was what they saw. Crazy Vincent making crazy paintings. Nothing serious. Swirls of color in an age of dreary.

Only a crazy man would assert that artistry is to love other people, right?

As a young man he was an art dealer and his experiences in the market drove him to become a missionary in Belgium. The art market drove him to religion and he found religion so depressing that he started to paint. This, of course, is my telling of the tale.

Like Vincent, run to the edge of society. Run to the very margins, turn around and look. What do you see?It’s enough to make anyone turn away from sane society and start painting swirls of color. You’re certainly crazy if you consider society and its politics sane. Right?

Vincent painted and moved further out, beyond the margins. Beyond the power games and posturing. The pretending-to-be. He left behind the Joneses. He found entire universes in simple things: sunflowers, the night sky. Bowls of blueberries.

He must, at the very end, have turned and looked back, again. This time seeing through the eyes of a painter. Was it wishful thinking that he saw artistry as love? Was it a prayer for humanity?

Oscar Wilde, Vincent’s contemporary, a man brutalized by the society that once adored him, wrote, “Art is the only serious thing in the world. And the artist is the only person who is never serious.” Oscar tried to live on the margin and in the center, all at the same time.

Love makes us giddy. It helps us drop our pretense and gaming. I think Vincent saw, not through the lens of madman, but life without a lens., into pure life, pure love. Swirls of color. Entire universes in bowls of blueberries and in other people. Artistry.

read Kerri’s blogpost about BLUEBERRIES

bass player © 2002 david robinson

Interpret The Impression [on DR Thursday]

“Art, to me, is the interpretation of the impression which nature makes upon the eye and brain.” ~ Childe Hassam

The eye of the mind. Interpretation of the impression. Imagination. Nature.

This morning Kerri told me that she’s having a stand-off with her piano.

This morning I picked up a box to clear my studio space. I asked myself, “What are you doing?” I set down the box where I found it.

Lately, I’ve been working with an overabundance of business models. Not surprisingly, each addresses the same contemporary challenge: people are having trouble discerning between what is actionable and what is not, what has relevance and what does not. A variation on the theme: focus is hard to come by. Models, I remind myself, are interpretations.

I’ve read that the first evidence of humans making art is found in the funeral rites of our distant ancestors. Decoration? Talisman? Fuel for the trip? An interpretation of life, making peace with the unknowable. Nature makes an impression. Humans respond.

The interpretation-of-the-impression-that-nature-makes points to something essential about art and life: it needs to be shared. It is nothing if not witnessed. We stand in the art gallery and drink it in. We stand at the graveside supplying our fellow traveler for the long journey ahead. We place the crayon drawing on the refrigerator.

Nature makes an impression.We are nature’s impression. Interpreting what that means.

read Kerri’s blog post about IMPRESSIONS

motherdaughter © 2019 david robinson

Say “Good Morning” [on DR Thursday]

My dad always kept a garden. He grew up in a farm community. I watched as he attended to his fruits and vegetables and it seemed innate, second nature. Without thought, he knew what to do. His garden knowledge did not find its way to me so I am grateful that Kerri’s thumb is green. Her potting bench is alive with tomatoes and basil.

This is the first summer of my life without my dad and I am finding in the tomatoes a deep sense of reassurance. Connectivity to my dad that transcends time. He loved his garden as Kerri loves hers. In her garden, he stands.

Kerri’s mom and dad watched birds and cardinals were special to them. In the past few years, cardinals have taken up residence in our neighborhood. Brilliant red, salmon, antique pink…Gorgeous. When one stops to visit, I say, “Beaky’s saying ‘hello.'”

I suspect connectivity is what we experience when we slow down. It’s hard not to realize how deeply interconnected we are when stopping all motion to watch the sunset. It’s impossible not to realize how small and passing we are when taking the time to gaze through a telescope at the night sky.

I am taken by surprise by the tomatoes, though I should have seen it coming. I love that each day, I take a break and go to Kerri’s bench. I stop all motion, feel the sun, look for the new growth, and whisper, “Good morning, Columbus.”

read Kerri’s blogpost about NEW GROWTH