Noodle [on KS Friday]

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It happened again. We’d just finished rehearsal. Kerri began to play and guitar Jim joined. As the non-musician in the group, my job is to listen and bask in their playing. It’s tough duty but I’ve resigned myself to it. I take my role seriously. So seriously, in fact, that I always make the same mistake. I always assume they are playing a piece that they know. They aren’t.

I can be forgiven for my mistake. First, they are effortless. Easy. Secondly, they appear to know where they are in the piece and also know where they are going. They don’t. They are making it up as they go.

There is a guiding rule in improvisational theatre: say ‘yes’ to the offer coming your way. Go with it, not against it. Listening to Kerri and guitar Jim is like witnessing masters of the rule. Their ‘yes’ is so complete, that they cease being two players and merge into one river of sound. In my mind, this merging is  the very reason, the ultimate purpose of art. When the audience falls into the world of the play, the soul of the witness enters into the soul of the painting, the listener gives over and becomes the music. The tribe knows who they are by the stories they tell. Shared experience. Say ‘yes.’

When they play their final note together, I always ask when they last played the piece. I don’t remember hearing it before. They smile and tell me “Never.” They were noodling. Making it up as they go. Playing together.

It’s like a sand painting. here for a moment and then gone. “No one will ever hear that one again,” Jim and Kerri laugh.

I always wish that I had a recorder running and then, I remind myself that point is not to capture it. I am greedy in wanting to share all that I am fortunate enough to experience. The power of the moment, the potency of the sand painting, is not diminished, rather it is increased, when the wind joins and sweeps the sand away.

 

read Kerri’s blog post on NOODLING

 

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go here for all of kerri’s albums though you’ll find none of her noodling in these many, many albums (there are more albums than seen here).

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Know The Value [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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“What’s it worth?” This seems to be the least answerable question of our times. Its cousin question, “Is it real?” is under assault and so qualities like ‘value’ or ‘worth’ are less and less discernible.

For instance, I laughed heartily recently when I listened to a podcast Horatio sent my way. It was about the billions of dollars spent on our educational system of testing that has produced minimal results. It doesn’t work. Data, brain science, and common sense have known this for years. I can hear Tom now (and see his famous sigh-with-eye-roll), “It has to be real. It’s about relationship. It needs direct application.” Do the tests make for better education? No. Of course not. The opposite. And, we knew that before implementing the system of testing. So, what is real? What was it worth? The system consumes itself.

A few years ago, Kerri and I went to the Chicago Art Expo. We came upon a gallery installation, a single piece. It was priced at $40,000.00. A line of twine stretched across the booth. Clipped to the twine was a single household sponge. It had been dipped in paint. Kerri, using her outside voice, said to all who could hear, “ARE YOU KIDDING ME?” It was purchased. What was it worth? Was it real? It was the precursor to artist Maurizio Cattelan’s recent piece. He duct taped a banana to a wall. He’s now sold three versions for $120,000 apiece.  What is it worth? What is real? Art commenting on art. The system consumes itself.

Politics in America. It’s all about crowd size regardless of what the photograph reveals. [sorry, I couldn’t help myself]. There are so many that we actually keep a running tally of the presidential lies. We are slack-jawed at those who nod their heads and bellow their agreement with the demonstrably untrue. What is real? What’s it worth? The country hungrily consumes itself.

We haunt antiques stores. We rarely buy anything but enjoy the exploration. At School Days Mall, one of our favorite adventure antique grounds, Kerri turned and gasped. A paint-by-number landscape wearing a Minnie Pearl tag. “I recognize this painting!” she said, wide eyed. Her mom, Beaky, liked to paint and had a paint-by-number phase. The painting evoked a good story. It evoked a momentary possibility that this might be THE ONE Beaky painted. Kerri sent a text to her sister. They shared a memory. They reached through time and had a moment with their mother. Priceless.

Watching Kerri, so excited, text with her sister, it occurred to me that one reason we go to antiques stores is to touch stuff that comes from a time when value and worth were better understood. We go to the throwaways to find some substance. What is real is not in question.

Banana taped to the wall or paint-by-number landscape? What’s real? What’s it worth?

 

read Kerri’s blog post about PAINT-BY-NUMBER

 

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Pick Up The Tool And Play [on DR Thursday]

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If every life is a journey of self-discovery then it follows that every life-journey is supported with a unique series of challenges. The challenges reveal ourselves to ourselves [how’s that for an awkward use of language!]. Obstacles wake us up.

My challenges require a special set of tools. Master Miller sends photos of his young son, Dawson, painting. I love those photos because Dawson is free in his use of paint and brush. His exploration is pure pleasure. It is beautiful (seriously. It is Beautiful).

Last night I sat on the floor of my studio and played with the tools that support my unique series of challenges. I scraped paint with knives. I mushed around color with a fan brush. I was not free. My challenge is to circle back to what Dawson already knows. I think too much. I study too hard. I seek rather than simply experience.

What Dawson knows: I don’t have to look for it. What I seek is already here. I merely need to pick up the tool and get out of the way.  It’s a platitude for the aging but true nevertheless.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about MY PAINT BOX

 

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Make A Curvy Road [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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The approach to the ferry at Northport is made intentionally curvy. It was designed to slow people down.

The intentional slow down is not like a speed bump or round-a-bout. It is not a mechanism to slow traffic before entering the ferry zone. It is meant to help folks to mindfulness. The place is beautiful. In a world dedicated to rushing through to the next thing, at a place on earth where the ferry will not wait for you, a winding road just might help a dedicated-race-to-the-next-thing-mind to recognize that this-moment-might-be-just-as-valuable-as-the-next. Experience it. Be in it.

It is a good design. In the many times this year that we’ve taken the winding road, it never fails that we see multiple cars stopped. People get out. They look. They take pictures. They point and talk and laugh. They stand in silence and breathe it in. It is performance art at its finest.

We slow down, too. Each time, the race to reach the ferry evaporates from our mind. We see. Kerri stops the car, “I have to get a picture of this!” she says. I appreciate her appreciation; there are layers to good design. Each time we greet the winding road I wonder what our world would be like if our design intention was to slow down rather than race through. Rather than divert our attention, what if, like great art, the purpose was to bring us into the vast expanse of this moment?

 

read Kerri’s blog post about the WINDING ROAD

 

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Await The Wind [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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when the wind is perfect,
the sail just needs to open and the world is full of beauty.
Today is such a day. ~ (a slice of) On A Day by Rumi

Skip wrote. His sail is open and he is full of the beauty of this world. It’s all around, the sounds, the smells, the tastes, the color and movement. Basking in the early fall sunshine.

He’s been painting regularly and I teased him: the gift of painting is the practice in seeing. Only I wasn’t teasing. It’s true. Paint everyday and something happens. Seeing is not a passive act, it is an active engagement. A relationship that opens awareness both subtle and profound.

His email stopped me in my rush to get through the day. Getting through life requires a closed sail, dulled senses. I dropped my list and imagined importance and went outside. I haven’t touched my brushes in weeks. Skip asked if I’d taken my painting materials to the island. I did but never went near them. “Too much to do,” I kept telling myself.

I told Horatio that I felt empty. The island took a lot. NO-ART-IN-ME. He smiled and assured me that the wind will return. My sail will open again.

Brushes or not, as Skip reminded me, the world is full of beauty. Today.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about WIND

 

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Give It [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

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Janus is a Roman god with two faces. He looks to the future and peers into the past. He is the god of beginnings and endings, transitions, doorways, and passages. He is the god of gateways, the liminal spaces, the between.

Janus must certainly be the god that we dance with on this island, a community defined by divisions, married to its conflicts but also, at least rhetorically, desiring peace.

Kerri and I are the stewards of a performing arts center that is, as Julian Dawson said, punching above its weight. It is the symbol of division in the community, the epicenter of discord, the rope in a very ugly tug-of-war. All of the fault lines run through it. Yet, as Janus would remind us, it then must also hold the path to unity, the potential for common ground.

All in the community want the doors to be wide open; none want the responsibility that comes with access. They want the center, the art, to serve them. They do not yet comprehend that any alive and vital art space is, in fact, the opposite: a place of service to others. Arts spaces and the artists the enliven them are keepers of the commons, the stewards of the stories that unite.

In another life I ran an educational theatre company. It boomed into life the day that the artists, the students, grocked that art was in fact a gift given to others, something they brought to people, not something (like attention or fame or a spotlight) that they got from people.

This island, this center, will someday boom into life. They will discover that the rope in the tug of war goes slack when they walk toward each other. Pulling in opposition exhausts everyone. They will come alive when they cease asking, “What do we get?” and start asking, “What do we bring?”

 

read Kerri’s blog post about EDGES

 

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Harness The Energy [on KS Friday]

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Lately, in my new role as co-managing director of a performing arts space, I find myself repeating the same simile/metaphor over and over and over and over… (insert Kerri’s eye roll). This week, my favorite-simile-repetition goes something like this: communication is like a river, it needs proper banks if it is going to flow. Without banks, it spills out all over the place flooding basements and creating havoc.

Needless to say, our job thus far is largely about placing proper banks on this flood plain of communication. Placing proper banks, at first, creates consternation and resistance. No one likes a limit until the limit works in their favor, until the constraint makes life easier.

Boundaries. Limits. Constraints. It is what I adore about the arts: freedom of artistic expression is the result of discipline, technique, and practice. And, the heart-desire of discipline, technique and practice is unfettered play. It is a paradox. It is boundaries placed on a rushing torrent so it can flow. The harnessing of creative energy. Communication is an intentional art and art is communication with an intention.

Kerri’s BOUNDARIES is a bubbling brook, bright with the morning sun, tumbling and playful within its banks. It seems so easy, her flow. But I know the truth. This ease and flow, this call to put your feet in the brook and rest for awhile with the sun on your face, comes from the years and years of hours and hours and hours of practice. Boundaries. A riverbank, a limit that will work in your favor. It is the creative flow through a heart that desires to play and play and play.

 

BOUNDARIES on the album RIGHT NOW is available on iTunes & CDBaby

 

read Kerri’s blog post about BOUNDARIES

 

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boundaries/right now ©️ 2010 kerri sherwood