Feel The Space [on KS Friday]

Georgia O’Keeffe might have painted it. The Light Cathedral is iconic and people approached it with veneration. It was as if the Cathedral pulled people into it. They stopped at the entrance to take it all in before stepping inside the light. Once inside, enthusiasm overtook reverence. Smiles erupted. Families posed for portraits made possible with the photo-help of strangers. I was overwhelmed by the crush of the crowd and my built-in-covid-response propelled me to the far side and out. I turned back to locate Kerri, smiling, patient with the slow moving mass, gazing up at the magic of it all.

I confess: I wanted it all to myself. I wanted to walk to the very center and close my eyes and feel it. I wanted to lay on my back and fall into the apex like so many stars. I wanted to slow-walk from portal to portal, free to turn and pause and spin. To linger inside this art space. A place created.

The lights transported me to another life: Barney took me to a fairy ring. A perfect circle scribed by towering redwood trees. He knew I could feel it and suggested I spend some time there. I meditated. I returned early the next morning to the ring and sat in the center of the circle. Time stopped. I felt rejuvenated. I felt ancient. I laughed because it felt good. A natural sacred space.

Art spaces. Power places.

“What are you thinking about?” Kerri asked as she joined me outside the Light Cathedral, bringing me back to this life.

I smiled, “Two of my favorite things.”

[listen to the difference. One composition. Two variations. Art spaces. Power places.]

Kerri’s albums are available on iTunes & streaming on Pandora

read Kerri’s blogpost about the LIGHT CATHEDRAL

always with us/always with us/as it is © 2004 kerri sherwood

Dance [on DR Thursday]

“The human race has spent several millennia developing a huge and robust set of observations about the world, in forms as varied as language, art and religion. Those observations in turn have withstood many – enormously many – tests. We stand heir to an unstatably large set of meanings.” ~ David Bayles & Ted Orland, Art & Fear

The little girl shrieked with delight, “You can stand in it!” She raced inside the dome, her little body so teeming with enthusiasm that she danced. The crowd burst into laughter.

Joy is contagious.

She reminded me of the children I saw dancing at the base of Christo’s Umbrellas. She transported me back to the very first time Kerri and I stepped off the stage after our performance of THE LOST BOY. We were euphoric, so overrun with relief and triumph that we jumped up and down in the backstage hallway, laughing and hugging. Dancing. We couldn’t help it.

I remember that moment when people ask me why I make art since art makes no money. I’ve learned to answer the question, not with words but with a smile.

Value is perceived.

I stepped into the dome repeating to myself, “You can stand in it.” A dome of light. A constellation of thought. The earth rotates around the sun. Joyful participation in the sorrows of the world. Do unto others. There is not one way, there are many paths up the mountain. Discovery is better than invention.

Meaning is made. It’s an ongoing relationship.

Sometime you know that you enter it. Sometimes you don’t know and the dome you discover evokes a joyous dance.

read Kerri’s blogpost about DOMES OF LIGHT

Iconic, 54x54IN, mixed media

[my site is down. A new site is in the works. New works are also in the works. Good things]

iconic © 2010 david robinson

Fill With Wonder [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

Upon seeing the first tree at the entrance gate I asked a question that I repeated all night, “How did they do that?”

My question was rhetorical. I did not expect an answer. I might as well have exclaimed,”OMG!” or, “WOW!” or whispered, “Unbelievable!” Instead, my wide-eyed-awe expressed as a quiz-to-no-one.

Kerri sometimes quotes from Anne Lamott’s book, Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers. I realized, walking through the Garden, astonished by the lights, that I was immersed in one of Anne’s prayers. I’m not a big prayer guy so it amused me that my enthusiastic WOW was voicing as a question. The images projected on the mist. The field of dancing firelight. The light cathedral. How-did-they-do-that-how-did-they-do-that-how-did-they-do-that?

As we left the Garden and wandered toward the car I was delighted not to have an answer. The lights moved me to tears. I laughed heartily. I was stunned to silence. I watched children and adults alike, dancing into the dome and running toward the many-colored fireflies. Knowing the “how” would have diminished a bit of the magic. The more important question was obvious: there is no better “why” than to fill people with wonder.

read Kerri’s blogpost about THE TREE

Immerse [on Two Artists Tuesday]

The bright green ring in the tree beckoned. A time portal. Climb the tree and slip through the hoop to another time. Another place. What will you find there? It was one of many awe-inspiring moments in the immersive light experience at the Chicago Botanical Gardens.

A few weeks ago Rob suggested that I consider producing immersive experiences and my walk through the Gardens started a thought-wander.

Immersive is a new word in town. Well, it’s an old verb sporting a new adjective meaning. It’s a tech term. Surrounding “the user” with a generated 3-D image. Wander around town and you’ll find Immersive Van Gogh or Immersive Monet or Frida Kahlo, also Immersive. Technically, escape rooms are immersive. So is Disney World. A 3-D created experience.

A walk in the woods cannot be considered immersive since no technology is involved.

Immersion, one step beyond immersive, is the “perception of being physically present in a non-physical world.” Virtual reality. Dreams might be considered immersive except, like nature, technology is absent so the experience cannot be considered virtual or immersion.

To immerse means to dunk yourself in liquid or to dive deeply into a passion. When I stand before my easel and brush color onto canvas, I leave the world as I know it. I immerse in my paintings, though viewers of my paintings are incapable of having an immersive experience with my less-than-3-D-paintings. Is paint a technology? When Kerri plays, she enters a transcendent place. She fills the room with energy and light and I am transported. Am I having an immersive experience? I believe so.

Rounding a bend the night we walked through the Garden we came upon a field of illuminated pillars, colors changing and hopping with the beat of the music. I told Kerri that I saw this very display 20 years ago in an art gallery, though the technology 20 years ago was new and not nearly as impressive as what flashed in the field in front of us. The pillar-field was alive and was both mesmerizing and familiar.

The Gardens themselves, sans lights and music, are immersive. Groomed and created, meant to transport us from our everyday lives. We oooh and aaaah every time we visit. An explosion of color in a petal. The shape of a leaf. The quiet of the grove.

I loved the lights, the heightened immersive experience. We’ll make it a tradition. I’m excited to immerse in Van Gogh or thrill my way through Cirque du Soleil. As for producing immersive experiences, I am content to smear color on canvas or fall head-long into a story. Or, best of all, walk our path through the woods. There is no greater transporter of time-and-space than to suddenly find myself eye-to-eye with a fox crossing the trail.

read Kerri’s blogpost about HOOPS

Embody The Symbol [on DR Thursday]

Everything in the Japanese Garden is symbolic, intentional. Pine trees represent longevity. Rocks, I’ve learned, represent the bones of the earth. They are as necessary in the design as are the “ephemeral blooms of the iris, rhododendron, and plum.” The symbol is not complete without both.

“The ephemeral existence of human life and the timelessness of nature.” Balance.

Entering the small yard of the Shoin House at the Chicago Botanical Garden is instantly calming for me. The small house is designed to “merge the outdoors with the indoors.” It is closed to the public but always beckons. I want to sit in the alcoves and write. Or do nothing at all. In the garden, I am instantly “connected.”

“Connectivity” is a word that has moved to the center of the work that I am currently doing. Amidst our ubiquitous capacity to share (Facebook, Instagram, Tiktok…email, chat, tweet, slack, text…) we are less and less connected. As Neil Postman wrote, we have made the irrelevant relevant and the relevant irrelevant. We share but do not connect. Shared information is not – and never will be – shared meaning.

Symbols empty of meaning when a community ceases to understand, honor, tend or acknowledge the significance of the symbol. And, symbols are the glue of a community. They are the physical, tangible location of an ideal. Disconnect from the symbol and the house falls apart.

I think that is why I am drawn to the Japanese Garden. There, beauty is intentional. The symbols are so well tended, so intentional, that one need not know the specific meanings to enter the symbol.

And, that’s the point. Connectivity happens when people, together, embody their symbols. They enter them. They become embodiments of their symbol(s).

It is the artist’s job to bring people into a shared moment. To give them access to a unified experience. To help them transcend the splinter symbols that divide – and see them for what they are. To help people step back and take a good look at what they, together, are creating. A garden? A desert? Balance? Imbalance?

read Kerri’s blogpost about THE ROCKWAY

prayer of opposites © 2006 david robinson

Drive The Backroads [on saturday morning smack-dab.]

I thought I’d always be a city rat. I love museums and galleries and concerts. And then, something happened. Now, the pull is to quiet places. Space. I still love my art museums but I no longer need to live next door.

We drive the backroads as often as possible. We are much more interested in enjoying the ride than we are in “getting there.” Surrounded as we are, by Chicago to the south and Milwaukee to the north, our meandering down the backroads is often speedier than the aggressive congested freeways. We’ve become the turtle in the race with rabbit.

Last Friday, after work, we drove the backroads to The Chicago Botanical Gardens. It was a gorgeous evening. We held hands and Bali-walked the paths through the Japanese Gardens. Walking with no desire to arrive.

read Kerri’s blog post on this saturday morning smack-dab.

smack-dab. © 2022 kerrianddavid.com

Know Their Name [on Merely A Thought Monday]

As I let Dogga out each morning, I stand for a few moments and listen to the birdsong. Our particular spot on the earth is alive with birds: starlings, finches, sparrows, robins, hawks, crows, owls… The Mourning Doves always stop my motion. Their song is hypnotic.

The pandemic changed – and continues to change – many things. Our world became significantly smaller. The table in the sunroom. The backyard. Our trails. As someone with his head in the clouds I am a dedicated generalist. I have always appreciated bird song yet never, not once, thought of identifying the specific birds and their song. “Sparrow? Finch? Who cares! They are beautiful and that’s enough for me! I spend too much time in my left brain as it is! The last thing I want to do is categorize the birds!”

COVID changed that. Sitting on the back deck or at the COVID table staring out the window for hours on end, our relationship with the birds grew. From general appreciation to specific experience. From passive appreciation to personal connection. We began to see nuance. Pattern. We wanted – and want to know more about these beings that sing us awake each morning, that alert us to changes in the weather, that signal alarm in the neighborhood.

While visiting the Botanical Gardens, Kerri found a small book, coded by color, that identifies the birds in our region. In a flash we can open the book and identify the bird. “Hey! Look! That’s Paul!” I say.

“Stop!” Kerri scowls. “It’s Martha. Paul’s on the fence.”

Just kidding. House Sparrow. Carolina Wren. My favorite to pronounce is Grackle. Great-tailed Grackle to be exact. I’ve decided that, were I to somehow achieve tough-guy status and ride a Harley to breakfast, my motorcycle-dude name will be Grackle. “Hey, Grackle,” the waiter will say, as I come through the door en route to my usual stool. “Hey,” I respond. Motorcycle-dudes named Grackle are birds of few words.

Deb showed us an app. Merlin. It identifies birds by their song. Now, armed with our book from the Botanical Garden and our Merlin app, when I ask, “What’s that?” Kerri – who is always alarmingly way ahead of me – has the answer. “Eastern Towhee,” she says.

“You’re making that up!” I cry, knowing she can’t stand to be challenged so will immediately jump to prove to me that she is right (it’s my secret fast-track to knowledge).

“Look it up!” she insists, showing me both the book and the Merlin return.

“Wow,” I say. “Towhee. Who knew. Maybe my pen name should be Grackle Towhee!”

She yanks the book from my hands. “Oh, Look!” she exclaims. “Merlin has identified you: Midwest DoDo.”

read Kerri’s blog post about BIRDS!

Peek Behind The Scenes [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

I’ve tried to keep notes on my computer. I know that typing my notes into the digital world will make them searchable. Easier to find. It just doesn’t work for me. If I write with a pen on paper, I remember. Marking an important page with a Post-it note makes finding my notes faster than a search engine. It’s not that I am old school. I’m kinesthetic.

I’ve always kept notebooks. At this moment there are two within my reach. The Melange notes. On the desk in my office a is a notebook and three yellow pads. The yellow pads are a task-capture strategy. The notebook is idea capture. Quote capture. Thoughts-in-progress. The notebooks are like my sketchbooks, a place to work out my thought-compositions. They are the history, the breadcrumb trail of a project. For me, the riches are never in the outcome. The real treasures are alive in the notebook process paths.

I’d rather look at an artist’s sketchbook than the finished painting. I have a book of Picasso’s sketches that I treasure. Spend a few moments in Leonardo’s sketches or Michelangelo’s scribbles and you’ll forever toss away the notion of a mistake. Look behind the scenes at the process. A dancer will spend hours in repetition to incorporate a move into their body. The playwright will write hundreds of pages to arrive at a few, yet, those hundreds of pages are nothing less than reduction to essence. Refinement on the path of saying more with less.

Look behind to see the structure. Turn it over to see the pattern. I am, to this day, in awe of the Wayan Kulit master. I looked behind the shadow puppet screen to see the artist at work and, what appears in simple two-dimensions in front of the curtain, is a symphony of structure and improvisation. The man wore an oil lamp on his head to cast the light for the puppets, held a rock between his toes to tap, keeping time for the musicians seated behind him, all the while manipulating and voicing multiple characters, telling with simple clarity an epic tale. A lifetime of trial and error, complexity made simple, like a dancer, the story was deeply choreographed in his body. I wished I could have seen this elder storyteller-priest when he was young and developing his mastery. I’d love to see his notebooks.

I’ve recently had cause to return to my old notebooks. I marvel at the thought cycles coming back around. I’m taken again and again by the questions that still linger, and by those that seem antiquated. “How could I have not seen it!” I smile, knowing in just a few more drafts, a notebook or two down the road, the clarity would arrive.

A peek behind the scenes. It is for me, where the real beauty shines.

read Kerri’s blogpost about THE FLIP SIDE

Look At You Look At Me [on Merely A Thought Monday]

It’s taken me this long to discover the source of all cartoon characters: orchids. I’m not kidding. At a recent field trip to the Chicago Botanical Garden’s Orchid Exhibit, I was surrounded by brightly colored fantastic faces, playful and chuckling. “Look at this one!” Kerri exclaimed. “It’s the Imperial Margarine guy!” I thought it was a whacky Pope or funny Cardinal, but the idea was the same.

“The earth laughs in flowers.” Emerson’s quote was stenciled on the wall as we exited the exhibit. And the laughing flowers made me laugh. Truly. I felt like a little kid at Christmas. Surrounded by color and delight and whimsy, I found myself more than once pointing, “Look at this one! Oh My God!” And, I felt like the colorful faces were staring back at me, thrilled to tears by the odd looking human standing before them. I-look-at-you-look-at-me. “Look at that face!” they snickered.

The thought stopped me in my tracks and filled me with wonder. We personify everything, projecting our humanness into everything. The art of animation, the world of Disney, is rooted in our desire to project ourselves onto and into the world. Talking mice. Dancing candlesticks. Humpty Dumpty. Wise old trees. Wouldn’t it be lovely, and isn’t it hopeful, to think the world projects itself into us? I want the orchids to fill me with color and awe. To project themselves into me. I know the forests I walk through infuse me with quiet. I know Dogga pulls love from my deepest soul.

Participants. Relationship, rather than controllers. Dancers rather than dominators. Would we be so invested in killing each other for imagined supremacy if we allowed ourselves to laugh the laugh of the flowers? If we actually understood that nothing is forever, that our warmongering was at best delusional? That the single trait that makes us human is to turn and help someone in need? The very capacity that allows us to project ourselves into the orchids is the same capacity that makes it possible to stand in the shoes of the other. Empathy is a two-way street.

If the earth laughs in flowers, these days it certainly cries in humans. Yet, standing amidst the orchids, I looked at all the human faces, hundreds of people wide-eyed with wonder and alive with astonishment. The laughing orchids looking back at the astonished faces, open and vulnerable, and they were evoking those qualities from the crowd. Earth’s tears. So hopeful, these faces, drinking in each other’s beauty.

read Kerri’s blog post about FACES

Follow The Twine [on DR Thursday]

[Day #2 of no image upload capacity so, for the melange image, see Kerri’s post or visit the Melange]

Follow the thick neon pink twine, winding through the park, and you’ll eventually come to a giant ball of string. I delighted in the thought that an enormous barn-sized Kitty, had recently been at play. Across the park giant flowers towered into the blue sky. Strolling beneath the stems and petals gave us an ant’s perspective.

Imagination. It’s working all of the time. And, sometimes it takes a giant ball of pink neon twine to make it visible. When we look forward to an event or dread a meeting, we are in full imagination. What else? When we desire a certain future or run fast from an opportunity, we are deep in our imagination. Kerri’s toes curl every time she drives under the train trestle while a train passes overhead: she imagines disaster.

I wish I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard in my life, from students or clients or friends, who’ve said, “I don’t have a good imagination.” The greatest figment of imagination is the notion that there are greater or lesser degrees of imagination. Sense making, personal story, idea generation, brainstorming, hypothesis checking, retirement planning…are all processes of imagination. We sense the world and then story it and the story always begins with the generation of an image. To be human is to be a wild. imaginer.

I’m privy these days to many thought models and process maps. I’ve spent the past 48 hours in a deep conceptual exercise. Emerging from my office at night I squint at Kerri and say, “My brain is tired.” The lovely paradox about the models and maps and conceptual paths is that they are not real. A map of the city is not the city. A model for product development is not product development, it is a map at best, a place to locate the imagination. The imagination uses itself to discover itself.

And, therein lives the paradox: imagination is as much about “discover” as it is about “invent.” We imagine our future so we can walk toward what we already see. As every artist knows, the canvas tells you where to go, the character tells the writer where the story turns. We discover ourselves in our imagination. Follow the pink twine far enough and you’ll eventually come to a giant ball of string.

read Kerri’s blog post about PINK NEON

watercolor fun: dog dreaming © 2010 david robinson