Allow A Glimpse [on KS Friday]

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One of the challenges arising in our Melange is what to publish on DR Thursday or KS Friday. After 130 weeks, we both feel the need to produce and publish new work and not draw from the archives. It’s a good sign.

Today, after reading Wade Davis’ must-read article about the end of the american era in Rolling Stone, Kerri decided to go into the studio, focus on a single word, in this case, “lost,” and improvise. It was thrilling. I cannot describe the feeling of watching her finally and at last do what she is meant to do on this earth. Standing at the open end of the piano holding the iphone to record, I can feel the vibration of her playing ripple through my body, the pounding rhythm through the wood floor enters through the soles of my feet.

There is a moment 15 or 20 seconds after she begins playing when the music takes over, when she is no longer playing from her thinking-mind but from the deeper place. Her face relaxes. Her posture changes. The piano hops. She merges with the music and I feel like weeping or laughing or both the handful of times I’ve seen it happen. When she merges, it opens the door for me to enter, too. That is the power and magic of an artist: access to the deep-beautiful.

I’ve never met an artist more resistant to their artistry than Kerri. I’ve met artists before  that feared their artistry because they get lost in it. They walk to the edge but fear the leap. That might be Kerri’s plight but I don’t think so. My New York girl routinely stomps on edges, shouts profanity into canyons and leaps into voids. She is no shrinking violet. No, I think she feels betrayed by her gift so she betrays it in return. I think she feels lost. It is why the word resonated with her this morning.

And now, add two broken wrists to this complexity. It’s six months since her fall and her right wrist, her melody hand, is not recovering. It’s limiting. Her motion is greatly impeded. I cannot hear it but my ears are not the ears that matter in this equation.

This morning she improvised a few different pieces. For me they were gripping. For Kerri they were frustrating. So, rather than give you the full recording, she chose to offer a short sketch, a phrase. A timely piece and appropriate metaphor on almost every level: lost.

 

Kerri’s albums are available on iTunes

 

read Kerri’s blog post about LOST

 

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lost (a sketch) ©️ 2020 kerri sherwood

all my loves ©️ 2020 david robinson

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Play On! [On Merely A Thought Monday]

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“So, this is what a pandemic feels like,” Chris wrote. Yes.

This is what division feels like. Years ago I went to a wedding in the mountains. The grandmother of the bride punched the grandmother of the groom. They wrestled each other to the floor. The band kept playing. It was shocking. It was mesmerizing. The rest of the reception was uncomfortable with explosive undercurrents. That is my metaphor-of-the-day for these United States.

Disruption can be tedious. Disruption can be violent. Disruption is definitely disorienting. Old ladies fist fighting, pulling hair, cussing. The band plays through its set list.

Yesterday’s metaphor happened like this: I broke a storm window. My first thought was an unpublishable version of, “Gee! How did that happen?” My second thought was, “This is exactly what the USA looks like.” An old frame, glass shatters. It sounds like the first line of a haiku. The fault lines in this nation are ubiquitous. Sharp.

There is no fix that will put the pieces back together again. Humpty Dumpty. A new pane of glass must replace the old.

Kerri had a bad day. We passed a local bar and it was packed. She said, “Everyone’s pretending that things are normal!” Her inner rule-follower wanted to know how so many people could be so cavalier about spreading the virus. I reminded her that we live in Wisconsin. The supreme court of our state ruled that to protect each other is unconstitutional. To pretend that there is no virus is the only way they could have arrived at their ruling. So, all the children play follow-the-leader.

Everything is changed. And now we yearn for what we once knew as usual. We crave the typical, long for the familiar routine. “I’ll never take a hug for granted again,” Jen said. Touch. Yes. We remember with longing the ease of touch.

Little miracles. Sitting close to a friend. A dinner party. We don’t know what we have until we do not have it. Isn’t it true that within the ordinary is always found the seed of the extraordinary? And, what, exactly, isn’t extraordinary? Relative to the very few life forms we have discovered in this vast universe, it seems that another day of life on this abundant planet of ours is, out of the chute, more than we should expect. Little miracles. To hold a hand. To walk side-by-side.

What exactly is normal?

Doug was one of my heroes. He was a champion of the misfit, a cheerleader of the unconventional path. As a young man he was a soldier in Vietnam. During his tour, he read poetry to keep himself sane. Another day of life was never guaranteed. It changed him.

He was a challenger to the norm because he believed the norm didn’t exist.  His belief in the unusual made him an excellent teacher. With excessive bluster, he used to say, “I wish somebody would show me this fantasy called the mainstream. Everybody talks about it but I’ve never seen the goddamn thing!”

We saw the sign from the road: A little normal would be nice. Yes. Grandmothers fist fighting. Packed bars in a pandemic. Broken glass. Follow the leader over the edge. The band plays on.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about A LITTLE NORMAL

 

 

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Read Marc’s Notes [on DR Thursday]

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One of my most prized possessions is a handmade notebook, stitched together by a young DeMarcus Brown, mentor of my mentor, in a time before corner drugstores and readily available school supplies. It is filled with the fading pencil notes Marc made when he was a student learning about color, probably in 1918 or 1919. It occurred to me as I wrote that guesstimate of time that he was scribbling notes about color during a pandemic.

It reads like an enthusiastic discovery of miracles. On page one the word COLOR is triple underlined. “Light is a form of radiant energy transmitted by wave movement through SPACE and is perceived VISUALLY. Opposite is DARKNESS. Qualities of Light: 1) Physically – Life giving. 2) Mentally – Intelligence. 3) Spiritually – Divine Wisdom.”

From Marc, on page one, on day one of his study of artistry, I learned that color is life giving, intelligent, and a source of divine wisdom.

“Objects reveal light.  All forms and substances REFLECT or ABSORB LIGHT. THINK OF COLOR AS LIGHT REFLECTED.”

There are other words and phrases: vibration, proportion, visual sensation, light is individualized by its contact with substances into color. COLOR is Light PROPORTION.

All of this awe is written in block letters on the first two pages. His enthusiasm is palpable. As you move through Marc’s notebook of discoveries, his writing shifts to cursive, he matures in color and intention. His passion intensifies. He is beginning to see.

Toward the end of his notebook, in his growing sophistication, you’ll read these phrases:  “Train our eyes to DEGREES of Neutrality. Establish relationships of Intensity. Hue. Value”…and a reminder “vibrating surface!”

The stitching that holds the notebook together is impeccable. Beautiful. Careful. Considered. It took him time to make his notebook. It mattered.

I can’t help my metaphor mind from finding a universe of guidance in Marc’s notebook for a nation that perpetually struggles with color – or, ironically, the negation of color. The fear of color relations. A commitment to a narrative of dominance, this or that but never both. A palette of loss. We’ve limited our color study to a polarity and eliminated the infinite shades of possibility in the picture we might paint. Insistent chiaroscuro.

What happens when the door of possibility opens? When change, that big blank canvas, sits on the easel?

In the middle of his 90’s, Marc gave me his paint brushes, his paint box. “Use them!” he said, “Don’t save them for remembrance.” He knew I was sentimental. “Reverence is off limits. These are not meant to collect dust on a shelf.” He laughed, “Use the damn things. Don’t be safe!”

Color. Vibration. Relationship. Proportion. Life Giving. Intelligent. Divinely Wise. Walk into the unknown. Learn to see.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about COLOR

 

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Meander [on KS Friday]

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In my mind, everything is a metaphor. Everything. Well, maybe not everything. There is a simile thrown in here and there. You might imagine it drives Kerri to the brink (yes, poor thing, is regularly driven to a metaphoric edge).

I tell her that my metaphor mind is a gift but she doubts me. For instance, would it make any sense if I said that my metaphor mind drives her to the rink? Absolutely not. Which is why my way of thinking has occasionally driven her to drink. Metaphorically speaking. And, would you rather be driven to the rink or to drink. Think about it. These things matter! I rest my case.

So, you can imagine the horror she felt when on a walk in our beloved Bristol Wood we came upon divergent paths. Robert Frost was long standing there, sorry that he could not travel both. One path led to muddy shoes while the other was newly trod, dry and grassy, wanting wear. We took the path less traveled by, our shoes most grateful, heaved a sigh.

“Life is a journey…” I launched my boat of words but Kerri’s wince brought my poetic ship hard upon the rocks. So, undaunted I launched another ship, “Love is a thrill ride…” I began, but my wife, too metaphor-tortured and way past the point of no return, pinged my metaphor with a clever pong of her own: “Love is about to be a battlefield,” was all she said.

Ah, I see (I said to no one listening). Silence is golden.

[note: you will enjoy her MEANDER so much more than mine. Also, life with me is AS IT IS. Kerri will confirm my assertion. Also, I believe she knew I was coming into her life so she was compelled to record this album. How’s THAT for a story!? ]

MEANDER on the album AS IT IS is available on iTunes

 

read Kerri’s blog post about MEANDER

 

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meander/as it is ©️ 2004 kerri sherwood

 

 

 

 

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Listen For The Splash [on DR Thursday]

I’ve shown this painting more than a few times and it always generates interest. More people have considered buying this painting than any other in my catalogue. Yet, it remains the bridesmaid. Angels At The Well.

What a crazy title! I can’t remember why I painted it or why I thought angels at a well was such a compelling subject. In fact, I chose it for this week’s Studio Melange because I pulled it out of the stacks and thought, “Really, what a bizarre subject! What was I thinking?”

In mythology, wells are sources of rejuvenation, places of fate, the future can be read in the waters, omens uttered, they are holy, cursed, or a place where wishes are cast. Spirits get caught in them. Stories begin or end at the well. They reach into the earth, the element of  water disappearing deep into the element of earth.

Angels are messengers (remember that the next time the postal person delivers the mail). They are liaisons between gods and people, between the vertical and the horizontal realms. They meet you at the crossroads. They stand watch. They announce. They fall.

Perhaps symbol collision is why Angels At The Well piques so much curiosity but is consistently left behind? What kind of well? What kind of angel? And, maybe that is why I found it compelling enough to paint. Or, it occurs to me that it might be this: drop a pebble into the well. Listen how long it falls. With the splash will come new knowledge, an answer to a wish, a question, or there may be no splash at all. Then what?

 

read Kerri’s blog post about ANGELS AT THE WELL

 

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Happy Thanksgiving (for all of you USA-based angels)

 

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angels at the well ©️ 2004 david robinson

Be Like Your Dog [on Merely A Thought Monday]

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Some people look like their dogs. Some people are like their dogs. I am one of the latter.

DogDog resists all recognizable constraints. He cannot tolerate tight spaces. It’s the reason he won’t climb stairs. It’s not the stairs, it’s the tight passage way. How’s that for a metaphor! I would be more successful in this life if I had better tolerance of constraints.

He is hypersensitive to other people’s feelings. He is, to use a phrase from the Dog Whisperer, an energy-reading machine. He knows when I am sad or angry or frustrated BEFORE I know that I am sad or angry or frustrated. I have, like DogDog, always been able to walk into a room and “feel” where the energy-eddies were swirling. Sometimes I can’t tell if it is my sadness or the person I am sitting with. That takes some time to sort out. I wonder if DogDog has the same challenge in sorting which feeling belongs to which animal.

DogDog is fearful of non-threatening, seemingly ridiculous things. For instance, his food bowl is metal and it sits at the base of the oven. When the bowl makes contact with the oven, metal on metal, he flees to save his life. He hides in the other room until we convince him that the sound-monster is gone. My monsters are just like his. Seemingly ridiculous to outside eyes. Always constituted of the things I do not understand. The sounds that make no sense (what people say, what people do to each other). The future. The past. Metaphoric metal on metal.

What I would like to learn from DogDog? My monsters keep me awake at night. His fears don’t stick – or, rather, he doesn’t carry them forward. Not only is he a profoundly sound sleeper but, the next time there’s kibble, he’s back at his bowl giving it another go.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about A VERY INDEPENDENT DOG

 

 

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Plan To Try Again [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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20 and I sat in the Adirondack chairs in the sun, eating chips and drinking wine, and watched Trevor and his crew put the finishing touches on the dock refurbishment.They’d been at it for days, leveling and reinforcing the existing structure, cutting pieces and installing a new surface. The final step was the installation of a bench on the far end, a place to sit over the water and enjoy the moon rise. They screwed the bench in place and loaded up their tools. We praised their good work. It was solid. Trevor said he’d be back in a week or so to check on things.

Within a week, the dock became a metaphor.

The storms that rolled through a few days after Trevor screwed the bench into place were intense. The lake looked and acted like the Atlantic Ocean when it is angry. The waves smashed the shoreline and ate great chunks of the yard. The bench that Trevor secured to the dock broke off within the first hour. The waves smashed it to bits.

All of Trevor’s hard work leveling the dock and stabilizing the structure was for naught. After the bench was swallowed, the legs buckled and twisted. The dock surrendered and knelt but the opposing team seemed not to care. The surrender did not stop the pounding. Another storm came. And then another. And then another. The dock is now face down, belly to the sand.

Trevor hasn’t been back yet to check on things. I suspect he already knows that his good work was no match for Mother Nature. The best laid plans…and all of that. He’ll shrug and pull the pieces from the water. He’ll even rebuild it if Deb wants him to give it another try. Trevor is a practical guy.

Gang aft agley!

 

read Kerri’s blog post about THE DOCK

 

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Choose Your Ladder [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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Climbing the ladder to success has never been a useful metaphor for me. When ladder climbing, the trajectory is up. What is up there that is not already right here? Climbing up in this dog-eat-dog paradigm implies climbing over others. It certainly implies that there is a top rung with room enough for one. Limited pie. Get yours. After all, being your brother’s/sister’s keeper is a nice sentiment on Sunday but not really useful in the real world of ladder climbing.

Top rung. Ultimate achievement. Arrival. These are words of stasis. I’ve never understood why the elimination of dynamic movement would be appealing. Vitality is movement, not the absence of movement. Life is made rich by experience, surprise, curiosity, exploration, steps into the unknown. To climb the rungs to controlled living seems antithetical to the point, at least to me. A body in stasis is in poor health, indeed. A life in stasis is in poor spirit, without exception.

It is often the role of the artist to challenge the norm and the challenge is generally nothing new, rather, it is a simple perspective spin. For instance, a ladder is good for fixing things, for reaching. It is good ladder behavior to have someone spotting the climber. If someone is stuck at the top it is good practice to help them down. Fire departments use ladders to save people. Ladders to help. Ladders to serve. Ladders as a tool to reach. Ladders can be used to bridge a crevasse, to get folks to the other side.

A more useful (and realistic) ladder metaphor: reach, serve, help, bridge, save. I suppose, more to the point, success is all about the ladder you choose. As for me, standing atop a ladder on a rung built for one seems like a lousy definition of success. I’d rather be on the ground with the people who care enough to spot me. I’d rather use my ladder to help my friends and community reach the unreachable. That seems like a more worthy definition of success.

read Kerri’s blog post about LADDERS

 

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Capture The Beauty [on DR Thursday]

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The day was stormy, the lake was unsettled, steel grey and roiling. Kerri walked to the water’s edge with her camera. I opened my sketchbook and caught a quick sketch. Perhaps a notation for a someday-painting. Perhaps a gesture with nowhere to go.

A few days later I looked at this quick sketch and laughed. It is a metaphor for our time on island. Standing at the edge of a storm not of our making. Witness to the turmoil. It blows us to and fro. It messes our hair. The sand stings our faces.  We are taken by the colors of its violence. When the winds grow too powerful, we retreat to the safety of our littlehouse. We wait for the latest flurry to calm, the waves to soften.

It is tempting to want to be done with it. To rush through a month of life. Each day I remind myself to be in it, not simply get through it. Life on this day may be stormy. It might be upsetting. Stormy and upsetting are colors on the palette. They are worthy experiences. Amidst the chaos there are instances of utter beauty –  like the moment Kerri walked to the edge of a roiling lake and I looked up, caught my breath, and reached for my sketchbook so that I’d never ever forget.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about A SKETCH

 

 

 

 

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Smell The Flowers [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

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Ferdinand is the story of a bull who would rather smell flowers than fight. In a moment of bad timing, Ferdinand sits on a bee and is mistaken for the most ferocious bull in his cadre. He is hauled off to be the main event at the bull fights, a high honor for most bulls! Needless to say, he disappoints. Through a mighty wave of provocation, matadors taunting and goading crowds, Ferdinand refuses to fight. He sits center ring and smells the roses. His dedication to peace is a disappointment to all. He is hauled back to his pasture where he lives out his days enjoying the flowers.

The book became a best seller when it was first published in the mid 1930’s. The world was busy readying itself for yet another world war. In the second year of it’s publication, 1938, Ferdinand was the best selling book in the United States.

A mixed metaphor. A big bull with a gentle heart. The greatest power in the arena impervious to the ugly taunts and goading. Ferdinand, you might say, didn’t take it personally.

As luck would have it this week, we enjoyed a children’s concert telling of Ferdinand and a few days later we saw a one-man show, a Winston Churchill impersonator. We left both events with the same impression: if history repeats itself then we are certainly cycling through the late 1930’s. The world seems dedicated to tweeting itself into greater and greater conflict. The arena is alive with screaming and taunting, accusations and blame. Wouldn’t it be refreshing if, into this blood-lust, a bull would enter, sit center stage, and smell the roses?

 

read Kerri’s blog post about FERDINAND

 

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