KS Friday

It is one of the great pleasures of my life to be down in my studio painting when Kerri, upstairs in her studio, begins to play. I always stop and appreciate how rich, how utterly fortunate I am. There is more than just music in our house. There is a source, an amazing composer, a gifted musician. She plays like most people breathe and I marvel at the enormity and ease of her gift.

From the melange on this Valentine’s week comes a Slow Dance. It is from Kerri’s album As Sure As The Sun. Friday belongs to Kerri’s music. I am particularly fond of Slow Dance. It is visceral and reminds me of a summer evening, sitting in the adirondack chairs in the front yard, sipping wine and talking. We were listening to music and without really intending it, we began to dance. Fast dances, silly dances, rowdy-run-around-dances, and finally, laughing and exhausted, there came a slow dance. The neighbors still talk about it….

 

ASATS

Slow Dance from AS SURE AS THE SUN

KERRI SHERWOOD

[a note to consider: the links will by default take you to apple music – apple’s streaming service. With respect to artists everywhere, please consider downloading your music on itunes rather than streaming your music. It requires one additional click. Downloading means the artists get paid for their work. Streaming guarantees that they don’t.]

kerrianddavid.com

Slow Dance from As Sure As The Sun ©️ 2002 kerri sherwood

Reach Out Of Inner Space

Richard Diebenkorn, Ocean Park #68

Richard Diebenkorn, Ocean Park #68

Several days ago on a muddy trek through the state park, the dials in my brain spun ever so slightly and I had an epiphany. It was an epiphany that I’ve had before which, to some, might disqualify it as an epiphany but for me the important stuff seems to occur repeatedly, a new layer falls off, and I see a bit more each time. Clarity is movement to a core, a simplicity emerging from what used to seem complex. So, I had a repeating epiphany.

Last year I attended The Chicago Art Expo. To my shock and surprise, rather than being challenged and energized, I ran screaming from the building. It was disconcerting. It was disorienting. Rather than having direct experiences with art that opened my eyes or challenged my world, I had experiences with curators who were compelled to tell me why the work had merit. They felt the need to locate the meaning and value for me. There was, in each booth, an art-high- priest standing between me and the experience. In fairness, I often felt that, without the interpreter, there was no experience to be had. It was a mental exercise.

In the grand scheme of things, Art serves a purpose. It carries the common story, the cultural identity. It is necessary, not luxury. In that sense, for it to serve its purpose, it requires no interpreter. When it no longer serves its intrinsic purpose – or there no longer exists a common center – an interpreter (marketer) is inevitable.

As Quinn once told me, “If someone has to tell you that they are good, they probably aren’t.”

Joseph Campbell wrote a book called The Inner Reaches of Outer Space. Art (theatre, visual, dance, music), for me, has deep value when it serves the outer reaches of inner space. It is immediately accessible, touching a universal nerve. It has to reach. Standing in the mud and muck of the park, we took a break by the shore of a lake and listened. The wind moved the trees, the limbs clacked and groaned. Crows chased an owl. The sun warmed my face. A layer fell off and a core came closer to focus.

This is not a diatribe against abstraction. We recently saw a Sam Francis exhibit at The Milwaukee Art Museum that left me in tears. I’ve spent hours in front of a Diebenkorn, one of his Ocean Park series, and I can’t get enough of it. I visit it often, like a pilgrim on a pilgrimage. It moves something deep within me. It speaks to something bigger than me and makes me want to be better and better. Standing before it I feel a part of a conversation of hearts and imaginations and deep space calls. I feel a part of a bigger story.

Love What You Do

a detail from my painting, May You Be

a detail from my painting, May You Be

It is cold and the lake is very still. It’s one of the things I love about living next to the lake: one day it is glassy stillness, the next it is an angry torrent. It is alive and has many, many faces.

Quinn used to say, “There are 5 billion people on this planet and you’re the only one who gives a damn about what you are doing or how you are doing it.” That was some time ago. There are now 7 billion people on the planet but I’m certain the equation remains the same. If you stop your forward motion because of what others might think, you are indulging in a delusion. The other 7 billion people are primarily concerned with themselves, not you. The deep water lesson: do what you love because you love to do it. There aren’t nearly as many limits as you pretend.

I thought of Quinn the other night because I have a new hero. His name is Dan Navarro. He’s a troubadour, a singer songwriter, and was performing at Cafe Carpe in Fort Atkinson, about an hour and a half drive from home. Kerri has long been a fan and introduced me to the music of Lowen & Navarro. For many decades, Dan Navarro wrote and performed with his friend and creative partner, Eric Lowen. They were brilliant together. A rare fit, a true creative team, Eric Lowen died of ALS in 2012. He and Dan wrote and performed as long as humanly possible after Eric’s diagnosis. They loved to write. They loved to perform.

A few months ago Kerri and I were listening to a Lowen & Navarro album and wondered what had become of Dan Navarro so we googled him. To our great surprise we discovered the impending Fort Atkinson stop on his latest mini tour.

Cafe Carpe is a smallish place and Dan Navarro is an accessible guy so I wasn’t surprised when, before the concert, he came over for a chat. He and Kerri talked about the pain of disappearing royalties and the radical changes technology has brought to music making and music selling. I wondered how many times he’s been asked about the loss of Eric and how it must be the white elephant in every performance as well as every conversation; the people coming to see Dan Navarro are fans of Lowen & Navarro. When it came up in our conversation he was gracious and spoke openly of missing his friend everyday.

He is putting the final touches on a solo album due out in March. “Who knows how it will be received.” he said. “And who cares. You do what you love to do and put it out into the world. That’s the best you can do.”

He took the stage, a troubadour in his power and his prime with the ease that can only come from doing with his life what he was meant to do. “People ask me about retiring…,” he spoke into the mic, “…and I will never retire. I don’t know what that means. I love what I do and will always do it.” he said, sliding into a song that left us no alternative but to follow.

 

Chase The Butterflies

a detail from my painting, John's Secret

a detail from my painting, John’s Secret

Wisdom butterflies that have recently fluttered across my path:

Soaking up the morning sun and drinking coffee from the deck of Common Grounds, 20 said, “You’ve heard this one, right? There are three sides to every story.”

Standing on the side of the road peering into Judy’s car, she gave us some sage relationship advice. She said, “That’s the secret to life, you know: listen before you talk.”

Kerri was composing a song. I asked her how she starts, how she knows where to start. She said, “I don’t know. Sometimes you just need to put your fingers on the keys and follow the music.”

There is an aging pink post-it note stuck (permanently) to the desk. It reads, “Make The Adventure.”

On a recent phone call, Skip offered wise counsel about how I see my role in a new business, “Find your own metaphor,” he said. ”What is the metaphor that will keep you energized, that taps into your 10,000 hours?”

Sitting behind his drum set, waiting for rehearsal to begin, John said, “Our job is to make the art, not to determine its reception.” And then he said, “What do you think?” and laughed.

Josh took a belly punch from the universe yesterday. He said, “I want to be angry but anger does me no good. I have better things to do with my life than get angry.”

A detail from my painting, An Instrument of Peace

A detail from my painting, An Instrument of Peace

P-Tom weighed in with this: “Faith is scandalous,” he said, “It pushes back against everything we experience.”

Dog-Dog raced across the yard in hot pursuit of a butterfly. I’m wagering that he knew he would never catch it, but the chase was glorious.

Bumble

photo-1I’m sitting on the deck sipping red wine. It is twilight. Jim is playing the mandolin (he is an extraordinary musician) and Kerri is playing her keyboard. They are rehearsing outside because it is too hot in the house. The breeze off the lake is a godsend. Dog-Dog does not know what to do with all the activity. He is running around and around; there is no sense to his crazy figure-eight patterns. I’ve learned his looping is actually Dog-Dog glee. He likes their music, too.

The fireflies are sparking. Kerri and Jim are working through a series of slow tunes for a performance this weekend and I am falling into their playing. I routinely tell them that they need to make an album together and they routinely smile and laugh at me. It is their laughter that comes through their playing and I love it. This world, I believe, like me, needs more laughter.

There is magic in a mandolin and I am suddenly reminded of my conversation with Arnie earlier today. We had a much needed phone conversation. Over the many years of our friendship Arnie has walked me through multiple mazes of my own construction. He has listened to more than one of my epic rants. He has a gentle way of asking just the right question to stop my rant in its tracks. I seek his counsel when I am lost. He somehow knows when I need an ear to bend or just a walk with a friend. His superhero name might be The Velvet Dope-Slap. I am grateful to be the dope to his slap.

During our conversation we bumbled into the topic of wisdom. I am now old enough to understand that bumbling is the only path to wisdom. No one seeking wisdom will ever find it. Seekers are notoriously serious. I have always been suspect of the dour saints that pock western sacred spaces. The Buddha laughs. Shiva dances amidst the destruction. There is wisdom in dancing, too.

Arnie and I agreed that wisdom only comes from repeated and dedicated folly. Sooner or later, if we are lucky, the mask of comedy breaks through the sad mask of tragedy; we learn to laugh at ourselves and our dedication to drama. It is through the laughter that wisdom finally reveals itself.

Kerri just gasped and stopped playing, “Oh my god! Look at the moon!”

Jim laughed at the interruption, and, pulling his glasses off his forehead, said, “Wait, I have to put my far-eyes on.”

 

Step Back

On the desk there is a wire and wood sculpture of a crow, a flour sifter stuffed with colored pencils, a little tiny picnic basket containing the sisu phone, a plant from Jen, a hanging jar holding rocks and crystals, stacks of paper and notebooks – each representing a project that is in motion, pens and pencils galore, three pink post-it notes with “right,” “left,” and “a gift from me to 2 U! Pass it on!” written on them. There is also a weathered orange post-it note by the computer with this much treasured-phrase: “I Love You, My D.Dot.” If I had to surrender all of my worldly possessions except for one, I would choose to keep the orange post-it note.photo

On Friday afternoon we will help John hang a memorial art show of his father’s paintings. It is how his dad wanted his life to be celebrated. As I was in the studio painting this morning I thought that, someday, someone might do the same for me. I wondered who might think to celebrate my life with a show of my paintings. Who might read some of what I have written? And, what if all that matters in this world can be expressed on a single orange post-it note? What if it is not the paintings or the books or plays – the things I produced? What if all that really matters is if I paid attention and loved mightily during the time allotted me? What more do I need than to have lived a life that warranted an orange post-it note?

Last night we had a band rehearsal in the sanctuary. I stepped away from Kerri, Jim, and John (the real musicians) and walked to the back of the sanctuary so I could listen to the song. It was gorgeous and they were unaware of how gorgeous it was – of how gorgeous they were. They were simply working. I was captured by the moment. I literally ached with how full and rich was the moment. I simply could not believe the depth of my good fortune. Kerri sang, Jim and John played, and I cried with the power of it all.

The moment was ordinary for them, extraordinary for me – and isn’t that always the way? The extraordinary is always waiting in the ordinary, in the post-it note, in the rehearsal, in the person passing you on the street, in the hard choice, making a meal, the sigh of the Dog-Dog in the middle of the night? Isn’t this very notion – opening the extraordinary hiding in the ordinary – the reason we live and make art? Isn’t the real practice of the artist simply a matter of stepping back so we might see it – and then share what we see?

Appreciate It

#5

#5 in the process shots

Spring came fast. At this time last week there was a four-foot drift of snow on the back patio; it was Tripper Dog-Dog-Dog’s favorite plaything, leaping in and out of the snow monster. Today, a mere seven days later, the monster is gone, the back yard is snow free. Dog-Dog has already found a new favorite game: plucking leaves floating in the pond and then racing the circumference of the yard as if the newly plucked leaf was valuable treasure.

John’s dad passed yesterday. His passing was both sudden and not a surprise. His dad was an artist, a brilliant painter, and the celebration of his life will include much of his life’s work. “That’s what he would have wanted,” John said. After the call with John, Kerri looked at me and said, “There’s no time to waste.” Life happens so fast.

 

#6

#6

I went down to the studio and worked (yes, Skip, these are the next two process shots and the sketch;-). While I worked I listened to Kerri’s album, This Part Of The Journey. She came down to see how the painting was progressing and heard her music. She asked me to listen to a moment, a swelling of the strings, and told me of the day she and her producer mixed the track. It is a moment of music that can break your heart or make you yearn for home. “This is a piece I wrote for Wayne,” she said. Wayne was her brother; cancer took him many years ago. We listened in silence, appreciating the fullness of the moment, appreciating the power of her music, appreciating the painting that was emerging; appreciating life happening.

photo-4

from the sketchbook.