Find The Deeper Impulse [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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See a penny, pick it up. All that day you’ll have good luck. 

I saw a penny in the parking lot of the UPS store and, wanting to have a full day of good luck, I swooped down and picked it up. Kerri, horrified, said, “What are you thinking? Put that down!” I was marched back to the truck and slathered myself with hand sanitizer.

My penny swoop debacle in the parking lot of the UPS store is how I mark the beginning of the pandemic. It was the first time that the danger of a simple action, touching what someone else had touched, penetrated. The penny dropped [sorry – I couldn’t help myself]. It was early in this experience called pandemic, before masks, before social distancing. Wash your hands. Don’t touch your face. And, above all, leave the good luck penny on the pavement.

And it seems like years since I touched that penny.

My penny swoop was an impulse. Kerri asked me what I was thinking but I wasn’t thinking. I was riding on the instinct train. The child-rhyme ignited my luck desire and I went in for the grab. And, isn’t that the real hardship of this pandemic? Quashing the impulse to hug your friends, to walk toward your neighbor to say hello, to let the kids play together, to stop in the store and chat with acquaintances? 20 stands outside  his mother’s assisted living apartment; she stands on the balcony and they shout to each other. Each day I watch Kerri override the deep-mother-instinct to run and find her children, all-grown-up-and-moved-away.

It’s unnatural, this veto of instinct. And, it is what makes us human. It is natural to run from danger and yet doctors and nurses everyday walk into hospitals during this pandemic. They walk into exposure. First responders, police and fire people, everyday put the public safety above their own. It is what lifts us into our humanity; placing the needs of others above our own. It is what we celebrate, what we admire. What we claim as our highest ideal. People giving of themselves for the benefit of others.

We call that sacrifice. We call it service. We call it sacred. We  call it grace and generosity. We go to houses of worship and proclaim it. We make movies about it. Frodo must destroy the ring of power for the benefit of all. Otherwise, he twists in his selfish personal power lust and becomes like Gollum. This tale is universal for a reason.

And, I suspect that I am wrong. The survival instinct has a deeper nature. Soldiers talk about it just as first responders do: in the moment of real danger there is not a question about throwing themselves on top of their companion, sacrificing self to save the other. It, too, is an impulse. A purer survival instinct. It is not an override.  It is, when all else is stripped away, what we are.

“Compassion is the basis of morality.” ~ Arthur Schopenhauer

 

read Kerri’s blog post about PICKING UP SPARE CHANGE

 

 

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Approach It [on Merely A Thought Monday]

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“Because we have lost reverence of approach, we should not be too surprised at the lack of quality and beauty in our experience.” ~ John O’Donohue, Beauty

There was a common thread that ran through the lessons my mentors taught me: how I treat my space is a direct reflection of how I approach my artistry, my work.

Whether they said it directly or not, they understood artistry as sacred, artistic spaces as sacred spaces. Places of communion.

Paul Barnes used to tell his acting students, “Never underestimate your power to influence another person’s life.” There is a responsibility when getting on the stage. There is a responsibility when designing for the stage. There is a responsibility for how tickets are sold. There is a responsibility for how the theatre is cleaned and maintained, the studio, the shop… Tom’s students were famous for sweeping the parking lot of the theatre because they believed the audience experience began with the approach to the building. The sweepers understood themselves as artists.

During our last days on island, Kerri and I began cleaning out the theatre. We began the process of introducing a new approach. We started our job mid-season and were asked to come to the island and watch and learn. All summer, as a watcher, I repeated this phrase: everyone wants to use the theatre but no one wants to be responsible for it. Responsible to it. Groups entered and dumped their stuff. When they left, they left their mess for Pete to clean and why not? (Pete gets it, he is meticulous, and loves the space. But he is a lone sweeper fighting the tide of a dedicated mindless approach.)

TPAC is understood as a place to be used. It is a space the community fights over. A territory to be claimed. It is not yet approached as a space where beauty is touched, where actions matter because they are capable of unifying, where artistry is understood, not as a personal domain, but the grace of collective creation.

Sitting on the empty stage, the season closed, Kerri and I sat and listened. “It’s time to make the space ours, ” she said. “I think I’ll clean out the fridge.”

 

read Kerri’s blog post about THE END OF SEASON

 

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Laugh Together [on Merely A Thought Monday]

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“Why don’t people care?” I frequently loop back to Stephen’s question – asked so many years ago – about art. He’s a prolific and gifted painter. I have so many responses, mostly contradictory. Everything from ‘People do care, it’s just inaccessible,’ to ‘Why should they care, it’s so personal to the artist (not communal, not inclusive) that it’s not accessible.”  The common word in all my inner-Stephen-musings is ‘access.’

My pot was irrevocably stirred during my time in Bali. There, the arts are practiced in the temple – a place, the central focus – for everyone and everything in the community. Every aspect of life is rooted-in and practiced-through the temple. That is to say, all things are still considered sacred – even and especially ‘the arts.’ As sacred, the arts belong to everyone, not just the artist or the elite who can afford it. They are accessible because they are not a possession, they are a sacrament. Additionally, the temple does not stop at the end of the compound. The whole world is the temple. In this temple, the arts serve as the binder, the carrier of the story that holds the treasure of the community: its identity.  The arts are not only accessible, they provide access. They affirm belonging.

In this temple, through this sacred story, laughter is highly valued. Laughter, foible, whimsy, – all reminders that, 1) we should not take ourselves so seriously, and 2) laughter is a potent force, like gravity. It joins us. It cuts through division, turns fear into powder. It provides perspective. Laughter is the sound of appreciation, the music people make together when worshiping the great mystery of life.

read Kerri’s blog post about THE NOBLEST ART

 

 

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Do A Rough Draft [on DR Thursday]

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the field in early october: a morsel

I love seeing artists’ rough drafts. One of my all time favorite art exhibits was the hundreds of drawings and sketches John Singer Sargent executed en route to his painting, El Jaleo.

I’m more interested in the process than the final piece. I’m more captivated by the search than the find. That includes my own work as well. For me, the final painting is less a finished piece and more of a pause in the conversation.

It bothers me when a curator tells people what a painting is about or what the artist intended. I’ve squirmed many times during openings of shows when the gallery curator, introducing my work, tells people what my paintings mean. It locks people out. It prevents them from having THEIR relationship with my painting. I squirm equally when the work is not mine. I want a more pure experience.

To me, art is a doorway to the sacred, to the deeper things that words often cannot reach. It is a passage back to the beginning, to the fingerpainter, the child freely playing – prior to the time when a judge is planted between the painter and the piece, the painting and the viewer. That is where the riches are. And in that place it is all a rough draft.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about THE FIELD IN EARLY OCTOBER

 

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a field in early october/morsel ©️ 2018 david robinson & kerri sherwood

 

KS Friday

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Always With Us (track 14)

Kerri and I had a few days off. I’d never seen Door County so we jumped in the car and headed, as the folks around here like to say, “up north.” On our way back we stopped to say hello to Hans the music producer. Kerri and Hans have been for years dancing around producing an album together. Hans is also an amazing cellist. He gave us a tour through his recording studio and invited Kerri to give his studio piano a try. She sat and began to play. He sat at his cello and joined her. My mouth dropped open and I started to cry. Artistry, when it is pure, does that to me. I found myself standing in a sacred space created by two consummate musicians who were simply doing what they were born to do. They had no idea I was stunned to tears. They were playing around. They were having fun. They played together for about an hour, Hans dashing in and out to get different instruments to noodle around with, Kerri playing whatever came through the channel. I sat in the corner and tried to keep breathing.

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Always With Us [solo piano version, track 2]

No recording exists of that day. I would listen to it every day if it did. It was spontaneous and as holy and temporary as a sand painting. On the drive home I tried to describe my experience to Kerri and asked her why she and Hans had never recorded together. “It costs a lot of money to record, ” she said, adding, “and, nowadays, with people streaming music instead of buying it, there’s almost no way to recoup the investment. It’s better to enjoy the process, to have fun playing with someone like Hans.”

I remembered that day with Hans when we chose Always With Us for this week’s melange. It turns out that our melange conversation this week has been all about artistic process: stepping blindly, having faith, landing in pot holes, making bold offers, capturing moments, and most importantly, treasuring the relationship with “something bigger” that comes through when the artist(s) step out of the way and something sacred happens.

ALWAYS WITH US from the album AS IT IS (track 14) iTunes

ALWAYS WITH US from the album AS IT IS (track 14) CDBaby

ALWAYS WITH US from the album ALWAYS WITH US (track 2) iTunes

ALWAYS WITH US from the album ALWAYS WITH US (track 2) CDBaby

PURCHASE THE PHYSICAL CD: ALWAYS WITH US v. 1

 

KS DESIGNS on society6.com

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read Kerri’s thoughts on ALWAYS WITH US

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kerrianddavid.com

ALWAYS WITH US from AS IT IS, ALWAYS WITH US v.1 ©️ 2004 kerri sherwood

 

Pass It Forward

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david robinson at zatista.com

Picture It

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david robinson at zatista.com

Bookmark It

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painters never sleep. there’s always more to come.

david robinson at zatista.com

Walk The Gallery

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david robinson at zatista.com

Come See

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david robinson at zatista.com