See Art Everywhere

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Together we read the local paper every morning. Yesterday there was an essay from the executive director of a new ‘creative space’ making a case, financial and otherwise, for why the community should value and support the arts. Everything he wrote was true. Everything he wrote has already, as Kerri likes to say, fallen into the moat.

Fifteen years ago I might have written that essay. I am an artist and need no case made for the necessity and essential nature of “the arts.” However…. In a past life I consulted with schools and many times found myself in the position of lobbying the school board to support arts programs. I jumped up and down making a case for the arts and rarely achieved my desired result. Until, one day, a word-angel grabbed my tongue and instead of using that mystical word “arts,” I replaced it with the phrase “experiential learning.” Doors blew opened. Angels sang. Kids made movies, painted paintings, held poetry slams, wrote musicals, made plays…came alive. And learned.

Our mistake is “to make a case” for the arts. Our mistake is to define it narrowly, relegate it to museums. It is not a separate thing. It is everything. It is everywhere. The design of our cars and blenders is an aesthetic as well as an engineering process. The apps on our phones (the very design of our phones) requires artistic as well as technical skill. Every piece of marketing that clogs our streams requires an artistic sensibility. We live in age of narrative, of artificial intelligence, of imagination run rampant. We story ourselves on Facebook and Instagram and share our pins on Pinterest. Step back and listen to the competing narratives we call The News. Listen not to the content of the question but how it is asked; these things are not accidental, they are designed, targeted to influence and move our imaginations. The “arts” are not lofty nor dusty, they are throbbing, vibrant, and central to every nuance of our lives. Why do we insist on  keeping them in such a tiny little box?

Stephen asked me more than once, “Why don’t people value the arts?”  He is a prolific painter, brilliant, and exhausted from living on the margins. “They do,” I’d say, “they just don’t know it.”

Kerri and I said goodbye to a few more paintings yesterday. They found their right home and that is more than gratifying.  It is the moment of completion of the painting (or the play or the composition…or the car, couch, and coffee mug) when it finds an audience or its home. It’s a life cycle, deeply connected. It is everything. It is everywhere.

DR Thursday

cropped II earth interrupted with frame metal square WALL ART jpeg copy 3There is a lesson for me in this week’s morsel. It is a lesson I’ve learned over and over again. It is a basic, a fundamental and perhaps that is why I am once again revisiting this lesson: Focus (perception) is like a narrow flashlight in the night. Where you point it will determine what you see. And, most important, you choose where you point it. And, even more important, what you see is narrow, what you don’t see is vast.

Kerri chose this morsel. I marvel at what she sees and what she chooses for our melange and how it blows back and impacts what I see. This morsel, she calls it, “held in process,’ is a snippet of a painting-in-process. At Skip’s prompting a few years ago I started taking process shots and nowadays Kerri regularly dashes into the studio to make sure I’m taking my shots (“What do you have for me?” she asks, striding down the stairs). I delight in this particular morsel because, when seen in the greater context of the finished piece, it captures perfectly the lesson. It is like a popcorn trail of perception, an exercise in focus-choosing. Enjoy this morsel from the melange.  Follow the trail to the final piece. Have fun shining your light on the morsel, Held in Process and on Earth Interrupted II.

 

real1

the beginning layer, the under painting.

real2

the second layer

pix#1   pix#2

#3

this one

next layers – my favorite: paper sack!

#4

EarthInterrupted2 copy

the finished painting: Earth Interrupted II, mixed media 48×34.5 in

 

HELD IN PROCESS merchandise

society 6 info jpeg copy

II earth interrupted FRAMED ART PRINT copy

wall art

II earth interrupted LEGGINGS copy

kerri designs all of our leggings and apparel

II earth interrupted IPHONE CASE copy

okay, so, kerri designs ALL of our products. Cool iphone cases…

II earth interrupted RECT PILLOW copy

…and throw pillows! and more….

 

read Kerri’s thoughts on Held In Process

melange button jpeg copy

kerrianddavid.com

held in process/earth interrupted II ©️ 2018 david robinson, kerri sherwood

Flawed Cartoon Wednesday

Acrobats BIGcopy copy 2

I am a practiced eavesdropper. And, in today’s world, who isn’t? If you are of a certain age you will remember the first time you saw someone walking down the street talking to themselves and realized that they weren’t demented but were on the phone. The world spins when old expectations meet new realities. It is now commonplace to hear private conversations in a public space. You are considered demented if you don’t carry a device that makes you appear to talk to yourself.

This Flawed Cartoon Wednesday from the melange is a celebration of the misalignment of expectations. How many times have you heard the request, “Text me when you land.” Well, what if…?

TEXT ME WHEN YOU LAND merchandise

Acrobats Tote copy Acrobats framed print copy acrobats clock copy Acrobats card copy

read Kerri’s thoughts on this Flawed Cartoon Wednesday

melange button jpeg copy

kerrianddavid.com

text me when you land ©️ 2016 david robinson & kerri sherwood

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.

 

Make Art So.

at one time even this was considered a new technology

at one time even this was considered new technology. numbers, too!

Chet said, “But where’s the human in all of it?” His question took me by surprise. It is a question that often puzzles me. I was telling him about my recent inner earthquake, the moment that the train of technology jumped the tracks and collided with my art engine. Both exploded.

For weeks I’d been looking forward to a full day of exploration at the Chicago Art Expo. Hundreds of contemporary galleries from around the world assembled in one place, each showing their premiere work. As an artist these events have always fed my soul. This time, with the exception of a few older masters (a Chagall, a Picasso), a Hockney that made me smile, and few pieces from The San Francisco Figurative painters, I was unmoved. Worse, I was uninterested. As I wandered through the exhibits I listened to curators over and over again working hard to give context to the art. The viewers had no immediate access to it. They (like me) needed an explanation to access its relevance. I felt as if I was watching art-priests interpreting god for parishioners who had no expectation of direct access to the divine. The art needed a middleman. It required an explanation.

Just before going to the Expo, Skip shared a link with me. It was a video of animator Glen Keane drawing in virtual space. He was literally drawing from within the image. It took my breath away. Glen Keane called the technology a new tool but, like many new tools – so many new technologies, this one has the capacity to change our relationship with life and, therefore, with art because it could change our relationship with time and space. At one point in time, electric light was a new technology. The automobile, the airplane, the telephone, the camera and the phonograph were once new technologies. Each changed our relationship with sound, light, distance, the planet…each other. They changed how we see and experience possibilities. And, at the time of their invention, the community, at first, did not understand the power being introduced into their lives. They, like we, were stepping into the future with their eyes in the rearview mirror. What we know as art changed with the introduction of each of these technologies.

I couldn’t help but see the work at the Expo through the lens of this most contemporary tool. My eyes, for a moment, were wrenched from the rearview mirror and forced to look straight ahead through the windshield. Relative to the tool, the work at the Expo seemed abstract to the point of inaccessibility. It felt academic and I felt distant from it (lots of head, little heart). The tool although incomprehensible, was exhilarating, approachable, and inspiring. It made me want to play. It made me want to create. With this tool, Jackson Pollock would have danced and splashed in 3-D space. Picasso would have explored Cubism from within the cube. And, with this tool, I could see them doing it; I could sit in the same space and get paint on my face. In the video, Glen Keane says, “When an artist makes a line, it is a seismograph to their soul.” This tool, this technology, is a 4 dimensional seismograph.

Eve Ensler wrote, “Art has the power to explode the heart and open up other energetic capacities to re-perceive it. It defies boundaries and leaps tall buildings. It transports, it translates, it transcends. Transcendence is so important right now because our lives are so mechanized, controlled, and commodified; art has the capacity to open our souls and could be our revolutionary, evolutionary salvation.”

Yes. And, yes again. I can draw in the dirt with a stick. I can draw in virtual space. The verb remains the same. The access to others – the reach of the art – changes.

To Chet I wanted to say that humans create technology. And, in turn, technology informs humans and, therefore, art. Our very short attention spans are the result of our relationship with technology –  800 word blog posts are now too long, and 140 character tweets are desirable. Much of the Expo was digital photography or digitally altered images. It was mental and cold and abstract – certainly expressions of our time – expediency allows for little depth of experience. The technology did not make it cold; the way it is wielded by human beings makes it so.

JFGI!

I had to use this painting for this post. I call it Eve

I had to use this painting from the archive  for this post. I call it Eve

Notes at the crossroads of The New World Order:

1. Betsi was disappointed in the low attendance at church. She told us that everything had changed in the last decade. Churches that were once thriving were now struggling. It is a trend. It is happening everywhere. It’s true. A few months ago I saw the statistics of church membership in America and the numbers are plummeting.

“What changed,” I asked.

Without hesitation she said, “People don’t need God anymore. They think they know everything.”

I quipped, “Who needs God when you have Google?”

She laughed and said, “Right! JFGI!”

“What does that mean?”

She smiled, “Just f*cking Google it.”

It is probably true for believers and non-believers alike that God is slower than Google, especially if the notion of God is uncannily human, (i.e., a rule-maker, judgmental, angry one minute and loving the next, assigns ‘chosen’ status to one team but not the other, etc.). Such a god might easily be confused with a search engine or a legal system.

I thought, but did not say, perhaps people are looking for something that neither technology nor a search-engine-god can deliver. Perhaps they are looking for something less volatile. Information is readily available. So is judgment. Wisdom is a bit harder to come by.

2. After band rehearsal we went to a bar. Jim grew up Catholic and we were talking about the revolution of thought that Pope Francis is inspiring. Jim said, “I really like that guy!” Suddenly, he pulled out his phone. “I wonder if The Pope is on Facebook?” We laughed when he found and “liked” The Pope. Facebook showed us a gallery of others who’d “liked” The Pope. The top of the list was The Dali Llama. “I’m going to like him, too!” Jim cheered and added, “I wonder if he’ll like me back?” We laughed.

I remember when a photograph was absolute proof that something happened. I remember the day that a photographer showed me a new “software” (at the time I had to ask what that meant) that could alter a photograph. He showed me and erased someone from a shot. I remember wondering what would be the new standard of proof? Sitting at the bar the other night with Jim, nearly 30 years later, I finally received my answer: it doesn’t exist if it isn’t on Facebook.

This brought me to what will be my next late night bar conversation topic with Jim: When did all of life become marketing and data collection? Have you checked your “likes” lately?

This inspired a glance at the fast moving river that is Facebook. I read:

Religion is for people who are afraid of going to hell. Spirituality is for people who have already been there.

That raises an obvious question: Is hell an experience or a place? JFGI!

i.magine

680. Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

Skip told me that the innovation of the app store changed the world. We can design our access to information, we can design how we locate and inform ourselves in our daily travels, we can customize how we organize, shop, play and how we connect with our friends. We can design our products before we purchase them. Our options have options.

We look more at our screens than at each other.

In the age of the app the user is not necessarily the customer, the seller is not necessarily the producer. Our buying habits and travel patterns and preferences and impulses are tracked and sold and re-tracked and resold. Advertising is personalized to our computer-generated preferences. The impersonal identifies the personal.

Any 12 year-old with a modicum of computer savvy can construct an app and enter the marketplace. Access to information, to communication, the modes of creation and sharing have never been this limitless, varied or non-local.

Above all, it is fluid, ever changing in form, always expanding. The single most important skill in this geography is how to tell the gold from the dross. What has merit and what does not? Often, the answer to that question is personal.

Design. Options. Personal. Access. Limitless. Fluid. Ever Changing. Ambiguous. Shape shifting. Self-Organizing. Self-Directed. It is an infinite space. It is a way of being.

This is the world that exists right now. I just had a conversation with Sylvia about organizational culture change and the pressures all systems are experiencing to adapt to this changed world. It is a culture change, a perspective shift. Imagine what our education system might look like if it understood the world that existed today – not to mention the world that our students will live in and navigate tomorrow! 680. Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

Skip told me that the innovation of the app store changed the world. We can design our access to information, we can design how we locate and inform ourselves in our daily travels, we can customize how we organize, shop, play and how we connect with our friends. We can design our products before we purchase them. Our options have options.

In the age of the app the user is not necessarily the customer, the seller is not necessarily the producer. Our buying habits and travel patterns and preferences and impulses are tracked and sold and re-tracked and resold. Advertising is personalized to our computer-generated preferences. The impersonal identifies the personal.

Any 12 year-old with a modicum of computer savvy can construct an app and enter the marketplace. Access to information, to communication, to modes of creation and sharing have never been this limitless, varied or non-local.

Above all, it is fluid, ever changing in form, always expanding. The single most important skill in this geography is how to tell the gold from the dross. What has merit and what does not? Often, the answer to that question is personal.

Design. Options. Personal. Access. Limitless. Fluid. Ever Changing. Ambiguous. Shape shifting. Self-Organizing. Self-Directed. It is an infinite space. it is an art space.

This is the world that exists right now. I just had a conversation with Sylvia about organizational culture change and the pressures all systems are experiencing to adapt to this changed world. It is a culture change, a perspective shift. Imagine what our education system might look like if it understood the world that existed today – not to mention the world that our students will live in and navigate a decade from now! Can you imagine it?