Shamans of the Avant Garde – Miro and the Crazy World of Arthur Brown

woman_bird_star_AS03162Art is never more obscure than when it invokes the language of the unconscious. Thankfully, we have guides – shamans who venture into the unknown and return, inviting us to join them . Avant garde artist Joan Miro is a shaman of symbolic art.  I saw his “Experience of Seeing” exhibit at the McNay Museum in San Antonio and entered the realm of the body/mind in order to see it.  Joan Miro acknowledges:

It is difficult for me to talk about my painting, since it is always born in a state of hallucination, brought on by some jolt or another – whether objective or subjective-which I am not in the least responsible for.

Joan Miro - BirdArt critic Waldemar George described it in 1929 “as the painting of a physical vacuousness that easily balances out its interior magic, with ties to cosmic sentiment and the intuition of mystery seen in the ancestors, like those who painted the caves of Altimara, whom he specifically mentions on one hand and to “congruent paintings, brought to life by strange homunculi and fantastical plants on the other. In this defining moment there came to be an encounter between the escape from speres and the attraction to the abyss.”
Miro, Joan-Head in the NightJacques Dupin elaborated, “There remains a space where things and beings can abide and encounter one another through a series of exchanges and metamorphoses, and this passing site is none other than the earth: neither sheltered from the risk from below, or the beckoning from above.”

Arthur Brown knows something of above and below, exhorting us to hold a vision in our heart, to face our fears and join him in the formless depths of Zim Zam Zim.

Miro’s paintings and found object sculptures beckon us to see space as a psychological landscape – to respond without preconception to what comes our way, as children do.

I will make my work emerge naturally, like the song of a bird or the music of Mozart, with no apparent effort, but thought out at length and worked out from within . . everything becomes strange, shifting, clear and confused at the same time. Forms give birth to other forms, constantly changing into something else.

ShamanArthur Brown invites us with many of the same numinous symbols as Miro: the spirit bird of our imagination, woman, sex and the fire of fear, rage and ultimate annihilation.  An existential burlesque that finally asks, “Who the fuck am I?” in this montage from his Strange Brew show in Austin (without his full band).

As we traipse from day to dreams, through all the stages of our lives and our imagination, it’s a good idea to keep a healthy dose of humor amidst the drama. So why do we even enter into the shape shifting realm of the unconscious?

Quoting Miro, ” As Kant said, it is the irruption of the infinite into the finite. A pebble, which is a finite and immobile object, suggests not only movement to me but movement that has no end. In my paintings, this translates into the spar-like forms that leap out of the frame, as though from a volcano.

That volcano is the fire of creation  in the heart of Zim Zam Zim.

Sauntering the mountains of North Carolina on Halloween

I’ve heard many good things about Asheville, NC over the years and wanted to see for myself while I was visiting my daughter in Charlotte.  On the way, we stopped in picturesque Hendersonville for lunch.  I heard they dressed up for Halloween and that meant even the ubiquitous bears, sprinkled around the town square.

Asheville was only 30 minutes down the road, the “Austin” of NC, and indeed, they were keeping it weird.  There was music in the streets, the buildings were tattooed with murals and sometimes you couldn’t tell the costumes from daily wear.  As the hippy man pictured below said, “This is a day I blend in.”  I’ll cover some of the art in a blog post to follow that includes an exhibit from The Bechtler Museum in Charlotte.

I loved the Malaprops bookstore (open late even on Halloween) but the highlight of the evening  was a scrumptious supper at Cúrate  -tapas and small plates served in a vibrant modern aesthetic. Katie Button, the owner and executive chef has been a James Beard finalist several years running and the proof is in the well executed and temptation filled menu.  We were seated ringside, enjoying the camaraderie and the hubbub while the delicacies kept coming.  People were friendly, there was music, good food and lots of breweries to keep everyone happy.  I include a video postcard as my own small taste of the town.

Jamie Wyeth at SAMA

family-treeJamie Wyeth comes from a historied family of New England painters. Indeed, when his aunt, Henriette Wyeth married Peter Hurd in 1929 they carried this generational aptitude West, to Santa Fe, NM.

The son of Andrew Wyeth, Jamie enjoyed special access to the art scene of the 1970’s, forming life long friendships with Andy Warhol and Rudolph Nureyev, both subjects of his early work.

Known for his incredible work ethic and for following the dictates of his curiosity, Wyeth paints what he observes in his daily life.  With the passing of his father and other influential friends, his imagination has turned to dreamscapes, which include some of his major influences: John Singleton Copley, Thomas Eakins, Winslow Homer, Rockwell Kent, and Edward Hopper.   But his passion and his home will always be Monhegan Island, and the people and creatures he loves.  The Brandywine River Museum features NC and Andrew Wyeth’s studios and sends this remarkable 6 decade retrospective of Jamie’s work on a national tour, with their best regards.

Sauntering the Catskills

My daughter and her husband married in West Kill, New York and invited us to join them at the Spruceton Inn for a weekend in the Catskills. The wedding was beautiful, the innkeepers delightful and the setting, well . . . . .

I met new family members and saw something I had never seen before.

We took a walk on the waterfalls trail just down the road. I loved the little villages sprinkled along Hwy 87 and Hwy 32 (to and from Albany). Take maps – cell phone signals are scarce. Somehow, I didn’t mind.

2015 Baton Rouge Blues Festival

Quiana_Lynell
http://www.quianalynell.com/

My family and I converged in Louisiana to celebrate my birthday at the Baton Rouge Blues Festival. The lineup featured 5 blues stages, including: Swamp, Foundation, Soul of Baton Rouge, Back Porch and Busking outdoors. Due to anticipated thunderstorms, everything was moved indoors, so some of the charm was definitely lost. But where else would we get a day of the blues in so many hues?

Walking over to the convention center we got to see a bit of Baton Rouge, including some majestic dancing oaks.

Chubby Carrier and the Swamp Bayou Band rocked the swamp stage

while Alex Abel and Jordan Farho of The Chambers (17 and 19 years old) played hard and heavy upstairs on the Back Porch

Son Little (Roots and RJD2) played a short but sweet set and made a few new fans, including NPR, who put him on the Songs we Love list

There are far too many acts to review, but I’ve included video snippets from some of my favorite performances and and some classic photos.

Hometown icon, Lazy Lester took us to church

and would have stolen the show except for the amazing grace of (what ever happened to) Arrested Development

Charles Bradley would have fared better playing between Lazy Lester and Arrested Development. Still, The World is Going up In Flames is nothing but the blues.

Sunrise in Galveston to Sunset on the Big Muddy

On my way to Baton Rouge, I stayed in Galveston for an evening and sunrise walk on the beach.  It always feels so simply human to be on the ocean (or the gulf) waves lapping over my feet as the sand surrenders my soles to the earth.  Pulled out of thought and into the joy of being.

A great tip led me to take the ferry across the strand to the Bolivar peninsula, bedecked in flowers and candy colored homes raised high on stilts.  It was a refreshing spring saunter that helped me survive the onslaught of driving rain and maniacs on Hwy 10.

 

Palomino and the Dream Machine

Jim OstdickMy friend Jim Ostdick has just produced an e-book available on Amazon with vignettes from several thousand road miles  circumpedaling the US on his Long Haul Trucker touring bike: Palomino and the Dream Machine: A Retired Dude’s Bicycle Tour Around the Lower Forty-Eight United States 

He has chronicled some of this journey on his blog, but how much better to find them in one place for download on your kindle? And so reasonable!  Here are excerpts, reprinted by permission of the author from two of my favorite yarns:

Santa Barbie Land

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The cool morning fog had nearly lifted by the time I exited Hwy 101 and headed south on Hollister Avenue into Goleta CA. Goleta is a suburb of Santa Barbara, a sprawl that includes Isla Vista and UCSB.

I was starved due to the previous night’s grab bag dinner, so I pulled into the first strip mall shopping center on my side of the road and started scouting for breakfast. Dismounting, I pushed the Dream Machine along a crowded row of businesses. Sushi. Subway. Phone store. Beauty salon.

Just as I was approaching the salon, with its neon signs flashing “Nails” and “Waxes” and “Tints,” the door popped open and out came Little Miss Perfect, Santa Barbie herself.

This early 20s girl was just the right height, just the right shape, < 5% body fat, tanned, toned, waxed tantalizingly bare except for her shining straight brown just right shoulder length perfectly trimmed model hair, color-matched, with upper and lower nails perfectly formed to easily slip into expensive slithery garments. She probably had perfect teeth, but I couldn’t tell you that because she didn’t show them to me.

She smelled really good. Her battery operated green eyes, though, were avoidance tools, focused on some plane unattainable to those mere mortals who poop and pee.

As she passed – glided – in front of me, her perfect little nose wrinkled slightly, disapprovingly, as if to announce “eww, it sweats” not to me personally but to me as part of that general population of beasts that are not shaped, waxed, toned, trimmed, polished, and related to hedge fund managers.

She disappeared and I continued, suddenly a lot more interested in the Cajun Kitchen Cafe and breakfast. I, as you know, heart breakfast.   Continued 

Bunkie Rhymes with Funky 

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Bunkie LA is dead in the center of Louisiana swamp country. It is the home of Zutty Singleton and that, for some people at least, says it all. Bunkie, my friends, put the “o” in “oh nooooo.” It put the “ew” in “mildew.” It put the “ick” in “icky.” And long, long ago, Bunkie LA put the “eak” in “freak.”

This is where the woodsy woods woodsy meets the swampy swamp swampy. The result, of course, is the creepy creep creepsy. The landscape has some charm in the daytime if the Sun is out and the humidity is reasonably low, but generally that’s not the case. Usually, the sky is overcast and the air stunningly muggy or else lightning bolts are flying through the air alongside baseball-sized hail stones.

At night, you can forget it. This place is just plain haunted by dusk. You’ve heard of voodoo and all that. Hmphh, that’s for amateurs. Your average Louisiana grandma can turn a frog into a panther and back just by picking her nose and looking cross eyed. Everybody here is somebody else at least half the time. They live in two towns simultaneously and delve into nefarious mischief with rats and boars. Just this morning there was a picture in The Acadian of a boar with a boar body and a rat’s head. Maybe it was a rat with a rat’s head and a boar body, who knows. The editor of the paper, who went to newspaper school in AMERICA, implored citizens to cut this stuff out. It’s making him look bad to his college buddies.

Chicot State Park is just down the road. I rode through the park this morning during a brief break between the overnight tornado and the afternoon hurricane. A narrow asphalt road bisects the Park’s woods for about five miles. Beautiful pines and cypresses and palmettos grow in giant puddles of dark, shiny water with sunbeams shooting through gaps in the canopy. As nice as it appeared, I just knew it was a ruse. The Park was like the pretty girl in the horror movie whose hair goes all stringy right before her face melts and her teeth turn green. I was sure that if I parked the Dream Machine and set one foot in the woods I would be instantly covered in water moccasins and yanked into the murky depths by red-eyed rat boars.

Bunkie LA holds the Louisiana Corn Festival every June. Do not go. The corn is really opossum snout that just looks like corn until you get up close to it. And you know what happens after that. Stay home and find something constructive to do.

Peace, Love, and the Sheer Terror of Bicycling Through the Bayou,

Palomino

A Basket Full of Wisdom

Loretto AngelWhile I walked through the aspen trees and the cottonwoods at Ghost Ranch my hips swayed, moving my belly from side to side like a basket rocking rhythmically on ocean waves. This motif continued throughout the wisdom circles, gathering together the treasures from our journey.  Some of my companions have written about their experience, which I add to our basket of wisdom.

From Leona Stucky-Abott

A few weeks ago, a remarkable group of mostly liberal women, I among the 450 or so, journeyed to Ghost Ranch to participate in a Wisdom Sharing event. Gloria Steinem, Alice Walker, and Dr. Chung Hyun Kyung shared the meaning they garnered over the years and the hopes they harbor for women and for humanity. Though there was some new content in their presentations, the wisdom that became palpable among us emanated from their years of moving the message forward in the face of monumental historical forces; the life changing work that amplified their spirits. We understood how they changed their own worlds and while doing so changed much of ours too. Perhaps the most salient message was the warm, collegial, and spontaneous way they engaged each other. These womens’ and our vastly different lives were woven together by efforts to seek freedom, respect the struggles of poverty and disadvantage, refine honest assessments of the things that matter most, engage with curiosity and compassion, and disclose the transformative nature of equality. They offered essential teachings when those gems would enhance or challenge our values. Their personhood as well as their presentations conferred truths while they modeled a kind of leadership that will long be remembered and emulated.

Loretto Chapel StairsDr. Irene Martinez

The nice surprise for me was the different voices and opinions  that were heard ( starting with the 3 main speakers).  I liked their similarities, but most importantly their differences.  People listened to each other with respect and  were not afraid to talk about setbacks and opportunities for growth. I really liked the incorporation of politics and spirituality.  The word that  resonated the most for me was “interconnected.“  Yes, we need each other.  We will grow together.  It provided more fuel to hope, the creativity and energy to keep searching  for ways to work for a better “us” for a better word (and to have fun in the process).  The experience was greatly enriched by the leadership of the Native American healers in the wisdom circles.

The Way Home by John Morey Maurice

Licia Berry writes about Gloria Steinem at 80 in her blog post excerpted below.

She’s In It for the Long Haul

She’s 31 years ahead of me, and at 80 years of age, a seemingly tireless crusader for women’s equality in the world. But when I spent 4 days in her company at the Wisdom Sharing Retreat at Ghost Ranch last month, one of the things that Gloria Steinem said was, “It is okay to be tired.”  Wow.
As an artist, visionary, cultural commentator, author, educator, speaker, advocate, mother, wife, woman, and human being in the 21st century…I have also been tireless in my (much less significant) efforts over the many years I have been doing the work I do.

The title above is linked to Licia’s full post, well worth a visit. I’m wrapping up the Ghost Ranch series now and wondering what comes next. The connections on so many levels, with wonderful women I now call friends continues to inspire and energize me for new adventures. And for now, let’s keep dancing.

Indigenous women’s wisdom – healing waters

Opening_PrayerThere is an international indigenous council of 13 Grandmothers who travel the world to bring healing prayers to the earth and her inhabitants. I met Hopi Grandmother Constance Mirabal in 1998, which I’ve written about in my post Magically Real and took part in a wisdom circle that  Grandmother Florademayo led at the gathering.  There were a number of indigenous women leading wisdom circles, which is a testament to the many programs at Ghost Ranch that honor our sacred connection to the earth.   Florademayo_1The opening prayer was led by Florademayo, who prayed and wept as she entered into spirit.  Tears flowed often from our native presenters, sometimes as they felt personal grief and always on behalf of the divine mother.  I’ve been in sweat lodges, sun dances, pow wows and meetings with Native American medicine people.  I have witnessed the ways in which they enter other dimensions when the visions flow.  Some of the dream symbols Florademayo shared with us were the healing power of triangles (shout out to Bucky Fuller) and her vision of the coming renewal of humanity, symbolized by the birth of the golden baby. The baby is a cross-cultural motif seen by people the world over. Florademayo’s passion for collecting seeds is another part of the renewal and the protection of heritage plants.Blue_Corn  The blue corn pictured here is a symbol of the Hopi people. There is a compassion, directness and humor about many of the indigenous people I’ve met.   There is also a reservoir of sorrow, released in tears that often flow in healing ceremonies.  For those of European descent, white guilt is no stranger at these gatherings.  We had moments when it was the elephant in the room and others when it was on full display.  It’s hard to avoid – the collective unconscious is burdened with pain and unspoken apologies for the sins of our fathers, which continue to this day. When she was asked by Hyun Kyung how she dealt with the anguish of her peoples’ genocide, Florademayo said, “You accept the past, move forward and quit looking back.” Dancer Perhaps our only hope for our planet and our humanity is to come together in healing for our past, our present and thus, our future.  The collective shadow is in dire need of integration.  It can no longer be projected onto the other, for we are all other and we are all one.  Our world needs us to become the humane beings we really are.  I shared my poem, these tears of joy with Grandmother Florademayo, affirming our connection to the beauty of the living light.  May we continue to heal in love.

Moved to Tears

I sat in the morning sun watching the garden grow
Light glistening on spider webs
spun in moon’s rays just hours ago
Hummingbird gulped nectar
fueling its dizzy, spiraling flight

The light found me, seeping into my essence,
opening the eye that sees behind the veil
I saw the breath of the earth, rising up in radiating
needles of light, knitting the fabric of life
growing around and through me

So infused was I, witnessing this moment of creation
that tears fell softly down my cheeks
Moving beyond sorrow or joy
Naked in the presence of my Soul

The breath and the light, commingled
In loving recognition that moments
such as these are rare glimpses beneath
the endless parade of dos and don’ts
that occupy our daily lives

In the garden, sipping the wine of early morning’s light
I am moved to see what loving hand molds
This day into being

Hyun Kyung Chung – Soul on Fire

HyngKyungChungProfessor Chung Hyung Kyung teaches at Union Theological Seminary in NYC, when she is not researching or talking with people around the world who are inspired by her story and her wisdom. Kidnapped and tortured in Korea as a university student, Hyun Kyung survived, emigrated to the United States and completed her graduate work in theology.  She describes herself as a good Presbyterian girl growing up in Korea and has lived in a monastery in Tibet practicing Buddhist meditation, which she has incorporated into her faith and her feminism.

The Ted talk pictured above will give you a sense of her vibrant presence and how she views her Christian and Buddhist practice.  An ongoing theme in her talk was breaking open – that hearts will be broken, but from that brokenness comes new life and new ways for the light to enter. She started her presentation with an invitation to forgive those who have wronged us and spoke about a series of men who were sent to torture her.  Making a connection with her oppressors allowed her to postpone the inevitable torment, until she met a man whom she described as having suffered “soul loss.” Her talk was in honor of the man whose dead eyes betrayed no empathy for the young woman who had to choose between saving her lover or protecting her friends after withstanding the most violent abuse.

Dr. Irene Martinez with Rev. Shannon White and Evelyn Porter
Dr. Irene Martinez (center) with Rev Shannon White

HCAWI spoke with many women who had been abused or even tortured.  Some, as a result of government persecution and others, personally.  They were all challenged to forgive what none could forget and they moved forward with courage and humor, some days better than others.  Their hearts were broken and mended by an ongoing effort to live and love with respect for all.  Dr. Irene Martinez was one of the wisdom circle presenters who spoke of her experience as a political prisoner in Argentina.  In all these stories of abuse, the support of women for one another shined through, underscoring the intrinsically relational nature of who we are.  We are partners in the dance of life, with much light to share.

Dr. Chung will lead a group of women across the DMZ into North Korea next summer.  Women from the North and South have been meeting periodically to exchange recipes, talk about daily life and come to agreement that we all want a peaceful life. Our hearts are with them as they reach out in sisterhood across the barriers inflicted by war and famine in support of peace and healing.