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Posts Tagged ‘storytelling’

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photo by patricia cobb

I feel I honored the memories of the children like Willis Cofer. ūüôā

CSinstallation2

CSinstallation

I have received many encouraging words about the installation. For me it was a truly collaborative process where people around me helped bring to life the picture in my head. I am thankful. We’ll see what the future holds in terms of future installations. Meanwhile, I do hope if you’re in the area you have a chance to walk beneath these branches.

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The opening reception for Peace: Cutting Through Turmoil at Brickbottom Artist Gallery was a powerful night. What a treat to have my work featured next to such wonderful artists. Each shares work — from paintings to sculpture to video — that is quite different and yet the whole comes together quite cohesively. ¬†Each artist telling a different story. Kudos to curator Lois Fiore for her vision. ¬†The exhibit will be on view Thursday – Saturday noon – 5pm until July 1st.

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lois fiore

Lois Fiore, Curator: http://loisfiore.com/pages/artist.html

10 Patricia Cobb: https://www.brickbottomartists.com/artist/227

Cedric Harper: https://edward-film.squarespace.com/about/

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cedric harper

Riki Moss: http://www.rikimoss.com/

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riki moss

Jose Santos: http://joselsantos.com/about_jose.htm

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jose santos

Brynmore Williams: http://brynmore.com/

 

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shells

castle island shells

Tomorrow night, June 8th from 6:00 – 8:00 PM, is the opening reception for Peace: Cutting Through Turmoil at the Brickbottom Artist Gallery in Somerville. Good food, good drink and great art with a story to tell. I’m one of seven proud participants, debuting my first installation, Mussel ‘Em. Hope to see you there, and FYI, the show will run through July 1, 2017.

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Learn more at  https://www.brickbottomartists.com/gallery_future

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I highly recommend taking a break in the day to read Christian N. Kerr’s review of an imaginative experiment in words and images by filmmaker Jennifer Crandall, Whitman, Alabama. ¬†As Kerr writes, “The project is journalistic at heart, presenting a pointillistic portrait of the expansive American identity through 52 short videos of Alabama residents reading the 52 verses of ‚ÄúSong of Myself.‚ÄĚ” New videos, just a few minutes in length, are scheduled for release every Friday of 2017. Read Kerr’s review here and please do visit Whitman, Alabama ¬†http://whitmanalabama.com/¬† It’s worth the journey.

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I’ve been thinking about the tree of life ever since a book near-literally fell from the shelves into my arms at the Boston Public Library. A non-descript old fashioned hardback with no book jacket. A bit over-sized though not especially thick. It was turquoise blue with gold lettering on the slender spine that said “Ain’t You Got A Right To The Tree Of Life?” The title page made clear that it was a collection of interviews by Guy and Candie Carawan, with black and white photographs by Robert Yellin, together capturing the words, images and songs of the people of Johns Island, South Carolina.¬†I knew of the island and that the people interviewed must have been the descendants of slaves, slaves who most often were of West African origin, who had labored on the plantations producing indigo, rice and other produce¬†that had made their white owners some of the wealthiest people in America. Slavery ended with the Civil War¬†but by the time this book was published in 1966 a new war of sorts raged for civil rights especially the right to vote.

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Given that the preface was written by Alan Lomax, the famed ethnographer and musicologist, I figured the book was just another cool book documenting folkways before a group of people and their ways vanished. Probably a good read but I had so many books in my bag already. I decided to flip through it just a bit and then I would put it away.  I did put it away but not before I saw myself.

Now I grew up in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia not the Lowcountry of South Carolina. But it really didn’t matter as I stared¬†into a book at a landscape that had surely shaped the people, as my childhood landscape had shaped me, and looked into faces that reminded me of home. ¬†Beautiful men and women¬†with dark-hued skin. Some slim as a stick and others quite round. Seniors and babies and every age in between. Some people laughing, some people crying and then there were¬†those with their heads thrown back in song as they prayed through music to God. The poverty comes through too. Even so the poverty does¬†not overshadow the joy, the sense of community, and the intense devotion, a devotion that must have helped these people survive¬†the present when¬†they had little idea what the future held for them and their children.

Look at pictures. That’s all I intended before placing the book back on its shelf. ¬†But then I thought maybe I’d read a page or two, just standing there in the library, and then I’d tuck the book back on the shelf.¬† It was just a couple of minutes of reading. And then I walked away.

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That night I dreamed about what I’d read. It was a scene described in the first interview by Rev. G. C. Brown. It opens with him describing how his father had been a slave. But then he goes on to describe his grandmother whom he had known. She was a stubborn woman with a cruel owner and when she did not do as was expected of a slave “he’d take her by the ears to the corner of a house, and just bang her head against the corner until she’d bleed. … She died in the insane hospital in Columbia. You couldn’t find three square inches on her head where there wasn’t a scar when she died. And well, you find naked places all through her head where she was beaten until she beaten into unconsciousness. … In her latter years it was discovered that during one of those forays the skull was crushed into her brain.” ¬†It was horrific to think of that woman having to endure such treatment for so much of her life, for her children to know of her abuse at the hands of someone who saw her as less than human … and that people must have stood around and did nothing, for whatever reason, as she was having her head bashed against a wall.

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I returned to the library and checked out the book and have begun to read it properly. I’ve learned more about the people behind the book, Guy and Candie Carawan, and their incredible legacy of social activism. And then there’s Esau Jenkins and his mission of teaching people to read so that they could register to vote. ¬†He operated a bus driving people to their jobs between the island and¬†Charleston. He decided to get a group on the bus in the mornings to teach them how to read the part of the Constitution they needed to read before they could become registered citizens. ¬†As one woman describes she didn’t think Jenkins would have any luck with her; she’d had too little book learning to read such a thing. But somehow, as she described, standing in line and watching the woman before her stammer (and thus failing?), for the woman who’d been on Jenkins’s bus, the words flowed. She even surprised herself.

 

I am immersed in¬†the music of the peoples’ words¬†as well as the lyrics of their music. The music transcribed by Ethel Raim were songs sung by the island congregation at Moving Star Hall. I can’t¬†read the music notes but the words themselves have impact — sad, uplifting and thought-provoking.

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I’m still working my way through the book, this book that’s not so thick and mostly images. The words I read resonate, in some ways too much so, with words I hear today. ¬†By the way, another book recently fell into my arms at the library, 865 pages including footnotes and index. It’s called The Framers’ Coup The Making of the United States Constitution by Michael J. Klarman. One book at a time …

Sources & Additional Reading

Guy Carawan

Alan Lomax

Esau Jenkins

Moving Star Hall

Ain’t You Got A Right To The Tree Of Life? (1966)

Ain’t You Got A Right To The Tree of Life? (1994 updated & revised)

 

The Framers’ Coup by Michael J. Klarman

 

 

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The man knew why security and I escorted him to the door.¬†He was drunk and that meant he could not stay on the premises¬†especially not with the beer he held tight in its brown paper bag. “I want to make a change,” he said, voice cracking. “I want to stop.” He sounded sincere, as sincere as the friends and family I knew who struggled with alcohol. “I believe you,” was all that I could say, then added. “I wish you well.” He shook the security guard’s hand and then he turned to me. “Will you give me a hug?” What else could I do as he leaned down but to embrace him?

After my shift ended I wandered around the building and there he was. Close, so close, to another door where he could have received help. Instead, he stood there in the damp of the day and opened the bottle.

The child did not utter the words, give me a hug. She just walked up to me with no other expectation than what was to be. If she were to lean against me but of course I would wrap my arms around her. Had I not done that the whole of her short life?

Somehow the child felt heavier than the man. The weight of her promise¬†waiting to be fulfilled versus all that he had lost perhaps. “I’m tired,” she said. “I know,” I replied. “You can lean here for a bit but no sleeping. I might have to tickle you so we can get you home.” There was a giggle but the weight remained in my arms a while longer. And that was alright.

In my dreams I sometimes try to hold people. It is the gift of paupers and probably no greater gift. I hope so.

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an unlit candle waiting for its spark

… there’s a company called Usful Glassworks. Recycled glass is transformed into lovely, useful items. What’s really special about this company, in addition to its merchandise, is its founding philosphy of providing manufacturing and production experience to those who face the greatest employment barriers including at-risk youth, male and female offenders, those with mental or physical disabilities, refugees, veterans and the low-income elderly. It is an institution providing help, hope and opportunity to those who need it most. See for yourself in the following video and learn more about its¬†future on its¬†gofundme page:

https://www.gofundme.com/usfulglass

Additional Reading

http://builtinboise.com/usful-glassworks/

 

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