February 28, 2019

The "Consuming Art" Part of the Writing Life

Artifact Panel, by William Morris, Portland Art Museum
Thanks to fellow author, Tara Lazar and her online Storystorm event, January (both this year and last) brimmed with brainstorming activities. Thanks to Portland being home to a rich art and music scene, the month of February has been filled with art and music-related activities.

Here is a quick recap:

In early February, my family took my mom and mother-in-law (collectively known as "the grandmas") to a variety show that benefitted Clowns Without Borders, an organization that brings "laughter and humor to children and persons in areas of crisis." I encourage you to familiarize yourself with and support this organization. The photo below is the cast of performers that volunteered their time and talent for this event, including Louis Pearl, the Amazing Bubble Man; Leapin' Louie Lichtenstein, the internationally acclaimed lasso-spinning wonder; Rhys Thomas, the jaw-dropping juggler, and the awe inspiring Circus Luminescence. I'm sorry to say that this picture doesn't even hint at the fun that was had. The sound of children's laughter (and my mother's laughter!) throughout the event was joyful and priceless.

Clowns Without Borders Benefit Show, Portland, 2019
Later in the month, our family went to the Portland Art Museum and the Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education. The main purpose of our visits to these museums was to see the Memory Unearthed and Last Journey of the Jews of Lodz exhibits of the photos taken by Holocaust survivor Henryk Ross while he was imprisoned in the Lodz Ghetto during World War II. The exhibits were a harsh and powerful reminder of the horrors my beloved father-in-law, Henry Prochovnic, endured because of bigotry and hatred. These exhibits are no longer running in the Portland area, but if you can find a similar exhibit in your area, I encourage you to go. If you can't get to an exhibit, there are a few libraries that have Henryk Ross's book of photographs in their collection, including the Multnomah County Library in Portland, Oregon.

After seeing such stark evidence of horror and pain, I found some refuge in the art in nature. Here is a photo of a small portion of a stunning 55,000 square foot mural that can be seen from a trail in the Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge:

Mural by ArtFX Design Studios 
If the story behind how this mural came to be doesn't inspire you, I don't know what will! The tenacity of Mike Houck, Director of  the Urban Green Spaces Institute and the artistic vision of Mark Bennett, the late Shane Bennett, and Dan Cohen, the folks behind ArtFX Design Studios, is food for the creative soul.

Which brings me to music, another art form that feeds my creative soul. I'm not one of those authors that must have music on while I write (in fact, I much prefer to write in complete silence), but music is a big part of what fuels my creativity. As my kids have gotten older and spend more and more time socializing and attending activities with their friends, my husband and I have been spending more and more time listening to live music.

We recently discovered that Al's Den, in downtown Portland, hosts live music most (every?) night of the week. The venue typically hosts a particular artist for a full week. We've made a point to catch several Saturday night shows, which is typically the final week of the "residency." So far, my favorite experience there was hearing Israel Nebeker (Blind Pilot) sing an acoustic set. I'm not sure how I'd missed Nebeker's/Blind Pilot's story or music before...but wow. Just wow.

We've also discovered that the Muddy Rudder in the Sellwood area (not far from the Oaks Bottom Wildlife Preserve mentioned above!) has a regular schedule of live music. My husband and I ate dinner before we caught the Sunday evening performance of "Dan and Fran," but the Muddy Rudder pizza looked pretty tasty. We will arrive hungry next time!

Dan and Fran Playing at the Muddy Rudder

We discovered the Muddy Rudder because it's one of the regular spots The June Bugs (one of our favorite local bands), play at regularly (though we haven't seen them there, yet). However, last weekend, we did get to see The June Bugs at the Alberta Street Pub:

The June Bugs at The Alberta Street Pub

They were amazing, as usual....as was Maiah Wynne, the opening act. This was our first introduction to her beautiful and compelling music. We will definitely be following her work going forward.

Maiah Wynne at The Alberta Street Pub

So, what does all of this have to do with the writing life? First, it's a way I can pay it forward and support the work of other local artists. I know first-hand that all artists, authors included, need a steady supply of folks supporting their work. For me, that's book salesauthor visits, and other paid appearances. I suspect for musicians it's direct music sales, tip jars/Patreon accounts, and paid concert appearances, and for fine artists, it's direct art sales and commissioned works, etc. So, consuming (and paying for) the work of other artists is important to me. It's a way I can help maintain a vibrant art and music culture in my community.

But also, it's more self-serving than that. When I listen to live music, I bubble over with ideas and inspiration. When I take a walk in the woods, and happen upon a beautiful mural that leads me down a figurative path of discovery about how it came to be, I'm filled with new energy and inspiration for my own creative projects. And, when I sit in a performance hall filled with children and their grown-ups laughing at silly antics on stage, I'm filled with joy and a better headspace for writing.

In the words of Thomas Merton:

Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.

And now, dear readers, I must find and lose myself in my own art.

(But Stay Tuned: Tomorrow's post, already queued up, will continue with another installment of the Birth Stories for Books series).

No comments:

Post a Comment