Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Louise Nevelson : What does it Mean To Be an Artist ?

Forty plus years ago Tal Streeter interviewed the sculptor Louise Nevelson for his MFA thesis. 

He asked Nevelson : 

“What does it mean to be an artist?”

Her reply : 

"I think it is as important as any religion. It’s a different way of saying the same thing. They [priests] say it by allegory and words. We say it in a visual way, which is much more immediate, much more direct. . . . You’re given a gift to fulfill. You did not bargain for happiness; you bargained for something else. You bargained for revelation. You bargained for a closer concept of reality. And you bargained for your own sanity, I think, half the time. You’re really right down with the elements.”

Lissa in Paris 

Having returned from travel with Romig to Korea and Japan...visiting places and people important to her, to Pop. Sampling the generosity of others as they accompany my mother and I through this paradoxical process of simultaneously letting go and drawing closer to Tal Moon and his life's work. Soft rain outside as I write this. 

Thursday, October 1, 2015

AMan’sPantsFallingOff: TheSecretsOfFlight

This is from a manuscript "Measuring The Sky" of Pop's written in the fall of 2003. LS 

Kites themselves are uncommonly special, but a vehicle, and like all vehicles, for me, it is the kite journey where kites lead the mind and the soul that make them so special. 

Even the simplest of kites on a short length of string have this ability to carry us deeper into the cosmos. 

A world-wide kite community has discovered this feeling: The universality of the language of kites is similar to that of music; distinctive in each culture, but sharing details in its roots, capable of bridging otherwise impassible chasms of language and cultural differences. 

These kite strings do indeed connect us, bringing us together, stretching around the globe, as one famous kite personality, Domina Jalbert, inventor of the parafoil, described kites, the foundation of a “Brotherhood of the sky.”

This is not about kites specifically, and only incidentally about a man’s pants falling off (though I recognize the gravity of a man’s pants falling off whenever and wherever that might occur). But there! 

We have stumbled upon the falling pants problem, one and the same, the interloper in the mansion of flight: Gravity! How do we escape, in a manner of speaking, if only briefly, gravity? And why was it such a long drawn out process, finally overcoming gravity, uncovering the secrets of flight?

One of Einstein’s useful aphorisms, “Everything is simple: But not too simple,” comes into play here, not just for kites, but the principles underlying everything, including things that fly. 

Once it was figured out for kites, an airplane was not far behind. And then it became possible for humans to flynot quite as freely as birds diving and flitting between the interwoven limbs of trees in the forest …but in their own way, flying very nearly anywhere one might imagine needing to go. 

These basic necessities of human flight, however, the “simple” elements of flight, as we are all well aware, were such a long time in revealing themselves, but once they were revealed, very soon, making up for lost time…human kind was able to walk on the surface of the moon.

Complicated, yet simple: The actual circumstances of flight’s discovery: complicated yet, on reflection, perhaps it too is simple.

I would like to believe it is entirely reasonable to imagine that the underlying principles of flight may have occurred in a manner not so dissimilar from the story that follows: wedged between the common occurrences of everyday life, in autumn when fall leaves live up to their name sake, falling. 

In this brief passage through the sky, the colorful fall leaves becoming one with their moving shadows on the ground; piling up, all a jumble; waiting for a family pet to acknowledge a question put it by its human companion; a person approaching or passing middle-age, pausing pondering the fall leaves; gaining a moment’s respite from the thoughts accompanying an expanding waist line, the embarrassing thoughts—perhaps only plausible and embarrassing in locals and times when pants were a common feature of clothing—of a man’s pants falling off.

In short, it is a fact that we can’t be at all certain where or when the revelations of flight signaled closure on one of the all-time great mysteries, but moving forward, then—postulating the circumstances surrounding the discovery of the common engine underlying the secrets of all flight, from birds, to kites, to airplanes—to one fall day, a day following the day when a man’s pants were in fact observed, stopping just short of falling off.


It was never easy for me, as an adult, to own up to the strange malady I came to associate with the autumn season.

Everyone in the Hudson Valley except me it seemed, looked forward to falling happily under autumn’s spell: Here and there among the maple-covered hillsides of the Hudson Valley, a small dab of orange soon to dazzle the eye with autumn’s Joseph Coat colors. People spill out of New York City’s steel and glass canyons, leaving behind city sophistication, willing to put up with countrified ways for the sake of enjoying the brilliant colors of New York’s countryside.

I don’t for a moment dispute autumn beauty. Without a doubt, it is spectacular. Having said this, I’m all the more perplexed to admit that autumn invariably marked the beginning of a depression, a descent for me, sending me “down in the dumps,” as such a malaise is too benignly portrayed. 

While others sprung out of bed ready to enjoy the colder fall weather, I preferred to sleep in, tucking myself further down under warm covers, the bedroom blinds pulled tight against the autumn light.Down under the covers, I reviewed earlier autumns.They hadn’t always been accompanied by this dull lethargy.

At the top of my list from childhood, my “ten, all-time favorite things” was the time spent with neighbors and my mother and father and later my brother, nine years younger, raking leaves into big piles, then setting them on fire. 

The tangy, acidic smell so peculiar to burning leaves was a special part of the treat: wanting to keep the tears and coughing at bay, to prolong the delicious olfactory fragrance. As the early evening light waned and the temperature went down a few degrees, the warmth of the fires drew everyone in close. 
Tiny orange sparks rose from the piles, doing a crazy dance, climbing helter-skelter, into the darkening sky. Running around, in an out of dense, gray clouds of smoke, our rakes were poised to stop errant wisps of fire from leaping our fire line. 

We called out through the smoke at each other, excitement in our voices, frightened by little fires that sped toward the bushes planted at the house foundation. Small clouds of moisture appeared and as suddenly disappeared in front of our faces.Our breaths sharing the same cold, tangy air drew us closer together. 

Actually, my love of fall leaf raking and burning memory extended even further back in time: younger still, the rake handle three times my height, I jumped and rolled in the fallen leaves heaped into big piles at intervals across our lawn. As far back as I can remember, the smell of burning leaves immediately turned this early home movie on in my brain.

In the light of my earlier happiest memories, my later adult fall maladies, the turn from joy to depression, caused me some consternation. The problem seemed to emanate from the pit of my stomach...to be continued ! 

Lissa's note: 

At some point the Dream of Flight Family will publish Measuring the Skin its entirety ! Thought you all might enjoy reading just a bit of it this fall 2015 .  Beautiful writing.   
Till then, 
Many Smiles !