(above: a full family collaborative drawing)
A common question that I am asked is how I/we (me and my husband Zack, also an artist) do this– this combination of teaching, art-making and parenting three small boys. I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately, especially in terms of what we don’t do. I know that might seem reductive, but it’s a way of actually answering the question. The short answer is that we don’t have 9-to-5 jobs. A great bulk of our work happens after 7:30pm (when our kids go to sleep), and during the day we engage a ceaseless shuffle between the two of us with shifting teaching schedules that are designed to avoid overlaps. We move fluidly (or clumsily) depending on who has a big project on the line, and one of us is always more heavily employed on the child care side at any moment. And in that vein, any parent of young kids knows that the entire day is work. That’s just all there is to it. It often takes the guise of play, and it’s often an enjoyable type of work, but it’s a relentless job. I get claustrophobic, irritable and tired, but then I also get washed over by gratitude and amazement. The other indispensable component is generous family members who have convinced us that they enjoy taking the boys off our hands every now and then. They are angelic.
Here’s old favorite Rock’n’Roll mama Kristin Hersh talking about her version of juggling (I didn’t know she had four boys until I saw this!)
“Hello! I’m Meara O’Reilly. My thing is auditory perception. I’ve been exploring this through making instruments, heirloom science demonstrations, auditory illusions, and singing.” This multi-dimensional thinker-musician-artist has my heart. I love her curiosity and her blatant beautiful nerdiness. The image below is a still from an experiment with creating patterns on a chladni plate in salt with her voice. I get chills thinking about this synesthetic phenomenon and what it implies about the interlaced patterns that we live inside. (We part some of them with our bodies and voices as we move… what other effects are played by and upon us?) The video at bottom is from one of O’Reilly’s links as a guest blogger on boingboing. Hermeto Pascoal seems to embody a similar insatiable curiosity and playful seriousness. And the yellow butterflies approve.
“I started telling the story without knowing the end
of ordinary things.
How much of a tree bends in the wind.
I used to be darker.
Then I got lighter.
Then I got darker
Something too big to be seen was passing over and over me.”
…wheezing and sputtering? Leaning over onto your thighs in the road? Well, sort of, but also letting some news fly about things happening over at Asthmatic Kitty Records.
Zack and I worked on this video for Shannon Stephens last summer. “In Summer in the Heat” has the distinction of being one of those songs inside a project that grew on me as we worked rather than losing its shine. Even the Patrick Watson video that I posted a little bit ago made me cry for some reason when I first heard it, but has since gone all withery and dry-tongued and now feels a little too derivative of Radiohead or Jeff Buckley by way of Coldplay (still love the lyrics, Mr. Watson). But this song of Shannon’s just got better, like a well-made wooden chair.
Shannon has a re-release of an older album coming out in July. Zack and I worked on the packaging together and he took some more press shots. The mp3 track “Catch the Morning Line” on the site is a great jangling number that feels like old Smiths (without being derivative). Look and listen here!
I love the playlists from other labels that Michael Kaufmann has been posting on the sidebar alphabetically (A is for Anticon, B is for Brassland, etcetera) You can click on “open akradio” at the bottom of each post to listen, but here’s the latest one. He’s up to J! I put the playlists on often when I’m painting; it’s nice to hear a sampler of a particular angle on independent music. Some are niches and others are more varied, but it’s all interesting. And I like the generosity of the gesture, too.
I was flipping through my sketchbook and saw these quotes in close succession. They resonate well, so I thought I’d republish them here:
Lynda Barry: What is an Image? At the center of everything we call “The Arts” and children call “play,” is something which seems somehow alive. It’s not alive in the way you and I are alive, but it’s certainly not dead. It’s alive the way memory is alive. Alive in the way that the ocean is alive and able to transport us and contain us. Alive in the way that thinking is not but EXPERIENCING is, made of both memory & imagination. This is the thing we mean by “an IMAGE.”
Twyla Tharp: Whether or not God has kissed your brow, you still have to work. Without learning & preparation you won’t know how to harness the power of that kiss.
Karl Rahner: Only knowledge gained through experience, the fruit of living and suffering, fills the heart with the wisdom of love, instead of crushing it with the disappointment of boredom and final oblivion. It is not the result of our own speculation, but the golden harvest of what we have lived through and suffered through, that has power to enrich the heart and nourish the spirit. And all the knowledge we have acquired through study can do no more than give us some little help in meeting the problems of life with an alert and ready mind.