Never Ending: a conversation with Fred Pohlman

In order to get into an artist’s head, sometimes it takes a good friend of the artist – they’ve heard it all before, and consequently they know just the right questions to ask! Take another glimpse into Fred Pohlman’s world of history, passion, and creation, lead by none other than Carolyn Bennett. I enjoy all of her interviews; I think you will, too.

 

When and how did your fascination with Vincent van Gogh begin?

Well, I was well aware of van Gogh’s works since I was quite young, but my first real fascination with the ‘artist’ himself came after I began to read his letters. I had read fictional accounts of Vincent’s life previously, but it was those letters that took me over the top.

Can you give me a brief description of what your Musical ‘Starry Nights, The Life and Times of Theo and Vincent van Gogh is about?

Well I could go into a long dissertation here and give a detailed description of my Musical, but I feel that the words of the opening Song of the Musical serve to convey the overall message and ‘emotional tone’ of this work. Anyone who has read Vincent’s letters will ‘immediately’ connect with the imagery I am conveying here. The song is related ‘directly’ to the audience and is sung by the character of Theo van Gogh’s widowed wife Johanna…

 

Memories

There is a space beyond your windowpane

Where brothers walked between the spots of rain

There memories and pages lost in time

Are brought to heart in light of verse and rhyme

To where the wick burns low

And the sunsets glow

 

Yes, …I know a place beyond the city lights

Where we can sit and watch the starry night

A place of memories made of dreams

Where winding paths descend through deep ravines

To where a streams flow

And a lone sunflower grows

*

CHORUS

One Life

One chance 

To live your dream

 To nobly bare what trials may come

To sow upon each rocky turn

Leave sweet blossoms long the way

*

So hurry now before the day is done

We still have time to catch the setting sun

The nightingale will want to sing a tune

He’s waiting now beneath the waxing Moon

Where he’ll render sweet songs

To us…

And tenderly

 

Then through winding paths and pages turned

We’ll listen as the candle burns

Yes we’ll listen till the morning light

And as we wander through the starry night

And then we’ll ride back

On the wings of

   His…

Memory

1280px-van_gogh_-_starry_night_-_google_art_project

“The Starry Night” by Vincent van Gogh

And so you see, this work takes us ‘literally’ from the cradle to the gravesite of Vincent and his Brother Theo. The Musical theme is reiterated at the end of the Play when Gauguin takes us out with  a s song called ‘Sunflowers’

I have a website up online www.vangoghmusical.com, which gives a very detailed overview of the entire Musical.  It is well over 20 pages, and stands well on it’s own as a good read.

Is Van Gogh is your favorite Artist?

No! He is certainly one of my favorites by far, but my all time favorite artists are Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque’ Juan Gris, and Jean Metzinger… More my personal style!

Have you thought about writing a musical about any them?

No, I wouldn’t attempt that! Others could do it better than I could, and besides, even if I did, I would more so be dealing with these subjects as ‘people’ rather than painters! Though the fact that Van Gogh was a painter was very important to me in constructing the musical, it wasn’t nearly as important as who he was as an individual and who he was in terms of his relationship with his Brother Theo! He was an ‘exemplary’ person first and foremost.

Do you think that he has been justly served by those who have sought to portray him in the past?

Not at all! I feel that portraits of Vincent like the film ‘Lust for Life’, and those ridiculous songs that condescendingly portray him as some sort of poor basket case or some madman that could paint, should be removed from the shelves! The perpetuation of the idea that he cut his own ear off, or, that he shot himself are ridiculous! People seem to relish that fallacy! These are dealt with in my Musical however! I can say that if he were around today, those very same writers wouldn’t even socialize with the likes of him! They would fear to be near him for the injustice they have served upon him! He might even come after them physically. I must say though, that he did seem to suffer from depression or ‘Melancholy’ as they preferred to call it back then . In one of his early letters to his brother he summed it all up when he described himself as’ a ‘Ne’er do Well’ and ‘A Bird in Cage’ in Letter number  155 I believe it was.  I deal with it early on in Act I of my Musical. In this scene Vincent , in rags,  is relating his miserable situation to his brother from his hovel in Cuesmes, a coal mining town in Belgium. His brother Theo finely, attired, in his office is reading that letter on the other side of the darkened stage. As the letter is being read softly in ‘voice Over’ over the somber tones of simple piano in A minor, Vincent suddenly rises up and moves toward the slowly illuminating center stage, where a huge bird cage descends down over him . He begins to sing; At the appropriate point in the song, Vincent Bangs his head against the rails of the cage in frustration. Here is a copy of the piece.

 

Bird in a Cage

A bird in the cage in the spring

Seems content with his wage as he sings

His keepers surmise…

He’s fed,

He’s alive…

He’s resigned to his fate of clipped wings

 

But Theo,

 Somehow the bird has forgotten

The bird senses that something is rotten

He knows other birds fly

‘nd he thinks

But then…why can’t I?

 

But then

 The bird comes alive with elation …

He thinks

Of course,

I shall join the migration

I shall mate

I shall nest

And then

Soar with the rest

 

 

  Yes, the bird in the cage somehow reasons …

I shall make my escape in due season

In the cool of the night

I shall wing and take flight

 

But the children they taunt him is passing

They mock him with merciless laughter

( voices )

 

Then the bird thrashes round in a rage

He bangs his head ‘gainst the rails of the cage

For he is condemned to his cell

As a ne’er do well

Where he’ll linger

And he’ll rot till

Old age

 

Yes Theo,

A bird in a cage in the spring

Is an old tragic tale of clipped wings..

 

As the cage lifts at the end of the piece Vincent relates to his brother that is friendship and a brother’s love that lifts the cage and liberates the bird. Again, If you go to www.vangoghmusical.com , there is a highly nuanced description of  this, and other scenes in the Musical.

 

People say van Gogh was not likable, and that he was very gruff. Is that true?

vincent_van_gogh_-_self-portrait_with_grey_felt_hat_-_google_art_project

“Self-Portrait with Grey Felt Hat” by Vincent van Gogh

Vincent was no molly-coddle! He was tough for sure! But for the most part, this idea of
him being some kind of weirdo, was mostly perpetuated by these two bourgeois clowns, a husband and wife team that wrote a biography of Vincent from their own twisted point of view…and the images went over well with the yellow press of it’s day and so that’s the Vincent most people know aside from his paintings; It’s unfortunate!

Vincent’s letters speak for him very clearly…There is no evidence whatsoever that he was a psycho! In his letters he is portrayed for who he is! And who that was, was a very clear thinking exemplary human being, well loved by his friends in Paris and the South of France. He sought out great minds and befriended them! The only ones that had to fear him were the narrow-minded ‘bourgeois’, whom he absolutely despised!

You seem awfully self-assured about the quality of your Musical; have you work shopped it yet? What are other people’s opinions?

I only do readings of it for people and will sing many of the songs ‘LIVE’ for them! I need the money to produce anything else. And as to their opinions when I read for them? They are always either pleasantly surprised, or outright ‘stunned’! I don’t mess around when I do a reading or sing for them. I go for the juggler. I want them on their emotional knees. I demand it of myself!

And has no one offered to help you with the Musical?

Many have… but of course, they want to help in the way that ‘they’ want to help, which is virtually ‘useless’ to me! They may believe that they have good intentions, but if they really want to help, they will have to listen and do what I ask them to do! Very few have the discipline to do that…very very few! I’ve had enough of Italian dinners and Sushi with these people… Cash is what is needed and from day ONE! Nothing…NOTHING… can be done without proper and generous funding. Putting on a Musical is definitely not for the frugal, the penny pincher or the ‘feint of heart’. This is where the grown ups are separated from the ‘Wannabes’. What did Tom Hanks say in that film… ‘There’s no crying in Baseball?… Well, there’s no whining in producing Musical Theatre. Either you put up, or shut up!

How long did it take you to write the Musical?

Well, the actual writing of the musical itself spread out over years, BUT…Outlining it and writing the words to the music took about 15 years. I tweaked and modified for another seven on and off. Some of the music goes back almost 40 years actually and was modified for this work. I don’t compromise on quality and so I work slowly and methodically! I only write when the spirit moves me!

As to the Music itself, I produce that spontaneously. A Three-minute piece takes about that long for me to improvise.,. But then again when I am in creative mode., I become ‘conversational’ with music.. and so, its just second nature to me! I have no mental blocks with music when I’m creating. I can actually SEE it.

The words for the same three minute piece is another story altogether though, and can run anywhere from a few months to as long as seven to ten years or more…sometimes for even just a few verses. Of course, I am working on ‘many’ at the same time, and ‘other’ Musical works. This keeps the work always ‘fresh’. Nothing is ever forced. In the process of creating this or any other musical work, the songs tend to form in clusters naturally and the scenes evolve from there. I have a book on the Alchemical Process of Songwriting that I am finishing up on now which explains this ‘process’ in nuanced detail!

Well, how did the idea as a ‘Musical’ work first occur to you?

Well, I had been reading the Letter’s of Vincent Van Gogh and assimilating them slowly over the months, and then one day when I was sitting at the piano, I was improvising and I thought ” Oh my!…that feeling is like when Vincent was in love with his landlords daughter Eugenie Loyer…” and I could actually ‘see’ him singing it. And then I jotted down some words and thought: “Wow…a Musical about Vincent!” And then another time I was at the same piano – which is the one that John Lennon recorded ‘Imagine’ on just by the way- I improvised a second tune and could see Vincent singing that also., and then… a third! And so I thought…” Wow…a mini Musical”. From there, the songs started forming in threes and fives.. and scenes were born.! It’s a hell of a process! It is a most ‘amazing’ and natural process!

Where did you get that magic piano?

I bought it at the Auction of the old ‘Hit Factory’ in Manhattan along with a Hammond B3 organ and some Gold and Platinum record awards. And as to the piano being magic? It wasn’t! It was just an Ok Steinway B. I kept in in good voice and tune, but I’ve owned better! It was really beat to hell when I got it. I sold it to Beethoven Pianos when I moved

le_cafe_de_nuit_the_night_cafe_by_vincent_van_gogh-jpeg

“The Night Cafe” by Vincent van Gogh

and then got a Steinway D and latter a Bosendorpher. Most of the Musial was written on those. What matters though is that a piano can ‘sing’. I made them sing by keeping them meticulously tuned, regulated and voiced.

Before we wrap this up,   I’d like to leave your readers with the words to one last song. It’s in answer to the Bird in a Cage from Act I. It is sung in Act III by Mme.Ginoux  , the keeper of the famous Night Cafe in Arle where Vincent passed many a night before he settled in there with Gauguin.

 

The Valiant

 

So pales the sun

so bright the moon

Now in the cool of the night

Does a caged bird take flight then

And unto the swelling ranks

He wings he soars

And he pledges

To return no more

 But then…

That conceived in light…

Succumbs to night

 

The cold

The bitter

The mistral wind

It whips him round

It leaves him somehow

Defenseless then…

His only friend

He finds…

 Down at some bottles end

 

And where do they go?

Where do they sleep?

Now in his quandary confused

He has no idea how he’ll eat

But the bird he wings his way across the cityscape he flies

And he holds unto his pledge and to survive..

And then at break of day…

The bouogois go their way

 

The bird he spirals down

He lands out on a ledge

He contemplates the razors edge

Until he then again

Recalls his pledge..

  And from whence did Zola bear?

Hugo his Fontine…his Valjean declare

In oh …such sweet verses fair

Lift me now, now lift me high

High o’er where were those Valiant slain

Where are sweet blossoms formed

Where are sweet verse ordained

Ask me not,

Not importune me..

As to where have the flowers gone…?

See down there amidst the thorns..

 

Now ‘gain bright the moon

And so sweet the scent

But in the gutter he’s spent..

And where’s the rose gone and went?

But the nightingale shall sing tonight

 he will

And he shall woo the rose

And in ascending trills

Ah, but then again…

There’s his bottle friend

He calls him down

They make the city rounds

He chews him up, he spits him out

And then drops him in some lost and found

But now his back against the wall

The bird his pledge again recalls

 The bird lifts his wings, lifts his voice and

Soars..

Lift me now, now lift me high

High o’er where do those valiant sleep

There shall I take my rest this night

And there due vigil keep

And ask me not,

Not importune me

 As to where have the hours gone

See here…

Where the page is worn…

 

This is one of the many emotional high points in the Musical. I ‘love’ performing this song for people.

And now?

And now, well, we’ll see! Maybe an ‘Angel’ will fall from the heavens. I never hold my breath on these things. I’m always busy with some or other work in progress! Whatever hits first will pay for the others! I have lots of unfinished things to work on; I love my process, and…it never ends!

 

Fred is showing his paintings in the Kaaterskill Fine Arts & Crafts Gallery, but not for much longer! Stop by this weekend to see his work before it comes down on the 25th.

Post-everything Poetry: an interview with Kirby Olson

It’s no secret that at the Catskill Mountain Foundation we’re working to expand our literary programming. This month, our program has grown to include Kirby Olson, poet and professor of philosophy and humanity at SUNY Delhi. I was lucky enough to catch him for a quick interview, in which we discuss several movements of poetry, politics, and the intersection of religion and art. I realize that the title of this interview may not make sense, since we didn’t really talk about post-anything; the idea comes from a review of Kirby’s book by Andrew Tully (which, by the way, you can and should read here). So scroll on, dear reader.

Trust me. He’s an interesting guy.

 

When did you study with Allen Ginsberg?

131122103137-allen-ginsberg-1959-story-top

Allen Ginsberg

Allen Ginsberg had opened a Buddhist poetry college in Boulder, Colorado in 1976. It was called Naropa Institute.  I went there in the summer of 1977 and the summer of 1979.  Had I been able to finish my Evergreen State College degree there, I would have remained.  Although I was from the Pocono Mountains of northeastern Pennsylvania, my guidance counselor at East Stroudsburg University suggested I go to Evergreen State College, which is a non-traditional college in Olympia, Washington.  However, while there, I found a catalog for Naropa Institute, in the student lounge. I recognized all the poets in the Naropa Catalog. I wanted to study poetry. That’s about all that I knew at the time.  I studied with almost all of the Beat poets and lived in the same housing complex. In addition to Ginsberg, I talked daily with the poet Gregory Corso, and with Philip Whalen, and many others.  There were some New York School poets there, too. Kenneth Koch was there, and Kenward Elmslie, for example.  I met all of them, and found them all quite fascinating.

How much influence does surrealism and the New York school still have on your work?

While at Evergreen State College, I had begun to read surrealist and Beat and New York School writings, even though none of the professors at that time were poets.  I found their work in the library.  It was much better to study with the Beats and New York School writers in person.  This summer I met the poet Peter Schjeldahl, who was a New York School poet in the 1960s and 1970s, but gave up his poetry in order to write art criticism for The New Yorker.  He no longer writes poetry, as he didn’t apparently feel that there was much of an audience for his work. His poems were really good New York School work.  He’s like Frank O’Hara, to an extent, but with a more honest feel, a more Lutheran feel. He’s from Fargo, North Dakota, and was raised as a Lutheran.  There is a certain honesty in his poems that I feel in general is missing in the New York School poets.  I had sent him my poetry book, and he expressed an interest in me, and in a painting I had been trying to show him in a local church.  While sitting on his porch, he smiled and said, “There is a New York School aspect to your poems!”  I think he meant in particular, “Data from a Doorman,” which appears on page 17.  There is an insane rushing breathlessness in that poem.  We spoke for a couple of hours, but on many different topics, including the schism between the Sophists and Plato and Socrates, so we didn’t get back to talking about our poetry.

The fact that you’re a Christian poet is interesting considering your roots of surrealism and such. Were you always a Christian poet? What makes you one?

I was raised as a Lutheran in the Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania church on 9th Street.  I dropped it when I went to college, as it seemed that no one then was a Christian.  Everyone everywhere appeared to be dropping out of Christianity. It was time right after Woodstock, and just after the War in Vietnam.  It seemed that America was a hostile, occupying nation, and everyone was smoking dope, and experimenting with new sexual arrangements, and joining up with foreign religions such as Buddhism and Sufi and Gurdjieffian lineages.  Naropa Institute was one of the first Buddhist colleges.  Today there are about five.  I was interested. I participated.  I listened to Choygam Trungpa, and read many Buddhist texts.  olsonThe French surrealists had been raised as Christians.  They were mainly Catholic.  They, too, were reacting to their empire, and to the national wars they had been fighting.  I don’t think any of the major surrealists remained involved with traditional Christianity.  They, like the Beat generation, and the New York School poets, moved toward Buddhism in some cases, and toward mysticism along the lines of very far-out things such as Voodoo and whatever it was that Carlos Castaneda was involved in.  I studied all that, and was interested in it, but felt lost. I met a Christian woman when I was teaching in Finland.  When I met her, and we had a child, I began to talk with the local pastor in Finland.  At our daughter Lola’s baptism, I heard the same Lutheran songs I had grown up with.  I felt at home in them.  I went back into Lutheranism, and began to even become evangelical. My daughter is 17.  I date my rebirth in Christianity with her birth.  Together, we have been to the Lutheran and to the Episcopalian churches in Delhi.  Lola and my wife and I share Christianity.  There are three other kids in the family, too.  They are all Christians.  Our life is Christian.  The highwater marks of my life have been in Christian churches. My poems celebrate this, and are grounded in this. When I began to write my first real poems, they all came after this conversion. Before that, I consider myself to have been a postmodernist, but not a convinced one.  My convictions came from the overwhelmingly emotional feeling of marriage to my wife, and my link to my children, and to our heritage.  

Where do you come from?

Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania is about an hour from New York City.  It’s in the Pocono Mountains, which are the same as the Catskills from a geological standpoint.  The only difference is the border. They are part of the Appalachian chain.  My New York School friends were often Jewish.  They were lapsed Jews.  I never really understood their cavalier hilarity, or their hipness. I always felt that I was an Appalachian, and a Lutheran, but I loved their sensibility and feel even now like a yokel compared to them.  I feel close to the Nordic States, and to Minnesota, and the work ethic of the Protestant Reformation.  I like the simple clarity of Lutheran churches.  I like the simple aesthetic of straight, clean, white lines.  I am a sincere person, and am not joking at five levels at a time like my postmodern Jewish friends.  I can do that, but as Bartleby said, I would prefer not to.

If you could punch one “classic” poet in the face, who would it be? Why?

I have never had a fist fight in my life.  Not one.  I am not physically violent.  However, I am intellectually violent.  I fight with things like Post-Its.  I love poets.  I don’t hate any of them. However, I don’t understand why Ginsberg didn’t tell us early on that he was a practicing pedophile.  He admits as much in his last book of poems, Death and Fame. I can’t bring myself to retype any part of those awful poems.  I wish I could write a Post-It to him, and ask, “Was this what your whole revolution was about, jerk?”  I wouldn’t want to punch him in the face, or kill him.  I just feel now that the Beat-surrealist tradition is false goods, and that it’s a portable vomitorium. I still accept their style, but the content?  No.

What’s your least favorite song?

b5351ea8412f7db7fc703b295960d42f

Kirby Olson

“What are we fighting for?  Don’t ask me I don’t give a damn.  Next stop is Vietnam, and it’s one two three…” It’s a song by Country Joe and the Fish, who played at Woodstock.  We are fighting for universal human rights, including the right to freedom of inquiry, and a free market, and freedom of religion, all of which are negated in today’s Vietnam.  I feel we let down the Vietnamese.  We want freedom worldwide, now and forever.  The greatness of the Lutheran and Christian ethos should not be narrowly left to the Nordic states.  It should be a universal legacy.  At any rate, that’s what I’m fighting for – Post-it by Post-it, or poem by poem.  We fought for Japan and South Korea, and compared to the nightmare of North Korea, you have the light of the free market, and the light of Jesus Christ, compared to the infamous horror of socialism under Kim Jong-On and his cult of personality, or Ho Chi Minh, and the horror of Vietnamese, or Cambodian communism, and its horrid poster boys, such as Pol Pot.  We are fighting for literacy, and freedom of inquiry, and the right to knowledge.  It’s an endless fight, and I see the Lutherans as the light of the world, with Jesus Christ as our colors.  My favorite song of all time is the Battle Hymn of the Republic, but then I do also love Erik Satie.  Music is a minor part of my aesthetic interests. I prefer painting.  I like everything from Andy Warhol to Italian Renaissance such as Pietro Lorenzetti.  In real life, I love Lutheran hymns, and it’s the only thing I look forward to in music.

 

Kirby will be reading at the Kaaterskill Fine Arts & Crafts Gallery on Saturday, September 10th, from 1-2PM. This event is free and open to the public, so come on down! For more information visit catskillmtn.org or call 518-263-2063.

Guest Blog: Fred Pohlman’s “Vistas”

Sometimes getting multiple points of view is the only way to explain just how great something is. So – here’s a short guest blog by Heather Martin, reviewing Fred Pohlman’s current exhibition in the Kaaterskill Fine Arts & Crafts Gallery.

“Vistas” by Fred Pohlman

“From the darkness springs ethereal wisps of light and bursts of intense color. This painting evokes the atmospheric  splendor of such Hudson River School painters as Frederick Church and Thomas Cole.

Unlike the Hudson River School tradition, Fred Pohlman’s paintings are not painted with a subject in mind. The content emerges subconsciously as he works the paint. He captures subtle nuances of color, shape and tone directly onto the canvas. Although these paintings have a layered look, and fine, cloud-like details, Pohlman accomplishes this with paint, not additives. His black tones are mixed from colors on the painting surface. The subtlety of this painting is highlighted by its gloss finish which adds to the appearance of its layered depths.

FullSizeRender

 

You can see this painting and more of Fred Pohlman’s work at “The Emerging Self: Psychological Abstracts” a solo exhibit of Pohlman’s works on view at the Kaaterskill Fine Arts Gallery through September 25th. The Kaaterskill Fine Arts & Crafts Gallery is located within the Village Square Center at 7950 Main Street, Hunter NY. Gallery hours are Friday and Saturday 10 am – 4 pm, and Sundays and Mondays 10 am to 3 pm until Labor Day, after which the gallery will be closed on Mondays. For more information call 518-263-2060 or visit http://www.catskillmtn.org .”     – Heather Martin

Night and the Emerging Self: in Conversation with Fred Pohlman

Next up in the gallery: Fred Pohlman! His show, Night and the Emerging Self, will be in the Kaaterskill Fine Arts & Crafts Gallery from August 13th to September 25th. I had the opportunity to sit down with him and ask some unexpected questions – read on to find out how he handled that.

 

From where do you draw inspiration?

Rafael

“Trial of Job”

Experience.

Experience as in…

Experience is just what happens. For example you read the book of Job, and you have a dream that says, “you will know the trials of Job.” The next thing you know you’ve got a painting that you can’t stand, so you put it down and leave it for two years. All of a sudden you pick it up, add something, and it’s the trial of Job! Then you wind up writing a song and you realize it’s also about the trial of Job. I have the painting and the song – but where do they come from? You read the book of Job, and it had more magnetism than you thought. It starts to invade your dreams, your artwork, everything.  

I have this painting, “The Road to Kandahar” – where is it coming from? Then I realize it must be from my fascination with scheherazade and The Arabian Nights. You produce something out of it, it just comes out of your hand by accident. All of this stuff comes from the love of something.

Where did you grow up?

I grew up mostly in New York City; in lower Harlem and the Upper East Side. I spent my summers out in the country, in Pattenburg, New Jersey. I lived in a home for kids for a few years, too.

Who is your favorite painter?

My favorite painters are Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque.

Do you have a favorite painting by either of them?

Do I have a favorite painting? Well.

Hard question, right?

It’s impossible. Depends on my mood. But I love Braque and I love Picasso; in fact I love all of the cubists. If I say I love Diego Rivera most people will think oh, he did murals. No. Continue reading

Rory Block…on Rory Block!

Rory Block is crazy busy…seriously. She’s been touring for 34 years, and touring AT ALL makes for a very busy musician. Lucky for us, she made some time to say a few words about herself and the upcoming New York Blues Hall of Fame Concert & Ceremony. Did we mention that she’s one of the inductees? Well, now you know. By the way, you should probably get your tickets for the show – it is this Saturday. But we’ll let Rory tell you all about it:
RoryBlock-03-SK

This special event at the Orpheum Theater in Tannersville comes at a very exciting time for me. I have just completed the sixth and last recording of a project I call “The Mentor Series,” which will eventually be released as a boxed set. This series is my life’s work in a box, consisting entirely of tributes to the rediscovered blues masters who I met in person as a teenager growing up in New York City. In retrospect, who would have thought that Greenwich Village was the place to be to meet people like Mississippi John Hurt, Son House, Skip James, Reverend Gary Davis, Bukka White and others? Now I understand more than ever how lucky I was to have been in the right place at the right time. Today it seems ever more precious, fleeting and almost magical. The inspiration I got from this face to face, personal experience has lasted throughout my life, and the Mentor Series is my way of saying “thank you.” I will have my autobiography, my Robert Johnson teaching dvd, and the first five of the Mentor Series with me at Tannersville, and we await the sixth release by fall.

LFDplate6-hr crop

Credit: Shonna Valeska

During the last 34 years of touring, I have enjoyed each and every place I have performed. There are great people everywhere, and I think music really brings us together like almost nothing else can. I like to say that my biggest problem these days is that I am having “too much fun.” In particular I love telling stories about the history which has unfolded for all of us who love and value American roots music, and I weave these tales and perspectives into the show.
After years of struggling and trying to get a handle on slide, I have finally come to terms with it, in particular after an inspirational nugget I gleaned from the playing of the wonderful Bonnie Raitt, and I love to squeeze a little bit of a guitar workshop into every set just for fun. I am looking forward to the night and being there with the other wonderful artists on the show.
With gratitude,
Rory

The New York Blues Hall of Fame Concert & Ceremony is this Saturday, July 16th, at 8PM in the Orpheum Film & Performing Arts Center. Get your seats NOW before time runs out: call 518-263-2063 or visit our ticketing website.

Ruth Sachs: “Culinary” Clay Arts

There’s so much going on in the Kaaterskill Fine Arts & Crafts Gallery that we’re having a hard time keeping track of it all! Some of the latest news is from Ruth Sachs:

(cropped) 13495585_1657652091219959_4217067191434564867_o

Ruth’s work in the gallery

Her newest work that is a series of large bowls which Ruth enjoys making on her potters wheel in her Long Island studio or her Studio in Jewett, New York. The brighter interior reds and purples contrasted with the colorful exteriors will enhance all of the tables of the Catskill for their summer menus. Ruth adds incised decor, decals, and underglazes as well as scraffito to the outsides and some interiors of her bowls.

“I enjoy making pottery that is functional and useful for everyday occasions. It is made to be touched and used by all,” says Ruth.

The summer season brings on adventures in the form of cooking, some of which include wonderful recipes for salads and pastas. A big salad or pasta bowl is just right for summer barbecues and outdoor lunches and dinners. Ruth is a potter who loves to cook, so she even shared her recipe for summer salad!

IMG_5199

Ruth’s Summer Salad


Corn, Tomato, Asparagus Salad

4 Cups of Corn ( lightly saute’ just until the kernels turn brown)
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin ( mix with corn)
4 large tomatoes ( diced or cherry tomatoes cut in half, about 2 cups)
1/4 C Cilantro ( or parsley if you don’t like Cilantro)
2 Cloves of fresh Garlic – diced and sauteed with the corn
1 Red bell pepper – chopped
12 stalks of Asparagus – cleaned, chopped and lightly sauteed (or roasted in 450″ oven for 7 minutes)
1 Shallot- minced
1 Tablespoon good olive oil
juice of 2 limes
salt and pepper to taste

Toss all ingredients together in a large ceramic handmade bowl , drizzle with olive oil and serve, correct spices as you like.


 

IMG_5137

Royal Imperial Agate with ceramic beads, SS clasp, rondells and matching earrings

 

Ruth also makes jewelry with a ceramic theme . One of her latest creations (pictured left) will be in the silent auction at the Catskill Mountain Foundation Annual Benefit!

 

Stop by the Kaaterskill fine Arts & Crafts Gallery to pick up the perfect bowl today! The gallery is open Friday, Saturday & Monday 10 am-4 pm; Sunday 10 am-3 pm.

Fugues: a Surprisingly Lively Interview with Ilona Sochynsky

From the Ukraine to the US, everyone seems to be in agreement that Ilona Sochynsky is a great painter. With an extensive career involving both countries – from a commissioned mural in Atlantic City, to the State Museum of Lviv in Ukraine – Sochynsky has quite a bit of experience in the art world. Read on to see what she had to say about the evolution of her career, her hobbies, and what has influenced her along the way.

You’ve certainly been in the art world for a while; your career spans more than two decades. How has your art changed over time?

 Over the 20-year span that you reference, my artwork has progressed from hyperrealism to abstraction. Influenced by Pop Art of the late 70’s and early 80’s I used my own photographs as source materials to create paintings. Very soon I started to split the images into large fragments, recombining the sections and thereby creating a new painting. This deconstruction process continued over the years and resulted in compositions (often kaleidoscopic) where the fragments were no longer recognizable.

 You obviously have experience in painting, and you’ve taught graphic design at a

FugueNo9Web

Fugue No. 9

college level. Do those two mediums ever intersect?

 I studied and worked as a graphic designer before resuming and dedicating myself to painting. Both professions deal with visual communication and the formal elements of art and design such as composition, form, color, texture space, etc. The graphic designer’s goal is to please the client. As a painter I have only myself to please, unless the artwork is a commissioned one, such as the large mural I painted in Atlantic City.

The idea that as a painter you only have yourself to please is an interesting point. Do you ever paint with an audience in mind? Continue reading

From the Vaults: Vicki Thompson on “In Process”

When you’re working for such a busy organization with a million things going on all at once (hey, that sounds like the Catskill Mountain Foundation. Hint hint.), sometimes things fall by the wayside – they get lost, put at the bottom of the to-do list, buried under a pile of papers on your desk – but sometimes those things truly deserve to see the light of day…and while I’d love to print out this interview and leave it on the sunny sidewalk to catch some rays, I think the CMF blog will have to do for now. Anyway.

BEHOLD: back from the depths of unpublished Google Documents, my interview with Vicki Thompson on her October 2015 show in the Kaaterskill Fine Arts & Crafts Gallery, “In Process.”

561e9ff1cd60f.image

This show was partially a result of you working for the Foundation, correct? How did you get involved with CMF?

Yeah, I would say it’s safe to assume. I worked for CMF as the Programming Assistant. I found out about the job through a great friend, Cara, who used to work there. I went over and had dinner with her and her amazing family one night, and the next day I had an interview and a job! It was great! I worked closely with Pam Weisberg and Carolyn Bennett. Carolyn had mentioned that she wanted me to have a show. I ended up leaving CMF but kept in touch with Carolyn and we set a date for the exhibit. The rest is history.

Your show was a huge success. Why do you think your work resonated so well with the community? Continue reading

Putting it Pleinly: An interview with Alix Hallman Travis

There’s a party at the Kaaterskill Fine Arts & Crafts Gallery! Actually, there’s an exhibition called A Celebration of Community by painter Alix Hallman Travis, who recently had a talk with Carolyn. Read on, fellow party-goer! And just to be clear – Carolyn did this interview, but Maggie insists on being credited for the delightful pun in the title.

2. Parade_ Catskill Mountain Life, no. 6Travis

“Parade”

I’ll start with the proverbial “tell us a little bit about yourself” – when did you first come to the Catskills and why?

In 2003 while residents of Cleveland, OH my husband and I purchased a house in the Mid Catskills area of Margaretville in Delaware County to be nearer family that had a home here.  We were attracted to the area because of its beauty and I particularly because of the comfortable ease with which I could paint outdoors in the landscape.  I had just finished my study at the Cleveland Institute of Art and was an active plein air painter.  While I knew almost no one here I felt safe in stopping by the side of the road and setting up my easel—painting alone is not always possible in a large urban area like Cleveland.

You have a very interesting style, reminiscent in some ways—especially in your use of vibrant color—of the Bahaus Movement of the early 20th century. Can you comment on that?

While academically trained at the Cleveland Institute of Art and the Art Students League of New York, I am an intuitive painter; using bold colors and sweeping gestures because I like the way they feel and they just flow from my hand.  My gestures are large.  I have difficulty signing a check because my signature is too large for the space provided—

3. Fireworks, Catskill Mt. Life series, no. 7, oil on c with lights,Travis

“Fireworks” (oil on canvas with lights)

don’t even mention putting my signature in the space provided on a credit card receipt!

In both watercolor and oil I use large tools that fill my hand:  big brushes require big pieces of paper or canvas.  I use palette knives instead of oil brushes because I like their feel and the resulting stroke.  I paint quickly and Continue reading

From Vaudeville to Renaissance: Rob Williams of the Kamikaze Fireflies

Summertime is here, and things are heating up at the Catskill Mountain Foundation – but that may be due to a fire breather in the Doctorow! Together, Casey Martin (the human torch in question) and Rob Williams are the Kamikaze Fireflies, a comical circus act that will be coming to the Doctorow on June 4th. I recently got to speak to Rob about climbing on strangers, doing dishes, and the greatest story of a first meeting I have ever heard.

KF Image 2

What got you into circus performance?

For Casey and I both it was going to renaissance festivals. We grew up near them, and in a lot of ways I think vaudeville in America ended up at renaissance festivals. You still see stuff out there that you won’t see anywhere else; the style of performance that we do exists in very few places. Renaissance festivals grew out of the street performing explosion of the 70’s, but I think that grew out of vaudeville. I don’t know how on earth it happened, but somehow it ended up in renaissance.

How do you create new acts?

I think of creating new stuff as something you don’t always have to be working on. As a creator you always have two big jobs when it comes to the art part: to maintain and execute what you currently do, and to always be creating new. If you don’t do those things well, you’ll be at a dead end.  No idea is too stupid or a red light, no idea is too dumb. Everything is open so you’re always creatively keeping your antenna out for new ideas, props, pieces. Often times we buy a prop, play with it for a while, and then put it aside because it doesn’t work. Sometimes you buy a prop and it just clicks, it works. I look at it as a funnel: that means bit by bit you narrow it down. Some ideas aren’t feasible or don’t connect with you, so you just narrow it down.

How did you learn to do all this?
Continue reading