Raleigh Rambles

John Dancy-Jones at large!

BMC Conference – time for being locally articulate!*

Above is  the bookmark I will be giving away at the 9th Annual ReViewing BMC Conference. The quote from Dewey is appropriate for the work/technique/process theme detectable in this year’s offerings, and I’m really excited about going, but the printing of this quote is just as much about the new book published by Brian Butler, who is the UNC-A philosophy professor who helps run the BMCM+AC and who practically invented the wonderful annual conference. I have missed only two of the nine and been blessed with many new friendships through it, Brian not the least. Dewey, whose philosophy infused Black Mountain College, was an early pragmatist, as was Charles Pierce, someone I’ve tried to study over the years. Brian’s tangible and personable promotion of pragmatism, his willingness to interact with a layman such as myself, and reading his new book have given me a healthy dose of mental stimulation and a lot to ponder as we all face the task of finding a workable world view from which we can operate as a world community.

Democratic experimentalism as expressed by John Dewey involves lots of individual, indeed radically local, input about how things are working in the trenches of regular people – a kind of populism. Dewey is perfectly aware it only works if the populace, for the most part, has a reasonable degree of broad and liberal education, so that we can use a logical AND humanistic perspective to examine how social processes are operating. The only way to build a society is to be sociable – personally connected in governmental processes that are democratic all the way down, allowing, again, for constant LOCAL and empirical feedback on the successes and failures of social and commercial processes.

Brian takes the ideas of democratic experimentalism and applies them to jurisprudence, showing that the formalist and strictly literal interpretation of the Constitution pursued by many jurists (and the current majority of the Supreme Court) takes far too little account of the empirical, demonstrable effects of their rulings and literally and purposely exclude non-legal information from their reasonings. Constitutional law needs to be flexible enough to respond to the real workings of the world. Court decisions need to be made in an information-rich context and judges should be acting collaboratively with all parties involved to create a just and good outcome. How can we transform our proud but creaky governmental institutions to meet the challenges of the rapidly changing world? Brian Butler has a few very well reasoned ideas.

This dabbling in contemporary philosophy reflects a life-long, if little shared, thread of my reading. After attending Brian’s small UNC-A conference on neuro-pragmatism, I ordered The Essential William James, edited by a conference leader, John Shook, who offers critical praise for The Democratic Constitution. And I’m truly curious to read a philosophy book, quoted in Brian’s book, whose subtitle is “emerson, jazz and experimental writing.” Expanding those mental horizons! Important for us aging furry freak brothers. Peace.

*post title: About the concern that “localized deliberation…risks domination by the articulate”, Brian quips “at least it would be domination of the locally articulate rather than the professionalized articulate.” I like the phrase very much.  PS the image on the jacket of Brian Butler’s book is Wage Map No.1 – Polk St to Twelfth, Halstead St to Jefferson, Chicago.
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September 28, 2017 Posted by | Black Mountain, reflection | , , | Leave a comment

Cutting Up for the Black Mountain College Conference

Cut UP card

Looking forward to attending the BMC conference at UNC-A’s Reuter Center Sept. 26-28. Last year I did a silkscreen of an ancient motif – this year I am responding to the writing theme of this year’s event with a give-away piece of hand-laid paper incorporating randomized sentences cut from a variety of sources.

I cut hundreds of sentences from some old paperback books lining my letterpress shop – the criteria being variety and nothing post-dating the lifetime of the college. These were spread out and “shuffled” thoroughly, then dropped into the vat of pulp a few at the time as I formed the sheets. Minor lifting and adjusting did not interfere with the groupings and each sheet has fun juxtapositions with occasional strong ironies. I made 52 to take to the conference.

52 Cut Ups

 The use of chance and spontaneous order is characteristic of some of the best-known BMC artists. I look forward to learning more about its use by Jonathan Williams in a writing workshop conducted by Jeff Davis, where he

“will replicate in brief form the procedure Jonathan Williams developed when he wrote the section in in his long poem Mahler for Symphony No. 7 in B Minor. After steeping himself in Mahler’s work, he availed himself of an “hallucinatory deck” of cards, and wrote on those cards the 110 words that were the “private and most meaningful words of [his]poetic vocabulary,” and then, using different rules for each of the movements, he wrote the amazing poem!

The cards I made have already helped me engender a long list of favorite phrases and it will be fun to distribute them to the wonderful folks that attend these conferences. Long live the spirit of BMC!

Cut UP closeup

all posts on Black Mountain College

my BMC page

September 24, 2014 Posted by | art, Black Mountain, literary | , , | 1 Comment

BMC Conference 2013 Zooms in on Craft

after Anni Albers

after Red Meander by Anni Albers, silkscreen on hand-laid paper by JDJ

I never got around to posting about the wonderful BMC conference in 2012, but I’m getting a head start on this one!  Above is a small souvenir/artwork which I will be distributing at the 2013 event October 11-13, a project inspired by Anni Albers’ fabric art entitled “Red Meander,” and also by the book in which I encountered the image, written by Christopher Benfey.  Benfey is keynote speaker at this year’s conference, which as always includes a rich array of scholarly and creative responses to the legacy and spirit of Black Mountain College,from the dissection of BMC/Bauhaus connections to the performance poetry of Ted Pope.

Benfey’s book is called Red Brick, Black Mountain, White Clay, and is a unique family memoir that ranges far and near in exploring the connections of art, craft, and history to be found in his family history and connections. Anni Albers was Benfey’s aunt, and figures largely into his take on the relationships among artisan craft, creativity, and authenticity in artistic processes.  I was very impressed with his insight regarding a productive tension Benfey discerns in the threads of influence to be found at Black Mountain College – that between calm, disciplined and reflective approaches and the unfettered spontaneity made famous by the Happenings at BMC.

This year’s conference promises to cover that same range of possibilities, with presentations on archive resources, technical poetics, action painting, transcendent pottery, the BMC print shop, and multiple assessments of the importance of Anni Albers and her husband Josef Albers.  Looking forward to it.

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dome at BMC conferenceBucky forms at BMC conference

Bucky Bubbles!

The 2012 BMC conference, held at UNC-A and organized by The Black Mountain College Museum and Art Center, centered on Buckminster fuller and the ways his ideas, many generated at BMC, have influenced our world.  I would love to write about the ideas presented eventually, but above are thumbnails of a big highlight of 2012 – the outdoor technology fair that offered hands-on experiences of some of Fuller’s concepts.  Click to enlarge, and be sure to check out this wonderful annual event sometime!

Bibliophile post about the making of the Meander print

Meander screenand inks

Raleigh Rambles Black Mountain College page

follow-up post reviewing BMC conference 2013

October 9, 2013 Posted by | art, Black Mountain, reflection | , , , | 5 Comments

A Raleigh Art Ramble

bookarts.files.wo/34B9E3D1.jpg

The Paper Plant presents an Open Studio Saturday, August 22 from 10 AM to 6 PM.  John and Cara will be demonstrating papermaking, marbling, printmaking and letterpress printing.  A retail display of notecards, blank books and paper, with opportunities for hands-on interactions.

528 N. Person Street, 919-618-6883

early papermaking

Starting with the shameless self-promotion above, here is my current outlook on Raleigh creative endeavors.  I dearly hope our open studio will attract (as it did last year) some of my Bain friends, new and old.  Critter, a Bain documentor, has favored me with some mail art this summer and I’m dying to show him the new Ray Johnson material I picked up recently at the Black Mountain College Museum + Art Center.  Ray’s mail art show in 1976 was seminal for me: my Bain experience was galvanizing in just as big a way, here in my old age.  I hope our open studio can stimulate: we will be marbling, printing and making sheets, and at 6 PM we will toast the day with all who have gathered.  Please come!

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Lovejoy Pottery, Aug. 1st, 9-4

Lovejoy Pottery, August 1st, 9-4

Dan and Nancy Lovejoy are having an open studio this coming weekend at Lovejoy Pottery in Wendell.  I posted about their show last summer in the first weeks of this blog’s existence, and it’s always great to see them and the other artists, who include Edge Barnes, John Garland & Mary Paul, Alan Leland Julie Olson, Susan Myers, and Nancy & Kathleen Redman.  As described in the earlier post, Dan Lovejoy was a founding member of Raleigh Artists Community in the seventies, and the Lovejoy Pottery show is well worth the drive to 6117 Watkins Road off Rolesville Highway. (919)266-6053.

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David Beaver, media theorist

David Beaver, media theorist

I had the best chat with David Beaver the other day at Borders. David earned eternal endearment in the Raleigh art community by acting as jovial scorekeeper for the Poetry Slams at Forum+Function in the late nineties.  He is my emblem for a 21st century shaman, being a magician, virtual reality enterprenuer, and now key member of the emerging Overview movement, which posits that seeing Earth from space is so life-changing, common space-flights could fundamentally change humanity’s perspective on the planet.  Though David is working on transforming the world, he is still affable and charming as ever, and he’s got my mental cogs churning about several of his fascinating ideas.

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photo by David Simonton

photo by David Simonton

NandO featured David Simonton recently and turned me on to a fantastic blog – Prison Photography, now featured on my blogroll.  Their post about David’s photographs of Polk Youth Center before it was razed for the art museum shows powerful work; a stark portrait of neglect and abandonment.  David’s earlier photographic work reflects “his calling as a poet of the ignored or the ruined place, the lost or forgotten landscape,” as described in this Indy profile.

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by Susan Soper

by Susan Soper

Below is a sending from Susan Soper, printmaker.

 

     Susan Soper   —   Lithographs

 Clayton Center Gallery

  111 East Second  Street

Clayton, NC 27520

August 1-30 2009

Gallery Hours M-F, 9-5

 Public opening reception Thursday August 6th, 6–7:30 pm

Sponsored by Clayton Visual Arts

susansoperlithographs.com

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Musa show

Carter Hubbard, a papermaking contact from way back, touched base recently about an interesting project.  She and partner Sara Botwick are putting together an art exhibition in the  downtown warehouse where Bill and Otho created “antiques” for Niemann-Marcus and employed several dear friends in the process.  The MUSA website is a bit inscrutable, but the show will offer an “interpretive visual perspective … on what it means to be ‘made in the USA.'”  I’ll get back to this project soon.

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Poppy Bear on Porch  by Walter Stanford

Poppy Bear on Porch by Walter Stanford

Joel Haas just held a signing for his new book, Poppy Bear, illustrated by Walter Stanford.   Joel’s book is his own writing, based on the “most enduring character” of his late father, the prolific novelist Ben Haas, who entertained his three boys with endless “Poppy Bear” tales but never wrote them down.  Joel wrote up a prototype “Poppy Bear” story and then hooked up with Walter.  The book is available from either of their websites.

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Thanks for your kind attention.  As always, this is just a smattering of the wonderful Raleigh culture that has come my way.  Back at ya’ soon!

July 26, 2009 Posted by | art, Black Mountain, Raleigh downtown | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Bain Review

Bainpaint_1_1_1

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main hall day 1_1_1

The first and most amazing truth is how the artists found, saw, loved and preserved the incredible piece of found art that was the Bain Water Treatment Plant.  The artists, as a group, put aside individual ambitions (though not their individual styles and initiative) and sublimated their work to respond, so powerfully, to what was given.  Almost as amazing was the breadth and rich variety of work generated out of this project.  The initial glimpses of responses displayed at the Boylan Art Walk, the slide projections, mail art, photographs and paintings shown at the music fundraiser, the shower of documentation and Bain textures created at the preview show, all culminated with a massive but orchestrated symphony of sense experiences presented on site for two weekends.  Last and most is how each person that came could build a totally unique, self-selected, more or less socialized experience for themselves to treasure, hopefully over multiple visits with lots of time for some details.  That’s what I did, and the Bain Project became such a personal project that I can only review it from partly inside.  But that is perfect, because I repeat: the Bain Project brought everybody inside, inside an amazing space inhabitated by the spirits of water, clean industry, and civil structure, evoked and transmutated into very present and highly charged artistic structures, made by the wonderful Bain Project team.

Watershed mapper_1_1

What an amazing challenge for a bunch of artists.  The logistics of a small factory.  But there was a ringer in the group.  Daniel Kelly, who is Thomas Sayre’s right hand man in some fairly spectacular artistic endeavors, was the founder and leader of the Bain Project.  He acted as liason with Greg Hatem, the owner and primary sponsor.  He coordinated the artist meetings and kept the activities within some broad parameters, but Daniel found a way to really turn the artists loose and let some serious artistic consensus building take place.  The project took on a life of its own and everybody breathed it.

Bain main hall day 4_1_1

The Bain experience started with finding the damn place.  Isolated, sequestered, separated by chasym – all these things fit better than tucked away for the Bain site.  Yet the crowds were huge each day.  The poster said “site specific artwork,” but I don’t think  visitors really knew what to expect.  The perfectly lovely red brick art decco exterior led to a museum-like art decco lobby, and then after you were wisked into the “registration room,” all bets were off.  Perhaps you would wander back to the front lobby, and discover the noxious but vivid chlorine room.  More likely, you would head right into the main hall of filtration tanks, which retained a strong sense of functionality, not least because of the beautiful, pristine restoration of one of the control panels by Christian Karkow.

refurbished machine_1_1

The row of large tanks, whose top openings are level with the floor, were a bit inscrutable.  The symmetry and repetitions of the structures in this largest and least decayed room had a very calming effect.  You might start discovering side rooms, or perhaps take the narrow central staircase down to the lowest level with huge pipes and valves, and then back all the way up to the small fourth story level with huge wooden cisterns and a nice view of the acres of outside water storage tanks surrounded by Piedmont meadow.  Wherever you go, you see various artistic treatments of the unpolished porcelain balls that constituted the largest aggregrate of the Bain facility’s geological filtration system.

ball on wheel_1_1

The Bain facility used gravity and the simple but effective filter formed by fixed sand to clean water for the City of Raleigh. There were additives, especially chlorine, and many other complicating factors but the fundamental processes of the Bain plant are visibly inherent in the spaces and equipment.  Rather than transform these technical elements or even disturb them much, the artists re-inhabited the human spaces in the Bain facility with installations that responded to and co-existed with the strong presence of water – water magnified and empowered by brute human technology.  The Bain art project celebrated and brought out the best bits of this amazing system.

exploring pipes

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It was a wonderful place to meet and greet, with many spectators and volunteers and also lots of Bain artists on hand at all times, which was part of what made the installation event so unique.  By far the most spectacular piece of socializing I did was with my new urban explorer friends, who are going to show me the bowels of Pigeon House Branch underneath Glenwood South.  They had been exploring Bain for at least as long as Daniel Kelly had been painting there before starting the project, and a couple of them actually served on the volunteer clean-up crew and also attended the event.  They showed me what I had looked for in vain – the passage down to the main pipes leading toward downtown, where an old artist friend told me he had traveled with his spunky teenage daughter.  After the event, I contacted the urban explorers and “Snailapple” turned out to be a very gifted and intelligent young man with a unique perspective on our urban landscape.

underground doorway_1_1_1

Above is the hatch that leads to Bain’s darkest recesses, pictured below.

open hatch_1_1

tunnel by Applesnail

Click on the picture above to see Snailapple’s Bain pics.

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decorated window_1_1

I was so lucky to get involved with the Bain Project as the Raleigh Naturalist, presenting to the artists on a Saturday morning last fall about Walnut Creek, Rocky Branch, and Raleigh’s watersheds.  Several of the artists were personal friends, and several more became so during this process.  I was asked to help with the final details of the watershed mapping activity, and I may yet help with the in-project documentation process.  These ten posts have been a blast to write, and I feel I haven’t had so much artistic fun for years. Yeah, Bain!!

Raleigh Naturalist at Bain_1_1

The Raleigh Naturalist presents at Bain

Thanks to Daniel Kelly, Tracy Spencer, the Bain artists and documenters, New Raleigh, Empire Properties and all the other sponsers for a great show!

circular lense shot of lab box_1_1

June 11, 2009 Posted by | architecture, art, Raleigh downtown, Raleigh history | , , , | Leave a comment