Archive for November, 2018

Morning Coffee with thoughts concerning The Word

November 15, 2018

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Excellent Morning Poring over Pages from Karl Barth

. . . as the gaps between my digital tasks disappeared, so did the opportunities for depth.

William Powers, Hamlet’s Blackberry

Sometimes, when ideas are not clicking at home, I load the Jeep and drive away, looking for a friendly environment for reading and writing. Yesterday, I had an engagement to meet my dear friends in Keller, Texas at noon, so I decided to get there two hours early so I could have some time and space to reflect and write.  The activities and chores and responsibilities at home cluttered my morning, and I could not stop to reflect.

I force my mind to become self-absorbed and not let outside things distract it. There can be absolute bedlam without so long as there is no commotion within.

Seneca, On Noise

Within you there is a stillness and a sanctuary to which you can retreat at anytime and be yourself.

Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha

When I force myself to write, even when I feel that I am writing junk, I often find that good ideas will eventually emerge. Ralph Waldo Emerson said that the water pump initially brings up the dirty water before the clean. I find that true in writing; I often have to flush the junk from my mind to cleanse it and hope for epiphany.

As I wrote, I returned to an idea I broached recently on the blog that often consumes my thinking–the power of the genuine Word. My mind reached back to the writings of Karl Barth, a Swiss theologian whom I studied during seminary years, in fact I took a one-year seminar on his work during my Ph.D. studies. Returning home, I pulled the first two volumes of his Church Dogmatics from my shelf, and opened them to texts I had annotated back in 1983.

The distinction between word and act is that mere word is the mere self-expression of a person, while act is the resultant relative alteration in the world around. Mere word is passive, act is an active participation in history. But this kind of distinction does not apply to the Word of God. As mere Word it is act.

Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics, Volume 1, The Doctrine of the Word of God, Part 1

Studying the biblical writings, I recall that the creation of the world is described as a series of God’s spoken words: he spoke the world into existence. He spoke, and it was so. I recall also the Isaiah passage where God says his word will not return void. In the prophetic works, when the words are translated “the word of the LORD came”, a better rendering of the Hebrew is “the word of the LORD happened.” In the Semitic mind, it seems that the word was an event, not just a noise articulated or a mark on the parchment.

Why am I thinking of this? Because our culture is polluted with words that either mean little to nothing, or even worse, are used as weapons to wreak havoc on life. I shudder when I think of a child hearing words directed at him or her that say: “You will never amount to anything,” or “you are weak,” or “you lack intelligence.” Words contain the power to effect change. Words are actions, a most powerful resource.

I am writing a blog. Some people actually read these words. And often I second-guess whether I have made a contribution, or if my writing has any effect on a reader at all.

–What are you reading Hamlet?

–Words, words, words.

Our culture is media-driven and digitally-driven. That translates into billions of words pouring into our consciousness. We cannot stop the verbal deluge, but we can find a way to sift the mud from the pure, the hate from the love, the excess from the essential. And I will endeavor to write blogs that have value; I don’t want to waste readers’ time. Time is precious.

Barth

Karl Barth: Acrylic Collage on Canvas, 30 x 24″

During my years teaching high school, this collage hung in the back of my classroom, in my line of vision when I addressed my students. I recently sold a paper collage of Barth at an art festival, happy that a patron knew what she was purchasing. This morning, I found this larger canvas and hung it in my living room so I could spend more time in its presence. I hope that over the holidays I can create some space to make new art. I am feeling the urge to create.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

 

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Morning Coffee with Dave & Jack Kerouac

November 14, 2018

Time changes things. Like the fruit stand that turns into a filling station. But the footprints and signs from the past are everywhere.

Voice of Jack Nicholson narrating the film “The Two Jakes”

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Morning Kerouac Reading and Collage Planning

The great escape into the Oklahoma wilderness still abides with my spirit, though I have returned to the joyless suburbs of the metroplex. This morning, as I resumed my reading of Kerouac’s Visions of Cody, I could see in my mind’s eye the vanishing America that is painted so ably in Kerouac’s prose. I drove through vestiges of these small towns while returning from Oklahoma day before yesterday, and they called up the memory of Jack Nicholson’s narration posted above. I have named my company Recollections 54 because of my birth year and the things I saw as a small boy in the Midwest that are disappearing from our landscape, though not from our memories.

I am thinking about a new series of art projects to pursue during this holiday season that will continue this Recollections 54 theme. The Kerouac collages are a part of that picture, and the more I read from his works, the more the ideas percolate.

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Fort Worth Santa Fe Depot painting finally went home yesterday

Yesterday, I finally delivered the above painting to the gentleman who commissioned it back in April. I worked on it during the summer, and finished it just about the time school began in the fall. But I was just as busy traveling as the new owner was, and finally we managed to get together yesterday. He expressed great pride in the piece, and I felt it as well. It was an honor working on it. I now have limited edition prints available, measuring 24 x 17″ and priced at $100.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Leaving

November 12, 2018

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Hickory Hill Cabin, Beaver’s Bend Resort–a Comfortable 4-Day Respite

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. . . but now I’m a big seacaptain again, lookout–that is, faroff eyes in the gray morning . . . 

Jack Kerouac, Visions of Cody

Wrapped in a 36-degree gray rainy Monday morning, I’m fortunate to be in this warm, cozy cabin with my friends. Check out isn’t until 11:00, and we’re all agreed that when the cabin is paid for, and the weather outside is uncomfortable, we may as well postpone the 3 1/2 hour drive home till we are forced to leave. What I enjoy most about my friends is their love of quiet space and time with books and leisure. As I write this, we are scattered about the cabin with our thoughts and pleasant sentiments. I am enjoying Kerouac’s Visions of Cody, a book he worked on while creating On the Road, but Wow! what a different kind of book! On the Road has been described as a horizontal narrative of life on the road, with the narrator (Kerouac) recording his bemused observations of his hero Neal Cassady. Visions of Cody is described as a more vertical, metaphysical exploration of the same heroic character Neal Cassady. I am enjoying this second book much more, because of its stream-of-consciousness presentation, much of it reminding me of the writings of Joyce or Proust.

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Patio Fireplace

Yesterday, we decided we needed to burn up all the firewood that was delivered for our four-day stay at the cabin. There was still a considerable stack remaining. So, beginning around 11:00, we started the fire and it burned all day as we continued to add logs, finally leaving it for good around 5:00. Throughout the day, we enjoyed its warmth as the winds poked around the perimeter of the patio, and temperatures hovered around 31 degrees. The coffee seemed to taste better, the books tended to read with more intimacy, and when I finally felt ready to doze in my chair from all the reading, I decided instead to work on a second Jack Kerouac collage on the picnic table.

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Kerouac Collage at Patio Fireside

Since I was outdoors, I felt freer to spatter colored inks with a toothbrush and experiment with torn papers. That, along with sketching, made the experience enjoyable. On my second night in the cabin I worked on a different Kerouac collage. While reading Visions of Cody on this trip, I have felt the tug to experiment more with this medium.

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Kerouac Collage on the Second Night

I was notified on my smart phone that Amazon has delivered my package–a volume on Homeric Greek. I had purchased the grammar twenty years ago, and it somehow got away from me. So, I finally ordered a replacement. I always liked using this book when probing Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey. Homeric Greek doesn’t come easy for me, but thanks to my learning Koinē Greek, I can manage it with a little work. As we prepare to leave this wonderful retreat and transition into the holidays, I feel a sense of leaning forward into an epic adventure. I love Thanksgiving and Christmas, and already anticipate good things on the road ahead.

What is that feeling when you’re driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? – it’s the too-huge world vaulting us, and it’s good-bye. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.”

Jack Kerouac, On the Road

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to explore.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

 

Thoughts in the Winter Night

November 11, 2018

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The symmetry of form attainable in pure fiction cannot so readily be achieved in a narration essentially having less to do with fable than with fact. Truth uncompromisingly told will always have its ragged edges; hence the conclusion of such a narration is apt to be less finished than an architectural finial.

Herman Melville, Billy Budd

Oklahoma temperatures are dipping near the freezing point as I sit up and write this. My friends have retired to bed, and the cabin is still. The outdoor patio fireplace is providing more than enough warmth as the fire continues to burn brightly. While the hours extended into the cold night, I finished reading Billy Budd, and our conversation drifted to reasons why we all love to read when we can find the leisure (and all of us being retired are now very grateful for those more frequent moments that we can spend poring over the printed word).

In the heat of our conversation I tried to express something that I have probably tried to express at least once in the history of my blog entries. And I don’t feel that I successfully nailed what I was trying to say. Now that I am alone and still not yet sleepy, I thought I would power up the laptop and see if I could find a more accurate way to express what is on my mind.

Since the age of eighteen, while in college, I have been in quest of the Oracle. I have always sought a Word of guidance, some kind of navigational aid, a pole star if you will. In my college days, I was poring over the Bible daily, a practice that would land me eventually in the Protestant pastoral ministry. Believing that the Bible was the Word of God, divinely inspired, I approached it daily, prayerfully, seeking a divine Word to direct my path. I was very seldom disappointed. If I stayed with it long enough, patiently, some Word would come, and I would write fervently, seeking to clarify what it was I needed to do in my life.

About twelve years later, I left the ministry, but did not leave the conviction that a Word was always available for anyone who sought it. The only thing that changed was the medium; I came to believe that revelation was everywhere, in great literature, in philosophical treatises, in comic strips, in conversation, in walks through the woods, in modes of semi-sleep. I believe passionately that a Word is always available to anyone who seeks to hear and understand.

In my days of theological study, I was always captivated by the idea uttered by Swiss theologian Karl Barth. He argued that through the act of preaching, the Bible had the potential to become the Word of God. When I was a pastor, I worked in conservative circles, and my colleagues continually raged against those words, arguing that the Bible is the Word of God. I felt then that they were not really listening to what this theologian was saying. What I came to believe Barth was proclaiming is this: the words of the Bible become the Word when the listener genuinely connects with the message. There are so many interpretations  concerning how exactly this phenomenon occurs. The moving of God’s spirit on the listener, the openness of the listener, the spiritual preparation of the preacher, etc. The point that interested me was this: the event of words becoming a Word for the listener is an occasional one. A reader can read thousands of words and nothing significant happens. A listener can listen to an hour of preaching and nothing happens. Words fill the space, but no defining Word occurs.

In my senior years, my views on this have not changed. I am aware that I can read pages and pages of text with no significant encounter. I can write pages in my journal and find no significant truth flowing out of my pen. I can listen to hours of discourse on the television or on YouTube and not feel strangely moved. But it is accurate to say that seldom if ever does a complete day unfold without my being touched by a jolting Word that stops me in my tracks, holds my attention, and convinces me that I have been quickened by a higher truth. Revelation has occurred. Enlightenment has dawned. I consider this a gift; I cannot make it happen. I cannot create the encounter that I so richly seek. I can only trim my sails in an effort to catch the wind once it blows.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Quiet

November 10, 2018

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And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward, But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to our Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward. you.

Gospel of Matthew 6: 5-6

You think Gottlieb isn’t religious, Hinkley. Why, his just being in a lab is a prayer.

Sinclair Lewis, Arrowsmith

Beaver’s Bend State Park is overrun this weekend with a Folk Festival. Fortunately, we reserved a cabin months ago outside the park, so we’re surrounded with space and quiet. I’ve been reading almost daily from the Sermon on the Mount, and this morning was struck by the passage posted above. My conception of prayerfulness is not the one I held in my earlier church attendance days. Rather, I feel it is a state of mind that I know when I am alone reading or making art. When I read the statement above about hypocrisy and praying in public, I felt like I had been called out for my blogging preferences. I spend mornings in quiet devotion, reading books, making art, writing in a journal, and then post pictures of my morning, and now wonder if I am praying on street corners. I am just trying to let others in on my practices that mean a great deal to me. And I am trying to encourage anyone who is going through a low moment in life to consider retreating into solitude with good books, good thoughts and good views.

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It is 38 degrees outside and I continually bundle up to spend some moments at the easel–then dash back inside to coffee and  books and journal and warm conversations with friends.

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The painting isn’t turning out the way I intended. But as I’ve said before, I am absolutely thrilled to the core while painting, even if I don’t like the result. Making art takes me to another world and contributes to what I feel is a prayerful life. I enjoyed reading Sinclair Lewis’s Arrowsmith, especially when the young medical student held up Professor Gottlieb as an example of a pious man, though religiously unaffiliated. The professor’s activity in the lab seemed an act of religious devotion. This is how I feel when I engage in the arts.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Retreat

November 8, 2018

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Deep sigh . . . I have arrived.

I am not complaining about the level of industry I’ve sustained over the past months–truly, I love what I do, and am glad to be semi-retired so I have time to do it. But I have only so much physical energy, and know what it means to need a rest. And I need a rest. The Darrs, whom I love deeply, included me in their plans for this escape months ago, and the timing could not be better. I drove three-and-a-half hours today to get to this location, and it has been four years since my last stay here, but I believe it will be more than worth the wait.

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Four Years Ago

Tomorrow, I’ll find out if the fishing is still as good as it was then.  In that day, my fly rod got a workout as I fished a beautiful stretch of trout waters beneath a towering bluff. And today, while making the journey here,  I was ecstatic to see the fall colors peaking in this territory. In fact, I was so excited at the fall foliage that I dialed up Hobby Lobby on GPS and discovered there was one three miles ahead, just off the Interstate. I dashed in and scored a couple of full sheets of watercolor paper and a handful of stretchers. So I’m all set for plein air.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to explore.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

 

Morning Coffee Before the Escape

November 8, 2018

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Preparing more Collage Materials

. . . the might-have-been is but boggy ground to build on.

Herman Melville, Billy Budd

“The things we could have done together.”

Steve Jobs speaking to John Sculley near the close of the film Steve Jobs

Days have rolled by since my last post. I just finished a whirlwind of activity between my college classes, art gallery and art festivals. In addition, there was plenty of travel for business purposes. And I have had some meaningful visits and conversations with friends. The fall season is always busy for art. And, I experienced a profound loss as well during this space in time. Hence, the quotes above.

At the time of this writing, I am preparing to meet my last college class of the week, and then will leave for the wilderness for awhile. The vacation was planned long ago, and it includes my closest and steadiest friends over the past thirty years. In fact, they were the ones that made the cabin arrangements and invited me to join. I am glad the day has finally arrived. I need the rest. This could prove to be the fullness of time.

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My Favorite Trout Stream within Driving Distance

Years ago, on a chilly November morning, I pulled four 20-inch rainbow trout out of this stream. It was the best fishing I had known in years, and I haven’t returned, until today. I hope the re-visit will fill me with the same calm that I knew back then. Few things stir me more deeply than the sounds of a flowing trout stream beneath towering bluffs. Times like this call to memory a text I read long ago:

Then in the Arctic half-light of the canyon, all existence fades to a being with my soul and memories and the sounds of the Big Blackfoot River and a four-count rhythm and the hope that a fish will rise. 

Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world’s great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs.

I am haunted by waters.

Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It

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My Attempt to Paint that Scene

I have packed my supplies for watercolor as the fall colors are peaking at this location (hopefully I can do some plein air painting, though forecasts call for temperatures to dip into the thirties). I also have a number of collage ideas surging in my head, mostly of Jack Kerouac themes. Happily, I sold my recent Kerouac collage to genuine friends I have happily known for a number of years. And of course, a stack of books have been packed along as well, mostly Kerouac, Thoreau, Annie Dillard, and a few others. I intend to devote days to meaningful conversations with my close friends, reading, writing, painting, journaling and thinking. I don’t yet know if I will have Wi-fii access where I am. So, if I go quiet a few days, the readers will know I am off the grid, which is also good.

At this time, I also wish to offer my sincere “Congratulations” to the Historic Redlands Hotel for being awarded Best Renovation/Rehab/Restoration by the Texas Downtown Association! I still cannot believe I have been offered the most beautiful gallery space in this special building!  And now, I have been joined by the best roommates I could ever imagine: Smooth Rock 93.5 FM. I miss the “boys” already. “Kevin and Marc in the Morning” from 7-10:00 provides great company for me at my desk every weekday morning.

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 Redlands Hotel, Palestine, Texas

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Joined by the “Kevin and Marc in the Morning” Personalities

So, until next time . . . thanks for reading.

I make art, hoping to discover.

I journal, being mostly alone.

I blog to remind myself sometimes I am not alone.

 

 

 

 

Genny Wood Art Show & Sale

November 3, 2018

Morning Coffee with Dave and Walt Whitman

November 2, 2018
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In The Gallery at Redlands, Working on Whitman Collages & Greeting Cards

Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road, 
Healthy, free, the world before me, 
The long brown path before me leading wherever I choose. 
Henceforth I ask not good-fortune, I myself am good-fortune, 
Henceforth I whimper no more, postpone no more, need nothing, 
Done with indoor complaints, libraries, querulous criticisms, 
Strong and content I travel the open road. 
Walt Whitman, “Song of the Open Road”
Yesterday, after class, I set off for Palestine to work in my gallery and make preparations for the weekend Genny Wood Art Show & Sale. After the two-hour drive through the country, enjoying the bright sun and 60-degree weather, and filled with the ecstasies of Kerouac’s odyssey, I decided upon reaching Palestine to spend some time outdoors. I had spent too much time the past few weeks chasing deadlines. Finding a park bench beneath an enormous shade tree, I sat in the cool, took a cleansing breath, and opened my volume of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass.  Reading Kerouac’s On the Road yesterday prompted me to look up Whitman’s “Song of the Open Road” today. He published this poem the year after his Leaves of Grass took flight, and the adrenaline was apparently still surging through his creative consciousness. My heart floods with good sentiments every time I read verses such as this from Whitman’s hand.
After five years of reading rave reviews of his Leaves of Grass (some of which he published anonymously himself!), he felt the time had come to publish a second edition of this collection of poems. There was only one problem–he had reached ebb tide and his creative surge had faltered. Perhaps he was still too young (first edition came out when he was thirty-seven) to realize that creative output is cyclical. At any rate, he was feeling morose and second-guessing whether or not he had genuine talent or was just over-sold with that first edition.
While walking pensively one evening along the seashore, he composed a poem that reflected his sagging sentiments of the time: “As I Ebb’d with the Ocean of Life”–
O baffled, balk’d, bent to the very earth, 
Oppress’d with myself that I have dared to open my mouth, 
Aware now that amid all that blab whose echoes recoil upon me I have not once had the least idea who or what I am, 
But that before all my arrogant poems the real Me stands yet untouch’d, untold, altogether unreach’d, 
Withdrawn far, mocking me with mock-congratulatory signs and bows, 
With peals of distant ironical laughter at every word I have written, 
Pointing in silence to these songs, and then to the sand beneath.
Whitman’s second edition of Leaves of Grass contains a number of troubled verses replete with his second-guessing. As we all know, he got over it eventually. The surge returned, and the collection of twelve poems grew to over five hundred, as he remained prolific throughout his life.
This is why I read so much biography–I want to learn all I can from these creative heroes about the dynamics of creative eros, including those barren times when the winds of inspiration have stilled, and how they addressed the problem.  At this very moment I am tired, exhausted. But not depressed, not panicky. I am confident that quality time for creating will offer itself up to me again, and that I will be ready to answer the bell. But for now, the appointments are joined end-to-end, it is the high season for art festivals and shows, the semester at the university is entering its final stretch run, and there is much demanded from me. I thank God that I am (semi) retired, have my health, and at least don’t have to answer to a Monday-Friday, 40-hour a week job. Life is much better now, and at least I can find the time to sit beneath a shade tree, read, reflect, and think about where I am going next. I have never been happier, even when tired.
Today I am packing up the Gallery to take to the Genny Wood Art Show & Sale at the Bullard First United Methodist Church Family Life Center. Today I will enjoy seeing my artist friends again as we set up, and the show will run all day Saturday. Below are a pair of photos of my booth from last year. I am hoping to make a much better display this year. Among my offerings will be collages of my creative heroes, including Walt Whitman and Jack Kerouac.
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Last Year’s Display at the Genny Wood Art Show & Sale

Smooth Rock 93.5 FM is humming along in fine fashion as I write this. I cannot describe how much I enjoy my new “roommates” as they broadcast out of this gallery, looking out their “Window to the World.” The Redlands Hotel is decorating for Christmas and yesterday began bringing decorations into the gallery and studio. The “Kevin and Marc in the Morning” show broadcasts live from 7-10 a.m. Monday through Friday. You can stream it on your computer, and even get the app for your android or I-phone.

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“Kevin & Marc in the Morning”–Smooth Rock 93.5 FM

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

 

Morning Coffee with Dave & Jack Kerouac

November 1, 2018

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Kerouac Collage in Progress

I was surprised, as always, by how easy the act of leaving was, and how good it felt. The world was suddenly rich with possibility.

Jack Kerouac, On the Road

I did not anticipate this, but since my retirement in June 2017, I have spent more time on the road than home. Such a life was always a fantasy of mine, but I never expected it to become reality. And now that it is reality, I am surprised to find it even better than I had visualized it. What I call “windshield time” is a great clearing out for me, perhaps in ways that Buddhists speak of their experience during zazen. 

This weekend, I will be taking my art to the Genny Wood Art Show & Sale in Bullard, Texas (Saturday only). There are two links, one general and the second one is their Facebook page:

http://bullardmission.org/category/fundraising/genny-wood-fine-art-show/

https://www.facebook.com/gennywoodart/

My daily reading recently has taken me back to Jack Kerouac’s On the Road.  I really don’t know how many times I have read the book myself (at least twice), but I have had the audio books read to me countless times over the past ten-plus years. But now I am reading the original scroll for the first time, and after about fifty pages, I must say that the experience is much richer than I had imagined. Kerouac’s original manuscript was typed on a continuous roll of paper like one would obtain from a teletype office. I actually saw this scroll on display in recent years at an exhibit in the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas in Austin.

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Jack Kerouac’s On the Road–the Original Scroll

Reading the continuous text with no paragraphs indeed reads more like a stream of consciousness piece of literature. And I got the sense of the narrative unrolling much like the highway does in front of me when I am actually on the road. Whether I am reading (or rather, trying to read!) James Joyce’s Ulysses or Kerouac’s On the Road, I am thrilled at the sense of odyssey and adventure. After teaching my morning Logic class at Texas Wesleyan University, I’ll travel the two hours across the wide-open countryside to Palestine, Texas to gather my art work from The Gallery at Redlands to load into the Jeep for tomorrow’s set up in Bullard, Texas (an additional hour’s drive). I am fortunate that I get to stay as a guest tonight in the historic Redlands Hotel. In the morning, I’ll enjoy “Kevin and Marc in the Morning” as Smooth Rock 93.5 FM shares studio space in the gallery with me. After the broadcast, I will travel to Bullard to set up, and then Saturday spend the day at the art show. I’ll be grateful for that extra hour of sleep when the clocks change Sunday.

In the picture at the top of the blog, I have included a new collage of Kerouac that is still in progress. At the Genny Wood Show, I will be bringing out collages, a medium I have not displayed and sold for a number of years now. Yesterday, I picked up an extra print bin from Pro Panels in Irving, Texas that I will take out of the box tomorrow and set up with a host of collages of Kerouac, Whitman, Emerson, Proust, Tillich and many, many more. As I posted in yesterday’s blog, I am finding new life and inspiration as I make collages of the creative spirits who fuel my imagination on a daily basis.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.