Yes, there were micro-bikinis and oiled muscles, but there was also a panel of humanities professors noting how the human form has infused visual art through the ages. Works considered included Bernini's Apollo and Daphne (right), Michelangelo's David, and what is arguably the most famous weathervane in the country: Augustus Saint-Gaudens' Diana.
I wrote about the fete for a local newspaper, and even though the story's been filed, published, and likely forgotten, my brain is still chewing on a sliver from it: the idea that artists gravitate towards the efforts of others. They especially like to spy on what their creative brethren are doing.
This might explain why musicians write poems and poets play Fenders, why Eudora Welty wrote stories about the South and photographed it as well.
Midway on our life's journey, I found myself
In dark woods, the right road lost. To tell
about those woods is hard, so tangled and rough...
Do his lively pastiches bleed into his poems, or is it the other way around? Does he have a cedar box where he keeps his cuttings, or are they stashed in a kitchen drawer alongside the scotch tape and the forgotten keys?
I wonder if Ashbery collects words the same way he gathers images, hoarding fairy and funhouse and asters for later, then piecing them together on the canvas of the page.
I got rid of the book of fairy tales,
pawned my old car, bought a ticket to the funhouse,
found myself back here at six o'clock,
pondering "possible side effects."
There was no harm in loving then,
no certain good either. But love was loving servants
or bosses. No straight road issuing from it.
Leaves around the door are penciled losses.
Twenty years to fix it.
Asters bloom one way or another.
*from "Meaningful Love," by John Ashbery
Now I've come across Michael Arthur, sitting in a plush seat at Lincoln Center and drawing Nina Ananiashvili in honor of her recent retirement with the American Ballet Theatre. The portrait is inscribed with the title of every ballet she danced with the company since her first appearance in 1993 as Odette-Odile in Swan Lake.
Arthur sketches strictly with pen and ink, from start to finish. In other words, his first draft is his only draft. As a compulsive reviser, I find his one-shot methods fearsome and inspiring. (Check out Michael Arthur's story here and his blog here).
When he's not documenting dance and theater troupes, or the coffee-house corners of Joe's Pub, where he is the official in-house artist, Arthur tours with Balthrop, Alabama, an indie-folk-rock-pop collective. His bandmates play lovely songs about joy and sorrow, and Arthur draws them while they do it.
I find myself with this: bronze, marble, and terza rima. Mississippi fiction and a Rolleiflex camera. Meaningful love and cactus and parrots. Classical dance. Japanese brush pens. Follow it all up with a banjo, an accordian, a bearded lady and a highway.
I've always loved a circuitous and beautiful mess.
Here's Balthrop, Alabama, putting some of it together: