Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Smattering

New Jersey Wedding Fruit
Surry, Va's Bacon's Castle
Field of Back-lit Va. Cotton
Fim's First Ferry Foray
Corner of S. Brunswick and Main Streets, Richmond.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

So Long (not Goodbye), A Slow Song for Swifts

It happened, it was good-- great even.
I conceived and organized it as a way to say "so long" to Richmond's Chimney Swifts who will soon be leaving for their winter home in Peru.
Somewhere between 60-80 people came.
The cops didn't arrest us (no permission was secured).
Everyone faced the roosting birds.
I read an introduction to the evening, the birds, and my history with them.
Mark from Metro Sound on Broad Street provided power for the PA.
Mary Elfner from the Audubon Society talked about the ways of the swifts.
Jonathan Vassar and The Speckled Bird played music while they roosted.
The band didn't plug in.
You could hear them and the sweet chatters of the swifts.

It was all very beautiful.

All photos by Kim Wolfe.
Poster design, card and text by MKL.
Video by Andrew.

My Intro:

The idea of this- me here, you there, and them there was borne out of looking—looking out a north-facing window, in a room, in an apartment, worlds away from here. This north-facing window was the one I’d use to check the weather—the one I would lean out to talk to a friend passing by the candy store below, that I closed on foggy days because the exhaust from trucks wafts into second floor apartments in small Appalachian towns. The room that held this window was spacious and (no thanks to me) sparsely furnished. On the sill was a small, potted Crown of Thorns (also known as a Christ plant); next to the window was a radiator, next to the radiator a pair of hand-hewn candlesticks, and next to the candlesticks a cherry bookshelf. It was at that window that I would sit and read. I taught myself to play the accordion at that window; late at night I would stand there looking out on my little city before heading to bed.

It must be because I was a bartender and rarely home for sunset that it took me so long to notice the small birds swirling above the slender chimney across the street. I knew the building well—a former Chevrolet dealership smack in the city center—its gaggle of rooftops, skylights and chimneys intrigued me before I lived in the apartment. How could I have I missed the birds? I had even gained access to the shuttered structure to photograph it! The day I noticed must have been a Sunday. The bar was closed on Sundays and when finally I witnessed them swirling, swooping and then dropping into the stack dozens at a time I was thrilled.

Seeing this aerial performance across from where I lived led me to the library, to friends majoring in science and to the Internet. After my numerous conversations and trips to the library my view out that window was changed. No longer was I simply watching some birds fly around outside my window. Now I was looking through glass and seeing much further and much more than what had previously been there. The view became wider, deeper, in all ways more vast.

Before Jonathan Vassar and The Speckled Bird perform, Mary Elfner, a friend and an environmental scientist with the Audubon Society, will be talking to you about the characteristics of these birds that I learned were called Chimney Swifts. I’m going to leave the details of their migration, feeding, nesting and flying to a person I want to call an expert, but was encouraged to call an enthusiast.

I just want to say one more thing before I hand over the mic to Mary and the band. As much as it was the swooping, the flitting, the diving, and THE FLYING, that attracted me to these creatures, it wasn’t my envy for or desire to fly that fueled my interest. Instead it was the birds’ habit to come and go that has intrigued me. I’m not envious of their ease of travel. Instead, I find it fascinating that year after year, they continue to return to the same place. I don’t mean to anthropomorphize them, but I also can’t help but be a little jealous of the ease with which they gather and cohabitate.

Much has been made of the bird as a metaphor and I don’t have much to add to the subject—in fact it’s probably best if I publicly acknowledge that the author Douglas Coupland’s neologism “metaphasia – the inability to perceive metaphor” applies perfectly to me. With that said, I’m thrilled that Jonathan Vassar and The Speckled Bird have agreed to contribute to this experience and I trust that their sonic treatment of the subject will say more than I ever could with words. These swifts are urban birds and their roosting, regardless of how many people notice, is a social experience. Thank you for watching them with me.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Thursday, August 05, 2010

William Byrd Hotel Barbershop

I got a great haircut today at the William Byrd Hotel Barber Shop. I'm not sure what my hair actually looks like, and to be honest, I generally go to a salon or barber w/ no idea of what I want my hair to look like (other than this) so usually just say something vague and let them decide. Not to brag, but I'm blessed w/ a classically shaped cranium so most haircuts work just fine.

Back at the Wm. Byrd, a guy named John cut my hair. He looked to be in his mid to late 80's, small clip-on bow tie, white barber jacket, smart haircut (I told him that I liked his hair and that he should make mine look like his).

He was generous in his questions of my life, his pace was refreshing, and his handshake gracious. He came to Richmond in 1949 to go to barber school (he's from Westmoreland Cty, Va.), and has been at the Wm. Byrd since 1951. It's astonishing to think of all he's seen out the window of that barbershop.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Putting it Out There

I'm currently working towards a synthesis of imagery that bolsters my idea of an analogy between the vernacular images we live amongst, and the vernacular structures we live within.

Are photographs an invisible architecture, influencing the ways in which we move through the world?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

It's come as a bit of surprise to everyone, but just so you know:

Kim and I are getting married this Saturday, May 15 at 4:30, in a small field, in a small town, next to a small tree.

It's a bigger deal than the small details may let on.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

POSTHUMOUS - Opens at American Univ. Museum - Sat., May 8, 6-8pm

Michael Lease

May 8 - June 6, 2010
Opening: Saturday, May 8 6-8 pm

American University Museum at the Katzen Arts Center
4400 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20016

Hours: 11am-4pm Tuesday-Sunday

Image: Rachel (detail), 2005, color thermal print, pencil, Sharpie, wheat, water, 11x14 in.

From the curator:

Employing personal and collected snapshots, Michael Lease’s work encourages viewers to consider the cultural use of photographs. For the project Posthumous, first mounted in 2005, Lease uses his own images and recollections, turning a quasi-anthropological eye onto his own past.

Through the combination of snapshots and texts, Posthumous distills years’ worth of intimate moments between Lease, various friends, and lovers. Wheat-pasted directly to the gallery walls and coupled with hand-written vignettes, the intimate yet familiar images belie a mountain of experience beyond the frame. Simultaneously personal and universal, Posthumous asks viewers to reflect on their own pictures, weighing the similarities of these stories against their own.

Like the obituaries, public memorials, and remembrance walls that Lease credits as inspiration for the work, the gallery is used as a space in which a story about the past can be told. By inserting private images into a public space, Lease pays homage to the people that shaped him and reminds us that, no matter how we tuck them away (in boxes beneath the bed or buried on a hard drive), photographs play a pivotal role in structuring our histories

Allison Peck, Curator

Friday, March 05, 2010

The PDA Show

Roof Top Garden Club, Hotel Utah", 2010 by Anthony Ithuralde

Artist, hero, and friend Laura Sharp Wilson has spent the past 6 months putting together The PDA Show in her new home, Salt Lake City. She and husband Robert (former drummer in legendary Western Maryland band Sadhu), and their son Owen moved there (maybe?) a year ago from Olympia, Wa.

Spurned on by the news of a gay couple being arrested for a peck on the cheek while on the grounds of the Latter Day Saints temple in SLC, Laura placed a call out for artists to respond to the news, and to the idea of public displays of affection in general. 50 of us responded. The show opened last weekend.

Laura has done a great job communicating with all of us during the lead up to the show (she created a blog and posted all of the work submitted) and has sending us updates about how the work was received. Q Salt Lake, SLC's featured the show on the cover of their recent issue. Read the article.

For my part, I sent two images from a series that I'm calling Reading Blues.

Untitled (Richmond Reading Blues #1, 2), 2010

These are images from a collection of pictures clipped from newspaper obituaries. I have been clipping and saving for a number of years, and this is the first that I've enlarged and printed any of them. I collect all kinds of obituaries, but for The PDA Show I thought it would be interesting to focus on images of African American men. Enlarging the pictures emphasizes the newspaper's half-tone printing process, and like the reading, clipping, scanning that I do, there is a kind of unlikely communion that happens as a result of the isolation and enlargement of the image. I took Laura's question of PDA to be a question not of others but of myself.
I can't undervalue the opportunity that the daily perusal of the obits affords me. In their pages, I have the uncommon - and in Richmond, the unlikely - opportunity to look into the eyes of these men and wonder in which ways we are the same.

There's lots of great work in the show. Here's a favorite by LA's Paul Evans (I like those little flags in the corner):

Hope Springs Eternal (Gay is Good), 2010 by Paul Evans

Thanks Laura!