Form of Conversation

Tree of 40 Fruit

I love this picture and this description of Sam Van Aken’s Tree of 40 Fruit. According to CNN, the tree was created by grafting buds from various stone fruits onto the branches of a single tree in order for it to produce multiple types of fruit.

The Tree of 40 Fruit is an ongoing series of hybridized fruit trees by contemporary artist Sam Van Aken. Each unique Tree of 40 Fruit grows over forty different types of stone fruit including peaches, plums, apricots, nectarines, cherries, and almonds. Sculpted through the process of grafting, the Tree of 40 Fruit blossom in variegated tones of pink, crimson and white in spring, and in summer bear a multitude of fruit. Primarily composed of native and antique varieties the Tree of 40 Fruit are a form of conversation, preserving heirloom stone fruit varieties that are not commercially produced or available.

Learn more here and here about this ongoing series and this form of conversation.


“Illustrating the Possible”

“This is the thing about the art market. If a young kid isn’t invited to know what they have inside them, and how to unlock that, then what they have is just devices. And you pretty quickly run out of devices. I had a life before all this. The lights were off for me, I was out in the shed, but that was a really useful way into this world…I am invested in illustrating the possible.”

Theaster Gates talking about art and autobiography and “what happens when you stay”. Please read the rest here.

Things That Strengthen Us, pt 2 of 2

From Christian Wiman’s meditation, in My Bright Abyss (pg. 161):

Life tears us apart, but through those wounds, if we have tended them, love may enter us.  It may be the love of someone you have lost.  It may be the love of your own spirit for the self that at time you think you hate.  However it comes through, in all these—of all these and yet more than, so much more—there burns the abiding love of God.  But if you find that you cannot believe in God, then do not worry yourself with it.  No one can say what names or forms God might take, nor gauge the intensity of unbelief we may need to wake up our souls.  My love is still true, my children, still with you, still straining through your ambitions and your disappointments, your frenzies and forgetfulness, through all the glints and gulfs of implacable matter—to reach you, to help you, to heal you.

LaValle on People We Idealize

Victor LaValle in an interview with Books and Culture, answering a question about how a meeting with Norman Mailer, how meeting other people whose wrote work people loved, changed the reading of them:

Everyone is going to disappoint you if you get to know them well enough. I don’t mean that in a dismissive way, but to say that it’s important to think about why we ask so much of the people we idolize. Why must they pass the test of perfection? Or even just amiability? This is certainly the case with artists, but it applies to my priest and my postman, too. I don’t know how I would’ve reacted if I’d known Mailer stabbed his wife before me and my friend showed up at his house. Would it have stopped us? I doubt it. Mailer sure wasn’t a wilting violet, but I’d hate to disqualify artists simply because their personalities were remarkable. Caravaggio was a scumbag and a street fighter, Flannery O’Connor a racist, and, from her letters, a bit of a pill. I love the work both produced though, without reservation. The saints weren’t even saints.

Read the full interview here.  It’s good.

Things That Strengthen Us, pt 1 of 2

From Christman Wiman’s meditation, in My Bright Abyss, undoubtedly written first to the close loves of his life (pg. 161):

My loves, I will be with you, even if I am not with you.  Every day I feel a little more the impress of eternity, learn a little more “the discipline of suffering which leads to peace of the spirit,” as T. S. Eliot said, writing of the seventeenth-century poet and priest George Herbert (read him!), who died when he was thirty-nine and had only recently found true happiness with his new wife and new commitment to God.  My loves, I love you with all the volatility and expansiveness of spirit that you have taught me to feel, and I feel your futures opening out from you, and in those futures I know my own.  I will be with you.  I will comfort you in your despair and I will share in your joy.  They need not be only grief, only pain, these black holes in our lives.  If we can learn to live not merely with them but by means of them, if we can let them be part of the works of sacred art that we in fact are, then these apparent weaknesses can be the very things that strengthen us.

Writers Expanding the Spectrum of Acceptable Images

From one of the most insightful essays I’ve read recently.

While it remains a human truth that people live in terms of images, it is also true that where there are no good images there will always be bad ones.  And the images that, day after day, condition all of us are mostly drawn from the extreme, unmetaphorical range of the visual spectrum, evoking no recognition of moral complexity or depth.  We have come to accept the mundane image, and its lack of human vitality, as only what should be expected, and are sometimes even bothered by the passionate, the perfected, the aspiration toward the ideal.  The general culture has forged a kind of unconscious consensus with respect to the proper precincts in which beauty, and therefore truth and goodness, may be located.  Given this reality, it seems to me that there should arise a challenge to this status quo from within those communities of writers whose job it is to expand the spectrum of acceptable images steeped in moral and metaphysical meanings.  Opportunities for such expansions can come from the most unexpected of places.

From James A. McPherson’s “Workshopping Lucius Mummis,” (p. 306-307) in A Region Not Home

Why We Have So Much Art

I knew I’d lose people with the approach, but I was going to lose people anyway. That’s the nature of fiction: despite all our lofty claims of universality, no piece of art is for everyone—which is why we have so much art, so that everyone has a chance of finding something that moves them. I figured some people somewhere might connect with the tale even in second person.

Read more of Junot Diaz’s Q&A at the New Yorker by clicking here.

Looking To Move?

I saw this article in the printed January 2012 issue of Chicago Magazine.  It highlights Ed Marszewski, an artist and entrepreneur in Chicago’s Bridgeport neighborhood.  Ed is also a father.  He and his wife, Rachael, are raising a daughter, and he talks about his daughter being the motivation for the spread of business, community, and artistic activities he’s involved with.  I was glad to read it given Bridgeport’s history and its meaning, particularly for black folks in Chicago though that history isn’t the subject of the piece.  The article is also online here thankfully:

There’s a new mayor in Bridgeport, and his name is Ed Marszewski. Yes, the Daley legacy still hangs over this South Side stomping ground, an area known in the 1800s as Hardscrabble for its blue-collar residents and in later decades as the home of Richards J. and M. and the Sox. But Marszewski—owner of the contemporary art gallery Co-Prosperity Sphere; publisher of the art magazines Proximity and Matériel, the left-leaning Lumpen, and the newsletter Bridgeport International; coorganizer of the art fairs MDW and Version; and owner, with his mother and brother, of the bar Maria’s—has his own vision for the neighborhood. He calls it the Community of the Future. And he has blueprints for how to make it happen, beginning with a new brainstorming session Sundays at Maria’s—just don’t call it a salon. This is Bridgeport. It’s a bar night.

Though he’s worked off and on at the tap since his mom, Maria, took over the place in 1986, Marszewski, 43, an Evergreen Park native, first moved to Bridgeport in 1998. He’s had his finger in a bunch of pies since, but he has recently ratcheted up his involvement in economic and cultural development—beginning with the 2010 overhaul of the bar, from an old-timers’ dive to an all-welcoming craft beer destination, and lately with efforts to match budding entrepreneurs to empty storefronts.

Why the flurry? Marszewski has an ulterior motive: “All of this activity stems from the fact that I have a baby girl.” That would be Ruby Dean, not quite two, his daughter with his wife, Rachael, an artist Marszewski met when she moved in next door to the bar. “It’s very selfish. We want to increase business here because we want people to have jobs here. We want people to know this isn’t scary old Bridgeport,” he says, citing reduced gang presence, better infrastructure, and a more inclusive attitude from the local government. “I’ll work on any possible project to make this neighborhood awesome.”

To read the rest of the article, click here.