Tag Archives: Art

Guest Post: The Art of Art

A few days ago we posted “Thanksgiving Musings: We’re Grateful for that Still, Small Voice…,” in which we referred to a wonderful essay by writer and adventurer Willis Eschenbach. He generously gave us permission to reprint the essay in full on our blog. Here it is. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach

With Thanksgiving coming up, I thought I’d write about something other than science. A few weekends ago, I went by kayak across Tomales Bay from Marshall to Lairds Landing, where I lived for nine months or so when I was about twenty-five with a wonderful friend and his lady and their son. It had been fifteen years since I was last there, I’d gone for the wake not long after my friend died. I went on this trip with a long-time shipmate of mine, a gifted artist, builder, and blacksmith.

Now, there are lots of words for the gradations of friendship—friends, acquaintances, work-mates, BFFs, room-mates, colleagues, and the like. “Shipmate” means more than any of those to me. It means someone who I’ve been through some storms with at sea.

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Thanksgiving Musings: We’re Grateful for that Still, Small Voice…

By Johna Till Johnson
Photos by Vladimir Brezina

Backlit

This is the time of year to stop, take a pause, and think of all the things we’re grateful for. For most of us, that’s family, friends, a warm hearth when it’s cold outside…

And we’re grateful for those, very much so. Particularly our friends, who have held us close recently, and whose warmth and support have reminded us of the very best that human nature can offer.

We’re also grateful for something that’s a bit harder to articulate. It’s the common theme uniting art, poetry, adventure, and the love of nature. It’s that small voice that calls to you: “Pay attention! This thought, or image, or moment, or destination is important!”

Artists know this voice. They live by it. And scientists hear its call, too. As do adventurers. It’s the call that pulls you off the beaten path, onto a new path you didn’t expect to follow, away from all your carefully constructed, sensible plans: We were going to stop and camp here, but… what’s around that next bend? We need to make it to the next waypoint, but… look, there’s a double rainbow! Time to wrap up the experiment, but… what’s going on over here?

You could say it’s the call of the unexpected, or unusual, or unusually beautiful. You could call it, as Vlad sometimes does, an esthetic sense. Or you could just note that sometimes the world, in all its strangeness and beauty, sometimes just reaches out to tap you on the shoulder and say, “Hey! Slow down! There’s something here to appreciate!”

Whatever it is, we’re grateful for that voice, and for the ability to hear it.

We were recently reminded of it in an essay about an American artist, Clayton Lewis, who was also a woodworker and sculptor, and who, by all accounts, lived by this call. Writer and adventurer Willis Eschenbach, who knew him personally, encapsulates that worldview like this:

“Clayton was an artist, and a jeweler, and a boatbuilder, and a fisherman, and a crusty old bugger. He owned three boats, all of them with beautiful lines. I was going to buy a boat once, because it was cheap, even though it was ugly. ‘Don’t buy it,’ he warned, ‘owning an ugly boat is bad for a man’s spirit.’ ” —Willis Eschenbach, November 2014

Clayton Lewis

American artist Clayton Lewis (from Clayton Lewis’ website)

You can read more about Clayton Lewis, and see photos of his work, including the beautiful seaside studio he constructed, at his website. (One interesting note: He’s one of the very few artists whose bed is now in a museum!)

That voice often calls to Vlad in his photography. Here are a few examples—

(click on any photo to start slideshow)

At Play in the Land of the Giants

By Johna Till Johnson and Vladimir Brezina

It started like any other kayak trip.

The night before, we prepared. We made sure we had our paddling equipment (life jackets, spray skirts, tow ropes, pumps and sponges). Navigation gear (compasses, GPS, charts). And clothing: it’s definitely the season for drysuits now, with plenty of insulation underneath. And pogies–can’t forget the pogies! (Pogies are kayaking “mittens” that allow your bare hands to grip the paddle, but simultaneously sheath them in delightfully warm neoprene.) The Jetboil, so we’d be able to make hot coffee during the trip. And food, water, all the usual.

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Art At, On, and In the Water: The Marine Art of New York Harbor

By Vladimir Brezina

Now that New York City is once again embracing its waterways, all manner of the city’s activities are spilling over into the harbor—and that includes the city’s art. As I kayak around the harbor, I can’t help but notice the number of works of art that don’t stop at the water’s edge, but plunge right in…

Here are a few examples. In some cases, they use for their effect their location at the interface between land and water. In more extreme cases, they can only be appreciated, indeed can only have been created, from a boat on the water…

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Figment NYC 2011

By Vladimir Brezina and Johna Till Johnson

On Saturday 11 June, 2011, along with our friend Runar, we visited  Figment NYC 2011, a free-form art festival that takes place annually on Governors Island in New York City (and in several other US cities). The vibe is half Woodstock, half Burning Man, with a dash of Magic Kingdom.

According to its organizers:  “FIGMENT is an explosion of creative energy. It’s a free, annual celebration of participatory art and culture where everything is possible. For one weekend each summer, it transforms Governors Island into a large-scale collaborative artwork – and then it’s gone.”

“Participatory art—what’s that?”, you ask. Read on: It can be anything—but most of  all, it’s fun! That was our biggest takeaway from Figment… it was a hell of a lot of fun, despite the cool rainy weather.

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