Interviewsand Articles


From the Editor, issue #32: Living On Earth

by Richard Whittaker, Jan 12, 2017



Sara Tool, untitled [detail], 2000, ceramic and concrete

Searching for a few words that could resonate with the rich material gathered here, we finally came to “living on earth.” Such phrases float almost meaninglessly until they can be linked to something real, like the work of Daniel McCormick and Mary O’Brien.
     I met Daniel McCormick at an exhibit at Meredian Gallery in SF perhaps eight years ago. He talked about his work bringing streams in Northern California back to health. It’s a multidisciplinary effort. Besides drawing on knowledge from conservation and environmental science, ecology, wildlife biology and the like, McCormick and O’Brien involve local communities in working on the sites. As I listened to McCormick, I was impressed by the breadth of his knowledge and the richly interrelated nature of his work, all of which is crafted to be beautiful as well as functional. But each project extends far beyond the satisfaction of surface aesthetics. Much of those tend to disappear as the interventions take hold. As McCormick spoke, I found myself quite moved. The deeper joy for these artists comes from returning damaged environments to health.
     My discovery of suiseki was something of a fluke; I happened on an exhibit at the Oakland Museum. Like you probably, I’ve been bringing rocks home since I was a kid. So it was an astonishing surprise to learn there’s a practice and philosophy around just that. Wanting to get to the bottom of that led me to our interview with longtime suiseki practitioners, Masahiro Nakajima and Janet Roth—”Spirit Rock.”
     It’s an easy segue from there to environmental activist Mark Dubois, who is one of the more remarkable people I’ve met. We could have titled our interview with Mark “River Magic” except that, having given himself completely to river magic, a funny thing happened; that magic expanded. This conversation is a passionate wake-up call to those of us who are living on earth. (And for those of us who are not yet living on earth, Mark’s voice is an encouragment.) Stop. Listen. Look around. Isn’t it a miracle?
     Abe Burickson’s piece is only the second exhibit review we’ve published. It’s just not the direction we’ve taken. But I think you’ll appreciate this exception. As he writes, “Wonder. It’s something we long for, isn’t it? That’s why when I saw the ad for the Wonder exhibit at the Smithsonian’s Renwick Gallery in DC, I had to go. What kind of a curatorial tour de force could justify such a choice?” His question leads from a few remarks about the work on display to a deeper reflection on larger questions.
     One of the gifts I’m always receiving from being part of is meeting new noble friends, to borrow the Buddhist phrase. It’s an apt description. Partly thanks to my connection with SSp, I’ve been bringing material into the magazine that isn’t art per se. It all fits very well under the larger category the Art of Living. In this issue both Mark Dubois and Rajesh Shah speak of the threat facing us all.
     I met Shah on his recent visit to the Bay Area. We had some long conversations, and I read his reflections on the climate in Bangalore. The message is dismaying and encouraging in almost equal parts.
     And there’s more.
     About a year ago I got an online note in response to Meredith Sabini’s lovely article, “The Dumpster.” Cindy Legorreta wrote: “I never cease to be amazed by what dumpsters can hold, but more than the items themselves, everything—and I mean everything, has a story to tell.”
     I was intrigued and asked Cindy to send some of her own dumpster diver stories. Fortunately, she did, and reading them, all I could think was (to borrow one of Cindy’s phrases), “Heavens to Murgatroid! What a great addition!”
     On a visit to Robert Reiter’s Lightroom in Berkeley, I saw Christopher Soukup’s photos. “How do I get in touch with him?” I asked. They’re a perfect fit here and, like all good photos, what they say is best received by looking at them.
     And one day, checking fb, I noticed a little photo, “happy cappy.” It took me a few seconds to realize what I was looking at; in the cappuccino foam there was a drawing. I sent James Bonacci a note. Could I see a few more? And what was he up to? It’s how we got, “Coffee Story,” which puts a smile on my face.
     As Indigo Animal does. Each time.
     Welcome to issue #32. 

About the Author

Richard Whittaker is the founding editor of works & conversations and West Coast editor of Parabola magazine. 


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