Interviewsand Articles

 

Editor's Introduction newsletter #42: Five Artists

by Richard Whittaker, Mar 16, 2018


 

 

Five artists, and each with stories like magic windows that bring very different worlds to life in the mind’s eye.
     Ann Weber speaks about a moment of vivid realization:  “I’m 65. I have 20 years left. What do I want to do with my last 20 years?” The moment led to a radical decision. She pulled up her roots of several decades in the Bay Area and headed for LA, ending up in San Pedro. How does she feel about her new home? Well, pretty good. She put it this way, “It’s the kind of place that makes a sculptor drop to her knees and her heart pound in her chest.” And she added, “The thing I love here is it’s so down to earth. Nobody gives a shit about movie stars or real estate moguls. I love that, because I’m from a town in the Midwest and we value straightforward, honest people. We just don’t cotton to pretension or big heads trying to get through the door.” Speaking of her new life, Weber says, “Now every day is like a holiday.”
     John Wehrle loved to draw as a school kid. He was good at it. During his college years, the Vietnam War was casting its pall over the country. Wehrle signed up and was serving stateside when his roommate told him the army was looking for people with artistic talent as volunteers for a potentially dangerous mission. Wehrle thought, “Sure, let’s do that!” and soon found himself head of the first Army combat art team that got sent to Vietnam in 1966. When he came back to civilian life, he stayed with art, going to graduate school at Pratt in NYC. After graduating he taught at the De Young Museum in SF and then CCAC in Oakland. But after three years there, he realized he wanted to do art more than teach it. A lucky break led him into the CETA program where he found himself designing and painting murals. And rest is history. Wehrle, the master muralist, reflects in this lovely conversation on his journey in art.
      I was talking with my friend Mary Stein one day when she asked if I’d be interested in an interview with novelist Ruth Ozeki. On a whim, she’d picked up Ozeki’s novel, A Tale for the Time Being and was moved—so much so, that when Ozeki was visiting the Bay Area Mary had reached out. Thanks to Stein’s deep experience with aikido and ikebana, they connected. So responding to Mary’s offer was easy: “Yes, I’d be delighted.” In addition to being a writer, Ozeki is also a filmmaker and an ordained Zen Buddhist priest. Here Ozeki talks about how a deep story unfolded at its own pace.
     Holy Beggars is Aryae Coopersmith’s loving memoir of his time with the charismatic rabbi Shlomo Carlbach. This is a story set in the Haight-Ashbury of the mid to late 1960s. For a few years in the midst of its incomparably generative chaos there was a place called “The House of Love and Prayer,” born Carlbach’s vision and Coopersmith’s inspired effort. Here’s a chapter from the book in which the singing rabbi—an orthodox Jew always willing to transgress the “letter of the law” in order to fulfill its spirit—is confronted by a stern figure of opposite alignment.
     Lea Redmond’s contribution, “Say Grace” could not be a better note to close on— or to stop and gather oneself for the day ahead. —Welcome to our 42nd issue.  
 

About the Author

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

 

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