May I Have This Naked Dance?

“I want to dance naked in public.” ~ Jerry Saltz, NY Magazine art critic, speaking at the Rockport Opera House Sunday night, on why we create art.

Yes. It’s why I write. Why I speak. Why I live. I want to be seen and heard and feel ALIVE. And I want you to experience aliveness, to push and pulse with what calls you forth. I resonated with Jerry as he shared his perspective on creating and viewing art. “Art is about experience. It isn’t something you understand. It’s like pleasure – one of the most important forms of knowledge.”

Ah, pleasure…imagine a world in which we allowed the pleasurable to teach and lead us…what a full-of-wonder way to know we are alive.

I watched as he paced the stage, speaking of zones of safety we keep ourselves in, not daring to explore what’s just beyond the light already cast. He called out a few well-known artists, even some who were in the audience, issuing an invitation to exult, to expand, to excavate. Stop repeating what’s worked up until now. But why do we care what a former truck driver has to say?

Meaningful was when Jerry invited his wife, make-or-break you NYTimes art critic Roberta Smith, on stage. During the Q&A, she addressed this very question on why we do care about any one person’s opinion, and riffed on the crucial role culture must provide in our modern world. That without it- without discourse and education on art – we are barren and lost. I need give no examples of this; they are everywhere.

Yet, there is fertility.

As he shared his story of his entry into the art world, which didn’t begin until his forties, we saw validation of the late-bloomer, the demons of insecurity that plague all of us, and a quirky and endearing humor of a humble man who’s been nominated three times for a Pulitzer. How he first mimicked the stance and opinions of others and eventually unfolded himself, and let his voice soar. We saw an authentic presenter, not some stiff lecturer telling us Truth, but simply what he believes, what his eyes see. He urged us onward, away from declaring I Believe in Truth, I Believe in Beauty: “Don’t take refuge there. Find the blood, the sex, the self…the pleasure!”

He was real. Unpredictable. I loved him.

Be born again through art, he seemed to say.

My life changed when I finally ‘got’ all those Madonna and Childs in Italy, and stopped seeing them as authoritative, and merely reflective of that era’s cultural environment. When the work of Alexander Calder and Brancusi inspired me – literally, breathed life into my body – revealing mysteries un-ponderable in paintings, it was like learning another language. When I started scribbling on scraps of paper, then crafted them into essays for others to read, I found context for my joy…and now I’m learning to stand with an audience and speak deep truths out loud. Naked, indeed.

Creating form thrills. Hearing your connecting-of-the-dots excites. Sharing impressions draws us closer.  We are enriched through creation – as producers, as consumers, and yes, even as critics. I care about what you have to say, in the vehicle only you have the key to.

I want to witness you in your moment of creation, to see you translate what’s in your mind and heart and offer it up to us all. I want to dance naked, with you, in public, and have the whole world join us.

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Need A Penny? Take A Penny. Got Life? Save A Life.

Tragedy hits.  What do you do?  Freeze or take action?

I tend to jump in, wanting to help.  More than most anything else, I thrive on feeling useful;  it gives meaning to my life.  A gimme-the-reins kind of person, I prioritize well, delegate easily, and know to apply direct pressure when the blood starts to spurt ( a scary story I’ll save for another time).  However, I’m not really trained in the finer points of crisis management;  in many life-threatening emergencies, apart from dialing 9-1-1, I am often helpless.

Once when my nephew was very small, he had something in his mouth and I feared he might be choking.  I was nearly paralyzed, except to run to my sister, whose pragmatic nature would surely take over.  He was fine, she was fine, it was me who panicked.  I just couldn’t think my way through the fear, because he is so beloved to me.  What I needed was a skill set to fall back on, a clear set of steps to follow so that I could accurately assess and manage a traumatic situation, and keep those pesky emotions at bay.  I needed emergency training.

A friend who lived in New York City on 9/11 metabolized that disaster in a similar manner.  She didn’t just want to be of general service, donating money or time, she targeted a specific goal and became EMS-trained.  No small response, it was an honorable and inspired action.  Her commitment to civic duty surfaced in my memory this past autumn when I saw a man dying in Central Park.  (Read about it here.)  Afterwards, I vowed to learn first aid and CPR, so being a mere bystander wouldn’t be an option anymore.  While my instincts to jump in are strong, I needed competency to be effective.

This discovery of duty, of harboring a strong sense of social responsiblity surprised me.  Duty had never surfaced before;  in fact, besides the military and medical fields, duty seems to rub up against the rugged individualism of the United States psyche.  Where does it otherwise reside in such modern democracy?   To each their own, problems and all, right?  Well, my evolution from dependent child to (sometimes too) independent adult has been bumpy, and I’m happily embracing a new relationship with my inner citizen.  So, this past weekend I followed through, turning my vow into action and became CPR/AED-certified, the first of many steps to lead a more politically engaged and community-minded life.  Oh, how many others have gone before.

Now, I can approach someone in distress and offer trained help.  I am capable of opening someone’s blocked airway, breathing for someone when they can’t, keeping a heart pumping and if necessary, even use a defibrillator.  When someone chokes, suffers a stroke or heart attack, or just needs comfort until the medical professionals arrive and do the real work, I am prepared.  I just hope it never comes to that.

 

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