Archive for July, 2012

Poet Targets Taboo Topic Tuesday Night

Sunday, July 15th, 2012

Matthew Dickman with Ed Skoog and his infant son

By Marcia E. Gawecki

“It’s called three poems and three suicides,” Matthew Dickman said matter-of-factly about the title of his upcoming poetry recital.

He’s a poet from Portland, and at the Idyllwild Arts Summer Program this week to teach an adult poetry class. On Tuesday night at 7 p.m., Matthew will read along with four other poets at the Krone Library on campus.

Matthew has firsthand experience with suicide, which is often considered a taboo subject in our culture. His older brother committed suicide, along with several of his friends who were artists.

“We often think of teens as the biggest group that commits suicide,” Matthew said. “But actually geriatric suicide is more common. When an 85-year-old grandmother quits eating, we accept that as ‘her time to go.'”

In past lectures on suicide, Matthew has asked members of the audience to stand if they have had a family member commit suicide. A few stand up. Then he asks those who had a spouse, lover or close friend commit suicide to stand. A larger group stands up. Then he asks those who have known someone from school or work who have committed suicide.

“By then, most of the audience are standing,” Matthew explained. “And those who are sitting fall into one of those groups, but are too shy to stand. Unfortunately, in our culture, it’s just a matter of time when you know of someone who has committed suicide.”

He said that his older brother was a great person, and had attempted suicide before, so it wasn’t a surprise. He recounted an experience with him in an Irish Pub in Portland:

“It got really crowded in the bar towards the end of the night and I bumped into a guy with my shoulder. It was an accident, but he grabbed me squarely on the shoulder,” Matthew recalled. “In the bar mirror, I could see the flash of a knife blade, so I tried to push him away. Within seconds, my older brother was there, shoving the guy up against the wall.”

Violence was more common than not in the working class Portland neighborhood where Matthew grew up.  His family home was a safe oasis for many kids, away from the neighborhood violence.

Matthew will teach a poetry class at Idyllwild Arts this week

At a young age, Matthew identified with a photo of the Beat Poets standing on a San Francisco street corner.

“There they were, Kerouac, Ginsberg and the rest, all standing there, not wanting to fight anyone or push drugs,” Matthew recalled. “They just wanted to change the world with their poetry.”

Later on, Matthew met Alan Ginsberg at a book signing in Portland.

“My brother handed me a bunch of Ginsberg’s books and told me to get them signed, and we’d meet up at the coffee house later,” Matthew said.

So he went, and when it came time for him to meet the Beat Poet, Matthew mentioned that his writer aunt had once worked with Ginsberg in a hospital.

“He ignored my comment, and instead asked me about my love life,” Matthew said.

He fumbled for an answer, Ginsberg signed the books and Matthew walked away.

“He was totally hitting on you, dude,” his friends said. “You should talk to him.”

When the crowd thinned out, Matthew ended up talking to Ginsberg, and invited him to join his twin brother and friends at a local coffee shop. Ginsberg was in his 70s at the time, and Matthew was 18.

“He was totally cool,” Matthew said of the experience.

They read poetry, practiced Buddhism and ate chocolates over the next few days. He said that he and Ginsberg had kept in touch by email and phone until he became sick.

“Then I never heard from him again,” Matthew said.

After his death, Matthew wrote a poem called, “I miss you, Alan Ginsberg.”

Matthew also wrote a poem about his older brother’s suicide in his first book of poetry, “All American Poem” (2008). With his twin brother, Michael, he wrote another book entitled, “50 American Plays” (2012), one for each state. In October, Matthew has another poetry book coming out entitled, “Mayaknovky’s Revolver.”

In his poetry class this week, Matthew prefers to put the suicide topic front and center so there’s no surprises. He said most of the adults who take his class come to heal from the experience.

“I don’t expect great writing,” he said. “Oftentimes, words escape you when your emotions are intense.”

But he hopes to help them turn their harrowing experience into art.

Matthew said that he met Ed Skoog, who is in charge of Poetry Workshop during the Summer Program, when he officiated at his brother’s wedding.

“Not only can Ed write poetry, but he plays a mean banjo,” Matthew laughed.

Besides teaching poetry, Matthew edits a national poetry journal, and freelances for advertising agencies. Only just recently, he said, he’s been able to support himself through his writing.

He started writing poetry when he was a sophomore in high school to impress a senior who was interested in poetry.

“She liked one of my poems, and we got to make out,” Matthew recalled. “After that, I just kept writing.”

Since then, Matthew has won many awards, and garnered national attention for his lyrical poems.

On Tuesday, July 17, Matthew will read some of his works at 7 p.m. at the Krone Library on the Idyllwild Arts campus (located at the end of Tollgate Road in Idyllwild). Like all events at Idyllwild Arts, it is free and open to the public.

For more information, contact Idyllwild Arts at (951) 659-2171 or visit www.idyllwildarts.org.

Copyright 2012 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

NY City Principal Jock Soto’s Piece Performed Friday

Friday, July 13th, 2012

Jock Soto came to Idyllwild to choreograph a Native Arts dance

By Marcia E. Gawecki

To close off Native American Arts Week at Idyllwild Arts, two faculty dancers will perform a piece choreographed by Jock Soto, retired principal dancer for the New York City Ballet, during his visit to Idyllwild Arts a couple of months ago. The Pas de Deax will be performed at 7 p.m. at the IAF Theatre on campus.

When Jock Soto retired after 25 years as principal for the New York City Ballet in 2005, he wrote a book about his life and career for Random House. He said that he was fortunate that he was able to learn dances quickly so that people liked to work with him. He credits his mother, the first female hoop dancer, with giving him strength.

He still teaches ballet at the School of American Ballet (SAB) in New York where he learned how to dance professionally.

Tonight, Soto’s piece will be performed by his friend, Jonathan Sharp, and Ellen Rosa, from the Idyllwild Arts dance department. It features original music by Laura Ortman, a White Mountain Apache, who is a musician and composer from Brooklyn. The Cahuilla Birdsingers also will perform.

Over the years, Jock worked with many choreographers, including George Balanchine, who personally asked him to join the New York City Ballet.

Jock said that he enjoys choreographing dances, like the Pas de Deux that he will be performing with Laura tonight at 7 p.m. at the IAF Theatre on campus. Like all events at Idyllwild Arts, it is free and open to the public. For more information, visit www.idyllwildarts.org or call (951) 265-6755.

Copyright 2012 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

 

Op Art Ceramics at Quiet Creek Gallery Saturday

Saturday, July 7th, 2012

By Marcia E. Gawecki

Op Art Vessels

This afternoon, Saturday, July 7, Quiet Creek Living Room Gallery in Idyllwild will host one of the final receptions of award-winning porcelain ceramicist Leslie Thompson of Ojai.

After three decades of decorating her ceramics with designs influenced by Op Art and pattern weaving from Native American and Amish cultures, Leslie will ‘retire’ from painting and focus on fine pattern weaving.

“We are privileged to host one of Leslie’s final ceramics exhibitions, featuring recent and  finally carved masterpieces,” said Mike Ahern from the Quiet Creek Gallery. “They are truly heirloom pieces.”

The intricate patterns on these hand-crafted “vessels” resemble patterns found on Native American blankets or wall hangings. What Indians have created with a needle and thread, Leslie has managed with a brush and paint. Each pattern creates an optical illusion, making her pots look multi-dimensional.

Op art works are abstract, with many popular pieces made in only black and white. When you look at them, there is an impression of movement, vibrations, swelling, warping and even “hidden” images. Some of the designs in Leslie’s work can look like an aerial view of a staircase, or the texture of a pine cone, depending upon the viewer’s perspective.

According to various web sites, Op Art was derived from the constructivist practices of the German Bauhaus School which stressed the relationship between form and function. Some better-known artists associated with the Op Art style include Julian Stanczak, Victor Vasalery, John McHale and Arnold Schmidt.

Leslie paints optical illusions onto her pots

To her credit, Leslie has won awards from all over the world, including Europe. She has shown in 30 galleries, but now has limited them to a select few, including Wellfleet, Massachusettes; Sedona, Arizona; Sausalito, California and Idyllwild.

“Leslie’s pieces are one-of-a-kind, last-of-a-kind, and will be collectable over time,” Mike added.

Mike said that he first met Leslie three years ago when she was staying at the Quiet Creek Inn and taking a Navajo weaving class at the Idyllwild Arts Summer Program. Since then, Mike has been featuring her pottery at the Quiet Creek Living Room Gallery.

“Leslie has been doing this challenging work for several decades and feels that it is appropriate to retire this media of her art,” Mike explained. “It has indeed put demands on her hands, wrists, eyes over the years, and now she’s ready to focus on her other chosen medium–weaving.”

There will be a champagne reception for Leslie Thompson’s work on Saturday, July 7 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Quiet Creek Living Room Gallery, located at 54300 North Circle Drive in Idyllwild. The event is free and open to the public.

Copyright 2012 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.