You know me… I’m an old hermit artist living deep in the woods, content to enjoy life communing with the wildflowers, trees, squirrels, bunnies, birds, fish and frogs. My chief failing as a human being must be that I don’t have a very high regard for my own species. I like the rest of the animal kingdom much better than Homo sapiens. In fact, I’d have to admit that I am brutally critical of my own kind. I find humanity so disappointing that I have largely withdrawn from social structures to commune with Nature. People can be so mean, selfish, brutal and stupid, engaging fully in denial and projection to rationalize their narrow-minded, self-centered goals and activities. And now the human race seems determined to so thoroughly spoil the miraculous gift of this planetary environment that it will no longer support life. It gives me no pleasure to admit my biases against society. I know the fault is more within me than in everyone else. I have a very long way to go to achieve even a modicum of social tolerance, let alone a first step toward Unconditional Love, which I am convinced is essential to self-realization.
Above: “Leonard Says That Some Things in Life Are Serious, But Everything Is Funny!” 4 x 4 ft reverse painting on clear vinyl by Kevin, circa 1990
So, it was with no small degree of misgiving that I approached this past weekend’s public First Friday and ArtWalk events in our art gallery downtown, featuring a gathering Saturday from 1 to 5 pm, called “Connect the Dots – Extreme Weather and Climate Change,” which was happening all over the world. For months I had been puzzling over how to talk about this subject in polite society, because it is so damn terminal and tragic that people run away screaming whenever the topic is raised. Very slowly it dawned on me that the impending apocalypse is not without humor – or at least it must be approached, in part, with humor, or nobody will survive it. You will remember that abstract painting I did so many years ago, entitled “Leonard Says That Some Things in Life Are Serious, But Everything Is Funny!” You helped me analyze the raucously colorful, almost clownish painting, and we realized that there was a car crash, a child’s coffin, bureaucratic papers, and rigid dogmatism in the composition, but also a golden bridge crossing over into the Heart of the Universe. This is like that. I awoke Friday morning realizing that I would have to attend the next day’s event dressed as a clown and make a total fool of myself. I had transformed myself into the clown, Pretty Pretty Snowflake, several years ago to attend a Halloween party, and was surprised by the effect Snowflake had on the gathering. I realized that it was time to resurrect Pretty Pretty Snowflake and press him into service as “the climate change clown.” I was scared, but someone had to play the Fool at this funeral, and all signs pointed to me… obviously.
Yup… This is me as “Pretty Pretty Snowflake,” the climate change clown, standing in front of Robert’s paintings in our art gallery. Now… I’m fat… but I’m not THIS fat. Pretty Pretty Snowflake has expanded upon my natural amplitude with a strategically placed pillow in the front and in the back. One lady visiting our gallery kept saying “You have a BIG butt!” I thanked her profusely for the compliment and assured her that she did too.
For over a year now we have been inviting regional musicians, poets, dancers and performers into our art gallery every Third Friday for “Open Mic Music and Poetry Night.” A very high caliber of musicians and poets accepted our invitation and we have been getting to know them for a year. (It takes me a very long time to trust people.) At our “Connect the Dots – Extreme Weather and Climate Change” event on Saturday, all of these performers were so kind, accepting and tolerant of Pretty Pretty Snowflake, the annoying climate change clown. There was a wonderful half-hour dance workshop, and Zita, the leader, allowed me to muck things up for the first dance, perhaps to break the ice. Jerry, our fantastic emcee and organizer of the entire event, tolerated my heckling and even allowed me to play the slide whistle when his Streetbeets group performed. Their 85-year-old drummer, Paul, had the most touching response to my clowning. Every time he encountered me alone, he bowed and pranamed to me in an attitude of deep respect. On one such occasion he complimented me, “You are SO talented! You do so many things so well…” I cut him off with my clown voice, “And I’m PRETTY, too!” He bowed, pranamed, and walked away laughing. Other performers allowed me to dance and make irreverent comments as they attempted to underscore the urgency of the climate change emergency by entertaining the crowd in the gallery courtyard. I was increasingly moved by the message and the human tone of the event.
Above: Snowflake with folksinger/ guitarist Brian who opened the event.
Brian, a wonderful folk musician and guitarist, embraced me and could not stop laughing. Tim and Claudia and Susan laughed at me with wonder and appreciation in their eyes. Dave, a great flute-maker, guitarist and singer spent a long time talking to me after the event, even while I was transitioning slowly from Pretty Pretty Snowflake the annoying, but apparently lovable climate change clown, back to my normal grumpy, curmudgeonly personality as Kevin the misanthrope. While I was still speaking as a clown, I told him about how Robert and I had given a home to our new little doggy, Wardell, after someone threw him out of a car into a busy intersection. Dave had tears in his eyes as we talked about how doggies are actually “dog-people,” and how all animals have distinctly unique personalities when you get to know them. Dave showed me a photo of a huge painting his wife had made of her spirit guide, and it simply blew my red and white striped socks off! Gorgeous! He invited Robert and me to his talking group on his country property near us in a few weeks. We are going to go. He hosts sweat lodges and music events there and makes flutes, and studies the ways of the Native Americans.
Dave and Tim are such fine musicians and great guys. They closed the show.
In the days leading up to the “Connect the Dots” event, I had made some 30 “dot” paintings on cardboard and canvas, to decorate the trees and grounds. These dots were between 18” and 30” in diameter. They were flowers, ferns or leaves, and all of them sported slogans, like “The Earth is Our Mother… And She’s Having Hot Flashes!” or “Carbon Emissions Are Death Farts! Stop Carbon Farts!” or “Are We Out of Our Frackin’ Minds? Stop Fracking Now!” I had been planning to just stack them up afterward and save them for another event some day, but the afternoon had changed me. I installed the entire set of dots in our art gallery as a display in the two main rooms. I was ready to engage – both with the cause and with these very fine people that I’d been holding off at an arm’s length for a year. Something about our “Connect the Dots” event connected me to them finally. Their love, kindness, intelligence, talent and tolerance burned a hole right through my armor, and they got into my heart. I trust them. I told Robert on the drive back home to the woods that I feel like we have found a community. After living for a very long time without a tribe, we have found our people. He agreed.
Now, I don’t want you to worry… You will not see much of a change in me, if any. I’m not going to suddenly become a wild-eyed groupie or something. I am still the same grumpy old curmudgeonly hermit artist hiding in the woods. But now I know that there are some genuinely kind, reasonable, creative, intelligent souls living nearby, and that on some level we are a spiritual community of like-minded people. That’s a miracle… to me anyway. I never expected it. And there is another rather compelling development: There must be something to this “Connect the Dots” concept, because I feel a new sense of Hope. It’s not about connecting the dots of facts or information. It’s about connecting the people. Somehow, when a spiritual community of like-minded people achieves critical mass, mental miracles occur, and the result is a new feeling of Hope that we can make a difference. Today I am aware of a growing new belief that miracles can happen and we might be able to save the planet as a home for humanity and all life. I actually believe it might be possible. Anyway, we have to go for it – our house is on fire! What do we have to lose? Everybody grab a bucket and start dousing the flames! I was awake half of the night seeing paintings on the screen of my mind – big new rapid image paintings about Nature, Earth, and the Miracle of Spiritual Community. I have not been awakened by a show of new paintings going through my head for many months. This is very good. Miracles can happen. As your grandmother used to say, “See… God is good!”
Love, – Kevin