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Archive for the ‘art’ Category

Heaven Adores You – a heartfelt tribute in film to Elliott Smith

It was three years ago I discovered the Kickstarter campaign of a filmmaker named Nickolas Rossi. He had a vision of creating a documentary film about singer/songwriter Elliott Smith that would be less drama about his life and more music focused; what came to be known as a “love letter” to Elliott Smith. And as I followed the path of creation that became the film Heaven Adores You, it was evident every step of the way that this project was being done with the utmost love, respect and admiration for Elliott and his family and friends as well.

And finally the time arrived for me to be able to view this film that I had literally been counting the days to see. The screenings have been at various film festivals literally all over the globe, which is a testament to the worldwide appeal of Elliott Smith’s music. But last night was a very special screening I attended, the showing of the film in Portland, Oregon, a city that is widely held as Elliott’s hometown.

The theatre was packed, a sold out show, and the energy of breath-holding anticipation for Heaven Adores You in Portland was palpable. After a lovely set of Elliott Smith songs performed by the Portland Cello Project it was time to see the film that so many have waited to see.

What I watched for 104 minutes was a very well crafted tribute to Elliott showcasing his music not just from his days of fame but also treating the viewer to some rare songs from his adolescence where it becomes obvious that he had the seeds of musical talent and genius ready to sprout.

Heaven Adores You is also well seasoned with snippets of commentary and memories from Elliott’s dear ones that shared in his lifetime. I found myself in more moments of laughter than tears as I watched this film, not being awash in the usual drama and darkness that is often attached to the telling of Elliott Smith’s lifetime.

And then there is also the visually stunning cinematography that adds to the breath and depth of Elliott’s journey in the various places he lived and created and played his lovely music.

Heaven Adores You is the ultimate gift of tribute to this lovely troubadour who left us all too soon; it is a fitting homage of love to a man who was really just all about love himself.

http://heavenadoresyou.com/

heaven-adores-you_low-res_041714

 

Only in Portland

Keep Portland Weird! The bumper stickers with this quirky catchphrase in bright yellow letters can be seen all around town. Some of the locals find it trite, but for me it was a draw to this “weird” city, a place where the eccentric are encouraged to come out in full force. The origin of this slogan was actually a campaign started by a company to encourage shopping at local merchants around town, but it really defines the energy of this very interesting city.

Another aspect of Portland that makes it so unique is its almost overzealous love of dogs, rivaled only by some European cities. Instead of most major cities who would have to post a “dogs allowed” sign in the window of any business, Portland assumes that dogs are allowed everywhere! The only sign posted here is “only service dogs allowed”. And Portlanders are not shy about taking their dogs everywhere, often dressed in cute little doggie clothes, making them as eccentric as their owners. I have seen dogs in many restaurants, coffeehouses, all kinds of local businesses and even in the grocery store. But this morning as I was picking up a few things at the grocery store across the street, I encountered a surprising lack of Portland patience for our canine friends.

I was in the produce section, trying to size up the pomegranates and figure out what makes one pomegranate better than the other, when I heard the announcement from a less than happy employee – “Would the person who owns the dogs chained outside to the bike rack please go and take care of them – they will not stop barking! Thank you.” And this is something else that amazes me, is the honor system that is in place; allowing people to leave their dogs chained up outside an establishment while they take care of their business, never giving a worry or second thought that someone might come by and steal their precious pooch. Only in Portland…

And in another vein of quirkiness, I am proud to say that I live in the city that houses America’s Largest Hat Museum, simply named The Hat Museum. I had the good fortune to be able to take a tour through it with a women’s writing group one rainy Saturday afternoon. Reservations are required, and only groups of up to six people are allowed, so it is not like just any old museum that one might stroll through.

The museum is located in the Ladd-Reingold house, a vintage house through and through, built in 1910. Of course for many years it was a private residence, but now it is literally filled to the rafters with hats of all kinds. I was greeted at the door by Alyce, our tour guide, dressed in a wonderful outfit from the turn of the 20th century; a beautiful vintage dress circa early 1900’s, black lace gloves, black leather boots from that period, and of course an extremely flamboyant hat full of ribbons, feathers and flowers.

We started on the first floor, gazing in awe at the stunning collection of antique and vintage hats, some of which were adorned in very ostentatious ways. Then we moved on to a more modern day collection, learning all along how hats have really been a huge part of our histories and cultures. The second floor houses a massive collection of men’s hats, where we learned that because of the overwhelming desire for beaver hats in the day, the poor beaver was almost hunted to extinction. After that we moved on to the unusual collection of novelty hats, which included hats for every occasion and holiday, even one that was made to resemble a Thanksgiving dinner table – very quirky! We finished up with the collection of international hats, most of which have been sent to the Hat Museum from people all over the world.

So it is with great pride and joy that I shout out to all who will listen – Keep Portland Weird! And I love being able to relay stories to my non-Portland friends, beginning with the words, “Only in Portland”…

https://i2.wp.com/www.keepportlandweird.com/images/products/KPWLB.jpg

The other side of writing

Today I started my 24th journal, in four years time, and that works out to filling up a journal every two months – wow! I guess I have a lot to share with myself. The pages I fill contain so much – my thoughts and dreams, love and heartache, all that I am and all I am experiencing in this lifetime. In this way, journaling is a gift, a godsend, a way for my soul to spill out and for me to archive a permanent record of who I really am.

I often look back on all my lovely pages, inspired by how far I’ve come, or enlightened by words I’ve written but long since forgotten. My journals become a kind of self-help book written by me, for me – who better to help me through the ups and downs of life but my own unique soul? But I am also guided by words I find from others. I often write down inspirational quotes or phrases I find or hear, as well as decorating the pages with pictures or artwork that touch my heart. It is a joy to see and read the soul filled expressions of others.

My journals are a manner of creative expression as much as my other modes of writing are. Even though I fill the pages with haphazard writing – misspelled words, grammatical errors, run-on sentences – it is the free flowing expression of pure thought, not impeded by my logical side that stops me from saying what I long to say. There is much truth contained in those pages.

In the corner of the room, I see my lovely collection all lined up like soldiers at attention, but not wearing the same uniform; each one is unique on the outside as well as the inside. Some are covered with pretty pictures or artwork, and some I have decorated myself when the cost of a $10 journal was outside my budget. Those forays into art are some of my favorites – there is the one with the man in the moon picture I cut out and glued to the front of a $1 composition notebook, or the notebook I bought in the college bookstore one day and transformed into a journal by covering the front of it with inspirational quotes I love.

All of my precious journals contain the unique energy of me, a true self that I find cannot be fully revealed at times. Those are the times when the sanctity and security of my journal becomes a very dear confidant to me, allowing me to always be me.

My first journal, October 2008

One of my “homemade” journals

Remembering Elliott

Those souls who have left this earth for heaven, or whatever we believe is beyond are missed and remembered by those close to them. But there are those souls who leave us that were able to affect a great number of people by their time on earth, and Elliott Smith is one of them. He touched us with his music; words creatively brought together that often spoke of heartache, of sadness, of anger and even hope in the midst of despair, paired with achingly beautiful melodies that often betrayed the mood of the words. He was able to get us to listen to the sad reality of life that it is sometimes, in the guise of musical notes that danced with joy. In doing this he created a following of listeners who empathized with him and felt that Elliott understood the pain in their own lives.

During his many live shows, Elliott brought himself even closer to his followers, as they hung onto every word and every note he played in utter admiration and devotion; all eyes and ears completely focused on the lone man  playing his sweet and precious music. Elliott had a gracious way of making his audience feel so involved in every show, so appreciated; never putting himself up on a pedestal. Song requests were shouted out, or oftentimes Elliott would ask what the audience wanted to hear. He would tell little stories that fed the camaraderie he had with his fans, and they felt as if they knew him intimately.

Despite all the drama and despair that was his lifetime – dealing with depression, addictions, and a sadly violent death – Elliott Smith gave all he could to the career he chose as a musician. He crafted his music with a perfectionist’s touch, and toured extensively to bring that music to all who wanted to hear him play. He showed us the qualities he possessed of hard work, integrity, generosity, and compassion in the man that he was, not letting his struggles in life hold back the gift he gave to us of amazing music, created from his very soul.

Elliott Smith would have been 43 years old today, and he would still be blessing us with lovely songs. In this world he is lovingly remembered by the timeless legacy he left of music, but he will also be remembered as a sweet and gentle soul who just wanted everyone  to enjoy his gift of song.

Memorial plaque of Elliott Smith that hangs in Lincoln High School in Portland, OR

Artwork done of Elliott Smith that hangs in the Crystal Hotel in Portland, OR

Their Friend

 

Every venue he plays

Becomes an intimate setting

As if he sits

With the audience

In their living room

He greets them with a shy “hello”

Then sits in the chair

The small man and his guitar

Swallowed up by the stage

He nervously picks at the guitar

And a song starts to emerge

The crowd cheers

Then a hush ensues

He holds them in the rapture of melody

The song ends

They cheer once more

A quickly spoken “thanks”

Is shared with his followers

They talk to him

Asking him questions

He politely answers

Someone shouts “I love you!”

“I love you too” he replies

And this exchange of love

Is what endears him to them

To every face in the crowd he is

Their friend who sings

A sunny day at Saturday Market

The sun came out! And it stayed out, all day long! And you know what happens then? Portlanders come out of their homes, sans umbrellas, hats and hoodies to venture to the spectacle that is the Saturday Market. This is the March to December gathering down by the waterfront that consists of artists selling their unique creations, food vendors offering everything from soup to nuts, literally, and the best part as far as I’m concerned, the music that fills the streets – from some very inventive street musicians to those asked to play on the two stages in the market. My first stop in the market was the head shop(yes we have plenty of head shops here – in fact, Mary Jane’s House of Glass has two convenient locations, one on each side of the river)  that sells my favorite incense; only ten cents per cone with scents ranging from mango and cotton candy to sex on the beach and dragons breath – I’m still not sure how one knows what dragons breath smells like, but it smells pretty good to me. It was a busy day at the head shop, and I had to wait patiently to pay for my incense while the customer before me was getting their lovely glass bong wrapped. As I walked through the market, I could hear the music from the different street musicians playing all around me. A man was set up next to Skidmore Fountain, expertly playing a set of drums that were actually different sized buckets – and he had people dancing to the infectious beat. But the sound that really caught my ear was a group of young ragtag musicians not too far from the bucket man. They were quite a sight, all of them dressed in quirky clothing, and most of them sporting piercings and some very colorful tattoos. And the plethora of instruments they played was astounding – I saw a violin, a guitar, two banjos, a mandolin, a ukelele, someone played a saw, another played a washboard, there was a young man playing the spoons, and in the very back I saw someone actually playing a washtub bass. But the music that came out of this very large and unusual mix of instruments was really good, and it was fun and full of energy. The fervent applause after they played, and the pile of money in the open guitar case was testament to their talent. Then I wandered to one of the stages set up in the market, where I heard the funky sounds of an R & B band. I smiled to myself as I saw the lead singer; a young woman with a huge Afro, dressed in buckskin hiphuggers with beads on them, and a white bikini top of white fur. I felt transported back to the 70’s. And man, could that girl sing and dance! The song they were playing was “We Got the Funk”, and they sure did – the band played that funky music so well that people in the crowd were moving and swaying with the beat. There is nothing like listening to and watching live music; for me it is the mark of an absolutely perfect day, and nothing can compare.

Reluctant sharing

I went to a very moving play this afternoon called Red, and it really got me thinking about art in any form and how the creator feels about sharing their work. It is an account about the artist Mark Rothko, and how he struggled with his art during the creating of a commissioned piece for the Four Seasons restaurant in New York City. In one breath he would talk of how he longed for his art to be received and perceived regardless of the reaction, but then in the next breath he would express doubts about letting it be viewed at all; fears came forth that it would be criticized or not understood. It is something that I believe most artists struggle with, the doubts about how their precious work that has heart and soul poured into it will be received. I have felt that ambiguity; so anxious to share my words with a sense of bravado, but secretly hoping that they will be met with gentle thoughts. But even after receiving the familiar rejection letters that we all have to experience as writers, I still want to share my words, taking the chance and accepting all the varied reactions that they engender.

The Pretty Words

 

All my pretty words

Birthed into verse

Now what?

Some of my babies

Have left the nest

Flying off

Safely, I hope

I do worry

A bit

Will the outsiders

Handle them with care

Or judge them harshly

The words that still

Live at home

I encourage them to stay

For now

I see them

And I smile

My precious babies

All my pretty words

An art crawl of bridges

One of the things I love most about Portland is the Willamette River that runs through the city, and the bounty of beautiful bridges that span the river, reaching across like arms made of steel. There is a uniqueness to each bridge, which creates an art gallery of massive metal sculptures. They vary in color; ranging from the gun-metal black of the Steel Bridge, to the brick red of the Broadway Bridge, or the celery green of the Fremont Bridge. They vary in shape; the Fremont Bridge arches in a back-bend, the Broadway Bridge rolls in waves like the ocean, and the St. Johns Bridge pays tribute to her sisters the Brooklyn Bridge and Golden Gate Bridge. Each is lovely in its own way, and I try not to play favorites. But the Steel Bridge, with trains above and trains below, as well as a walkway that is far below the bridge traffic, is my bridge of choice when crossing the Willamette on foot. If you ever visit the lovely city of Portland, be sure to walk across the Steel Bridge from west to east, and take a walk along the Eastbank Esplanade. I promise you will not be disappointed as you gaze up and down the river, able to view the art crawl of bridges.

Steel Bridge

Steel Bridge

Broadway Bridge

Burnside Bridge

Hawthorne Bridge

Eastbank Esplanade

 

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