By Chris Weygandt Alba
The ART in your HEART
The friendly thing about Art is that it isn’t picky about its clothes. It’ll wear sheet metal, silk, a used envelope – mud, grass, air – even a chunk of potato smeared with paint in the fist of a three-year-old.
Art wants to be made. It wants someone to hatch an idea, pick up a tool, and make it exist, just for the joy of it.
Over Memorial Day weekend, the Paso Robles Festival of the Arts commandeers the heart of downtown to celebrate the creative energy of Art. On Saturday, May 25, an exuberance of arts cascades in the park – music, fine art, fine crafts, performance art, and a riot of creative play for all ages.
Scientists suspect that creative play is good for the brain and emotional well-being. When we use our hands, ideas and skill to produce any beautiful thing, we experience the power of Art. It doesn’t discriminate between fine art and refrigerator art. A toddler discovering the blueness of blue enters the same shining universe as Albert Einstein, shaping the theory of relativity by imagining he could ride a wave of light.
“When I’m painting, I move into a different place,” says Elizabeth Tolley, a Central Coast artist, author, and teacher who will jury the festival’s “Wild and Precious” exhibition held in the The Studios on the Park.
“I move into the power of what I see and feel. I am living the most perfect moment. My goal, to capture the moment, translate it, to share that with others. Often I’ll make color and composition studies before I’m able to make a painting that expresses the connection I felt. It’s the process that I live for.”
“Painters get into zones just like athletes,” says William Hosner, an award-winning artist who’ll drive across the country to lead workshops during Paso’s Festival of the Arts.
He goes outdoors to paint almost every day of the year. In the icy northern Michigan winter, he straps on his snowshoes and trudges forth. “It’s brutal,” he says. “But when I’m out there, I’m not really conscious. It’s a meditative state – I just know in my heart this is why I was put on this planet.”
As he studies the landscape, Bill’s awareness shifts gears. A different operating system kicks in that allows him to see what he calls “the poetry that transports you.” That’s when a painting seems to paint itself.
“I can’t predict when that zone is going to happen,” Bill says. “So I show up. Wayne Gretzky may be the greatest philosopher of the 20th century because he said one sentence: You can’t score if you don’t shoot. So show up!”
When children get a regular diet of child-friendly arts, neuroscientists and behavioral researchers find measurable growth in how they think, engage with others, and feel about themselves. Creativity seems to foster more agile brains and stronger character, thanks to all that conceptualizing, problem-solving, self-discipline, and self-respect.
It feels good, too. Art repays the artist with sensations of well-being, often soul-stirring, long-lasting, and accompanied by deep gratitude. “In this crazy world,” Bill says, “I have this joy. I reverently accept one day at a time as a gift.”
When the feelings fade, along with the artist, power remains in the thing he made. “People feel it and know it,” Bill says, “and in its presence they become aware of this truth, and suddenly they know that they knew it.”
Elizabeth calls it “the element that can’t be described.”
It will speak to some people and not others, she says. “I hear it say, LOOK! I look, and it’s caught me, I’ve entered the painting, I’m experiencing what it was like to be there.”
Elizabeth is excited about the diversity in the “Wild and Precious” exhibition, as each artist responds to a question asked by a poet (The Summer Day” by Mary Oliver):
“What is it you plan to do / with your one wild and precious life?”
“Something magical happens,” Elizabeth says, “when you slow down and look closely at the world. You discovery variety, aesthetics, and a sense of wonder that make you want to keep going back, to discover more.”
Artists work to capture that magic, she says, in different mediums and styles, pouring heart, soul, and skill into their creation.
“Aren’t we lucky” she asks, “that people who love what they do, and do it well, are willing to share their wild and precious lives with us?”
“Everyone has a different definition of art,” says Don Dahl, who has love creating things with wood since he was a boy in his grandfather’s workshop. “So many people in this world have creativity, in ways not ordinarily thought of as art. You can be a Van Gogh with sheet metal, an artist who builds custom motorcycles.”
Don made his career as a tradesman, building precise structures designed by someone else. For pleasure, he builds wood furnishings of his own design. He thinks he’s not an artist, but he has all the symptoms of one – imagination, skill, focus, and an irresistible urge.
“I’ve wanted to make something since I was young,” Don says. “I like the feeling of creating – starting from scratch, thinking it through, taking my time with the grain of the wood so it has a continuous flow. It’s very satisfying. You forget your problems. You feel proud of yourself, proud of your work. Sometimes I wonder where the piece will be 100 years from now, and I feel like I’m leaving a legacy.”
Saturday, May 25, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., City Park
Plein Air Quick-Draw, 9-11 a.m.
Wild and Precious Exhibition,
Studios on the Park (1130 Pine St.)
Outdoor Fine Art Show and Sale,
55 artists under canopies
Youth Art Zone, hands-on art projects, stage performances every half-hour Sand Masters, make castles in the sand,
Public mural project,
60 ft. canvas
Interactive environmental activities
various park locations,
Festival Foods, from pulled pork to gelato
Tickets on sale for $1000 Fine Art
Ticket Draw, drawing at 2 p.m.
River Lounge on Pine, w/beer and wine,
11 – 5 p.m.
Dragon Knights Stilt Walkers
performances 1 – 4 p.m.
Plein Air Quick-Draw Auction, 1 p.m.
Free concert, blue grass and country,
River Lounge 2 – 4 p.m.
(Info: 238-9800, www.prcity.com/FOTA/ or email firstname.lastname@example.org)
What Will You Do With Your Wild and Precious Life?
This poem, by Mary Oliver, inspired the theme of this year’s Festival of the Arts.
The Summer Day
By Mary Oliver
Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean –
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down –
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?
Reprinted by permission of Beacon Press from new and Selected Poems. Copyright 1992 by Mary Oliver.