It was "birthday week" and my wife and some friends decided to go over to the city for opening night at MOAD (Museum of the African Diaspora) for the new show "Choose Paint! Choose Abstraction!" These were not just "some friends they had introduced us many years ago... They were, our long time 'homies'', "carnales". We had seen each other through a lot. So they all rendezvoused at MOAD to descend into the world of African American abstract art.
MEANWHILE: As Valerie and friends toured MOAD--I was not up to all the walking and standing, so I invited some friends over for a boys night in.
Ric, Lucas and I pushed back from the table. What was left of the dinner of blackened cinnamon sword fish on a bed of couscous with a reduction of garlic, onions and bell peppers lay in tatters. The combination worked perfectly with collard greens, (I used jalepeno turkey sausage instead of fat back), which gave the "flat "mustard and collards a sweet lusty, smokey combo taste.
Last year we had ventured up to Eureka for another opening with one of the painters in the show our dear friend Leslie K Price, Valerie's art teacher at Humboldt State College. Lesile was a major philosophical influence in her first work of literary fiction "Tanner Blue"
|Leslie K. Price|
Leslie Kenneth Price Artists's statement:
"During her life, my mom would say: “Give me flowers now, while I’m alive. Don’t wait until I am dead.” I remember watching her in our apartment as she tended to her houseplants. When playing with my friends, in front of our apartment building, I remember noticing and being amazed by weeds pushing up through the cracks of the cement sidewalk and causing the sidewalk to crack more. Those early experiences, and my interest in Buddhist philosophy, have informed my ongoing dialogue with nature as a metaphor for life. Flowers, for example, are pregnant with religious, romantic, and social symbolism. Lilies signify purity for Christians while lotuses represent purity for Buddhists. Roses symbolize love.
"Because of my Dad’s influence, I grew up listening to a lot of Jazz music. Improvisation makes jazz unique and that quality takes on the appearance of abstraction in my paintings. I paint from some aspect of the natural world, and the uniqueness of the space, light, and color interacting with it. Nature is always changing—the same is true for our bodies as parts of nature. These changes happen too slowly to be perceived by the naked eye. We see the effects of change but not the change, itself. Nature seems permanent but it is not. The source material that I choose to paint from provides a structure for improvisation. I sample the colors, shapes, patterns, and light. My intention is to create a painting that is both dynamic and meditative simultaneously, which is similar to my experience of the source material.
It is wonderful to see black painters stretching again into abstraction, a process many years in the making. Comfortably filling the gaps like musicians inventing and reinventing their art. I first came to appreciate abstraction and the idea of intentionality through music. For example: I have loved John Coltrane from the moment I put on Love Supreme in my brother Richard's apartment in Berkeley 1964. I played it and played it digging through trying to get to the core. The chant "Love Supreme" was all I could hold onto. But I held fast. iwas able to grasp his music because his ballad base and because his blues roots shone through. But it wasn't until I played Meditations and Sun Ship in my own first apartment on the West Side of San Jose that I really became transformed. I started to hear the intentionality--the sheer newness in this music. Listening with new ears I heard the melodies and counterpoint--"the art or technique of setting, writing, or playing a melody or melodies in conjunction with another, according to fixed rules". I heard the theme played in quadruple time repeated over and over. Liberated from the melody the music broke apart into a thousand directions. I got it like Neo in the Matrix. Being introduced to his first taste of the simulations. The abstract becomes real on its own.terms.
Check out Meditations played by a big orchestra--think before you leap to Storyville at the turn of the century that cauldron of new awareness, from the classical instrumentalists to the gut bucket blues winding away in the late night ferment. OK now spin meditations as a composition :
While at San Jose State I started hanging out with some folks from Black Studies at San Jose State, Bo Ric, and Hakim friends to this day (more later). We traded our impressions of Black Classical Music--Ornette, Don Cherry, Eric Dolphy. These players sometimes seem engaged in an elaborate put on with jagged atonal riffs, that swing in an out of tempo. We embraced them and many others, jazz geniuses we were coming to know.
Leslie K Price is steeped in Black Classical Music (JAZZ) he brings the sensibility the sharp edges, the sketches of an idea, ragged rhythms the seen and the referenced... yet like Trane and his ballads, Price has his equivalent of After the Rain , a more straight forward blues based tune, a work that captures a moment in in time then sketches it into meaning. Leslie has been influenced in a similar way as Coltrane. Sometimes he uses the canvas to explain what was transpiring at the moment, sometimes the pictures shatter and shimmer.. There is a social consciousness for Coltrane this can be seen in ballads like "Alabama" ripped directly from the headlines. Alabama a soulful lament was created to commemorate the 16th St Baptist Church bombings in Birmingham. It is a melodic elegy that though concrete and sat the same time a celebration. This terrorist attack by the Ku Klux Klan which killed four young worshipers. Trane uses a moment to connect in very concrete terms to events though abstract the abstraction is accessible--the intention shines through. Like Trane Lesley is greatly influenced by his times. Though his work is abstract it carries with it a sometimes searing sometimes calmimg emotional content.
I am pleased to count him as one of my older brothers. Like my flesh and blood brothers he brings a lot to the party
Both Ric and Lucas are Viet Nam Veterans. After pulling themselves up by the GI bill, they both spent many years in the Public School sysems around the Bay.
As we sat over dinner trading stories about the war in the far east and the war at home we touched on the edges that tie us together. Our kids, our grand kids, our wives. In the main we have all been blessed with friends and family, much of it mediated over food and wine. Struggling to plan and planning to struggle. It is not through altruism but a to-the-bone, non abstract understanding of the challenges that our our families and extend families face that we told stories and played the dozens.From the barios of the South Bronx, the Lower East Side, Harlem, LA and on to Oaktown. It holds us together like a knot.
Ric worked with "Special Ed"and "Special Needs" Kids and their parents. He is still deeply involved with his Church. Lucas has worked through several institutions as as a child psychologist. He has street cred . Ric and Lucas and I go way back our friendship has been tested over and over again. We have had brilliant friends slip though our fingers. We have had many successes and some bitter sorrows and here we were men, just kicken it. Our roots run deep, more than forty years engaged together transforming our world, with the dream of bringing peace through justice and understanding. We may have been many things but in our lives in our hearts we are organizers and activists.
We swapped stories form back in the day when things weren't so comfy cozy to today and our acquired tastes for finer things we have worked for. We talked about the people we had worked along side. Sure we can drop some names now but it is all so true. We have seen some powerful men and women in our adopted home. Folks who are dedicated to making Positive Change in the life of our country.
Our conversation rambled on for hours. talking about everything from Civil Rights, food to the music that we love. And that is when we hit that funny -- music and the struggle riff... we all blanked on the name of a group that had been put together to record a gospel. album, there was an uncomfortable silence as we racked our brains.....
Cue uncomfortable senior (boomer) moment.....The next day I remembered and posted this to my Journal:
"When you see the first drops of rain on the side walk you say 'oh raindrops'… When you see a wet slick street you say 'Wow it's raining…' Thus the difference between senior moments and senior moment. "