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Thursday, July 28, 2011



Spent much of the day at the Willis farm "next door" (half a mile), everybody in the band hanging outside in perfect weather, practicing a new tune they were working on in varieties of gatherings. Fiddler and banjo working on it. Fiddler and guitar working on it. Lyle, who played banjo before fiddle, put in a lot of time with Dusty and the banjo, them jamming, getting the notes right, then getting the rhythm going, finally playing the tune with their full-force drive that makes them so good a band to my ear. I can't say for somebody else's ear, because I don't know. But I can tell you I heard them practicing, not often completing a whole tune, about 6 hours of hearing the different instruments working out note progressions, smoothing them when they're rough. John was working on some fiddle. Ashley worked on her accordion. What they were doing all day today is what makes them musicians and me not. I can't do the same thing over and over without end. It's why I don't practice when I've tried to learn a banjo, because I can't stand to do the same thing again and again, perfecting one note.

This is why I paint and don't make music. Every painting I work on, I'm doing it the first time. I tend to be a kind of tedious painter, work a thing to death. A justification is that I want the image to be what I see in the mind's eye, what I visualize in the initial inspiration for the image. Most often, the visualization I'm working toward changes along the way, seeing possibilities that work a little better than I was able to see before. I can see in musicians that doing something a hundred times to get it right is enjoyable, something new every time. Once I asked a friend who watched every baseball, basketball and football game on television, how can he watch these games all the time. He said, The same way you can listen to that music you listen to. And I got it, immediately. I also saw the games in a new light. No two games are alike. Each one is itself and itself alone. It's like watching flames in a fireplace. I'm also not able to practice the same thing repeatedly, because I've not felt the experience of making music, something that once it takes hold of you, you don't want to let go. Do it again.

After a year and a half of photographing musicians at Woodlawn on Friday nights, and at some other occasions, like Big Country Bluegrass in concert, I've developed a feel for framing a shot of a musician that shows both hands as clearly as possible, and the face. My pictures are based in hands and faces. I do it thinking musicians who see the picture can read the chord and see what they're doing. It is the hands and the head that make the music. When music really gets going the head has to get out of the picture and let the hands have it. But to get to that place where you can play without mind is a good bit of work for the head. Lyle, fiddler with Buffalo Death Rattle, appears to me to have the ability to leave mind at will and flow seamlessly with the music. When I'm painting musicians, the hands, the fingers I feel like need the same life energy as the face. It is the hands making the music. The face identifies whose hands they are. It's equally important to me to paint hands with the same attention I paint a face.

The camera stayed near at hand throughout the day with the band. Ashley, John and I were sitting on the grass, talking some, them talking mostly about the new tune they're working on. She was finding the new tune with the accordion and he kept rhythm for her. The sun was dropping from behind the pine branches overhead just before it fell behind the ridge across the meadow. It was hitting me in the eyes, and I was sitting there ok with it, knowing it wouldn't last long. Then I saw Ashley with that blaring back light. I picked up the camera, found the shot and made two pictures, unable to decide which one I liked the best. I'll put the second one up there too. I like them both. I'd been sitting there looking at Ashley thinking of how she has changed before my eyes as I'm getting to know her a little bit after talking and hanging out together. I thought of Woody Allen. I've seen in some of his more artful films, Stardust Memories, in particular, he takes a woman who appears rather plain in appearance the word glamorous doesn't apply to. She becomes more beautiful through the course of the film as we know her better. By the end, she is ravishingly beautiful in a truly feminine way. He has a great eye for feminine beauty.

I was looking at Ashley remembering first meeting her yesterday, a little bit distant, not quick to open to somebody she doesn't know, so I didn't push myself on her like, Hey, I wanna know you. It wasn't like that. She's a woman who has lived in the world wide awake and she hasn't missed much. I figured she knew men well enough to keep distance between herself and that old white haired turd one of the guys in the band knew. Whatever, I studied her out of the corner of my eye, found her visually interesting with homemade clothes that looked like they came out of a rag bag and tattoos in the most sensitive places on the arms, three piercings in lower lip at the edge of the lip where it really hurts like hell. I felt like her messages in the tattoos and the piercings was that she can take it. She can stand toe to toe with pain. She's a fully independent woman. She is a feminist without carrying a card. She don't take no shit offa no body for no reason. She has a firm stance that a mugger would read as somebody he cannot easily knock off balance. She is who she is and she don't want to be anything other than that, just herself. She came from the mountains of western Maryland.

Yesterday, she seemed to me rather plain by appearance. Today, as we were sitting in the shade of the white pine, I was watching her play the accordion after we'd talked some, relaxed, comfortable, and she became beautiful before my eyes, just like in a Woody Allen movie. It got to where I sat in awe of her feminine beauty, post-Germaine Greer feminine, what I think of as a woman comfortable with herself as woman. A woman who doesn't need glamor aids. Get to know her a little bit and she transformed into someone who would make a good model for a painting of Goddess, tattoos et al. Too, her feminine energy is a good anchor for the band. When Ashley had reached her full beauty before my eyes, I saw the above image, picked up the camera and turned it on. By this time, they were comfortable with me taking pictures. I don't distract by moving around and being conspicuous. I just get what I see from where I sit. The above moment happened and I went click. Thought I'd get a backup in case it might be fuzzy. Click.


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