Archive for the ‘stories’ tag
We typically hear stories nowadays from movies, radio songs or television shows. Long gone are the days when stories were read aloud to us- now we have “Previously on Lost…” As children, stories were everywhere. We made up elaborate imaginary worlds with the help of our friends, or maybe even snuck in a daydream at our desks in class. It seemed that every little thing was a new story, inspired by a stray dog in the street or a cloud in the sky. And while T.V. plots are entertaining, and can be considered art in themselves, they sometimes do not feel real. We may find ourselves jealous of today’s children’s vivid imaginations, and their ability to take common images and turn them into stories that seem so real. Here in Fort Collins, artists are tuning into the connection between what we see and what we experience, creating ways to display stories all around us.
After attending the Center for Fine Art Photography’s exhibition titled “Documentary,” the concept of visual storytelling become better defined. A form of photojournalism, documentary style photography seeks to capture objective, truthful moments with little or no embellishments. The goal of the image is to create the sensation of being a fly on a wall, so that the viewer feels like they were actually present in the moment. On the Center for Fine Art Photography website, you can preview just a few photographs from the exhibit. One picture that reached out to me was a photograph of something so simple- a gun lying on a carpeted floor. You can see how the rug lay just off center in the room, such a typical human error, and the composition of the photo makes it feel like you are glancing down at the object, the only person in the room. All the images from this exhibit may not look like your own home, or even reflect your own experiences, yet they seem so natural that you are automatically transported to that place, and you are part of that experience. In essence, they tell a story that you inherently play a role in, much the same as a book or a movie.
Ed Kashi, a photojournalist, filmmaker and educator who judged the “Documentary” exhibition, notes that to their subjects photographers have “a tremendous sense of responsibility to tell the truth but also to also honor their stories.” It is clear that the artists displayed in this exhibit have fulfilled that obligation. “Documentary” is now closed (online exhibit still available), but look for other opportunities to see forms of visual storytelling at future exhibitions.
At home, in my own environment, I can see the objects scattered about my house, like my dog’s tattered lounge bed or my favorite DVD sitting on a shelf in my entertainment center. There are already so many memories associated with these things, and I have many more to create as I move forward in the future. Storytelling comes in the most commonplace images, as well as the most complex ones. If something can be said for storytelling, it should not neglect the stories that can be seen all around us. Whether a story starts as a visual adventure, or through spoken word, we can all find ways to see ourselves through the interpretation of art and experience.
Entrancing. Provocative. Celebratory. Poignant. Mythic. These are just some of the ways I have heard people in the community describe their engagement with the ideas and performances shared by the Imagination Fair and Laurie Anderson this past weekend. My family was downtown on Friday evening to capture the performances and music there on an early summer evening and witnessed the atmosphere created by That 1 Guy and others on the Oak Street Plaza. So caught up were we in the relaxed, fun filled atmosphere, we did not even make it to see what was happening at Opera Galleria! Others, however, journeyed on to be captivated by the Laser Harps and the works of local artists presented in CoCOA’s annual member exhibition at the Poudre River Arts Center as they voted on the People’s Choice Awards and celebrated our own local art community at the First Friday Gallery Walk.
Then on Saturday, a close to full house at the Lincoln Center witnessed the extraordinary talent of Laurie Anderson as she mixed music, metaphor, social commentary, light, life and air to fill that space with imagination, laughter and reflection. With stories ranging across the continent and beyond, Anderson enthralled the audience with accounts of small Amish boys learning to kiss without affection, hitch-hiking to the North Pole, staying in bed all day and teaching adult students at night school, narrowly escaping a hatchet and more successfully escaping the burn ward as a child, not to mention the precise performances of working at McDonald’s. She, the “ugly one with the jewels”, also spoke on indigenous people’s encounters with that strange tribe that calls themselves ‘anthropologists’, all the time reminding the audience of the ways we learn to be with each other and the multiple and diverse motivations for our actions, be they money, salvation, education and of course, self-preservation and identity.
Outlining “the stories of stories”, Anderson asked the audience “what are days for?” and to reflect on what some have described as the end of ‘American Empire’, when the people realized, like her little dog, that “attacks could come from above as well.” It was an evening of remembering (re-membering, or the ways in which we bring people from the back of our mind to the forefront of same) and forgetting, not to mention reflecting on what we choose to remember and forget in our stories. As I watched her skip lithely on stage to acknowledge her standing ovation for the third time, I dreamed that I might find myself at her age, capable of such wit, energy, art and love of life. It was an evening that will stay with me for a long time.
Tomorrow, the Science Café presents Dr Arlyn Andrews of the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Laboratories) in Boulder. Dr Andrews’ presentation is entitled “Carbon Detectives” and discusses her colleagues’ efforts to monitor and understand the global carbon cycle and the importance of taking quick action to reduce carbon dioxide pollution. The event is free and starts at 5:30pm at the Stonehouse Grille - we hope to see you there!
Don’t forget to leave us a comment on your experiences of these events – it would be great to hear from you!
“I was sitting in a taxi, wondering if I had overdressed for the evening, when I looked out the window and saw Mom rooting through a Dumpster.”
Confronting your past, and bravely telling your story (no matter how different you may feel) can help you realize that nobody is actually normal! That’s what Jeannette Walls talked about on Monday night at the Lincoln Center in Fort Collins. Ms. Walls discussed her memoir The Glass Castle, and her nomadic childhood with eccentric parents who often seemed to make abnormal choices about raising their family. Her book describes the sometimes bizarre episodes in her life, but Walls was here to celebrate her survival. She’s not afraid to tell the truth about her life now, although for years she lived in fear that her friends and colleagues would reject her if they learned the details of same life. She spent many years feeling ashamed that her family was not like other families, but now believes that even when people seem to have “perfect lives,” that probably isn’t true. Her advice is that if we set aside the stereotypes that blind us to seeing people as individuals, we will see a world full of people all doing the same thing—doing their magnificent best to survive their circumstances.
Ms. Walls is compelled to read reviews of her book at Amazon.com, since they add to her process of self-discovery through writing and promoting her book. I looked up one entry that she talked about. The comment was made by beckybramer who knew Walls and her family while growing up in West Virginia, and she writes, “As I read, I was filled with sorrow and shame because I was one of those people who didn’t want to have close association with them because they were so different from me. I try to assuage my guilt by telling myself I saw things from a child’s maturity level. I wish I could apologize and find myself wondering what would have happened if I had befriended Jeanette. She could have enriched my li[f]e tremendously.”
This exchange makes me think about how important it is to build personal connections in our own community. To be successful, we have to include as many people as possible in defining who we think we are as a group. Who are we excluding because we believe they are too different to care about? Ms. Walls was not always an eloquent, humorous, and successful journalist, gossip columnist, and writer. She has learned from both sides of the issue, that people who think they are better than others, miss the mark. She successfully argues that one of the most basic things people have in common, is that we all have a story—and most stories have parts we might wish to leave out. Ms. Walls is convinced that if we bother to see the complexities in individual experience, and face the truths of our lives, we raise the odds of experiencing the true joy of living together. In case you’re wondering, after reading the Amazon post, Walls contacted beckybramer–not to accept an apology or express her pain, but to connect with her as a person and share their stories!
Many people in the audience at Lincoln Center, attended the Jeannette Walls event with other members of their book club. So here’s a shout out to all the book clubs that meet in the Fort Collins area—it was great fun to see so many readers out in the open! Whether or not you belong to a book club, you have opportunities to read with others in our community. On November 7-8, T. C. Boyle will be in our town to discuss his novel, Tortilla Curtain. Get your copy soon, so that you can join in this community-wide book club! Since 2002, Fort Collins Reads has encouraged multigenerational residents to read and meet each other. Each year, books are selected to engage both adults and teens, and this year’s readings add to our community discussion on immigration.
So here’s to being together! Remember, the more stories you give away, the more stories you’ll have!
“Things usually work out in the end.”
“What if they don’t?”
“That just means you haven’t come to the end yet.”
— Jeannette Walls (The Glass Castle: A Memoir)
Thanks to B a m s h a d for the great reflection photo.