Thursday, July 28, 2005

Before Babel

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The sky is a stimulus for creative thought and inquiry. It is a natural laboratory open to every student and teacher, regardless of age, location, or economic status. All of us are bottom dwellers in this laboratory- benthic creatures in this sea of air. The atmosphere begins at our feet, and engulfs us. It yields a legacy of history, religious [sic], literature, art, music, mystery, romance, feats of daring, political strife. It also yields a rich legacy for unified science, mathematics and technology education from the elementary level to the post graduate level. It is ageless. A child may use it. A professor of meteorology may use it. It is endlessly durable and in constant refurbishment. It will be there for next year’s children. In making the sky a window for education, we call into play for each student the first act of disciplined scientific inquiry: observation.
Adds fourth-grade teacher Laura Eliason:
The sky is like an orchestra. The orchestra just fills up the whole space. And to me, that's what watching the sky is. You appreciate the sights and the smells, and it fills up inside of you.
I needed no convincing; I usually walk around with my face tilted up. Up north I got my Big Sky fix in the open areas near the Alewife T-stop in Cambridge. Stand in Russell Field, look out across the baseball diamond toward a hulking subway station that marked the northwest end of the Red Line. Above that expanse I'd sometimes watch stupendous cloud banks uninterrupted by brick and steel.

I took a camera there once and shot picture after picture, then built my own cloud towers. I lived in Dorchester by then. Low tide at the bay had yielded up smooth, sea-worn glass, bottle-thick. A scavenging stroll the night before trash day gave me two pieces of beautiful, beveled plate glass that had once belonged to an entertainment center and now belonged to the curb.

I had one of the cloud photos enlarged and sandwiched it between the plate glass pieces. Then I used an X-Acto knife to cut my other photos to match the shapes of the glass found at Dorchester Bay. Gloss gel held everything together and dried transparent to let all the pictures show through.

Gloss gel is strong stuff; that thing was heavy. I had no idea what I was doing, just knew I was having fun, which by and large defines my whole foray into mixed-media art.

"Before Babel" was part of an exhibit at A Strong Cup of Coffee, for several years the social hub of my neighborhood. Strong Cup hosted art shows, poetry readings, concerts, and numerous community organization meetings; and sponsored civic events. The small, modest cafe came under new management right around the time of our move. For me it was an institution that its original owners, Daniel and Vince, nurtured into a paradise.

Thanks, guys.

"Before Babel" on display above the unoccupied lamplit table, along with other pieces of mine.
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Blogger Dale said...

That's wonderful.

(I also tend to walk about with my head tilted up, though our skyscapes in the maritime Northwest are more often pentimentos of gray and silver than anything tower-like.)

11:21 PM  
Blogger Brandon said...

one of my favorite cameras is a cheap, low quality digital. i think they give a different perspective on things.

2:34 AM  
Blogger Dave said...

Great piece. Though I'm afraid I've always been a ground-gazer, myself (must be why I'm more into wildflowers than birds). Let's hear it for cheap digital cameras!

12:19 PM  

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