The Shack

the shack masks blog 2018
I created this digital sketch for my book, “Arrows Axes and Scythes”. Although the skills displayed are crude, the picture helps to tell my story and conveys the mood of the day.

I’ve been working on and off on a memoir, “Arrows Axes and Scythes”.  It’s an odd book.  Because it is about my early childhood, many memories are vague, but impressions are not.  As a consequence, I created pictures, using “Paint” and “Gimp”, to help recreate the scenes I recall.  The narrative below explains what is happening in the picture.  My book, in yet again under revision. I hope to be publishing it…soon.

 

As I explained earlier in this book, my first years in school were not successful. Everyone believed I was slow. This assessment persisted into at least November of the third grade, when my teacher wrote a sympathetic note to my mother and lamented my poor performance. Between November and the end of the year something remarkable happened. I learned to read. By June, I had become one of the most advanced readers in the grade.

With this improvement in skills came an insatiable appetite for reading material. There was none at home, until we discovered the shack. This humble building, shown above, was concealed by thick overgrowth in the forest. When we investigated, we found that comic books covered the floor of the ramshackle shelter. We helped ourselves to these, though we did not know who might have proper rights to them.

The shack was my library.

Reading was one of the great gifts of my life. Socially I remained awkward, but peers and teachers showed new respect simply because I seemed to be talented. The conversion from being a dolt to being an excellent student taught me an important lesson. I was the same person before and after my transformation, but people around me changed. Previously, they had punished me for being dull, a circumstance over which I had no control. And then they rewarded me for being bright, a gift I’d done nothing to earn. The folly, the sheer cruelty, of their early behavior enlightened me. It taught me to place little value on the judgment of others. And it allowed me, for the rest of my life, to see worth in people whom others disregard.

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Art Literacy

art literacy excerpt2
Clementine Hunter

 

In November of 2016 I read about a symposium that addressed the challenge of educating immigrant children.  The symposium was held at the Roosevelt School District, in Roosevelt, New York.  Not long after this symposium was held, I read that research indicates children from disadvantaged backgrounds benefit from cultural enrichment.   These two bits of information were connected in my mind and from that connection grew the idea for Art Literacy

Art Literacy is a showcase for artistic expression, and an invitation to create art.  The picture at the top of the page, of Clementine Hunter, and the excerpt below this paragraph, are typical of material students will find in the book.   A total of forty-three feature images are presented.  At least one smaller image accompanies the feature image.   In the case of Clementine Hunter, there are two feature images and two companion images. 

A caption that describes Clementine Hunter’s personal history:

clementine Blurb

A smaller image that helps to introduce Clementine Hunter to students:

clothesline website
Clothesline, by Clementine Hunter.  The Picture is Credited to the Ethel Van Derlip Morrison Fund.

 

With every picture, there is an invitation to act.  Students are asked to write a response and to create a visual work of art.  They are reminded of art’s essential nature:  It is a genuine expression of an individual’s perspective and experience.   

The kinds of images featured in Art Literacy range from a Sami family (Lapland) posing in front of a traditional residence, to children playing along the seashore in Zanzibar.  Subjects covered include Stone Age cave art and NASA space missions.  

There are quotes from James Baldwin, and there is poetry from Rabindranath Tagore. 

The question is asked at the beginning of the book, What is art?  By the end of the book, students may be prepared to answer,  Art is a form of communication, a way for people to share their perceptions and insights.

A supplemental guide to Art Literacy has been created.  This consists of keyed sheets that offer background information on some of the covered topics.   The sheets can be copied and distributed to students who want them.

Collages introduce the five thematic sections: Animals in Art, Fantasy in Art, People in Art, Places in Art and Things in Art.  The collages are visual demonstrations of the book’s operating theme: Let imagination be the guide as experience and perception are explored.

A representative collage, from the section entitled Fantasy in Art, is shown below:

 

collage fantasy elsas pig2 website

Art Literacy is for sale on Amazon.  However, the long-term plan is to set up an apparatus through which the book and accompanying material can be distributed, at no cost, to students.  

 

art literacy front cover website

 

A. G. Moore    June, 2017

 

 

 

 

 

Maxwell Corydon Wheat, Jr.

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This thirty-page book will be sold at cost in the United States. 

 From the Introduction

I met Max when he already had achieved a certain notoriety. It was incongruous to me that the peaceful, soft-spoken man I beheld could be the cause of controversy. But it was exactly his peaceful nature that gave rise to offense.

Maxwell Corydon Wheat Jr. was Poet Laureate of Nassau Country, New York. This is the sort of honor that usually attracts little attention, outside the poetry community. But that’s not how things worked in Nassau County.

The County Legislature decided Max was not worthy to be Poet Laureate, because he had written a book about peace in a time of war.

Max’s nomination was rejected. This slight suggested that, not only did the bureaucrats know little about poetry, but they also had a poor understanding of poets.

The poetry community dismissed the dismissal. They crowned their laureate, who had earned his title through acclaim and accomplishment. Hence, Max, a quiet, slight figure with a steady gaze, became the center of controversy.

Max was my teacher. He led a group of Taproot writers. That’s what he called all of us, no matter our skill level: everyone was a poet and everyone was a writer. Over time, this proved true, to varying degrees, for those who persevered under his leadership.

Each voice in the group was given a moment in the spotlight, and each was respected. The only exceptions to this rule were when voices were raised in hatred or anger. Neither of these sentiments survived long in a group led by a man of peace.

Max held his sessions in the fall and spring. When time came to sign up for a session, I’d go down the first day I was allowed. His class was so popular that it might be oversubscribed and I’d be shut out. However, there was little danger of that. Though the door might be officially closed to late entrants, I can’t recall a time when Max turned someone away.

There was, for example, the day a distracted woman wandered into our room. None of us knew her. She was looking for another event and accidentally stumbled upon our class.

A chair was empty, so she sat down. She even joined in the discussion, as I recall. Max didn’t suggest that she was unwelcome, or in the wrong place. When she left, he didn’t chuckle derisively, as some might have been tempted to do. We took our lead from his behavior, as we always did.

That episode captured Max’s strength, and his character. He filled the room with grace, the grace of kindness and generosity. And he had the strength to enforce this environment, by example, and by instruction, when necessary.

I learned to write under Max’s tutelage. Before I entered his class, there was so much I didn’t know. He never let on, as I floundered in those early days. My confidence grew and his lessons took root. It is rare that I write a piece now, and Max’s hand is not on it.

There was a time when I had little patience for poetry. It seemed a self-indulgent art with little objective value. I still don’t write poetry, despite Max’s best efforts, but my ears, my eyes and my heart are open to it.

For the last few years I’ve been writing nonstop–books, blogs, reviews. There is a sense of time running out, but there’s more than that. Max helped me to find my voice and to develop the belief that I can do it, that my effort is valid.

Thank you, Max, for everything. You were an artist, a peacemaker and a teacher. You are missed.