Paul Winter Talks About Philippe Petit

Philippe Petit walking towards The Cathedral of St John the Divine in NYC Photo: Fred Conrad

I interviewed the great world musician Paul Winter last week, and the conversation took a side turn to Paul talking about his collaborations with his friend, the high wire artist, Phillipe Petit. They are both artists in residence at the Cathedral of St John the Divine in NYC. I had to cut this part from the edited interview, but I thought readers of this blog might enjoy hearing Paul Winter’s thoughts about Petit.

What Is Art For?

As we begin a New Year, here is the editorial I printed in the latest Arts Express Magazine talking about how art may help in the coming year.

A year ago, we had hoped that the worst days of the COVID pandemic were on the wane, and that the Democrats would offer perhaps an eyedropperful more in the way of healthcare and economic help. But even with our low expectations, the new regime managed to disappoint still further, and we had yet another year of deaths and hardships.

In the midst of this, it’s worth asking what is the role of art, both the performing arts and the visual arts in all this? How can they help us in our circumstances?

As we see it, on the most rudimentary political level, art can teach us; it can tell us stories of resistance, struggles for equality and justice, rising up against oppressors, uncover unknown stories that might prompt us to action. Art can also provide us with courage and inspiration, as when we sing in unison with our comrades, or cheer a protagonist in a film. These are important aspects of art, but we want to advocate, too, for some of the less acknowledged qualities of art, equally important, as opposed to the more overtly political.

The very making of art means that an artist is a human who observes the world, interprets it, and responds to it. The artist is an active agent in making the world rather than just accepting it. The act of sharing is important too; the artist says: the world looks this way to me, how about you?—even if we’re just talking about a bowl of fruit.  We can only understand this life by checking with others what their experience is, and sharing our own.

Crucially, though, in art we use our imaginations to tell the stories of others. In that act of imagination, artists explore the experiences of others, try on new roles for themselves. Although we only present a tiny slice of what we are and can be in our “real lives,” we begin to understand that each one of us contain multitudes. The real freedom artists allow themselves in creation is a wake-up call to the rest of us that most of the time we are walking around half-blind: blind to the possibilities of the world around us and blind to the possibilities within ourselves as human beings. That realization alone brings hope–and battles despair–as we try to live our fullest lives. We wish you all a happy and healthy year full of possibilities.

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Rebel Hearts: Defiant Nuns of the Immaculate Heart

In the early nineteen sixties, a hidebound Catholic Church attempted to modernize with a movement known as Vatican 2. But some Church people, nuns and priests, wanted changes that were a bridge too far for Vatican 2. In Los Angeles, the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary went toe to toe with the church hierarchy, involving themselves in anti-war and social justice movements. I was happy to speak with Pedro Kos, the director of a new film documentary called Rebel Hearts about those women of the Immaculate Heart who insisted on staying true to their consciences.

Click on the triangle or mp3 link above to hear the interview with Pedro Kos as broadcast today on WBAI FM NYC and Pacifica stations across the nation.

To God And Truth

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From the museum description: “Bisa Butler used thousands of brightly colored textiles to create these figures taken from an 1899 photograph of the Morris Brown baseball team. Combining hand woven Kente cloth, Nigerian hand-dyed batiks, and African and Dutch wax-resist printed cottons, Butler portrays these athletes life size…”

Museum of Fine Arts

Boston, Mass.

World View

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It may be hard to tell without blowing up the photo, but the sphere by artist Virginia Jacobs, entitled “Krakow Kabuki Waltz” is covered with various kinds of fabric, a quilted ball. The artist says that it is “a distillation of the continuity and indefatigability of the spirit of folk music, dance and costume.”

Museum of Fine Arts

Boston, Mass

Self-Portrait

In my twenties, on a whim, I asked people who came to visit me to draw their self-portraits, so i ended up with an art pad that contained their pictures. And I tried it out a few times myself. I recently re-discovered the pad, so here’s a self-portrait of me from 44 years ago. You can see the outlines of the portrait on the other side of the paper bleeding through.

Diaspora Boy

American artist Eli Valley created his Diaspora Boy comics because of his anger with the corruption of American Jewish institutions and so-called Jewish “leaders” that he was constantly exposed to. His response was a savage comic strip with a visual style that mixed the 50s Mad’s Harvey Kurtzman and the 60s R. Crumb.

I broadcast a radio commentary about the collected strips that Valley published in book form, and I also read one of his 9-panel cartoons on the air.

Click the triangle or mp3 link above to hear the commentary, as broadcast today on Arts Express on WBAI and Pacifica affiliates across the nation.

Frida Kahlo

Frida Kahlo: The Last Interview And Other Conversations is a new collection of several of Kahlo’s magazine and newspaper interviews. As a bonus, art historian, critic and author Hayden Herrera provides within an excellent introduction to the life and work of the extraordinary Mexican artist and activist. I was happy to interview Hayden for Arts Express.

To listen, click on the triangle or mp3 link above and listen to the interview as broadcast today on WBAI FM radio and Pacifica stations across the country.

April Showers

 In this issue:

** Comedian/actress Margaret Cho talks with Prairie Miller about Anti-Asian racism and more

** Paul Robeson re-imagined in an excerpt from actor/playwright Tayo Aluko ‘s Paul Robeson’s Love Song

** Poet Paul Hostovsky with his humorous and trenchant poems.

** Photos from the larger-than-life Garden of Sculpture

And much more!

Click here to view online:

April 2021 Newsletter

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