Raven and the Box of Daylight

Preston Singletary’s show at the Tacoma Museum of Glass ends Sept 2, which is too damned soon. If you can see it before it leaves (for Wichita and then The Smithsonian) do yourself a favor. Raven and the Box of Daylight is an exploration in glass of the Tlingit story of Raven releasing the light for human beings. Singletary calls his work modern traditionalist.

First of all, the art is brilliant: blown, sculpted and sand-carved glass of Raven, of a canoe and paddles, of the boxes containing starlight, moon and sun. These are big, bold pieces, carrying their parts of the story. The ravens, white before the theft is punished, are strong representations of the archetype, with sand-carved detailing white on white creating clan details and animals,  or revealing further layers and complexities in the body of the glass.

                   

photography © Russell Johnson , ©Museum of Glass, Tacoma WA

 

Secondly, the exhibit is mounted to show it to superb advantage. Kudos to Miranda Belarde-Lewis. The lighting shows each piece to best advantage, using dim light and spots to energize the glass. Shadows and projected images add extra life. Audio contains Tlingit oral histories, music and northwest beach sounds.

We were blown away.

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Biscuit Cough

Planning an outing to get Mom for a roll through Swanson’s Nursery. She was a big time gardener, so the smells and colors and all the shades of green are music..

These things require a bit more planning than in more carefree days, so I stopped by to iron out a detail or two. The restaurant had changed its menu. Did we need to reconsider? It’s turning into an Expotition, she said. To discover the North Pole, I continued.

Later as I was leaving she coughed heavily. I stopped short. “It’s a biscuit cough,” she said. “Not the kind you tell about.”

Family language gets to the heart.

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Ritual Rather Than Language

We saw Chay Yew’s A Language of Their Own at the Richard Hugo House. The description I read, (which I cannot lay hands on, drat!) was of two Asian-American gay couples who develop their own language to describe their lives. I went to collect specimens for my Family Language collection, but came away curiously empty-handed. First of all, I liked the play. Immigrant Asians occupy an outsider’s position in America, and their children are well aware of that. To be gay as well adds another layer of vulnerability. The characters are all strongly written, never just a vehicle for a set of convictions. Critics of the 1995 New York production felt Robert (here played by Trevor Cushman) was the weak role and weak spot of the play. Perhaps the play has been reworked since then, but I felt Robert carried his weight. He was the very the youngest of them with the least life experience, but though he had the least to contribute, contribute he did. The actors (Cushman, Alex Adisorn, Jospeh Steven Yang and David Hsieh) were all good, and Hsieh was was remarkable. But then I had an expectation problem with family language. I was looking for words or phrases that had special meaning for the characters. With one gay couple separating and splitting into two others, I thought it would be interesting to see how the language mutated. Instead, what I found was one phrase, “Hold my finger.” The rest would be more properly categorized as family rituals. In that sense it was disappointing. Did anyone else find more there than I did?

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Book Launch Tonight

Tonight is the launch party for my novel Passage of the Kissing People. (More info about the book, including the first chapter, is available elsewhere on this web site.) Family language played a huge role in the development of the story, because it is based on my family history, and particularly the years 1952-53 when we were beginning to create our own family language. My sister and I were 5 and 7 then, that age where you pick up words at school or from books or movies and try to fit them into your world. For years I told stories about that time and place (and the Sonoma Vallley and the Sonoma State Home were places that made an imprint on a kid’s mind) but with this book I was able to find a way to use those stories in a larger cause. My wife always told me to make the book non-fiction, because it is so much easier to sell than fiction, but I didn’t have a narrative thread. That had to come from the fiction side of my brain. I’ve been steaming around with my hair on fire trying to get everything ready. Now there’s nothing left but the Big Show. Further bulletins will be issued as developments warrant.

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