Saturday, April 23, 2016

Can creative projects give us hope?

Photo courtesy of Mike Pach
Can creative projects give us hope, inspire new ways of thinking and help us get through the darkness in our life? For Colorado Springs photographer Mike Pach, the answers found in his work shout a resounding yes. His project, “Same Tree, Different Day,” not only inspired me but has positively impacted many other people as well. Mike photographed a tree behind his house each day for a year and posted them on his blog found here:  He recently gave a slide show presentation of all 365 photographs at Pikes Peak Library 21C. His presentation inspired students from the Colorado Springs Conservatory to write the music that accompanied it. 

These photographs, while stunning, are much more than a beautiful collection of work. They became alive because of their story telling power.  They created a conversation about overcoming personal challenges, the universe providing for your needs and how a single moment can become a universe in of itself. This gave Mike a voice for what he wanted to say and encourages us to find our own. What project do we need to start today that creates dialogue that is important to us? My further thoughts about Mike’s project can be found in my poem below:  

Photo courtesy of Mike Pach

365 Stallions
©2016 by Jon Sargent

Capture the 365 stallions
Who go out to ride in the burning mythical dawn
What grows out of the screaming chasm of prints?
That their thunderous gallops leave behind
The tree, so wild, once dim
Now brightly swimming in fiery flint
Peel back frost bitten limbs
Tree skin with white crystal gems
Lightening sparks between dreams that thaw
Stirs the universe's provision within
The moment to leave dark shadows behind
Mirrors with open hourglass eyes
One tree electrified the viewfinder sees
I stand with it: it becomes me

Photo courtesy of Mike Pach
 “Same Tree, Different Day” is currently running a crowd campaign to fund a framed gallery exhibit of the project. For more information, visit

Feel free to share your thoughts about “Same Tree, Different Day,” in the comments section below. You can also subscribe to this blog by clicking on the follow symbol in the upper right. 

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Are we dancers making love to the loneliness of the wind?

Among the Orchids
©2016 by Jon Sargent

Your skin creases as it flutters
Where does the wind caress you?
Could you not find a flower to lie next to?
Its pedals within brazen reach
Now follows behind you
I see you write letters of surrender
Upon the wrapping coil of branches
Trapped in the vein of every absent leaf
Stabbed by the daggers that breach

Caught between worlds, this ghostly figure
I can hear its moans calling out to me
Are we dancers making love to the loneliness of the wind?
Who ravishes the morning dew
Or squelches moonlight on your naked back
The bramble hurricane spiral
Draws me into your eye forever
Above expectations that rotate furiously
Find the center that unwinds my twisted perception
To discover the secret of apparitions
That darkness does not shade the maelstrom aperture
Being ever present breaking forth
The sunlight streaming nectar
Piercing shadows with whisper voices
A song that beckons me to lie down
Among the orchids

The inspiration behind the poem

I find watching plastic bags caught in trees to be compelling,  because they're such rich metaphors for struggle and beauty.  Poetry, like all art, helps me to break out of the loneliness that I sometimes feel.  This is because I'm connecting with something larger than myself, rather than focusing exclusively on my own needs. "Make Art, Not Loneliness" might be a worthwhile slogan for our generation, don't you think? 

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Sunday, April 10, 2016

Do we recognize others for their contribution or their disability?

Girl Envisioned Anew
Photo courtesy of The Arc
Her gaze sees every nuance in our souls. Her earring reminds us that her value as an individual is beyond compare. But there is a fantastic twist to Johannes Vermeer’s oil painting, Girl With a Pearl Earring. This work of art, along with other iconic images of artists, has been recreated using people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, as well as professionals in the disability field. This formed the basis of the 2016 calendar, Portraits and Masterpieces by The Arc of the Pikes Peak Region.

I recently met the calendar’s artistic creator, Craig Severa, during a local art expo. His inspiration for the calendar in his words is that “everyone has something interesting or beautiful about them.” For the Arc and Severa, they want to celebrate diversity by focusing on “what people can do and not what they can’t do.”

This is apparent when you look at the models that are stand ins for the likes of Frida Kahlo, Andy Warhol, and Jim Morrison. While we know these famous artists had challenges, we don’t define them based on their limitations. We look at them for their tremendous contributions. This is the way we should see all people and the calendar is a beautiful metaphor for that.

Model Kevin Van Ness channels a Rock Icon
Photo courtesy of The Arc
My meeting Mr. Severa was rather fortuitous.  My last project involved refining labels, in this case masculinity, through photography and poetry. My next project will involve redefining disability through a sci-fi novel. It seems that “disability” is largely defined by the context in which the person finds themselves in.  For example, ADHD is largely regarded as a disability in a school setting, but we now know that it is a strength in other environments. The same can be said of autism and a whole host of other labels that define people by their difficulties.  In light of this, it may be fair to say that the truly disabled are people that can’t see beyond a person’s challenges. They are blind because they chose not to see the individual for who they are. Do we recognize others for their contribution or their disability?

Photo courtesy of The Arc
Per their mission statement, “The Arc of the Pikes Peak Region works to create a community where all individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities are embraced and respected.”  For more information about their services or obtaining a copy of their calendar, visit www.thearcppr.og or call (719) 471-4800.

Feel free to add your voice by commenting below.  Thanks for reading and your contribution! You can also subscribe by clicking the follow icon in the upper right of the blog page.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Are we missing the beauty that is all around us?

They would put an Olympic ice skater to shame. Whether jumping or turning, they create momentary galaxies of spiraling and elliptical color. The wind ignites an electrical firestorm as their morphing shapes orbit around a motionless solider. Their playful dance suggests that no matter whether you're looking at life or death, everything will be ok in the universe. A few notice the power of this moment and stop to take note of it. Others are seen walking by, uninterested in the beautiful spectacle around them. They seemed to want to get to their destination and  probably out of the wind. This theatrical presentation staged by nature can be seen in this short YouTube video here.

Will we open our hearts to the beauty around us?
This video reminds me of the plastic bag scene in the movie, American Beauty. A young man invites a girl into his bedroom and asks if she wants to see the most beautiful thing he’s ever felt. Defying the expectations of this set up, he proceeds to show her a video he took of a plastic bag dancing in the wind on a street corner. The idea was that beauty is all around us even in moments others may think mundane or ordinary. The world invites us to be a part of this beauty and have a dialogue with it. All we have to do is just slow down and notice it.

I would challenge us to slow down and see the art in seemingly ordinary and mundane things. Observe the nuance surface patterns in sidewalks, the struggle of trash caught in trees or the shapes created by the movement of clouds. These are things that children naturally do but many adults have lost in the busyness of their handicapped imaginations. Since April is National Poetry Month in the U.S., consider writing a poem about what you see and experience in these moments. We may soon discover that there is no such thing as mundane and ordinary.  Will we behold the beauty that is all around us?

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