Friday, July 25, 2014

Quarry Dance

Two years ago Ina Hahn realized her vision of producing a public dance concert at Halibut Point in collaboration with Dusan Tynek, resident artist at Windhover Center for the Performing Arts. Next weekend they will offer Quarry Dance #3 at Deep Pit Quarry in Lanesville (see below.)
Lisa Hahn photo 
Ina "I walk at Halibut Point every day. It's like a pilgrimage for me, and for many other people....It's a combination of inner and outer worlds. The inner world being the quarry itself and the outer world being the ocean."

 "It was built by local people, wonderful families that suffered through all the difficulties of the men quarrying....They didn't realize the were creating dreamscapes for the rest of us."
Lisa Hahn photo
Dusan "Ina has been extremely important to me personally. She was one of the first people who offered their hand to me at the beginning when I started my own company in New York City....She comes from a very specific artistic background, from the Doris Humphrey/Jose Limon area. That's not my training, but I have a huge respect for what all those pioneers of modern dance did. Her carrying the legacy is so important. It's so rare to have a place like Windhover dedicated to dance."

Sallee Slagle photo
 "For me, creating a dance is spiritual. You're reaching into those parts of you that you don't really know they're in there, and you're suddenly connecting, especially when you're outside with nature, and with the people."

"The architectural makeup of the site obviously dictated certain things. But then also the history of the workers, the granite, and then of course the elements - the water, the air, the rocks....It was an abstract piece, but these were the influences."
Sallee Slagle photo
"I wanted to use some distance as well as something up close. I had the dancers move to the other side of the quarry. In front of them would be the entire length of the quarry, with the cliffs and the water. Then right behind them was the ocean. I needed a pop of color. So the red, I thought, worked beautifully.... It's such an unexpected contrast in an area where everything is blue and green and gray, a beautiful element to bring into the natural environment."

"Each audience member brings a certain memory or a thought or an experience from that particular place, to how they view the performance, how it links to them. Some part of the dance might just hit that note in their psyche and bring these memories back, so they're affected by it."

Quarry Dance #2 was performed last summer at Valley Pit Quarry, former home of Sylvester Ahola.
Quarry Dance #3 will be performed at Deep Pit Quarry, former home of Walker Hancock and now of Deane Hancock French. Friday, Aug 1 at 5:30pm and Saturday Aug 2 at 11:00am and 5:30pm. See the Windhover website for directions and parking.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Star Party

For a deeper appreciation of the night sky I headed over to Halibut Point one Friday evening to mingle with the Gloucester Area Astronomy Club. I arrived early enough to admire the sunset, the day's gorgeous finale from our own life-giving star.

I stood alone on the rim of the continent for the spectacle. It dawned on me that the astronomers were looking the other way.

Sure enough, they were waiting for the heavenly colors to blacken, tinkering with telescopes up on level ground by the Visitor's Center. Their fabulous instruments and shop talk had the buzz of a NASCAR warm-up, except that these folks wanted all comers to join in the fun. As twilight deepened the voices around me called out celestial attractions like carnival hawkers. Their red laser pointers zipped around the constellations to help orient us to stellar topics.
One way to gauge the quality of darkness is the brightness of the Milky Way. It surrounds us on all sides with billions of stars each billions of miles apart, one among billions of galaxies. With no wind nor moon we had great conditions.
Club 'host' Michael Deneen quipped, "When you see another galaxy you have to wave back, because mathematically, with the number of planets in that galaxy, there's got to be someone looking back at you."
Michael Deneen
Michael located Messier Object #57  (M-57) overhead, the Ring Nebula. "Everybody see The Cosmic Bagel? It looks like a tiny Cheerio at the bottom of the bowl, a little ghost of a Cheerio. It's a dead star, 1,500 light years away, over a light year in diameter. You could fit a hundred of our solar systems inside that circle."

Elaine called out, "I've got M-13in the scope. The Globular Nebula. Who wants to look?" Michael explained why, when you see those particular stars, you're looking back almost to the beginning of time.
The winning attraction of the evening was the planet Saturn, which "has sold more telescopes than anything else." It shimmered breathtakingly a billion miles away in the unfathomable nothingness. All "its" light originated in the sun, reflected back to us.
Was it possible to take a picture? No one in the Club tries to do much with astro-photography, though it's possible with telescope adapter rings and long exposure experiments. But Steve Smith said he'd had occasional luck with an iPhone generating a snapshot to remember the night.
That was exactly what Jackie wanted. She and her Aunt Kim have set out to visit all seventy-six State Parks in Massachusetts. "I can't believe I'm seeing Saturn tonight, a million times. It looks like a UFO. This is so cool! Oh, if I can get this, it's going to be a great picture."

Right on the spot Jackie emailed it to me from her iPhone. Billions of nano-circuits transmitted the image to my home. It was an awesome night for an earthling.
The Gloucester Area Astronomy Club, 11 years and 120 members strong, meets monthly on Friday evenings. See their Facebook page or website. Says Michael Deneen, "We're a minimalist organization. No dues or bylaws. It's kind of a Woodstock thing."

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Blueberry Heaven

When the blueberries ripened at Halibut Point, my grandchildren wanted to get there before the bears scooped them all up. Sami set the pace.

Vivian could already taste them on the waffles.

Kay, Becky, and the kids got right down to picking berries.

When Patrick ran by with Mila, Marcus gave him a treat.

It was the prettiest place we ever worked.

Lily brought home the most berries. The boys ate all theirs.

Blueberries made the waffles extra special for Mom and Dad.

Little Audrey popped a few in her mouth too.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Cape Ann Light

Excerpts from an interview with Betty Lou Schlemm.

Our Cape Ann light is constantly changing. I go right back to what John Carlson told us about the veils of atmosphere. We have them all here, the fog, the mist. It's like a stage with veils dropping down.
When there's only a single veil of atmosphere it's very bright out. Just a little bit of mist in the air. Oh, it's kind of exciting. I'm up in the sky right now, at noontime on a bright day, the sky coming down, the blue sky, and the sun. The veil of atmosphere is very thin, a lovely color, softened. It softens the day.

Morning Sunlight at Eastern Point
Now I'm dropping another veil down, the sky blue and the sun yellow-orange. They're touching each other. One coming straight down, one coming on angle. They're forming another color as they hit this atmosphere. They're joining together. How damp is the air? The particles? It becomes softer yet. The light lessens and lessens until it's just gray.

But it's so intense! That gray light comes down, hits the earth, bang! The light bounces. The luminosity of every object that it hits plays beautiful color.

Tuesday when we discussed this in class, we thought, well, maybe it's the ocean. Our rocks are warm. In Maine they're gray. Maybe that brilliant light hits the ocean and reflects into the rocks, which already have color, so it's going to become nicer.
Rain Coming In, Tenants Harbor
Somebody said Tuesday that the light of Cape Cod is different than the light of Cape Ann. They have lovely sand dunes. It seems natural then, when the light hits the sand dunes, you get a different kind of light. Light hits the gray rocks out West - no atmosphere - maybe that's why so many great painters go out West. The values and the color are magnificent there. Plus they have the sandstone.

When you paint outdoors the light constantly changes. From the minute you get up in the morning there's atmosphere. It's damp in the morning. That light goes against the heavens. At this low angle it creates a different color shadow. The shadow is always the complement of the light. The light is always stronger than the shadows,  except out West, where there's no atmosphere, and you get brilliant shadows.
Cape Ann's beautiful. At the end of the day when the light is so intense, just before it goes down, you get that brilliant light. Your shadows become black! You're going into a one-source light. Two hours earlier you were still working with  a two-source light, seeing a complement. But come the end of the day you're getting a Rembrandt light of the sun.

Why is a day lovely? People are responding to it. It's an artist's duty to show the way of why it's so beautiful.
Betty Lou Schlemm
I have to dream, dream to become the day. The subject matter doesn't really matter that much. When I go out to paint the primary importance is, what's the light of the day?

Betty Lou Schlemm's art class has met weekly in Rockport for  half a century. Proceeds from her current exhibition of 350 works at the North Shore Art Association - “The Gift” - will be donated to the Cape Ann Animal Aid Association, to Open Door, and to Wellspring House.