Poetry and dissent in Rio Rancho
In 1967, in Santa Cruz, California, during my first year of teaching after graduating from UCLA, I said something (in a civics class) in opposition to the Vietnam War and was called in a day or so later to hear a principal argue that I was not allowed to “politicize the classroom.” I told him students aired various opinions about the war, from protest to support. Parents of some of the children complained that I was teaching unpatriotic or subversive ideas. My teaching license was temporarily suspended. It was restored after some kind of school-board deliberation, but by then I was gone.
The nation certainly has undergone enormous changes since the tragic events of September 11, 2001. We have the War on Terrorism, The Patriot Act, and the Homeland Security System (with its many alerts) to keep us at the ready for new attacks. But the concern many of us have in these times is whether our freedoms are being eroded in the name of unanimity of patriotic purpose. A kind of McCarthyism seems to again be in the air. The President at one point exhorted us that “you're either with us or you're with the terrorists.” But many people worldwide have protested the Iraq War, and as the quagmire there continues to deepen and darken, many are questioning the wisdom of preemptive invasion and the occupation of Iraq. And it is not only pundits and journalists who have argued against the war's violence and its ill-planned aftermath.
A case in point is the student whose poem read over the P.A. system led to the firing of Rio Rancho High School humanities teacher Bill Nevins. The poem (by Courtney Butler) calls into question the intentions of a nation rife with jingoistic cliches as well as some real problems with, for example, the funding of education:
Can afford war with Iraq
But we can't afford to pay teachers
Who educate the young who hold
Against the “Axis of Evil.”
Many in leadership and journalism are asking the same questions. We were told this preemptive war was absolutely imperative: weapons, Al Qaeda links, imminent terrorist threats. And yet we now know that much of this information was spurious and largely a manipulation to get us into war. And the cost is going to be enormous—at a time of record deficits, unemployment, and a shrinking tax base. It seems to me that dissent is entirely in order and thoroughly in keeping with a broad view of patriotism. In dictatorship there is no room for disagreement with those in power; in a democracy, according to my lights, opposition views are tolerated, even encouraged.
According to attorney Eric Sirotkin, who represents Nevins, a lawsuit has been filed contending that Nevins was unjustly fired. A fund-raising event, Poetic Justice: Committing Poetry in Times of War, was held at the Kimo this past week. Sirotkin said by telephone: "The school alleges that Nevins had not had the forms for a field trip properly signed. But the fact is that the Barnes and Noble open-mike poetry event was after school hours. For an earlier field trip, Nevins did indeed have the forms signed. The problem for the school was that the students went public with their antiwar poetry."
According to Sirotkin this is part of a wider move to chill free speech. He elaborated: "Bill Nevins helped create an environment where students engaged in free speech. This did not go well with the military liaison at the school." Asked about why New Mexico is getting quite a lot of these cases, Sirotkin said it was "part of the dominant “military-industrial complex” that exists in New Mexico, with the labs and the bases." Sirotkin went on to say that Nevins "was removed from his job just before the first bombing of Iraq. And why was he removed as a humanities teacher, which did not have anything to do with the Slam Poetry Team?" Sirotkin asked. The discouragement of free speech and dissent is the obvious answer.
I would say in conclusion that we need democratic dialogue—not suppression of dissent—as the country comes to terms with the post-9/11 world. Yes, there are those who think that suppressed dissent is called for in times of military action. But it just may be that speech and diplomacy, rather than militarism, will allow the world to find its way back to some kind of peaceful order. It may well be a huge and challenging task, one that will take thought, and perhaps even the mind of a poet who knows how to embrace the magnitude of this country's commotion in these times, in these states. There may be no easy answers, but questions can be posed and debated, and speech allowed to enter new domains of awareness.
Bill Pearlman is a poet, actor, teacher, and editor of Rough Road Review, www.RoughRoadReview.com.
Baltimore Consort explores 17th-century English craze for “Scotch tunes”
Chamber Music Albuquerque
According to its fans, the Baltimore Consort just may be the ultimate crossover group, appealing to everyone who likes jazz, dance, folk, or classical music. The Consort brings its special sound to Albuquerque on Sunday, November 2, in a 3:00 p.m. concert in the Simms Center for the Performing Arts at Albuquerque Academy. A free lecture on the program by Dan Haik is scheduled for 2:00 p.m.
Founded in 1980, the six-member Baltimore Consort primarily performs the music of Shakespeare’s time, playing on period instruments and using early music scores as a reference. Their program for Chamber Music Albuquerque, titled “Adew Dundee,” focuses on the early music of Scotland.
“Today’s rage for ‘Celtic’ music echoes the situation in seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century England when ‘Scotch tunes’ became popular in theatres and pubs, as well as in the salons of aristocracy and royalty,” explained Mary Anne Ballard, who researches most of the Consort’s programs and also plays viols and rebec. “Our Albuquerque program explores the secular music of Scotland leading up to the English craze.”
“Much of this repertory seems to have existed long before its appearance in written form, going back to the Middle Ages stylistically,” Ballard said. “The vocal music on the program shows strong French influence due to various marriages between royalty of Scotland and France.”
The group’s vocalist, soprano Custer LaRue, has been compared to balladeers Joan Baez and Judy Collins, and has a voice reminiscent of Kathleen Battle. Other members of the group include Mark Cudek on cittern and bass viol, Larry Lipkis on bass viol and soprano recorder, Ronn McFarlane on lute, and Mindy Rosenfeld on flutes, whistle, and recorder.
Recordings by Baltimore Consort on the Dorian label have earned recognition such as Top Classical Crossover Artist of the Year (Billboard Magazine, 1993). Besides touring in the United States and abroad, the group often performs on such syndicated radio broadcasts as St. Paul Sunday and Performance Today. Their Web site www.baltcons.com.
Tickets to the Baltimore Consort can be purchased from Chamber Music Albuquerque, 505-268-1990, during box-office hours, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, or on-line at www.cma-abq.org. Ticket prices are $16, $22, $27 and $32; student tickets are half price. Tickets also can be purchased at the door. Complete program information is available on the Chamber Music Albuquerque Web site.
Chamber Music Albuquerque’s next event is the Winter Festival, featuring concerts by the Jacques Thibaud Trio and pianist Orion Weiss on Friday, January 9, and Sunday, January 11. Other weekend events include a family concert and a student master class on Saturday, June 10.
Placitas-based Web site to air commentary, creative writing
A new Web site, www.RoughRoadReview.com, developed and edited by two Placitas writers, Richard Hopkins and Bill Pearlman, with the assistance of Web-site designer Gary Priester, will be inaugurated in early October.
The site features political and social commentary on local and national affairs, poetry, short fiction, and personal essays.
Richard Hopkins, who completed his active career as visiting professor of communication and educational foundations at UNM, has worked as a newspaper editorial writer, a staff member of the United States Peace Corps, a corporate executive and consultant, a university dean, and a college president. He is also the author of numerous articles. His book Narrative Schooling was published by Teachers College Press at Columbia University. Hopkins has lived in Placitas since 1983.
Bill Pearlman, who first came to Placitas in the early 1970s, is a teacher, actor, therapist, novelist, and poet, whose most recent prose work sets forth and explains his therapeutic method called “archetypal drama. “
Following is a brief statement of Rough Ride Review's origins and purposes, as published in the initial issue:
(From the home page of the site.)
Come on in.
Here's how Rough Road Review happened. We were sitting around the table, two men and two women, after an excellent meal, buzzing with affection and good wine, deploring the state of the world as we
perceived it, deploring most of all our sense of powerlessness, when one of the women challenged us to stop grousing and do something about the conditions we found so easy to deplore.
"Shut up and start a web site," she said. So we've done that. It's amazing how quickly it all came together. We found a sympathetic web site designer; we settled on a name and a format, and here we are. Both of us are writers, poets, critics, commentators on various aspects of the human condition. We don't like the way things are going in our country and the world. And though we're somewhat more satisfied with life in the unusual [if somewhat inchoate] community where we live in New Mexico, we'll comment from time to time on events [or non-events] closer to home. We have things to say about a lot of things, and we're willing to say them. We want others to join us.
We also believe that there is more good writing in this country than there are outlets for its publication, so we invite you to submit your own creative work —poetry, short fiction, essays. [See our submissions link for the rules and criteria we'll use for publication.] We intend to be provocative. We believe strongly that the mainstream media in this country do a lousy job of clarifying complex issues and of keeping alive and healthy a good democratic dialogue. We believe in conflict, because conflict over ideas and points of view generates information.
If we can stimulate you to think, if we can succeed in reframing important issues in our governance and in our cultural life, we'll be satisfied. If we become too satisfied, just let us know. So come on in.
Photo by: T. Belknap
The Placitas Mountain Folk and guest jammers play bluegrass tunes at the Lizard Rodeo Lounge on open-mike night.
Open bluegrass jam at the Range
Several months ago Tom Fenton and Matt DiGregory, owners of The Range Café, asked some local Placitas musicians to lead a monthly bluegrass jam session—an open-mike night—in the new Lizard Rodeo Lounge at The Range in Bernalillo. The Placitas Mountain Band has been the host of the monthly events, and fellow-musicians from all over the Albuquerque area have been joining them.
The informal format is that any musician or group of musicians that comes in can play a set and sing a few songs or join the other musicians on the stage.
In the last few months the stage has been crowded, with some of the musicians spilling off into the dining area and dance floor. Patrons dining and drinking at the Lizard Rodeo Lounge have enjoyed the monthly events, and have joined in impromptu sing-alongs as well as clogging and dancing.
For more information, contact Gary Libman at 867-8154 or just show up on the second Tuesday of each month at 8:00 p.m. The next open-mike night is Tuesday, October 14. The Range is at 925 Camino del Pueblo in Bernalillo, 867-1700.
Finding a symbol for peace
Corrales artist Haninga Thiel has launched part one of her global art project Symbols and Signs. She has invited heads of state all over the world—from Albania to Zimbabwe—to create a personal peace symbol from clay she intends to provide to them. The symbols will be fired and exhibited. She would love it to be a traveling show that goes around the world and is exhibited in galleries and alternative spaces but also in schools, community centers, churches, and town halls.
“As an artist I’ve struggled a lot with how to express my concerns about war. In a dream decades ago, I learned that it is not so much my doing that is important but the involvement of those who decide. People in charge would have to concentrate on how to express thoughts about peace visually. The creative process itself is important—this effort to put those thoughts into a single, simple symbol, the essence of peace. That they literally ‘have it in their hands,’ would be a symbol in itself, and could be eye-opening.”
The same dream has come back to her now. Whether or not this project will have an impact, she doesn’t know. Only time will show if the symbols will turn into signs.
October art show will help fund preservation of Corrales church
The fifteenth Annual Corrales Fine Arts Show, a New Mexico multimedia art exhibition and sale in Corrales will be held at the historic Old San Ysidro Church in Corrales from October 4 to 12. Thirty-six artists will present their painting, mixed media, sculpture, and photography. Their work was selected by jury from more than two hundred entries. The show will be open to the public from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. daily and there is no charge for admission or parking. The opening reception will be on Friday, October 3, from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m. The Old San Ysidro Church is one mile north of the Corrales Post Office on Corrales Road, then three-tenths of a mile west on Old Church Road. A portion of each sale at the show goes to the Corrales Historical Society for restoration and preservation of the church.
Placitas Holiday Sale coming on November
The twenty-second annual Placitas Holiday Sale will take place on November 22 and 23. This high-quality juried show has earned a great reputation for offering a wide variety of art and fine crafts, such as jewelry, glass, paintings, fabric art, woodworking, and pottery, by friendly artists—local, regional, and beyond.
In addition to art and fine craft, visitors will have access to the first batch of this year's cranberry wine at the Anasazi Fields Winery. The Las Placitas Presbyterian Church will be offering their famous chili, and there will also be a variety of food vendors serving up tasty morsels.
Raffle tickets will be sold to win quality pieces donated by the artists. Last year (the first year it was held) the raffle raised almost $1,000 to benefit the arts and literature programs at the Placitas Elementary School.
Visit Placitasholidaysale.com for more information, including maps and site information.
Bernalillo Arts Trail to open with parade of art cars, dancers, costumed artists, Fridas
“My Home. . .My Art” is the theme this year of the annual Bernalillo Arts Trail in Bernalillo when nineteen artists open their studios and galleries to show New Mexico art as it has always been: intimate, honest, and affordable. The event takes place on Saturday, October 25, and Sunday, October 26, from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. both days.
An art-car parade on Saturday, October 25, at high noon will amuse and entertain young and old. Everyone is invited to be in the parade, but they must be dressed as their favorite dead artist! Art cars are welcome, and there will be samba dancers and drummers accompanying the parade, which takes place between the two stoplights on Camino del Pueblo.
This year we are adding to the fun with a Frida Kahlo look-alike contest! All the Fridas will be walking together, and at the end of the parade will meet at Julianna Kirwin Studio/Gallery, where the winner, decided by popular vote, will receive a gift certificate for two to the Range and a copy of the recent movie about Frida Kahlo. The drivers of the art cars will also receive gift certificates from the Range. For more information about the parade, or to sign up to take part in it, you must contact Julianna Kirwin at 771-0590 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bernalillo is becoming an art destination, an alternative to the well-established, but highly commercial Santa Fe art scene. With its friendly galleries, down-to-earth artists, and fair prices, Bernalillo is attracting the attention of serious collectors.
Arte Loca, a new gallery on the north side of Bernalillo, will feature the works of eight contemporary artists working in a variety of mediums, from the elegant and enigmatic paintings of Katrina Lasko to the raw and irreverent assemblages of Alvaro Enciso. Renowned Southwestern artist Gene McClain will display his new collection of Day of the Dead furniture.
Katrina Lasko Gallery will be showing beautiful photographs by Janet Russek and a selection of works by Riha Rothberg, Wayne Mikosz, Marcia Finkelstein, Michelle Cook, Bianca Harle, Mary Kramer, and others.
Julianna Kirwin will be exhibiting her well-known serigraphs and some new sculptural pieces.
N.J. Searcy will be showing her wonderful birdbaths and tables, as well as her new iron and steel sculptures.
For more information, visit Berngall.com, or contact Alvaro at 771-8626 or Alocagallery@aol.com.
Alvaro Enciso in his Arte Loca gallery
Dealing light to dark times
With little hesitation, Álvaro Enciso confesses an interest in crimes of passion. It is only later under questioning that he admits to being an artist.
“The label of ‘artist’ doesn’t really fit me, but you have to call me something,” the partner in Arte Loca Gallery in Bernalillo says. “My pieces coming out of the closet take me from gallery owner to gallery owner slash artist.”
And a dark closet it at first appears to be, yielding three-dimensional constructions of a heart with a knife in it, a tattooed female shoulder, and a head pierced by an arrow. Call it folk art abetted by the graphic crime coverage of Latin American TV.
But call it humorous as well, Enciso says, reflecting the culture of his native Colombia and his travels in the fifty-eight years since then. It is a culture that deals with the seriousness of death by making jokes about it and decorating with skulls on the Day of the Dead.
Detail, mixed media, by Alvaro Enciso
“If I were showing in Mexico or Latin America, people would look at it and laugh about it, “This is so funny, look at that, right through the heart,’” he says. “But here, people look at it and say, ‘What is this? Is this guy safe?’”
Enciso had been making assemblages from scavenged materials for years but produced most of the display pieces after the breakup of his three-year marriage.
“I divorced this year and could not concentrate enough to write a book or sit long enough to write a memoir,” Enciso said. “I needed to do something with my hands.
“I’m a desultory artist; I do it when something bad happens in life.”
Enciso immigrated to the United States for college and followed an Army buddy to Albuquerque in 1967 after spending fourteen months in Vietnam.
“From that moment on, the plan was to spend the rest of my life here and be buried beside the Rio Grande,” he said. “I fell in love just as hard as falling in love with a woman.”
It would take more than twenty-three years before Enciso could semiretire to Placitas, although the move would cost him his marriage. During those years, he worked briefly as a cultural anthropologist in the Amazon, a teacher of Latin American literature, and a commercial photographer.
He spent most of his career at the Social Security Administration headquarters in Baltimore writing and translating publications and producing informational films. He would occasionally write a fifteen- or twenty-second part for himself to provide comic relief in the films.
“It was my own personal intertextual joke,” he says.
Enciso says didn’t intend to showcase his own work when he and painter-furniture maker Gene McClain opened Arte Loca in January. However both joined “All Over the Place,” an eight-artist show running through October 30.
Another of those artists is Katrina Lasko, whose own established gallery is almost across the street from Arte Loca. There is more cooperation than competition among Bernalillo galleries, Ensico says, because everyone is working to make the town a center for art.
“We all encourage each other,” Lasko said of Bernalillo’s five galleries. “There’s a lot of good art out there without a venue.
“Álvaro and I make an effort to go out and find new people.”
Among the new people having his first show is Pablo Zabala, whose sparsely drawn pen-and-ink nudes are included in “All Over the Place.” Known in his native Mexico as an art restorer, Zabala says he works in construction to support his painting and drawing.
Arte Loca Gallery at 313 N. Camino del Pueblo north of Bernalillo High School is in the same building as the Siete Nombres Gallery.
[Editor’s Note: Alvaro Enciso is this month’s Sandoval Signpost Featured Artist. Click here to go to his gallery.]