Last week I took my daughter to see Jason Isbell and his wife, Amanda Shires, play at the Germantown Performing Arts Center. It was Eleanor’s first real concert. After selling out his first scheduled show at GPAC in minutes, another show was added (also selling out in minutes), and I was fortunate enough to grab a pair of tickets before they all disappeared before my eyes on the computer screen.
Both Isbell and Shires are triple threats–gifted songwriters, standout musicians, and compelling presences on stage. It was a wonderful show highlighted by what I think is his best song (of many extraordinary ones), “Elephant”, and his duet with his wife of Warren Zevon’s beautiful “Mutineer.”
The experience of seeing this show has by coincidence paired with another to reinforce my need to keep art present and important in my life and to help my own child see its stabilizing relevance in and amongst the static that infuses our day to day lives.
The other experience was going to pick up our new painting, called “Down to Drop D” by Memphis painter, Danny Broadway. If you are like me when you tell the story of a piece of art you own, you tell the story of where and how you got it. The narrative of acquisition becomes intertwined with the story of the piece of art. Its story becomes part of your story. Your story becomes part of its story.
As for this piece, Danny and I had had a conversation going back some months about what this particular painting might become. Among his remarkable talents, Danny is an outstanding listener and a stunningly creative thinker, and as a result he was able to paint something that, while drawn from our conversation, went far beyond it to become something far better than I could imagine.
When my wife, daughter and I went to pick up the painting at his house and studio over the holidays, we were not only picking it up and taking it home, but we were also learning more about the context from which it came. We were able to see other things he was working on, and through our conversation in his studio, we also got a better understanding of what is important to him as an artist.
Taking the time to see live music or to appreciate visual art is a way of taking care of ourselves, of stepping outside the rumble of our daily lives in order to remain centered. Such experiences can refresh us, comfort us, challenge us, disquiet us–rarely they somehow do each at the same time. It is imperative that we pass down to our children a sense of the power of all of the arts to enrich us and to provide us with perspective on the meaning of our own lives and the lives of others.
[When I refer to the arts, I include a) the visual arts: drawing, painting, ceramics, photography, sculpture, b) the literary arts, and c) the performing arts: dance, theater, music.]
[By the way “Drop D” is a way of tuning the guitar where the sixth string–the lowest string–is dropped from the standard E down to D. The man in the painting is tuning the guitar “down to drop D.”]