Paul Cezanne, arguably the most important artist of the past 200 years or, perhaps, of all time, once stated that “the painter must enclose himself within his work; he must respond not with words, but with paintings.” The artists who lined up on Thursday night at the Foundry to participate in the latest Rabbit Box event, “For Art’s Sake: Celebrating 40 Years of the Lyndon House Arts Center,” clearly felt differently.
Rabbit Box is a local storytelling series. Participants this night included Morgan Middleton, a UGA student and a dishwasher at The Grit who curates a weekly hip hop show on WUOG; physical therapist Dantae Robertson; and artist Phillip Elie. The storytellers had eight minutes to share their tale without using notes.
The Foundry was packed, testifying to the popularity of the monthly experience. Retirees, students, artists and families sat side by side, rapt and attentive in spite of the noticeable shortage of air conditioning. A young artist perched in a corner and scribbled out gesture studies of the crowd in his sketchbook.
Muse was a recurring theme in the stories told that night. For landscape painter Greg Benson, it came to him in the form of an anonymous old man once shouting at him, “That’s wet paint, you motherfucker!” Years later, the man’s voice, still in his head, inspired him to resume painting after a creatively dry period.
Didi Dunphy, artist, director of the Lyndon House arts Center, and curator of the Gallery@Hotel Indigo, relayed tales of youthful adventures in New York. With her characteristic Upper West Side poise, she described a chance encounter with Andy Warhol at a party given by a friend’s mom. “He had been heading around the apartment signing things,” she said, “and he had his eye on Wendy’s trash can.” It resembled a Campbell’s soup can; the artist did indeed sign it. He also signed young Didi’s arm after she, in a moment of inspiration, offered it up to him. The pivotal scene helped lead her to the decision to become a professional artist.
Writer Elsa Durusau recalled finding the inspiration to live and make music after a deep experience viewing a work by Vincent Van Gogh at the High Museum as a teen. “The loneliness and death were still there [in the painting], but the joy was there, too.” Many people in the audience were clearly moved by her words.
Georgia Museum of Art public relations coordinator and member of the iconic Athens alternative band Pylon, Michael Lachowski, paid homage to the Lyndon House Arts Center. He credited it with providing him with a sense of validation through participation in the center’s juried shows. “We [Lachowski and the late Randy Bewley] took that validation and turned it into Pylon.”
Lauren Fancher, a digital media artist and a confident storyteller with a wry voice, displayed her jaded humor in a story about a grant-funded art exhibit in Augusta which was censored. The show’s content, which included a bible with a nail through it, inspired a minor uproar in the local press. She ended the tale by saying, “We’re not a bunch of drug-crazed artists. We’re just artists. And we need your attention.”
If you need some attention, Rabbit Box is seeking storytellers for future events. Upcoming themes include “Summer Lovin’” on Thursday, Aug. 13 and “Busted!” on Thursday, Sept. 10. For more information, visit rabbitbox.org.
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