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Feb 21, 2018

My Forrest Gumpy Life


How much farther removed from the mainstream of American life can one be than where I am today?
Montana Logging and Ballet Co. providing cultural perspective.
And yet, I came within a hair's breadth of appearing onstage with the next president of the US. How do such things happen, and why is my life so strangely full of these inexplicable synchronistic events?

The backstory: I am currently recovering from shoulder surgery and am basically under house arrest here at the very edge of civilization, in Helena, Montana, where I live. One could hardly be more distantly positioned from the pulse of public attention. Recently I wrote a song my group was to play for an event, until unforeseen circs cut us out of the schedule. One likely candidate for the presidency in 2020, VP Joe Biden (who had us play for other events years ago) is coming to my little town to appear at an annual Democratic dinner soon.

I've been for decades a member of the Montana Logging and Ballet Co., a political satire group that was active for decades before retiring three years ago. It just so happens that I wrote a song, Alt Facts, that members of our group did for this event last year. It turns out the song was a hit that garnered a standing ovation from a very appreciative audience. This lead to an invitation for us to return this year with a new song. Well, I happened to spawn an idea for a new song, The Great Ship GOP, and the time to develop it while I recovered from my surgery. So by barely lifting a finger we were positioned to appear in this rare event! (I'll post more about the song when we record it.)

The fact that performing the new song before an audience didn't "go through the formality of actually happening" hardly matters to me. The opportunity was there! Whether they did or did not happen it occurrs to me that my life is stuffed with such amazing stories! It seems every few days I run across evidence of some little incident from my life that seems at once both huge and ephemeral. Things like hanging out once with comedian Buddy Hackett in a pool watching him do hilarious tricks with a cigarette, or getting a private concert by (and playing frisbee with) the great guitarist Julian Bream, or my being asked to create a large sculpture to be placed in the center of Vienna. Or meeting people like Jane Goodall, great political satirists Mark Russell and Tom Toles, pianist Van Cliburn, Poncho Villa's wife (at 103 years old!), or giving a speech on the same Earl Lecture roster as Teddy Roosevelt.
What I find so intriguing is that these Forrest-Gump-like appearances on the edges of earthshaking events have been happening all my life. It's almost like I live the most interesting life in the world and I'm only becoming really aware of it just now at this late date as I see the pattern emerge out of my own history. It feels as though I'm involved in a story that begins "How close can you get to historic events without actually leaving a trace?" So I decided to start collecting these very short stories, partly just as a way of remembering because sometimes no one else was there to witness it! This is the first installment in what I'm calling My Forrest Gumpy Life.  Follow along if you like...
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I'm a sculptor/filmmaker living in Montana, USA. I am using art to move the evolution of humanity forward into an increasingly responsive, inclusive and interactive culture. As globalization flattens peoples into a capitalist monoculture I hope to use my art to celebrate historical cultural differences and imagine how we can co-create a rich future together.

I see myself as an artist/philosopher laboring deep in the mines of joy. I've had a good long career of exhibiting work around the world and working on international outreach projects, most notably being the first American to be invited to present a one-person exhibit in the Hermitage Museum. Recently I have turned my attention from simply making metal sculpture to creating films and workshops for engaging communities directly, tinkering with the very ideas and mechanisms behind cultural transformation. I feel that as we face tragic world crises, if the human species favors our imaginative and creative capacities we can cultivate a rich world to enjoy.

For me the deepest satisfaction in making art comes in engaging people's real life concerns rather than providing simple entertainment or decoration. Areas of conflict or tension are particularly ripe for the kind of transformative power that art uniquely carries. I invite any kind of challenge that serves people on a deep level.