friends | gratitude

Dinner with Friends

Prelude No. 5 in D Major

There’s a great moment in the movie INDEPENDENCE DAY when the always watchable Brent Spiner, playing wacky scientist Dr. Brackish Okun, in charge of the secret alien research project at Area 51, says, “As you can imagine, they… they don’t let us out much.”
I laugh every every time I recall this quote, and Spiner/Okun’s affect, and not just because I relate to the crackpots, conspiracy theorists, misfits, and geeks of the world. It’s because, as a working mother of four children, I don’t get out much. Not as much as I’d like, for sure. And my monastic husband has, as far as I can tell, few social needs other than watching the Tour de France. He’d be content to spend 7 days a week in his studio, sculpting.
I’m not sure he even enjoys conversation with me. He says that when I die, he’s going to have me stuffed and mounted, so he can enjoy the pleasure of my company: in silence. (Kinda creeps me out, that.)
Which makes it all the more pleasurable that we’ve found another couple we both enjoy. I like them because they’re smart, funny, and good-hearted. Theoretically that makes an impression on Sabin. I suspect that what he really enjoys is that they are both successful working artists and they have a lot to say on the topic of art.
John Link is a mad genius of a musician and composer, who has translated Chopin’s preludes into vocal compositions for 5 voices, guitar, bass, drums and violin. “As Chopin meant them to be played,” he claims. Lori Belilove is a mesmerizing dancer and brilliant choreographer, and the dynamic head of the Isadora Duncan Foundation. Her “The Everywoman series: The Red Thread” is one of most moving pieces of dance I have ever witnessed. Sabin Howard is the greatest living figurative sculptor. I write fiction. So we come to the table, literally, representing 4 arts: music, dance, visual art, and story telling.
Last Friday Lori and John came to dinner. They were subjected to my cooking but didn’t complain, though they had every right to do so. Really, my salmon aux herbes Provencal came out with too many herbs, and not the right ones. It’s hard to mess up baked salmon, but my native ingenuity was up to the task. I think they forgave the cuisine because we got involved in a discussion of critical importance: the nature of creativity.
Lori talked about watching some of her dancers choreograph, how they do it for love. They want to be loved and appreciated, and their dance is both an offering of love and a request for love. I had to ask about a pure creative impulse that is a kind of radiance, a flowing forth from the core. Sabin, who is fundamentally solipsistic, favored that paradigm. John leaned toward the relational model; he wants his pieces received by an audience, as I want my books read by people.
Performers like to perform, and John and Lori are both performers. Sabin as a visual artist does not perform. He intends to create a piece that will, literally, stand forever. Bronze sculptures endure for thousands of years. Sabin’s vision of beauty and humanity are meant to stand the test of time. Music and dance are meant for something else–perhaps to intensify this moment now into timeless, transformative immediacy–though, naturally, John and Lori would dearly love for their work to survive them, and their grandchildren.
So, this business of creating art: I think of it as a disease. An infection. I have to tell stories because they roil about my brain like a fever. One story is barely written when I am starving to tell the next one. Perhaps the virus of art is the next topic at dinner?

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