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Interview with Gail Godwin about Grief Cottage

Started by Rob Neufeld in AC-T Book Reviews Aug 3, 2017.

Ellington in Asheville--a survey

Started by Rob Neufeld in Local History Oct 6, 2017.

Dave Minneman, heroic portrait

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Connie Regan-Blake posted events
Thursday
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Intermission

IntermissionHear audio by clicking mp3 attachment!(Part of poem, "Coalescence") I thought I might take a break at this point to look around,Now that I’m in the business of making things resound.It’s so nice to have the luxury of being carefree. If you stop and sit back and try to take in everything,It stuns you and you can’t focus on anythingUntil something crops up, and what…See More
Jan 16
Joan Henehan replied to Rob Neufeld's discussion Coalescence
"It's an odyssey..."
Jan 8
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Coalescence

Coalescence (part of  Living Poem)by Rob Neufeld Intro Don’t listen, children, and do not hear.(A monster is coming and there’s no escapeWithin this story, and no good way to tell it, Except to gaze at the horror as at a flower,A disaster streaming off extremes it breedsEverywhere and in our minds, disabling our power.) Distractions are good, puzzles that teaseAnd please and fill the main scene,…See More
Dec 11, 2018
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

The Sultan's Dream

The Sultan’s Dream (Part of Living Poem) When it comes to walking, the jig’s up.No more fit lad sitting at the pub.No more flim-flam smiling with a limp. See how the legs totter and the torso leans.Do you know what a lame sultan dreams?Of reclining on a divan wearing pantaloons, Comparing his plight to a mountaineer’sNegotiating an icy bluff in a fierce wind,And then lounging in a tent to unwind. Which…See More
Nov 15, 2018
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

The Tale of Ononis

The Tale of Ononis by Rob Neufeld Part 1: The Making of a Celebrity ❧  Hare Begins His Tale  Ononis was my region’s name.People now call it Never-the-same.I’ll start with the day a delivery came. The package I got was a devil’s dare,Swaddled and knotted in Swamp Bloat hairAnd bearing, in red, one word: “Beware!” Bloats are creatures from the Land of Mud Pies,Wallowing in waste with tightly closed eyesUntil fears bring tears and the bleary bloats rise.   ❧  Hare’s Colleagues  I asked my boss,…See More
Nov 9, 2018
Connie Regan-Blake posted an event

Drop Your Troubles: A Solo Storytelling Performance with Connie Regan-Blake at Black Mountain Center for the Arts

December 1, 2018 from 7:30pm to 9pm
Join this internationally renowned storyteller, Connie Regan-Blake, as she transforms a packed theater into an intimate circle of friends with old-timey charm, wisdom, and humor. We’ll also welcome the Singer of  Stories, Donna Marie Todd, who will perform her original story, “The Amazing Zicafoose Sisters.” Connie’s last two shows at BMCA have sold…See More
Nov 6, 2018
Connie Regan-Blake updated an event
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Explore the Landscapes of Story and Telling at Lenoir-Rhyne Center for Graduate Studies

January 23, 2019 at 10am to February 27, 2019 at 12pm
A Storytelling Offering in Asheville, NCWednesday Mornings 10am-12pmJanuary 23 – February 27, 2019 This winter Connie is excited to offer a learning opportunity to warm-up your storytelling voice and creativity!  Join her in Asheville, NC at Lenoir-Rhyne University for six story-work sessions with a weekly format that allows for skills to grow over time while encouraging a consistency in discovering, revisiting and refining your stories. During these weekly sessions participants are invited…See More
Nov 6, 2018
Connie Regan-Blake posted an event
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Explore the Landscapes of Story & Telling at Lenoir-Rhyne Center for Graduate Studies

January 23, 2019 at 10am to February 27, 2019 at 12pm
A Storytelling Offering in Asheville, NCWednesday Mornings 10am-12pmJanuary 23 – February 27, 2019 This winter Connie is excited to offer a learning opportunity to warm-up your storytelling voice and creativity!  Join her in Asheville, NC at Lenoir-Rhyne University for six story-work sessions with a weekly format that allows for skills to grow over time while encouraging a consistency in discovering, revisiting and refining your stories. During these weekly sessions participants are invited…See More
Oct 28, 2018
Connie Regan-Blake updated an event
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Connie Regan-Blake presents A Slice of Life: An Evening of Stories at Black Mountain Center for the Arts

April 6, 2019 from 7:30pm to 9pm
Join nationally celebrated storyteller, Connie Regan-Blake, as she hosts her workshop participants in an enchanting evening of storytelling in “A Slice of Life: An Evening of Stories.” The event will be hosted by the Black Mountain Center for the Arts, just a short drive from Asheville nestled in the picturesque mountains surrounding the area. Call the Center for advance tickets (828) 669-0930 or order…See More
Oct 28, 2018
Connie Regan-Blake updated an event
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Connie Regan-Blake's Taking Your Story to the Stage Workshop at StoryWindow Productions

April 5, 2019 to April 7, 2019
The focus of this “Taking Your Story to the Stage” 3-day workshop is on storytelling performance. Each participant is asked to come with a story that is almost “stage-ready.” Set in Connie’s home tucked in the beautiful mountains surrounding Asheville, NC, this workshop provides a supportive, affirming…See More
Oct 28, 2018
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Let’s say every word is precious

Let’s say every word is precious (Part of Living Poem) Let’s say every word is precious.Say every word is precious.Every word is precious.Every word precious.Every word.Word.--Rob Neufeld, Oct. 16, 2018See More
Oct 17, 2018
Rob Neufeld posted discussions
Oct 12, 2018
Nancy Sutton replied to Rob Neufeld's discussion Metamorphoses
"Poignant in so many ways!   "
Oct 3, 2018
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Metamorphoses

Metamorphoses (Part of Living Poem)Hear audio: Metamorphoses%20181004_0192.MP3 So Apollo committed the first rape.He’d come back from exterminating Python,The Bane of Humanity, now his arrow-victim,And stopped to mock…See More
Oct 2, 2018
Joan Henehan replied to Joan Henehan's discussion on Reading Living Poem
"Fantastic, that will be very helpful."
Sep 22, 2018

Marcus Thomas--from paralysis to para-real--an artist's retrospective

A painter’s journey from paralysis to genius

by Rob Neufeld

 

            Can an inspirational book claim your time away from the glut of feel-good features in the media, stories of depravity on TV, and the adrenalin fantasies in movie theaters?

            Yes.

            “Flight of the Mind,” a 212-page, gorgeous art book with text, reveals the life of Marcus C. Thomas, a Weaverville painter who learned to create artworks with a mouth-held brush after a skiing accident had paralyzed him below the shoulders in 1986.

            Thomas, along with Leslee Johnson, author of the book’s text, and Thomas’ wife and publisher, Anne Gahagan Thomas, present their 25-year retrospective, Tuesday, at Battery Park Book Exchange & Champagne Bar in Asheville.  Thomas will also be at various art shows in the area, including today in Highlands.

 

Art appreciation

 

            First, let’s get something straight.  Marcus’ artwork is great.  It is representational, but also something more—soulful—and, in recent years, increasingly symbolic, or as friend and kindred painter, Julie Speed calls it, “para-real.”

            “Such work does not undercut reality,” Johnson writes.  It gives “voice to the emotional meaning under the surface of every individual experience.”

            A good example is the book’s cover image, a painting titled “How Time Flies.”  The raven is in flight, but also eternal-in-the-moment, like an icon.  The brushstrokes are expressive, and the bird’s eye is a key element.

            There’s another eye in the painting—the artist’s—contained in the timepiece the bird carries.  And the timepiece: it’s wrecked and leaking parts, which include the artist’s tools.

            The conversations that Johnson had with Marcus about time were very meaningful to her, she says, and overthrew her expectations going into the project. 

            “I was thinking that the imagery of wings and birds was going to be even more central than it turned out,” Johnson said in an interview Tuesday.  

            “Being confined to a wheelchair, you think, oh, there’s hours there, and what else do you do?  But for him, time is going too fast…You might think, here you are imprisoned, and the clock’s ticking slowly, and this is the rest of your life.  Actually, for him, it’s going too fast, and his art is his way of capturing it as much as he can.”

 

Finding a voice

 

            Johnson’s prose sometimes strives for poetic enhancement, especially in the first chapter, as in: “The accident paralyzed his body, but did not ruin the soaring dream deep within.”  But the collaboration with Marcus and Anne made her more of a grounded storyteller, and it shows.

            She includes many quotes from Thomas, whose wit is memorable.

            He once admitted to someone not privy to his mental intensity while painting: “It’s like watching grass grow.”

            When he broke his teeth painting the large panorama, “Linville Gorge,” he acknowledged, “I bit off more than I could chew.”

            “My voice as a painter,” he explains, talking about his range of themes, “amplifies multiple personalities that include a desperate cry for environmental help, a deathly cold walk through life, endlessly happy days of play, historic conversation about the evolution of flight and simply celebrating the obvious beauty that surrounds us.”

            Thomas can talk, and he can type, but his main source of expression is vision.

            Recovering from a coma after his accident, he went through many stages of recovery, including learning to breathe.  “Starting new again was getting old,” he remarks. 

            Back home after seven months, “he found his athletic, physical drive concentrated exclusively into his eyes and powers of observation,” Johnson writes.  “He started looking harder, noticing details, subtle changes in light, tiny motions; he set about to bring ‘seeing’ to the heights of an athletic pursuit.”

 

Many layers

 

            One of the remarkable bonuses of “Flight of the Mind” is its inspirational value.  It’s an art book and a tale of a personal journey, not an advice book, yet it presents, in its telling, several tangible examples of how inspiration works.

            First, there’s the mystery of the will to live.  When he’d been at Mars Hill College (now University), getting a degree in outdoor recreation, he recalls telling coach Pat Sams while out running, “I’d rather be dead than lose the ability to function.”

            Yet, he came out of a three-week coma, defying medical predictions, with tears in his eyes; and when he saw his girlfriend, Anne, by his side, he proposed marriage.

            There is also the lesson of taking small steps. 

            “We want people to understand that against all odds, great achievements can be made,” Anne says.  “You start with small ideas.  You sell calendars door-to-door and work your way up to writing a book.”

            The calendars to which Anne refers are the ones into which, in 1988 and 1989, they put Marcus’ first paintings—of birds.

            The page in the book that shows the calendar covers faces a page that shows Marcus’ first artwork, a colorful, childlike Christmas card that reads, “Merry Cosmic Christmas,” with a smiling face in a sleigh saying, “Yo!”

            That’s great book design.  In pictures, one can see another aspect of Marcus’ inspirational story, his discovered talent.  The 1988 calendar’s pin-up mallard shows brush control, but is crudely blocked out; the 1989 eagle ensemble is gorgeously subtle.

 

It takes a family

 

            Marcus’ journey was and is not solo.  Family and friends were inspired by and inspiring with love.

            It was Anne and Marcus’ sister, Amanda, who, early on, noticed Marcus’ boredom and bought him his first art set.  His father, a NASA worker who’d filled Marcus’ youth with model airplane launchings, invented the mouthpiece into which Marcus’ brush fits.

            There have been many other influences: family camping trips in Montreat (they’d lived in Charlotte, Florida, and Virginia); Marcus’ older brother Chris, who died of a virus while a student at Mars Hill College; Ken Gregory, an instructor at Mars Hill College, who recognized Marcus’ talent; and always, Anne, who does everything from physical assistance to marketing.

            Books have exerted a life-changing influence; Thomas is a voracious reader.

            “In a second-hand bookstore,” Johnson writes, “Betsy, Marcus’ mother, came across a slim hard-bound book, printed in 1922, written by Winston Churchill, titled ‘Painting as a Pastime.’  The book immediately became one of Marcus’ favorite testimonies.”

            “Armed with a paint-box,” Churchill wrote, “One cannot be bored, one cannot be left at a loose end, one cannot ‘have several days on one’s hands.’  Good gracious!  What there is to admire and how little time to see it in!”

            Anne researched many art books in order to choose the paper, ink, binding, format, and design of “Flight of the Mind.”

            The Thomases and Johnson now have another book planned, Johnson reveals, a new flight of the mind, involving his hummingbird paintings and writing about the “fantastic history of the hummingbird,” Johnson says.

            “There’s a mythology around them that relates to environmental concerns—such as the Native American myth of the hummingbird saving mankind by leading someone to water.” 

            When Thomas first picked up a brush, his life, he says, “became a grand metaphor.”

 

THE BOOK

Flight of the Mind: A Painter’s Journey through Paralysis by Marcus C. Thomas, narrative by Leslee N. Johnson (Lydia Inglett Publishing large format hardcover, 212 pages, photo quality paper, including 118-page gallery, $95; collector editions also available). To order, visit http://www.marcusthomasartist.com

 

EVENTS

Marcus and Anne Thomas and Leslee Johnson present “Flight of the Mind” at Battery Park Book Exchange & Champagne Bar, 2 Page St., Asheville, 7 p.m., Tues., Aug. 27.  Call 712-5143.

Upcoming art shows include: the Highlands, NC Arts & Crafts Show today; Art in the Park in Blowing Rock, Sept. 7; and Art in Autumn, Sept. 21 in Weaverville.

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