Category Archives: Art

Blue Ridge Reflections: Photos with Matching Poems from Western North Carolina

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When my wife Patricia Joynes sees a morning fog or the beginning of a crimson sunset, she abruptly leaves the house to submit to her passion. She is a nature photographer.

Years ago, when her 35 mm film cameras and her role as family event documentarian became obsolete, Pat turned her attention to nature photography with a small Canon Power Shot S110 digital camera. Her focus was on the Appalachian Mountains near our home around the Blue Ridge Parkway for its natural beauty aesthetics.

Strolling at the Blowing Rock

The Blowing Rock Attraction, Blowing Rock, NC

Her first published credits were in books and journals, but her Blue Ridge photographs became recognized in the Town of Blowing Rock, North Carolina annual calendars (2015, cover in 2016, and three pictures in 2017) and the annual Blue Ridge Parkway calendar (2017, 2018).

Sunset Capture

Pat also published annual family calendars of her nature photos with aphorisms by me in 2016 and 2017. By that date, the edited file of her Blue Ridge-centered photographs exceeded 10,000 images!

Solitary Bench.JPG

Mayview Park, Blowing Rock, NC

In early 2017, Pat asked me, a published poet, to write poems inspired by specific photographs. We were both amazed at the collaborative results as the first poems emerged. The titles give clues to the content: The Puddle Portal, The Sanctified Bridge, Split-Rail Fence, and Solitary Bench. Week after week, as Pat presented me with other photographs, I wrote matching poems. By mid-September I had completed 29 of them!

The urge to share what seemed to us a remarkable series of creative events caused us to edit and design a collection of 32 photographs and 20 poems titled Blue Ridge Reflections: Photos with Matching Poems from Western North Carolina. The soft-cover edition of the book may be viewed and purchased here.

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Mayview Park, Blowing Rock, NC

 

Here is a sample photo and poem from the book.

Become the First

Become the First

Before there were human eyes to see

there were a millennia of dawns

and foggy mountain wooded sunsets

whose nascent glory went unreported.

 

From any high Blue Ridge vantage point

creation unfolds in waves of light,

and time is a cycle of the sun

that produces growth and the promise

of life in its regular passing.

 

What was it like to be the first to see

the distant waves of an evergreen sea?

What was the valley fog assumed to be?

And what monsters did they prepare to flee?

 

Primal emotions are felt in all ages

as the wild universe is explored.

A ravens’ rock becomes sacrosanct

in a landscape bereaved of doors.

Rejoice that the search for tomorrows

is still the possibility of today.

Become the first to reach the mountaintop

and see its natural wonders on display.

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Prince Henrik of Denmark: A Royal Collaboration

The Prince Consort Henrik of Denmark

The Prince Consort Henrik of Denmark

Classical music performance artists dream of recognition in the places where concerts are sponsored by royalty. Here is the story of how an American composer rose to acclaim in the châteaux of European royals in the dreamtime of a single year.

Henri de Laborde de Monpezat, as the husband of Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, is titled His Royal Highness, the Prince Consort of Denmark. A native French Comte (Count) before his wife came to the Danish crown in January 1972, Henri, or in Danish, ‘Henrik’ is a published poet of some regard, having authored five books since 1982, and a prize-winner in several European literary academies. Prince Henrik writes in French and maintains a part-time residency at his château and winery in France. As it evolved, Prince Henrik and I have a great deal in common. We are both poets and collaborators to the same Franco-American composer Edmund Barton “Bart” Bullock.

Long before Bart and I began our partnership on the oratorio, The Awakening of Humanity, Bart has had a long-term interest in the composition and performance of art songs like those based on the poetry of Prince Henrik. In 1999, Bart began a collaboration with the Académie des Jeux Floraux de Toulouse (Academy of the Floral Games), the oldest literary society in the western world, founded in 1323. Bart composed an art song in 1999 based on a poem by Prince Henrik, “Descent on the river of the catafalque of Raymond VII, Count of Toulouse”, which opens his Cycle of Seven Arts Songs in honor of the Seven Troubadours and of Clémence Isaure, founders of the Jeux Floraux de Toulouse.

Edmund "Bart" Bullock in performance

Edmund “Bart” Bullock in performance

The art song was composed with permission, but Bart had no personal contact with the Prince. This work was premiered in the Clémence Isaure Hall in Toulouse in 2001, with a repeat performance that same year in a Carnegie Recital Hall concert in New York City. Then in August 2013, Bart’s friend and landlord Marquis Robert de Palaminy invited him to attend the annual charity concert sponsored by Prince Henrik and Queen Margrethe II. Bart decided to package the song cycle, published in the U. S., for Prince Henrik on the chance that he might be presented to him.

When the Honorary Consul of Denmark in Toulouse, an acquaintance who was also attending the concert, learned about Bart’s gift package, he offered to convey it to the Prince. The Prince, an excellent classical pianist himself, was able to read the score and was impressed enough to call Bart to him during the concert intermission. Thus began a conversation about music that led to Bart being invited to the Prince’s after-concert dinner party.

Queen Margrethe and Prince Consort Henrik of Denmark

Queen Margrethe and Prince Consort Henrik of Denmark

Amid a roomful of close friends and family of the Prince and Queen Margrethe II, the Prince asked Bart if he would compose another art song from a poem that he had written about Toulouse. The composition of that song led the Prince to send Bart a book of his poems for the creation of an art song cycle that he would commission. The commission of the six new art songs included a performance contract to perform the music at the Prince and Queen’s 2014 benefit concert. The arc of that year between concerts must now seem as magical as a fairy tale for Bart.

The concert in the Château de Cayx in Luzech, France will be held on

Chateau de Cayz Luzech, France

Chateau de Cayz
Luzech, France

Thursday, August 21st at 6:30 p.m. As sponsored by Prince Henrik and Queen Margrethe II, Bart will perform his Three Tango Fantasies, a Cycle of Seven Troubadour Art Songs, a Cycle of Six French Art Songs based on Prince Henrik’s poems from the poetry book “Cantabile,” and his Prélude Elégiaque, from the oratorio Le Cortège de Lucie, based on the libretto by the Franco-Belgian poet and philosopher Bernard Van Brugghe.

The second half of the concert will hear Bart play famous Opera Arias with mezzo-soprano Christine Labadens. A DVD recording will be made of the concert with a royal dinner party to follow.

Bart was no stranger to French nobility when he began his collaboration with Prince Henrik. His home base in France is on the estate of the Marquis and Marquise Robert and Jeanne-Marie de Palaminy. Bart had leased the historic estate manager’s cottage, on the grounds of the Château de Palaminy . In cooperation with the Palaminys, he has restored it to be the ideal composer’s environment.

Chateau de Palaminy

Chateau de Palaminy

 Interior alterations allowed for the entry of Bart’s huge Steinway D concert grand piano and a staging area to accommodate forty guests for intimate concerts in the composer’s home. Bart also gave private concerts for the Palaminys and their guests in the old wine storehouse of the château, a late 18th century addition whose walls were built out of the distinctive Toulouse brick and stones from the adjacent Garonne River, a vast space with a wood beam ceiling seating up to 400 people. Other noble acquaintances then wanted Bart to perform at their château, so Bart was kept busy, making new friends and supporters at these intimate cultural gatherings.

Edmund Barton Bullock Photo by Maurice Petit

                                                         Edmund Barton Bullock
                                                          Photo by Maurice Petit

In addition to concert appearances in Europe and the United States and recording sessions of his major works, also on Bart’s agenda are my oratorio, The Awakening of Humanity, and his French oratorio, Le Cortége de Lucie.

After the anticipated triumph of the Prince Henrik art song cycle concert in August, there is hope that it will be repeated in Denmark and the United States.

My own collaboration with Bart will have the premiere performance of its first two movements on January 11th in Toulouse by the Ensemble Vocal Unité under the artistic direction of Christian Nadalet. Our hope is that the recording of this concert will stimulate interest leading to a commission for Bart to complete the entire six-movement work. We would like to see The Awakening of Humanity premiered in France with a symphony orchestra, followed by a United States premiere in Washington, DC or in our native North Carolina.

"Bart" Bullock and Monty Joynes in their oratorio collaboration

“Bart” Bullock and Monty Joynes in their
oratorio collaboration

I can also imagine a day when a concert program might include the Prince’s art song cycle as well as my oratorio. Perhaps as the attending collaborators, we would be introduced—Henrik as a Royal Prince and me with a kind of title awarded at birth. I am a Saint. St. Leger Moncure Joynes. I hope that my joke makes the Prince smile. We do, after all, share a composer.

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N. Scott Momaday: Native American Arts Champion

House made of dawn cover no picScott Momaday is credited with leading the way for a breakthrough in Native American literature when his novel, House Made of Dawn, won the Pulitzer Prize in 1969. Scott, who had a high level academic career, was also a poet and playwright. His participation in the second year of the Playwrights’ Project was then considered a literary coup. I was delighted to have the opportunity to meet Scott over a period of a week where I sat as an observer to the dramatists’ creative process. Little could I have anticipated that I would later hold Scott Momaday as a three-hour conversational captive in my car.

Edith Crutcher with Monty at the Playwrights Project

Edith Crutcher with Monty at the Playwrights Project

I was introduced to N. Scott Momaday in 2000 by Edith Colvard Crutcher, a distinguished North Carolina Cherokee elder who had a significant role in preserving American Indian culture as a member of the Board of Trustees of the Department of the Interior’s Indian Arts and Crafts Board. Edie had read and admired the first three novels in my Booker Series that deal with the metaphysics and social issues of contemporary American Indians, and she was very generous in inviting me to participate in the first sessions of The Playwrights’ Project.

Healing SpringAlthough I was the 1986 founding president of the Blowing Rock Stage Company, an award-winning Equity professional summer stock theatre that produced five shows each season, I had no playwright credits to become a writer or actor at the Playwrights’ Project. That first session, March 14-21, 1999, my wife Pat and I drove from Boone, NC beyond West Jefferson to the remote rural location of Healing Spring where the invited writers and actors worked in a country school being restored as a theatrical center. Pat and I brought small gifts and acted as an unofficial welcoming committee.  We also sat in on the sessions where individual playwrights presented the most recent rewrites of a scene, and actors performed dramatic table readings.  Then Artistic Director, M.Z. Ribalow, a playwright himself, led a critical discussion of what had just been presented.

I admit to a persistent flaw in my manners. Despite my lack of rank or authority, I cannot keep quiet when I feel that an obvious point needs to be articulated. I have thus offered my unsolicited opinions to First Sergeants, Lieutenants, Captains, and even a Major when I was in the Army, and to Generals, Admirals, and Ambassadors when I was a lowly staff civilian. My faux pas at the Playwrights’ Project was to offer comments from my sidewall guest observation chair to the playwrights and actors at the conference table.  Meir Ribalow justifiably did not appreciate my remarks made from the peanut gallery, and thereafter I perceived his scowl whenever I approached. Nevertheless, I admired his talent and dedication to the creative process that lasted until his untimely death.

Momaday receiving the National Medal of Arts

Momaday receiving the National Medal of Arts

In the first ten years of operations, the Playwrights’ Project, also recognized as New River Dramatists, fostered 345 plays under the direction of Founder and Executive Director Mark Woods. In 2007, Scott Momaday received our country’s highest cultural award, the National Medal of Arts. Other playwrights in the program won a National Book Award and the August Wilson Prize. Perhaps half of the plays workshopped at Healing Spring saw production in New York City and elsewhere.

When Pat and I met Scott Momaday, he was a giant of a man at age 66.

Monty and Pat with Scott Momaday at the Playwrights Project in Ashe County

Monty and Pat with Scott Momaday at the Playwrights Project in Ashe County

Wearing a high crowned western hat, he seemed a head taller that I was. In the sessions where actors dramatized scenes from his play-in-progress, he responded to all suggestions generously, and he was obviously one of the group’s favorite participants. At breaks and at the mid-day meal catered by country ladies from their nearby home kitchens, Scott was always available for conversations. He also cooperated with anyone, like us, who wanted to be photographed with him.

In a two-week playwrights workshop Pat and I would commute and maybe spend three to four days on site. We were fortunately there when Scott needed transportation to the Charlotte airport.  Although it would be at least a three-hour detour for us, we readily volunteered. Scott carried a two-inch stack of airline tickets that he shuffled to find the flight to his next appearance on a long itinerary. He noted that he did not enjoy the travel, and that he would be happy when he could return to his mountain home in Jemez Springs, New Mexico.

Momaday pulitzer novelist banner

Pat drove our Dodge Caravan while Scott sat in the rear seat catercorner from me in the front passenger seat. As a former journalist, I had to avoid the temptation to interview the Pulitzer Prize author on Native American subjects that interested me, but then, too, I was not going to stay silent and miss the opportunity to engage him. I was then working on a long novel, Eagle Feathers In Glass, that was inspired by Lloyd Kiva New, a mutual friend of ours. Maybe that conversation about the Institute of American Indian Arts that had been founded by Lloyd occupied an hour or so. At some point on the journey to the airport, Scott and I found our most common ground: our passion for cooking soups. He described his Southwestern ingredient soups, and I told him my recipe and methods for creating an authentic Louisiana Cajun Chicken-Sausage-Okra Gumbo.  Scott then suggested that the most productive use of our next-time meeting would be in a kitchen for a soup and gumbo cook-off. Perhaps he hoped that I might talk less while preparing a gumbo.

When we left Scott at the airport terminal, Pat admonished me for talking non-stop. “Maybe Scott would have enjoyed a nap,” she chided. “I already apologized to him,” I said. “He can nap on the flight.” “Mark Woods will probably never ask us to take anybody to the airport again,” Pat added.

“I can’t help myself,” I confessed. “I would have done the same on a train ride with Mark Twain. If you don’t engage great men and women when you get the opportunity, you will regret that silence for the rest of your life.”

Since I was only 59 years old when I met Scott Momaday, I trust that he will forgive my behavior as a youthful excess of enthusiasm.

indians and mountains

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The Expatriate Painter

African Delta 1964

People who have visited our home over the years have witnessed every available wall space filled with artwork.  When questioned, we have to admit that most of it is mine.

I began painting in oils spontaneously as a teenager, and I loved the French Impressionists.  In three trips to Europe beginning in 1958, I was drawn to the art collections of the major museums in Amsterdam, Paris, London, Milan, Vienna, Copenhagen, and Stockholm.

In Sweden and Denmark as a postgraduate Bauhaus Situationiste fellow, I lived in the home of writer and artist Jorgen Nash whose brother, famed Danish abstractionist Asger Jorn, maintained a summer studio.  It was in that studio that I renewed my drive to create visual arts.  My artwork came to the attention of the leading modern art critic in Denmark—Jens Jorgen Thorsen—who encouraged me to work fulltime in oils, inks, and watercolors in preparation for a public gallery exhibition.

Space Place 1964

By 1964, I was getting a lot of media attention, and my paintings were purchased by two museums and by a Swedish Countess.  I found myself in association with some of the most important European fine artists who had founded the historic COBRA and Situationiste Internationale art movements.  These avant-garde movements were protests against the practice of establishment academies dictating what was and was not fine art.  Artists who were non-conformists were thus excluded from the commercial art world.  With no formal academic art degrees, I, too, was assumed to be a protest artist.  My sudden fame in Scandinavia, however, came to an abrupt end when I was drafted into the US Army.

Man Bearing His World 1964

Out of the Army and home in Virginia, I had a one-man exhibition of my abstract paintings in 1967; but married and with a child on the way, I had to devote myself to magazine journalism to make a living.  Then, after a 40-year hiatus, I started painting again.

Woodland Levels 2007

At first, the work resembled my European influences, but soon I was experimenting with new styles and materials.  My Woodhaven Series of 2007, for example, is very naturalistic in its use of construction board and color patterning.  The primary objective in these initial paintings was to see if I could restore a sense of movement and depth to a flat surface, the qualities that had first attracted critics and buyers to my artwork.

Other new works demonstrated a Native American influence by the use of leather, feathers, and beads.

False Faces 2007

The Yellow Circle Series of five paintings took a full year to complete because of their complex geometric designs.

Yellow Circle Series

Yellow Circle Series 2010

Raging Comet 2011

An experiment involving night sky paintings with wooden relief “moon” discs led to another series in 2010-2011.

Oceanic Moon 2011

Boone Moon 2011

My art studio consists of a garage and a covered deck space where I work outdoors weather permitting.  I have also done a few assemblage sculptures that have been positioned in our woods.  Every summer I encourage our grandchildren to come for brief instructions followed by days free to use my paints, brushes, and pallet knives on canvas and wood surfaces.  Their home bedrooms are now decorated by my work as well as their own.  Some pieces we do together.

Although we do not sell the artwork created in the mid-1960s, more than a dozen paintings of the new era have gone to private collectors in the Washington, DC, Chicago, and Knoxville areas.

Passing Planets 2012

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