19 July

Tale Of Two Art Shows. The Scale Of Life

by Jon Katz
Scale Of Life
Scale Of Life

The first Bedlam Farm art show was held in the restored Pig Barn behind the farmhouse, the most beautiful of our barns, I think, I always wanted to make it an office to write in. More than 2,000 people showed up over two days, and Maria assembled a group of artists who brought their works to the barn. The streams of people never stopped coming.

I did the animal circus, herding sheep with Rose, bringing people to meet Simon, who was new to the farm and had already become an Internet sensation, recovering from his awful neglect. Maria did the art, our usual good pairing.

It was a coming out as an artist for Maria, a chance to show her neat new fiber works, and it was a coming out for the two of us as a couple, and also for me, who had been holed up hiding from the world and writing books for several years. It was a great success, people flew in from all over the country to meet us, see the animals, see the farm, take a look at the place they’d been reading about.

Several years later, the world has changed, our world has changed. We are holding another Open House/Art Show, a coming out of a different kind on a different scale. Bedlam Farm is a big stage, it was built for beautiful and large things with its pastures, fences big barns and views, pastures and big open rooms. So many things about this art show are the same. Maria and I are planning this show together, and our roles will be the same. She is making great art – scarves, potholders, pillows, quilts – and selling it in a new studio barn (an old schoolhouse, really) and and I will be herding the sheep with a different dog, Red, and bringing visitors to meet Simon and the donkeys, usually the first time most of them have ever seen a donkey. I’ll be talking a bit about our move, explaining how Red works, doing my usual tub-thumping for donkey awareness. There will be some other artists showing their work as well, the poet Mary Kellogg will be reading some new poems, as she did at the first show.

I guess the big difference is that the scale of our lives has changed. We needed a smaller stage, we have one barn and a beautiful old farmhouse that could fit into the downstairs of Bedlam Farm. The farm is flat, the barn right behind the house, the mortgage closer to the new world of publishing. I know where I am. I know who I am. We are close to a busy road, near a vibrant and lovely small old upstate New York farming down, now becoming an arts center stuffed with artists, singers, writers. Farmers too.

Our lives needed to shrink. We were ready to join this community, they were ready for us. I am teaching writing workshops, the art of the blog, volunteering as Recommender-In-Chief at my local bookstore, taking Tai Chi lessons.  My creative stage has grown larger, not smaller. The era of the big books ended and publishing changed, but story-telling and image-making is thriving and my work turned in a number of new and different directions – this blog, e-books, photography, podcasts, social media, and yes, paper books too. Surprisingly for me, I am more creative now than ever, and I see the same is true of Maria.  She is making different things, they look different, she is blending writing with her fiber art, she is growing up and out in her work, her blog has brought her imagination and great talent to the wider world.  People keep telling me they are sad we left Bedlam Farm, but I am not sad, it was wonderful then, this wonderful now.

We are thriving here.

It was time. I entered my sixties a few years ago, some of the hills had become harder for me to climb, my legs less steady, some of my falls on the ice and the paths harder to shrug off. My life with Maria is smaller, more intimate, having a partner to share your life is transforming, nothing is really the same. We love our farm, it is the right place for us now and we are happy to be sharing our bounty again, the same sort of thing, really yet the scale of life is what different, smaller, more peaceful.

As before, we are excited about this open house, this art show. We don’t really know what to expect – 2,000 people or 200 – but it doesn’t really matter. We have found our scale, come to our place. We know where we are in the world, in life, and this is the right place. So happy to let the world in. It feels very right to show this world to the people who make it possible.

The tale of the two art shows is a story about the scale of life, and how it changes, and of how one couple changed with it. No one can hide from the scale of life, the great challenge and opportunity is to embrace it.

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