Spring 2015, Volume 18

From the Art Editor

Bob Dylan? Pavarotti? Janice Joplin, Paul Robeson, Edith Piaf?  Whose singing would you thrill to hear even if they were just out on the street naming things that caught their eye?   There are singers of such distinctive voice that, if they suffer for it at all, it must be because we sometimes listen so intently, yet miss the subject they give us to consider.  We're so besotted with how they do what they do, that we hear our native tongue as a strange and lovely foreign language, an aesthetic experience more than a verbal one. Afterward, we may struggle to say how this occurred.

Allen Forrest has the visual art equivalent of an extraordinary singer's voice.  At first I thought his paintings were about his love for the everyday subjects he finds at home and on travels.  But then looking at his paintings online, and he offers a lot online, I grew to feel that what tied them together was his unusual voice.  Lots of painters use a vigorous, broad brush and bold color. What's unusual here is that his gift sings without demanding we endorse a story or a political point of view.  He speaks rather with the authority of a local sage, at once emphatic, particular and strangely self-effacing, humble.  I may have seen the city bus or street corner he has painted, but he has seen it more.  Sure I like his paintings; I like his gaze.

Sarah Kayss' images make a good and able foil for Allen's.  While they both seem to be walking about looking for whatever presents itself, she images a mundane subject at just the moment it reveals some secret idea of itself.  Remember when Winnie the Pooh went on a walk to look for nothing because that was the only way to see everything? (Alternatively, if you hunt for your keys, say, you'll miss every wondrous thing until you find those keys!)  Well, Sarah is someone with whom I would feel lucky to take a walk, if only to look for nothing, and for an unplanned amount of time. Where Allen records a collective noisiness of city life, Sarah finds an expansive quiet, a resilience and order that thrums between clicks of a clock's second hand.  There is an exciting feeling that all is just right and just enough.  That if one little spot of an image had been different, the whole mood and structure of the picture would have collapsed, disappointed her as well as us.  And surprise, she creates such deft complexities using the most common of (usually poorly used) art tools, a camera. 

  Now, enough talking. Go take time with the images of Allen Forrest and Sarah Kayss!


                                                                                     — Jack Miller