Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Sam Barber, American Impressionist

I love my work. I love what I do. I write. And in the course of my work I'm exposed to all kinds of people and all sorts of lives and ways. And not only do I like the actual process of writing, of stringing one word after another so the thought they are reflecting (and that's all writing is is reflecting the thoughts inside your head) is so pure and right and perfect. I like what I learn as I go through that process.

Sunday, I sat with Sam Barber, an American Impressionist who lives in Hyannisport, right on the harbor around the point from the Kennedy complex. He and I and his friend John, whose birthday it was that day, and Sue and Bob, the wonder Aussie, sat in his studio in the old windmill tower on his property and ate pizza from Centerville Pizza, great pizza if you ever get the chance to try it, drank icy cold Stroh's beer from the can, and talked about art and color and light and painting and sometimes we even talked about politics.

The thing is, when you meet and talk with someone like Sam, someone who has lived his life so fully, who seems to have known what to do with this reality, you learn so much. It's like someone like Sam sees something the rest of us don't. Of course it sounds trite to say it, but you can learn something about life from someone like Sam more than you can from some drunk who you sit next to on a barstool. I think the drunks and winos and drug addicts of the world have been glorified for no good reason. Living hard and stupid may teach you something about yourself and life, but not in a truly pure way.

What I'm getting at is something that Sam said to me when I commented that he seems like the prototypical Impressionist. The French Impressionists painted the happy side of life. They loved life and painted it that way. He said that if someone is depressed and something is bothering that person, he doesn't want to hear it. He'll try to be nice, he'll try to be kind, but he doesn't want to hear about it or know about it because it will affect his painting, the thing that is his life. He protects that one precious thing in his life.

Why'd you let go of your guitar

Why'd you ever let it go that far

Drunken Angel

He's not a mean or cold person. As a matter of fact, a rather strange person passed by the house while we were outside, someone you see occasionally on the Cape or other seaside haunts, and stopped to talk, and Sam just naturally reached for a piece of pizza and handed it to him, sharing food.

There are people, though, who destroy lives and are, in the words of Holden Caufield in The Catcher in the Rye, as insensitive as toilet seats. They are insensitive to the nuances of life and to people's feelings. They can't see them or feel them, so even if they are well-intentioned they are still so dangerous because it really is like working with a blind person. And most times I feel sorry for these people, because they are missing out on so much of life. Other times I think in a very Darwinian way that they really haven't progressed as far as the rest of the species. The people who don't see or understand the nuances that others feel are no different than the fish who couldn't crawl out on the land. You don't want them in the gene pool.

And I guess Sam has learned or already knew to stay clear of people like this.

Sam can see color where the rest of us can't. Sue has seen and experienced and interacted with a real, live ghost. (Isn't it funny to refer to a ghost as live? Don't you just love our language?) And if you can see color where the rest of us can't, or experience another dimension, who am I to say you didn't?

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