I've experienced a confluence of shepherds in the past week, unusual given that I'm a New Yorker who spends most of my time on either end of the L.I.E. with nary a sheep in sight. Each of the three sheep herders "encountered" this week have imparted some wisdom, sparked a thought, or provided inspiration.
The first of the three is Santiago, the Andalusian shepherd boy in The Alchemist, the contemporary classic novel by Brazilian author Paul Coelho. In the book, Santiago travels from Spain to Egypt to follow his dream, negotiating the competing urges of taking risks to pursue personal freedom versus taking the safer and less rewarding route. I'd previously been unaware of the book, but came across it last weekend in a book store and read it on my birthday, a particularly appropriate time for refreshed perspective on goals and dreams and managing obstacles both real and imagined. It is a work that is simple (perhaps sometimes overly so) yet strong in its message of personal inspiration, reflection, and motivation.
Relevant quotes: (almost too many to choose)
"The simple things are also the most extraordinary things, and only the wise can see them."
"The secret of life, though, is to fall seven times and get up eight times."
"Everyone seems to have a clear idea of how other people should lead their lives, but none about his or her own."
"People are capable, at any time in their lives, of doing what they dream of."
Having spotted a gorgeous production still on the MoMA film series website, I went to see Tharlo this week, the 2015 film written, directed, and adapted from the novella by Tibetan filmmaker Pema Tseden. In it, the eponymous Tibetan shepherd is told he must venture into the city to have his photo taken for a mandatory government issued ID card. Along the way we see the realities of his life of isolation in the Tibetan plateaus and mountains herding sheep, contrasted with the clanging harshness of the city. The film explores themes of identity and the tensions between modern and traditional culture, but perhaps its strongest claim on two hours of a viewer's time is its visual beauty in black and white.
Tharlo, when told that the ID card will allow people to know who he is: "I know who I am, isn't that enough?"
Setting out on a journey to pursue a dream, finding a balance between the modern and the traditional; these issues are faced by Akeem, a prince who travels to Queens, New York to find his soulmate and hides his royal identity by claiming that he is a goat herder. Okay - so it's a bit of a joke, but I do love Coming to America, Akeem does claim to be a shepherd, and I did come across it this week while flipping through what was streaming on Netflix. Or Amazon. Or both. I can't remember, but it is legitimately thematically appropriate, and is (perhaps embarrassingly) what made me realize that I've been a bit overrun (in the best possible way) by sheep herders this week.
"No journey is too great when one finds what he seeks."
"But it is also tradition that times must and always do change, my friend."
"I feel like breakdancing."
I haven't journeyed from Spain to Egypt, or from rural to urban Tibet, (although I did live in Queens); but I have been to many places that have inspired me. Three such locations -- New York City, Los Angeles, and Lisbon -- are featured equally among the work that I have in a show this month at The Art Gallery at the Quogue library. More information below - opening reception this Saturday, October 8th, from 3:30p to 5:00p. Included in the show is the photo featured above, Convento do Carmo, taken earlier this year in Lisbon in the now skeletal convent that dates back to 1393 and which suffered severe damage from an earthquake in 1755. Despite lacking a roof and being situated in the major city of Lisbon, the interior remains wonderfully serene, and provided great inspiration as I wandered within, camera in hand.
"Duets" group show, in collaboration with Will Ryan. The White Room Gallery, Bridgehampton, NY. Closes October 9, 2016
"Architecture and Steel" with John A. Bell. The Art Gallery at the Quogue Library. Quogue, NY. October 1 - 30.
Opening reception: Saturday, October 8, 3:30p - 5:00p
"Chasing Beauty" with Ann Brandeis, Nadine Daskaloff, and Mark Seidenfeld. The White Room Gallery, Bridgehampton, NY. October 13 - 30.
Opening Reception: Saturday, October 15, 5:00p - 7:00p