At the Kenneth G. Mills Foundation’s 2017 Summer Festival of Light, Sound, and Peace: Celebrating Presence, Mallory Blair Randle, artist and ceramics teacher, presented slides of his vivid sketches done in Arizona and Ontario. As a remembrance of places and times that were dear to him – not just as a memory but “to point to a new experience” for the viewer – Blair highlighted subjects as diverse as the desert, leaping horses (“equine beauty”), and singing choristers. A colored pencil drawing with dashes of orange evoked the daylilies that lined the driveway of Sun-Scape Inn, where Kenneth Mills held annual summer festivals from 1975 to 1989. Participants in this year’s festival smiled at the sketches of a student raking the driveway, guests taking tea on the deck, the blurred frenzy that indicated dressing “after the second bell” for dinner, and the bucking dish-washing machine in the kitchen.
In bright pastels Blair called up the sparse vegetation of the land around Arinaka – Dr. Mills’s home in Tucson – as well as the scurrying, elusive ground creatures and birds. Having also practised at length to draw horses with a single stroke, Blair noted: “As an artist’s model, the horse is difficult, never still even when at rest, always flicking the tail, cocking an ear, or shifting its weight. Whether I was attempting to capture it in pencil, watercolour, or clay, I found I had to work from idea, a level deeper than appearance.”
In quick deft movements Blair was able to sketch the Star-Scape Singers in rehearsal. We saw “gesture drawings, images done very quickly to attempt to catch a fleeting feeling, nuance, or special moment.” In this way he evoked three singers in profile, for example. He also captured Dr. Mills’s expressive face and the blur of his conducting hands.
Blair concluded his presentation by saying: “Memories can fade and lose colour, but Being doesn’t. I hope this offering has evoked remembrance of everything full and rich and present in our lives, and the blessing of what can happen in a sacred time and space, set aside, and in appearance out from the world and separate.”
The wild inhabitants of the desert also feature in Blair Randle’s book, Coyote Wisdom Visits Brooklyn and Travels the Universe. Distilled from his “chapel talks” to private-school students in Brooklyn, this intriguing volume – to all appearances magic realism – explores the author’s discovery of a deep, spirited rapport, spoken and unspoken, between humans and animals. The stories are illuminated by the insights that Blair gleaned from the Shaman, his name for his actual mentor, Dr. Kenneth G. Mills. “On the surface, these are simple tales, but they startle. They not only make you see your relationship with animals in a different, far deeper way, but also make you re-evaluate your relationship to the world” (Michael Nill, educator, Mexico).
In a perceptive endorsement Bill Ardison writes, “We become aware that English is not the language of choice here, but a bolder psychic communication which supersedes spoken, literal words, language so often ordinary.”
Ardison also states, “There are several names for a person who is a deep life teacher…. Rarely is that person also an artist and teacher who works in clay and sees animals in nature as sources of wisdom who can deepen his own comprehension. And, further, can tell stories that clarify routine, existential life choices. Mallory Blair Randle … is such a person.”
Coyote Wisdom Visits Brooklyn and Travels the Universe can be ordered from Amazon here.