Paul Folwell at the Ah Haa School
Last Thursday night, there was an opening reception for artist Paul Folwell’s exhibit in the Daniel Tucker Gallery at the Ah Haa School. There was also a snowstorm, and Folwell spent the night in Telluride. The next morning, instead of heading straight home, and despite the fact that he had three large commissions in his Durango studio pleading for his attention, Folwell went skiing. For anyone else, it might have been playing hooky. But for Folwell, getting up into the hills has made him a better painter.
In his earlier career, Folwell was the first head of the Purgatory Ski School. Purgatory has since become Durango Mountain, but a set of expert glades on the mountain’s backside are still named for him. (A promotion on the resort’s web site reads, “When you’re really ready… try Paul’s Park.”) Today, in Folwell’s second career, he’s primarily known for his landscape painting, and most of those landscapes involve the San Juans. His compositions are often serene, even austere. The drama comes from the way light meets landform: highlighting a couloir, casting shadows off aspen, reflecting off a peak. To this day, Folwell says he never knows what will move him to pick up a paintbrush, other than being outdoors, that is. “I tell my wife, I’m going looking for a painting,” he says. “Sometimes it’s a subtle thing I see. Sometimes you just get that charge, and it hits you in the solar plexus.” Occasionally, he paints en plein-air. Other times, he returns to his studio, a short walk up the hill behind his home, and cranks the volume on J.J. Cale and Eric Clapton, Arty Hill and the Long Gone Daddys, or Cosi Fan Tutte. “Sometimes you go into his studio and you can’t talk to him because the music is so loud,” says Folwell’s wife, Cheryl. The music may blare, but his canvases make a quiet statement. Paul Folwells’ paintings are on display at the Daniel Tucker Gallery through Feb. 24.
Telluride Theatre Company’s Alice Underground
The cast and crew of Alice Underground had a lot to be jazzed about last weekend: one benefit of the former SquidShow Theatre’s recent merger with Telluride Rep has been an upgrade to their facilities. The new production is set in The Palm, Telluride’s largest, swankiest theatre. But while the set pieces were more lavish, there was still the matter of learning to light the place, getting costumes together, and more. “People keep asking, is it easier now?” says Colin Sullivan, the author of Alice Underground. He chuckles. “Not…really.”
The increasing complications of an artist’s life as a result of success is not only what Sullivan and his director, Sasha Cucciniello, were wrangling with last weekend. It is also the theme of his new play. Alice Underground is the story of Charles Dodgson, who lived the quiet life of an Oxford instructor in math and logic until his success as “Lewis Carroll,” author of Alice in Wonderland, propelled him into the spotlight. The change interested Sullivan. “I was completely gripped by how strange and nonsensical” Wonderland was, he says. “I wondered, who the hell wrote this?” Then he dug a little deeper. These days, many people think of Carroll not only as a playwright, but possibly also a pedophile. By the time he had written the play, Sullivan had also read a number of Carroll’s journals, contacted several Carroll scholars, and even gotten in touch with a New York psychologist who specialized in analyzing the controversial author. Along the way, he came to view Carroll not as an infamous personality, but as a person. “What happened when he realized he was no longer a scientist, but an artist? When he was living a life not of logic, but of the imagination? That journey – that was the rabbit hole, for him.” As for Carroll’s provocative reputation, we’ll never know what he did or didn’t do, Sullivan says. If you want to see him as deviant, you’ll find things in the play to support that. You can also see him as innocent. “Why not let the audience decide?” Alice Underground runs Thurs-Fri., Feb. 9-10, at 8 p.m. The event is free (donations are accepted). Though Alice in Wonderland is a book for children, Squidshow rates this production PG.
How to Eat a Poem 2, with Beth Paulson
For the next four weeks beginning Thurs, Feb. 16, Weehawken Arts will offer “How to Eat a Poem 2.” Each week the series, which will be moderated by Beth Paulson, explores the work of a different contemporary poet. It gets its title not only from the fact that this is the second go-round for this course (it is back by request) and that it will be held at lunchtime, but also because it aims to help readers “take in” poetry from a different perspective. Which is to say, not your teacher’s. “The whole thing about poetry is,” says Paulson, “What most of us know about it is largely colored by what we read in school.” To turn to poetry later in life, with no preconceptions, is very freeing.
In its first incarnation, “Eat a Poem” was about poet laureates. This year, Paulson wanted to do something different. She found four poets – one for each week of class – after poking around a number of literary websites, where she came upon a list of the top five contemporary poets in terms of popularity. She nixed number one – Billy Collins, who she says is so widely known that many people who like poets have probably already read him. Poets two through five, however, were intriguing. Nikki Giovanni (number two) is an African-American woman, and Gary Soto (three) is a Latino writer. Naomi Shihab Nye (four) was born to a Palestinian father and an American mother, and Charles Simic (five) is an immigrant. “The diversity appealed to me,” she says. “They are all American poets, but they come from such different places. What is ‘American’ about their writing?” Add differing points of view from people in the class to the various poetic voices, and for Paulson, the mix becomes ideal. There are so many different perspectives, she says. As a person and as a poet, “This excites me.” “How to Eat a Poem 2” meets four consecutive Thursdays, beginning Feb. 16. For more information, visit weehawkenarts.org.