Wednesday, October 21, 2015

New Blog Location

Since revamping Mindport's website, we've incorporated our blog into it. You can find it at this URL.

We'll keep this blog open for awhile, possibly for the purpose of devoting it to different or more technical subject matter.

Kevin Jones 

Tuesday, August 25, 2015


Doodle with color
Lately I’ve run across several ads for doodle coloring books, not to speak of articles about the act of doodling like this one.

Being a veteran doodler myself, having the subject come wafting through the noosphere caught my attention. A long time ago I reassured my Mindport cohorts that my doodling during staff meetings was a sign that I was listening, and not that I was tuned out. I explained, if my hands are busy my brain retains more of what I hear. As a young student I invariably used to take some odd object to class to fiddle with during lectures. It could be as simple as a clothespin, paper clip, or a frame of 35mm camera film. The teachers who confiscated these “toys” didn’t understand that keeping my hands occupied helped me focus, rather than the other way around.

Doodling, as I eventually discovered, provided a better means to focus because it’s easier to do it surreptitiously (they think you’re taking notes), not to speak of the fact that you sometimes have interesting little drawings to show for you efforts when the meeting is over. At one point I filled a whole sketchbook with doodles made during a weekly reading group. We took turns reading short stories or chapters to each other. When I wasn’t reading, I entertained my restless hands with doodling in a bound notebook.

There’s a problem, however, with the term doodling. It doesn’t give the act enough dignity and respect, as the Atlantic article cited above implies. It’s true that the visual affect of many doodles is nothing to write home about, but putting your brain in graphic mode, so to speak, is one way of taming what meditators call “monkey mind;” that restless chatter the mind engages in when not busy with a focused task. That might explain why, for me, at least, it’s easier to absorb verbally-delivered material when my hands are occupied by doodling. Under those conditions, the chatter of my monkey mind isn’t running interference to verbally delivered information coming from outside. Why doodling or other manual activity interferes with internal chatter but not information coming from outside, I can’t explain, but that’s my experience.

Not too long ago I decided that what I’d heretofore referred to as doodling would be better dignified by the term “drawing,” even though it’s by no means what we normally consider formal drawing. I have done some of the latter. In fact, when I was in my late 20s I abandoned photography for several years and set about learning representational drawing. I never became very good at it, but could hack out a likeness to a landscape or a face if I put my mind to it. Interestingly it seemed to have magically enabled at least two abilities that I hadn’t possessed previous to my drawing stint: I found that I could visualize and build 3 dimensional objects in my head, and that I could suddenly appreciate photographic work whose merits had once mystified me. The former ability has been essential to creating exhibits for Mindport. And the latter has hugely enriched my appreciation of all visual artwork, not to speak of increasing my general visual sensitivity, which reflects in the photography I hang in Mindport’s gallery.

My conclusion is this: It’s a mistake to eliminate art and music education in the schools, or to consider them less important that training in math or science. We Americans have a tendency to assume that any aspect of life or creative work that doesn’t hit us over the head isn’t worth paying attention to. The fact is, the creative mind is a holistic affair. We may create arbitrary divisions between science, technology, art, language and music, but they’re all inextricably woven in our brains and we do ourselves and our culture a great disservice by ruling any of these disciplines trivial or non-essential to a healthy society and economy. We hope the richness of visitors’ experience at Mindport will lend confirmation to this idea. At least one popular exhibit, “Road Blocks,” is a direct product of my years of doodling experience. Come and check it out, along with the many other exhibits we have to offer.

Kevin Jones

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Terror vs Terroir

 I've read several articles lately about the rapid increase in consumption in this country of anti-anxiety drugs and anti-depressants.  Sometimes I’m afflicted myself with sufficient anxiety about the general state of  the world, environment, and economy that I find it necessary to cut way back on news consumption. A good proportion of other people I know feel similarly.

In reading through comments in my journal regarding French wine-making and agriculture, I came across the French word, terroir. This word is not etymologically related to our word, terror, but it suddenly struck me that there is a less-than-obvious relationship between these two words, as unrelated as they might normally seem, especially since they're vocabulary in two different languages.

In French terroir is vaguely related to our word “territory,” the closest single-word translation to English being “region.” But in French, the meaning is wider and more complicated than that: it's often applied to agricultural regions, especially in relation to vineyards. It refers to the "tang" of the soil, to rural-ness and to the countryside. There's connection to family history and to tradition. One apt definition I found in Wikipedia is "a sense of place."

It strikes me that in the population of the United States of America, one source of anxiety, fear, terror certainly has to do with loss of terroir, sense of place, contact with the soil and related work. In the early part of the 20th century 95% of the economy was directly or indirectly related to agriculture. (40 percent of the work force in 1940 were farmers.) Nowadays the figure is under five percent. This is not to romanticize the hard work of farming, but simply to point out that at one time in our history our major devotion was to a fundamental aspect of physical reality, namely feeding ourselves.

In bringing up the idea of terroir, most usefully translated as "a sense of place," I'm suggesting that much of our ennui (another French-derived word that means, variously, unhappiness, anxiety, angst, etc) has to do with literally losing touch with reality. After all, we float in what I like to think of as a thin tissue of lies. Our lives are saturated with advertising, which amounts mostly to lies and fantasies about what buying things will do for us. Our government and the corporations who structure our lives lie to us about their intentions. The “American dream,” which we’ve been sold as an ideal for decades is just that, a dream, a fabrication, which nowadays is increasingly impossible for most Americans to attain.

Furthermore, unlike in earlier decades, the hardware and software “tools” that dominate our work and recreation rapidly grow obsolete and must be replaced at relatively short intervals. Any skill we acquire in connection to using those tools needs to be endlessly relearned.

Old buildings, often beautifully built, are torn down and replaced with new ones, more in style with the times. Farmland and woodland morphs into housing developments. Basically, we have no firm ground to stand on. On top of that, whatever news or other information you read on the Internet is of questionable truth. Photos and even video are easily manipulated. We can no longer even count on the climate to remain constant.We live on screens, immersed for hours per day in this virtual world of questionable verity.

Is there any doubt that this constant flux afflicts us with anxiety, ennui, or whatever brand of unhappiness you care to mention? We truly no longer are blessed with a sense of place, since even the places we live change so rapidly that they’re unrecognizable in a few short years. When I first moved to this town of Bellingham thirty-eight years ago, you could drive from one end to the other during rush hour in about ten minutes. There’s not a chance of doing that now.

How do we cope with this groundlessness I’m describing? It affects us in all domains: physical place, work, climate, social custom. Some change is exciting and desirable, but with total absence of firm ground to stand on, how do we know where to go?

One way I've discovered to cope with this loss of a sense of place is to withdraw from such distractions as social networking, many of the internet news sources, and any situation that exposes me to advertising. Stay away from malls, in other words. Limit exposure to the news, especially that of the “mainstream” variety. Gardening is one good way to recover a sense of place. Being outside, preferably on a regular basis in some relatively wild place is another one. Lacking a patch of ground to cultivate a few tomatoes (I once grew them in an alley), I’ve found that there’s great satisfaction and a sense of groundedness that accrues in nurturing vegetables or flowers in pots, either indoors or out.

Oddly enough, I've found a certain reassuring sense of grounding in watching films made in the years before TV was widespread. Some of these films seem laughably quaint, but it's interesting and comforting to see portrayals of life as it was before we became completely lost in a world of electronic gadgetry. It helps that I was born in 1944, so actually lived during a pre micro-elecronic era.

Of course this piece is written from the point of view of someone who mostly grew up as a middle-class citizen of the USA. However, I’ve done enough international traveling, including 3 years of residence in Belgium as a high-school student, to understand that many people who can now read such material on the Internet live in unimaginably different circumstances, perhaps with more “grounded reality”in their lives than they welcome. Still, from my own reading, it’s apparent to me that conditions in most of the world have changed radically enough, often for the worse, that the challenge of coping with loss of firm ground and a sense of place is a challenge for a good proportion of citizens anywhere in the world.
Kevin Jones

Friday, April 3, 2015

Second Annual Summer Writing Workshop

 We are excited to announce the second year of our week-long summertime creative writing intensive with New York-based writer Whitney Wimbish. 

This workshop is a chance for six women, ages 17 and up, to practice and hone their craft in an encouraging and safe environment. Each writer will create and polish a work of original prose and help her fellow writers to do the same. The class will include workshop-style critiques in which students give and receive feedback – a component of virtually all creative writing MFA programs across the country – and will end with an evening reading at which the writers will present their work to the public.

The class will be held at Mindport July 13 – July 17, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. The public reading will be held Saturday, July 18, at 7 p.m. in Mindport’s fine arts gallery and will be followed by a reception.


To apply, please email Whitney at with brief answers to the following:
* Why would you benefit from a writing workshop?
* What would you contribute to a writing workshop group?
* What do you plan to work on in the workshop? (Answers could include a first-person essay, a fictional short story, a chapter of a novel-in-progress, a critical essay, or an experimental work that combines many genres.)
* Please briefly include any additional thoughts you’d like to share.

The deadline for applications is Friday, May 1. Whitney will notify applicants of placement by Friday, May 15.

The cost of the class is $60. Following notification, a $30 deposit is required to hold a place in the class. The remainder is due the first day of the workshop.

Questions? Email Whitney at whitneyck@gmail.

Whitney Curry Wimbish is a journalist and creative writer in Brooklyn, New York, whose work has appeared in BOMB, The Los Angeles Review of Books, The Financial Times, The Cambodia Daily, and elsewhere. She is winner of a Poynter fellowship for journalists and an honorable mention in two Glimmer Train fiction contests. She holds a BA from The Evergreen State College and an MFA in creative writing from The New School in New York.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Graffiti: Art or Vandalism?

On the island where I live, a number of young people have performed the decorations you will see represented in a collection of photos that will hang in Mindport’s gallery commencing the third week of January, 2015. The original work illuminates a long sea wall of grey concrete slabs that protects a shoreline road from the wave action of Northern Puget Sound. One of these creative doodlers referred to their graphic exhibition on a local computer forum as “art.” Since graphic work on walls has always interested me, I photographed a number of these marks, which, in a cranky mood, I would view simply as vandalism. With the help of a photo processing program on my computer I selectively enhanced them by choice of framing and great amplification of color and contrast.

I don’t believe the resulting photographs are much different in character than certain others of mine that were recorded with the camera pointed at randomly peeling paint, diverse materials etched by the elements, or weathered geological formations. Whatever the “canvas,” all the original marks and patterns are created and/or further enhanced by natural forces acting on surfaces; sun, wind, freezing, rain and sometimes wave action. In the case of the graphic work we’re currently discussing, the original paints were laid down by the semi-random forces of young minds and hands, apparently being spontaneous, with little discernable plan. The images I make of such subject matter, including these, are commonly  not about the actual objects pictured, but are about abstract patterns to which my imagination or emotions respond. Often I manipulate such images to make these patterns more obvious, as I’ve done in the case of this graphic work.

If the creators of this work call it art, is it? If I frame and enhance it in various ways, whose “art” is that? A collaboration? If we uncharitably consider the raw efforts to be simply vandalism, do the modifications I perform on it turn it into art? These are intriguing questions focusing on what art is, what it isn’t, and what might be good art, bad art or non-art.

Much work of innovative historical artists, including graffiti art, was initially unappreciated by the public. Work that sells for millions today barely kept the artists who created it eating during their own era. What happened? How is it that the public judgment about such creative endeavor can change so radically, sometimes in a relatively short time? To me one of the most alluring mysteries that make creativity such a fascinating field of study and contemplation is the way it interacts with taste and what is considered valuable or worthless or of little interest at all in a given era. I have no definitive answers and mostly negotiable opinions about this myself, and hence leave it for you to ponder as you view these photographs.

Kevin Jones
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