Yesterday, I gave a talk at the New Westminster Public Library to about 50 people, mainly women, attracted by my subject Georgia Totto O’Keeffe. More than 30 years after her death the iconic American artist can still draw a crowd. They came to hear about O’Keeffe and to see my slides of the Ghost Ranch which I took while visiting New Mexico in 2006 and 2007.
I talked about O’Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz, others who had played a significant role in her life (Mabel Dodge Luhan, Juan Hamilton, Anita Pollitzer). I juxtaposed some of her paintings with some of the slides. She visited Taos in 1929 and the ranch she found in August 1934. It became her full-time home during spring and summers as of 1949 until the end of her life.
She spent winters at her second home, a compound in the nearby village of Abiquiu, until the young man who would become her closest confidante in the last 13 years of her life, ceramicist Juan Hamilton, picked out an appropriate home for her in Santa Fe where she lived until her death at St. Vincent’s hospital on March 6, 1986.
I was really nervous about this talk. Something about going back to the place where you grew up is nerve wracking. What if someone I knew from high school showed up?
Up there, at the front, on the other side, you have to keep to the one-hour time limit. You must make sure your information is accurate. But, the real challenge is to weave a story that shares the information you have and touches a chord in some way, preferably, emotionally. That takes real talent and focused creativity.
I know I didn’t succeed in that last part. The audience liked it, apparently, based on feedback but to weave a really memorable story that sings, now that requires a whole other level of presentation and I have another chance to perfect that because I’m giving it again on April 10, 7:30 pm at New West Public Library.
So, last night, after my own experience, it was great timing for me to then go to see how the pros do it when I went to Vancouver’s Public Salon.
Public Salon was developed by former Vancouver Mayor Sam Sullivan and his wife Lynn Zanatta. They used to invite 10 people to dinner, people that normally wouldn’t ever be at the same table, and ask them to share one thing in their lives that that they were passionate about. One of their guests, a friend and older gentleman named Abraham Rogatnick, encouraged Sullivan to bring the wonderful idea to a larger audience. It wasn’t until after Rogatnick passed away that they managed to follow up on his suggestion.
We heard from writer Timothy Taylor, a cardiologist from St. Paul’s John Webb, a particle physicists who works at Triumf but spends most of her time interfacing on Skype with other physicists all over the world and in Cern, Switzerland, Anadi Canepa; a Shakuhachi flute master Alcvin Ryuzen Ramos, an urban farmer/community activist Ilana Labow, architect (Paul Merrick), a scholar of Native languages David Robertson and well known dog psychologist Stanley Coren.
It was so inspiring. Don’t miss the next one: June 5th.
Oh, and it was kicked off with a great mini concert by the Hugh Fraser Quartet. Jazzy stuff that really got me jazzed, the music and the talks.
As David Robertson would say in Chinook: Skookumchuk stuff by mukimuks.