Monday, June 6, 2011

Class, our guest today is Fred Babb


Fred Babb's art makes noise. In a lock-step world it is subversive. He, and all of his ilk, the troublemakers, give hope to us who grow furrowed and tense, seeing creativity leached from our schools and the once green fields of our lives.

Though he died in 2006, he and his work remain vibrant and essential to any who fear we may have bureaucratic laryngitis, the silencing of voices which even hint at freedom of expression.

His only, as far as I know, book is a collection of posters called Go to Your Studio and Make Stuff. It is available at Amazon, at prices rather higher than the $15.95 - new - I paid for it, and worth, pretty much, whatever it takes.

At one time he had a gallery/shop in Cambria, California, called What Iz Art? where the white paper bags into which one's purchases were tucked had Babb's words and images stamped and drawn on them. His book, subtitled "Paintings and Essays," seems aimed particularly at children or the people who have power over their destinies. Its messages are equally fierce, too, for all of us who ever pull back into our caves of reticence, of uncertainty, of not feeling courageous enough to be as odd on the outside as we feel within.

I find similarities between his views of what will create whole children and those of Lynda Barry. The illustration which leads to the book's section called "Kids and Art," says, "Art is what kids do to survive in an authoritarian society." Being grown-up does not, of itself, make us free; sometimes what is does is shrink the box into which we have tried to fit.

Babb wrote, "I once read in a short story, 'Time is an abstraction devised by man to regulate the illusion he calls reality.' If this is true, we should be able to unmake time. The ARTs provide the means for this un-doing.

"Many artists appear to exist in a different time zone than other people. We are accused of being 'spaced-out' and detached. But in reality we suffer from a permanent case of jet lag."

The term "art," as I use it today, means anything that allows access to what has been trapped in our minds and hearts and has started kicking out the windows, trying to escape. Fred Babb has gathered piles of old sheets for us and knotted them together. The drop is not as far as it looks.

(Art and quotes are the copyrighted property of Freb Babb.)

21 comments:

Lisa Hoffman said...

You know the coolest people.

I love the visual of kicking the windows out, with Fred tying the sheet together for us. I wonder if your fans know that you often speak like this in normal conversation?

Well, she DOES people. I usually keep a notepad nearby to jot down the juiciest stuff.

Angella Lister said...

This speaks to me today, especially the part about having the courage to be as odd on the outside as we feel within. I am trying to find that courage but it feels muffled today. Your words, your insights help. Thank you.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Lisa - Well, I know OF them...Now I'm totally busted for my patterns of speech, the head so full of curious images that my chin droops toward my sternum. Thank you, Leesa Bo Beesa. Charming to find you back in Bloglandia again. Notice we saved you the GOOD chair. xo

Marylinn Kelly said...

Angella - Thank you. I trust at some point the war does end...the tiny flame of hoping to pass for normal, not casting a shadow or raising a cloud of dust, is doused by the edgy or unruly or mad rocking truer self. If I didn't have muffled days, I'd be used up. xo

susan t. landry said...

yes. a big huge YES. that's it. i love the quirky who walk among us.
marylinn: i wish you had been here with me on saturday, to go to the 50-family yard sale in the empty parking lot next to the supermarket. i just know you would have gravitated toward the woman who was sitting in a lawn chair reading Thucydides (!) and selling buttons out of a reconfigured shoebox. she had hand-sewn the buttons to beautiful pieces of paper. my camera is dead; just ordered a new one. as soon as it comes, you get to see those buttons. i bought the whole box and i wanted her, for half an hour or so, to be my best friend.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Susan - Can you hear the shrieking back there? The 50-family yard sale? Be still my heart. I cannot wait to see the buttons and OH, you bought the whole box...did she have a story or did her unique take on button vending speak for itself? Happily a'swoon in California, constructing toothpick and crepe paper monuments to quirkiness. xo

Robert the Skeptic said...

Being grown-up does not, of itself, make us free..." This is so true, I recall feeling quite "oppressed" by my parents who limited my freedom. When I had teens of my own it was "deja-vu all over again". When my step-son complained about his freedom being suppressed I reminded him (to deaf ears) that you never the rest of your life have the freedom you have has a child-dependent.

He like all of us have to learn the hard way. Before he was 18 he wanted to move out and move into a rental house with three of his buddies. We let him feeling that he was ready to learn some early life lessons. It was a good decision all around.

Parabolic Muse said...

I LOVED that gallery! We went into What Iz Art every time we could. I have stuff from there.

Thanks for sharing about this. I'm going to go get one, whatever it takes.

Parabolic Muse said...

oops!
I guess I won't be getting his book very soon. I'll have to save up my allowance!!

Claire Beynon said...

It does my heart, head and soul good to come here and mingle with you and (y)ours, dear Marylinn. I feel like one big mismatch these days - stress fractures threatening to run amok and split my armature. Drama queen? Perhaps. But no, too. I am trying to find the courage to be 'as odd on the outside as I feel within' but beyond our band (safer than home?), feel the burn of judging eyes. (I've been getting it in the neck from o/seas family that I blog too much, am too transparent with the details of my life. . . Heaven, if I were to unleash the full truth of all that's demanding patience, courage and mindful attention right now, it would knock them flat. So, I'm feeling conflicted and stressed, my friends, and unable to say so on my own site. How incongruous is that? I hope it's okay to say it here. that it doesn't feel like a just deposited a sticky hairball in our midst. If so, sowwy. : (. )

Bring on tying of sheets, making stuff, cool - real - people and creativity unleashed. . .

Bless you all.
Love, Claire

Marylinn Kelly said...

Robert - To have a safe base from which to go forth into the world as we learn our way is a luxury, unrecognized in our youthful impatience. And age does not automatically bring answers...to anything. We all keep learning, just hoping it will not always be the hard way.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Parabolic Muse - Hello, welcome. Do you live in Cambria? I saw the beautiful coastal photo on your blog. I KNOW about the cost of the book...sometimes things turn up at bargain rates. All we can do is be watchful. How lucky to have visited What Iz Art? often. I have a few cards, saved. Wish we could still find the tee shirts. Good to see you here, thanks.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Claire - Those stress fractures can leave us in fragments...and I would, respectfully, disagree with the overseas family about your blog...I feel you are discreet, set a tone of integrity and honesty without, as my friend Lisa would say, telling us what's in your underwear drawer. Please feel free to say whatever and much as you wish here where you may be shielded from critical eyes. Haven't seen anything even resembling a hairball and I think we could cope with it if we did. I did a post today, at the urging of a mutual friend, which is a bit outside my usual reluctant comfort zone. I trust the advice and let go of the outcome. It may be a new day, dear Claire. We are blessed to have you among us. xo

Jayne said...

Marylinn- my son is going to love this book. He turns 14 next week and I'm going to order Babb's book for him. So glad you shared this with us.

About kids unlearning... we pulled our kids out of the public school system years ago because I felt like that was precisely what was happening. The last straw (well, there were many) was when the art teacher erased the ear from my daughter's drawing of a bunny, made her re-draw it twice, and then finished it for her when she didn't deem it acceptable. This was in 3rd grade, mind you. (And the school was well aware of the teacher's methods, but she had been there for years.) My daughter came home in tears, vowing she'd never be an artist. How sad is that? I cried.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Jayne - Early Happy Birthday to him. It will make a lasting, inspiring gift. What your daughter experienced made me sad...how can this still be going on? It should be against the law for teachers, parents, anyone, to turn children from the wonder of their creative expression. I hope she will peek at Babb's pages when the book arrives. xo

Antares Cryptos said...

Thank you for introducing me to Fred Babb. "Art that doesn't match the sofa". LOL. I know! *exasperated* at some of contemporary definition of collectible art.

To create freely for any reason at any time and delight in the inner child, who recently "collaged" some labels for absolutely no reason at all. Freedom.

P.S. I felt like using my gluestick.

Antares Cryptos said...

I was lucky when a teacher allowed me to learn geography by drawing maps and dinosaurs. I still have that folder.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Antares Cryptos - Fred Bsbb speaks for - and to - all our inner children, doesn't he? I continue to be very impressed by the amount of creative work from your younger days that you still possess.

And have you tried the Coccoina glue stick? I am happy with it and it smells so good.

AZALEA ART PRESS said...

Wonderful . . . as always! xoxoxo

AZALEA ART PRESS said...

Wonderful, as always! xoxoxo

Marylinn Kelly said...

Karen - Thank you. How nice to see you - and Azalea Art Press - here. xo