One’s-self I sing, a simple separate person,
Yet utter the word Democratic, the word En-Masse.
Of physiology from top to toe I sing,
Not physiognomy alone nor brain alone is worthy for the Muse, I say
the Form complete is worthier far,
The Female equally with the Male I sing.
Of Life immense in passion, pulse, and power,
Cheerful, for freest action form’d under the laws divine,
The Modern Man I sing.
Behavior lawless as snow-flakes, words simple as grass, uncomb’d
head, laughter, and naivete,
Slow-stepping feet, common features, common modes and emanations
— Song of Myself by Walt Whitman
Thinking about our Brooklyn neighborhood and community with the most celebrated poetry collection Leaves of Grass, originally typeset and self-published in the neighborhood in 1855 by our most celebrated poet. Whenever we get buried in snow it’s as if the whole of life along with the landscape becomes somehow a timeless snapshot.
Whitman’s meditation also informs the debate on the artist’s role in community.
In the summer of 2009, the street in front of our house was unofficial headquarters for the block party. The neighborhood has allowed the wacky artists to assimilate, or perhaps more true, the artists have sought out the neighborhood as the fundamental element of their art.
Every morning kids with parents in tow plan their walk to school so that they can pass the casual art installation in our front yard. Their brief discussions can be more insightful than any “critical” appraisal could ever be.
Spencer, the Horse with Discarded UmbrellasSpencer, the Horse weathered the seasons well. A snow pile buried him for a few months. Later in the season he stood on a pile of unused plastic packaged Yellow Page directories that littered the neighborhoods with their useless waste.
- Spencer, the Horse in Hibernation
Spencer became the mascot for the campaign for yellow tags on ironwork fences to stop the indiscriminate and unwanted distribution of advertising circulars.
In the spring, unlike the phone books, Spencer emerged unscathed and unfazed. One day, the phone books metamorphosed into Spencer’s new friend.
Sadly, the love affair was doomed from the outset. Gradually the blond beauty melted in the rain, leaving Spencer to carry on alone again…
… except for his loyal compadre throughout…