A Bit of Wildness in Sophistication – The Art of Scott Avett

Motherhood

This past Friday night I was witness to something remarkable, something magical.  In fact, I was more than a witness to this event.  I was an active part of it, an integral piece in the puzzle of community.  So too were the other 200 people who were present.  No piece was more important than another.  Rather, all were necessary to make the evening as powerful and memorable as it was.

It was to be an evening centered around the art of famed musician Scott Avett, co-frontman of The Avett Brothers and a native to Concord, NC.  However, it became so much more.  The fundraising event entitled, The Paintings of Scott Avett: Exploring Story and Spirituality was the brainchild of local artist Tom Schultz and his wife Sheila Ennis of Empathinc..  It was organized and executed flawlessly by a passionate and dedicated team of individuals, all working towards a common goal–to support one of Charlotte’s most valuable resources, The Educational Center.

I approached the evening with eagerness, curiosity, and excitement.  As I ascended the stairs to the second floor gallery, a mist of celebrity blanketed my thoughts.  This was going to be a very unique opportunity to be in the presence of an artistic genius away from his usual musical arena.  While my endless appreciation for Scott Avett’s talents was the driving force of  my attendance, I was surprised to find an anticipation bubbling up inside of me for something more.  It wasn’t until I walked into the gallery that I began to understand what that “more” was.

The gallery, which was actually an empty second story condominium two days prior, had been transformed into a maze of rooms adorned with Scott’s masterful oil paintings, charcoal sketches, and linocut prints.  People filled each room–mingling, laughing, eating, drinking, visiting, and carrying on.  I was drawn to familiar faces, and with the first hug and smile the mist began to clear.  While I was certainly in the presence of greatness, it was not simply in the form of one man, but rather in the group as a whole.  On that night, in that second floor gallery, community trumped celebrity.

Midway through the night people gathered around the front foyer of the gallery, eagerly awaiting the centerpiece of the event–storytelling by Scott Avett.  First, Sheila took a moment to share her thoughts about the event with us.  She highlighted the history and mission of The Educational Center, as well as its accomplishments.

“[The Educational Center] has been nationally acclaimed [as] a pioneer in research of religion education, particularly in the methodology called maieutics, which is the Greek word for midwife, and it means as a teacher or facilitator, you are not the authority.  You simply help another person work what that person may already know,”  Sheila explained.

As an educator myself, this resonated with me.  So often in formal education we get bogged down by authority and power and lose sight of our mission to facilitate learning.

Tilly Tice (President of the Board of Directors of The Educational Center) followed Sheila and commented on the theme of synchronicity that led up to the evening–a theme that by that point was more than palpable.  She thanked Scott Avett for his support of The Educational Center through his participation in the event, and praised him for being “committed to moving beneath the layers of human stories, of personal history, and experiences to discover deeper levels of spiritual reality and knowing.”

As Tom stepped up to the microphone, the anticipation for Scott’s talk grew even louder.  Tom, like Scott, is also an artist and a storyteller.  Through a few brief stories he explained his connection to Scott and how he relates to Scott’s paintings.

“When you see the color under the arm that is painted so deftly, you are dealing with something wild that is also sophisticated.  When you see one brush stroke that defines an entire toe so clearly and succinctly, you are looking at something wild that is also sophisticated.  I often compare Scott’s work to writers like early John Steinbeck…sometimes I think that there’s an air of grit to the reality that he portrays.  There is a bit of wildness in sophistication.  I hope you recognize that and after looking at these paintings, accept Scott’s invitation to you to find the wildness in you that’s wrapped up in your sophistication,”  Tom shared.

We hadn’t even gotten to the man of honor, yet I was already inspired by the passion and spark that came from Sheila, Tilly, and Tom.  I was not expecting this feeling, but welcomed it freely.  As Scott stepped out before us, his presence alone commanded respect and attention.  Perhaps it was the fact that the majority of those present are inspired daily by the lyrics of his songs, the earthiness and ease of his voice, his humbleness, or his homegrown charm.  The room was quiet, and we were all ready to listen.

Though he admittedly didn’t outline the conversation that followed (“for the past four months I kept this discipline of being really lazy and not planning anything”), Scott seamlessly wove themes of family, discipline, work ethic, and self-awareness together as he danced from story to story.  He was funny, expressive, honest and revealing in front of his audience.  It was plain to see that he came by his storytelling talents honestly, as his dad Jim is the original Avett storyteller–although I suspect there was a long line before him as well.

Scott candidly discussed the push and pull struggle of balancing this learned discipline and work ethic with his innate artistic drive.  He felt best to explain this through the writings of John Ruskin, in particular an essay entitled The Seeing and Feeling Creature.  Scott explained:

“Artists are put on this planet to do…three things.  [Ruskin] says we are here to see, and to feel, and to document.  The artist can try to think but he’s not here to do that.  He can try to explain and analyze but he’s not here to do that.  He can go to parties but he’s not here to party.  He can’t.  He really can’t…As soon as he feels something he has to act on it and move on it.  The documenting, which is the third thing in this description and I believe this is true and I understood when I read it, quite a bit…With the seeing and feeling and the work ethic, there’s a balance that is ongoing for me and at the moment as I think about what I am called to do and my obligations to the visual and through song and through story, it feels in order.  But in the next moment it very well could flip over and find itself off the rails.”

Again, Tom’s theme of wildness in sophistication emerged in Scott’s words.  This theme has invaded much of what Scott Avett shows to the public, both in the recording and art studios.  There is a constant state of re-balancing taking place to keep the wildness at bay, but also to ensure that it isn’t smothered by the sophistication.

As the evening carried on, the energy continued to grow.  Scott had shared with us his stories and his outlook, and now it was our turn to share with others.  We made connections that will guide us along in our spiritual journeys.  Like-minded people from all walks of life created an experience that fostered community, and that was just the beginning.

The next day I returned to the gallery to pick-up the piece of Scott’s artwork that I purchased.  The rooms were quiet and the sun shone in through the windows, creating a new perspective on the space and his paintings.  However, the spark and the energy that permeated through the space the night before remained.  Could we go back and do it again?  I wish we could, but in all honesty it wouldn’t be the same.  The synchronicity of that evening was a once in a lifetime alignment of our lives that we will remember for years to come.

To see some of Scott’s art please click HERE

February 28, 2012. Tags: , , , , , , , , , . Emotion, Friends, Life. 1 comment.

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