To hear Robert Anderson and Rose Wright speak about their respective crafts is to listen in on pure joy and contentment.
The husband/wife duo are clearly wholly immersed in what they do, and are excited to bring their talents to Mainstreet Galleries in Kingston this weekend where “R&R: Image/Word featuring the work of Robert A. Anderson and Rose M. Wright” will be presented.
While Anderson paints his imagery with words, Wright takes to fiber art to produce works for others to enjoy.
A REAL MYTH-ERY
Marrying myth and a film-noir-feel might be the last thing you’d think to do – but Anderson has done it, and finds he can keep on with the process book after book.
“The Cat, The Sun, and the Mirror,” which will be featured at the Mainstreet Galleries event, is only the beginning to a string of illustrated books that achieves just that.
The story first began as a script when Anderson and Wright lived in Massachusetts, where they both worked for a giant puppet troupe, Miracle Fish Puppet Theatre. However, the story was deemed as too sophisticated, and was put on the back burner until Anderson ran into longtime friend Ed Sullivan, a New York state assemblyman on the verge of retirement whose wish was to write music for musicals. Sullivan did just that for “The Cat,” writing the music and lyrics, and a musical was born. It was performed by the New York State Theatre Institute in its 2005-2006 season and a revised version was presented in Northeastern Pennsylvania in July 2011.
“The Cat” then evolved into book form, with Anderson working from both the musical and his original script of the story to produce what it has become today: a rhyming, illustrated based on the ancient Japanese myth of Amaterasu, the Sun Goddess, who one day disappears. The main character is Cool Cat, fashioned after the traditional loner private detective.
The idea for the series finds its roots in Anderson’s love of myths.
“I became enchanted with that Japanese myth, and with mythology in general, through courses I was taking in Harvard Extension (courses for non-traditional students). I studied with Gregory Nagy, who opened my eyes to myth.
“To me, myth is society’s way of telling the truth about itself and I had always, as a writer, tried to discover story. For me, this is what we live in; we live in story, we live in myth.”
He soon began to reflect on the myths of the American culture.
“When I was studying mythology and really getting into it, it made me wonder, ‘What is our myth? What mythologies do we have? Do we have any?’
“I’ve always been a fan of private detective fiction, and there it was: a loner private eye who sets out to find the truth and, usually, in the process, discovers some truth about him or herself.”
Suddenly, the premise for “The Cat” was right in front of him.
“This was the marriage of an American and Japanese myth, and once I wrote it I didn’t want to let go of it.”
A Caribbean myth is the basis for the second book in the series, “The Cat, The Prince, and the Golden Heron.” A Mayan myth is part of “The Cat, The Twins, and the Ballgame” and Anderson’s current Cool Cat book, “The Cat, The Monkey, and Wall Street,” deals with a mythical Chinese figure.
A SECOND CAREER
Wright began her career in the arts world as a dancer, something she had done from a very young age. She spent many years in New York with Twyla Tharp and around the time she entered her 30s, she moved from dancer to rehearsal director. Now, at the age of 64, Wright is well into what she considers her second career: a fiber artist.
“When I left the (dance) company, the dancers and the administration got together and bought me a spinning wheel and wool because they knew that I really loved sheep,” Wright said in a phone interview from her studio in Forty Fort with a laugh. “Oh, I fell in love with them in Scotland.”
When she and Anderson moved to upstate New York, Wright found herself a part of spinning guilds, traveling to state fairs, learning more and more facets of the craft as time went on. When the couple moved to Massachusetts, Wright decided to pursue schooling for the craft and attended the Swain School of Design in New Bedford, from which she graduated in 1990.
It was there she took courses on weaving and dying techniques, painting and color theory, ceramics, metals, drawing, screen printing, surface design – but it was her work with fibers that truly stuck with her.
“I really like handling the materials and threads,” she said. “I like the feel of fiber in my hands. I also find that fiber is more forgiving.”
It’s not all about the end result.
“I really like the process,” Wright said. “It’s funny because it was the same with dance; I enjoyed the process more than the performance.”
Wright said her work starts with a woven or dyed (or both) piece and then she goes from there, calling that her “canvas.” From there she uses various materials to add layer upon layer, tweaking each to her liking, to produce both large and small works.
The piece “Russet (Blue) Thoughts” is a piece comprised of woven cotton, rayon with inlay, embroidery, acrylic paint and nail polish among many other things.
“I love coloring and layering,” Wright said. “I love putting pattern on top of pattern, beads on feathers. I love found wood, driftwood, and rusty metal.”
The knack for layering also comes from her time as a dancer, as Wright said Tharp did quite a bit of it in the dance world. And the dance influence doesn’t stop there.
“I also keep trying to defy gravity,” Wright said. “I’ll have pieces hanging at an angle or have the weight in a risky place.”
She’s also recently gotten into utilizing the old for the new.
“What I’ve been doing lately is, rather than making new work, I’ve been going into my remnants of woven pieces. Sometimes I end up with much more than what I needed for a project, so I have scraps laying around. Why not use them?”
For the show at Mainstreet, Wright will have not only her fiber art on display, but also a self portrait oil painting and some brush and ink and acrylic works. She and Anderson have also collaborated on a few pieces, wherein he provides her with a poem and she visually inserts it into a piece.