Five Stories: A Multi Media Collaboration

What follows are a series of collaborative pieces of art: five images – one for each day of the week – followed by a snippet of a story inspired by the image.  Neither artist featured communicated their ideas about the image to one another.  The stories are fictitious, yet the images involve real people and real places.  Keep coming back for a new Story each day of this week!



1.

Augustus.

Augustus, watercolor, pen and ink, 12X9. dylanjohnart.com

…In his early years, he was a known explorer.  He kept meticulous notes on his expeditions, which delved deep into the Amazon, the Congo, the Siberian wilderness, in and around the Fijian islands – before each was how each is now.  Few before, and few since, took to both land and sea so naturally, and with such grace.  His legs carried him far.  He was even known to pace at night, in his sleep.  He was restless, in that way, and yet, he was ever-effervescent: never with bags under the eyes, never fraught with episodes, as they say; never did I once see him yawn. In his later years, his foundations began to crumble.  He did not grow old, like most, but began to visibly disappear.  To witness his deterioration was to watch a work of pointillism in reverse.  Each day, dots vanished from between dots, hard lines became collections of probabilities in space and time.  Gaps appeared between the fibers, he dimmed, you could start to see through him.  There was an unraveling of sorts.  The boundaries began to oscillate and, though he maintained a perfect elegance in and of himself, our perception of his movements took on a frenetic kineticism.  We were never quite sure where he was in himself, or in his mind.  Yet in his mind, Augustus was, and always remained, right at home. He was my teacher, and my hero, and I will never forget the last words he spoke to me.  I tended his bed at the end of his journey.  He quit eating, stopped drinking, ceased to rise in his sleep.  Two minutes and thirty seconds before his heart stopped beating, he looked at me and said, “remain excited to go, sad to leave.”  There was nothing else to it.  As his light left us, I am confident he was both…

2.

Castle Valley, watercolor, pen and ink, 33x20.  http://dylanjohnart.com/.

Castle Valley, watercolor, pen and ink, 33×20. http://dylanjohnart.com/.

…no home, no car, no wife, no kids.  I come out here to this desert, look at these cliffs and towers.  People climb ’em.  Some climb ’em.  Not me.  I just look at ’em.  Hole up out there west of Monticello – call it Indian Creek.  But I come back here sho ’nuff when I can get a little gas in the ole truck.  Head into town to scrounge some food.  Use to be they’d be people out here, people what lived here, see, that type.  Not just visitin’ folk like me, like you, like them.  No, but livin’.  Say they was nomads anyhow.  Can’t live here summertime no way no how.  Them indians – anasazi they say – use to hunt somethin out this way.  Buffalo, musta been.  Now I just see cows. Yep, I s’pose I done alright in this life.  I’m 63 years old.  Caint say I ever been one much for people, or for talkin’, but you want me to talk, tell you a little bout my story, so I’m talkin’.  I had me a wife.  Yep.  And a job, a good job, sure.  Forty hours week, drive a truck, steady pay, overtime time to time.  Didn’t mind the road none, kep’ me honest, kep’ me clean.  Kep’ me on the straight and narrow they say. Wife didn’ like it none.  She gone an’ left me back in ’98 and then well I didn’ need no job no more.  I s’pose I missed her.  That’s true.  For about ten years or so I reckon.  In and round the corners of the day.  Mornings, evenings, that’s when I’d miss her bad.   I s’pose she was the only lover I ever had. Now she’s gone, and I got me this desert.  She aint much for company, but she sure is purdy.  Now you come askin’ me about this climbing business, askin bout dirtbaggin and the like.  Reckon I don’t know a thing about either.  I s’pose I’d give it a shot if someone offered, but they don’t much take kindly to me.  Rather keep their distance sort of.  They come more and more now – huddle in big noisy circles round campfires nights.  Use to be you could hear the desert out here.  Nowaday caint much hear anything but themselves – and me neither.  This rain’ll wash em away though.  They always leave with the rain, but that’s the best time to stay.  Caint find that smell nowheres else in this world, I reckon. I ‘spose I aim to be movin on one of these days. But it aint so easy.  Sure, the place changes, but where else can I go.  Someone told me Kaiparowitz down’ere south somewheres.  But I don’t know.  I s’pose I’ll be here til they start makin you pay to stay, and then I’ll be on down the road.  There’s other places, sure.  But they don’t look like this…

3.

Black Birds, digital photo,  Canyonlands NP.  dylanjohnart.com

Black Birds, digital photo, Canyonlands NP. dylanjohnart.com

…We circle high above, free and easy on the hot air rising up from the hot ground, and the road hotter still. We flap not a wing, but circle and circle, and cock our heads, and look down upon the endless black snake with one old bleary eye, and then cock again, and look with the other. And the cars always pass, and they always kill, and they never stop, and between the cars we watch vultures cruise down on the thermals, effortlessly and gracefully, and feast on the careless extravagance. And sometimes we join in the meal. They are not hungry, yet, those humans. Times, still, are bountiful and good for them – or they would learn a thing or two from us. But there is a change in the air. Aye, we have seen it.

Man is far too proud an animal to reckon his own ruin. He sees no changes, heeds no warnings. He mocks us, shakes a fist at us, calls us pest. He can not tell between us and crows, and they too are wiser than he – for at least they perceive a change in the wings. But the change is definite. We watch our brother hawk now who always snorted and scoffed at us; who hunted us down for sport from time to time, and sneered at our wisdom; who would look haughtily upon a bounteous feast with beak upturned, and too much pride. Ah yes, full of hubris our brethren. But the times are changing, and they grow skinny and weak. And here I have seen them, poor and miserable and humbled, and the fiery fierceness gone out of their eyes a little. I have watched them come out of the sky like fallen angels, and down to the roadside to dine among the wicked. But they are graceless here, and unpracticed. They are not familiar with the roar of the road, and they get rolled beneath wheels, or smashed up on windshields and the grills of large trucks. And they fall in a heap of feathers and tragedy to the road, and we, from time to time, make lunch of their carcasses, and the meat is lean, but sweet.

Yes, a day will come when man, too comes to dine at the side of the roads. But then, there will be no more cars, and the feast will end. And man will look about feverishly, and cast stones impotently in our direction. And we will hop and laugh, and dodge and always keep an old wizened eye on man. And we will watch as he grows weak and weary and desperate, and wanders around aimlessly and uselessly in search of things he long forgot how to find. And we will outlast him. And when he is too weak to defend himself in his final hours, we will come back around laughing and hopping, and pick at the tender delicacies.

So it shall be. Man, of course, has writ his own fate; full of premonition, but not yet wise enough for foreboding. Decree is always, of course, self-manifesting. Our stubborn thoughts turn to will, and will to reality. “The meek shall inherit the Earth”, he proclaimed. And so it shall be. When all exuberance has stagnated into decadence, and the day is full or rot and entropy, we shall feast humbly upon the decay – knowing always, keeping always near and dear, the knowledge that the feast is finite, that it too shall end, and we feasters be left with nothing more to feast upon but ourselves. And knowing it, it shall be so, until finally all sputters and sighs out, and then… then we know not. That is our ending, how could we begin to see beyond it?…

4.

Cowgirl, charcoal, 15x11.  dylanjohnart.com

Cowgirl, charcoal, 15×11. dylanjohnart.com

…”But babe,” I pleaded, “Super gnarly alpine sendspree!  Uber rocktober, creeksgiving, hashtag vida patagonia.  Send?  Rock Warrior?  Hashtag vanlife, hashtag splitter, hashtag monkeys!” Nothing was getting through to her.  It was like we were speaking two different languages.  She looked at me as if the words I spoke did not tug at her heart strings – this, I found unimaginable.  In retort, she fired off words such as ‘family’, ‘responsibility’, and ‘settle’ – strange words the likes of which I had never heard before, and barely comprehended.  I racked my brain trying to find some translation, but the only thing that came to mind was ‘epic’. This was how she looked when she left me.  I sketched her in from memory.  She was tough as shit, could kick my ass any day of the week.  She wore that cowboy hat naturally, not ironically, like some kind of hipster fashion statement.  She didn’t chew, but if she had, she could’ve gotten away with it.  I don’t know what she saw in me, what made her want to be with me, in the first place.  She could’ve had anyone.  And she knew it. She was tough as shit, but she was beautiful, feminine, and lovely.  She loved me, and I loved her.  We wanted one another to be different, but we weren’t.  That was then.  I am different now, but now she’s gone.  I think about her sometimes.  We didn’t stay in touch, never wrote, I don’t have her number.  I wonder where she is now, how she’s doing, what life is like for her.  I hope she’s found what she was looking for. Another hashtag bro called me this morning – he wants to head out to the Creek; has his eyes on Ruby’s Cafe.  Says I can have the onsight burn, think’s I’ll send.  He’s probably right, I’ve come a long way since then… But I’d be a hell of a lot happier about if I had her fingers on me instead of mine.  I can’t remember the color of her eyes no matter how hard I try…

5.

Ancient Art, watercolor, pen and ink, 24x18.  dylanjohnart.com

Ancient Art, watercolor, pen and ink, 24×18. dylanjohnart.com.

If I stand still enough, I can turn myself to stone.  If I stay here long enough, I can make this place a home. This is why I come here.  This is why I climb.  The challenge is little, the uncertainty none.  Again and again, I return to this pedestal.  The feeling is always the same.  Below, the rudiments and chores shroud the day in a conspicuous tedium.  This slippery water groove again, that small crystal, this chossy chimney.  Climbers above me, climbers below me – an endless stream of disneyland climbers in line for the main event.  Perhaps I should have branched out today; gone elsewhere; climbed something harder, more obscure, less travelled, different. But then I bust out onto the plank.  I mount the awkward horizontal pillar.  I dance around the corkscrew finish, clip bolts high above the desert floor, touch the top, bring my foot up, and carefully – ever so carefully – stand among the clouds. This time, as every time before, everything drifts away like so much bad weather.  I am reassimilated into that great desert spirit.  I am stone, and air, and whatever soars by – hawk, vulture, raven or crow – I am one with it.  And coming back down, passing party after party, I am reminded (when reminding is needed most), they are too… All of us are.

This is why I come here.  This is why I climb.



Big thanks to Dylan Johnston for letting me use his awesome drawings, paintings, and photos for this art collaboration.  We hope you enjoyed these snippets!  As always, if you like what you read and see here at Fringe’s Folly, please do share the site with whomever you think might enjoy it.  For now, Fringe’s Folly is entirely unsupported, and the artists you see here contribute their time, energy, and passion sheerly out of a desire to share their work.  The more people we can share with, the merrier.   Also, please keep in mind that Fringe’s Folly is a collaborative public forum!  If you have work you’d like to share, ideas you’d like to see us tackle, compliments, complaints, criticisms, cruxes with the site, or anything else that starts with a ‘c’, please let us know by using the contact form.  Thanks! -FF

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