There were three primary discoveries that helped me to find my own creative trajectory. The first of these was James Joyce. During my second year of school, I took a seminar on Joyce. In a month, we read Dubliners, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, and Ulysses. I had never been so moved by an artist before. I felt I saw myself in him, and I inhaled these works.
He pressed his face against the pane of the window and gazed out into the darkening street. Forms passed this way and that through the dull light. And that was life. The letters of the name of Dublin lay heavily upon his mind, pushing one another sulily hither and thither with slow boorish insistence. His soul was fattening and congealing into a gross grease, plunging ever deeper in its dull fear into a sombre threatening dusk, while the body that was his stood, listless and dishonoured, gazing out of darkened eyes, helpless perturbed and human for a bovine god to stare upon.
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
When the course ended, I went on to reread all of these books, but also read Joyce’s play Exiles, and also the Richard Ellman biography of Joyce and the Brenda Maddox biography of Nora. I even tried Finnegans Wake (I still haven’t made it through this, but love what I know – I have a lovely recording of Joyce reading from it). I declared an English major, and tried to focus my courses in such a manner that I could learn more about Joyce (taking courses on Nietzsche, Shakespeare, and Homer, among others).
The second of these discoveries was Balinese gamelan. This came during my third year of college. After about a year of playing jazz bass, I switched to percussion. And percussion led me to gamelan. I worked with so much determination on my English degree, I completed my course work my junior year. Not needing more courses for my degree, I decided to study percussion abroad. Almost arbitrarily, I narrowed my choices down to two countries, Kenya and Indonesia. Strangely, a friend of a friend caught wind of my interest in Indonesia, and invited me to a gamelan rehearsal in Denver. I was hooked, and as a result I’ve been playing gamelan off and on since 1992. I left for my first trip to Indonesia in August of 1992, and spent one of last two semesters of college studying Balinese music, religion, and art. During this first trip to Bali, I studied music with a young man named Dewa Putu Berata, who has since gone on to be a musician, teacher, and composer of great repute.
And the last of these three discoveries was photography. During the last month of my junior year in college, I took a short workshop on beginning black and white photography with Joann Verburg. Just like finding Joyce, I immediately felt the connection, and knew I found something essential to me. I dove into my study of photography with complete abandon, and tried to do and learn as much as possible as quickly as possible; I simply couldn’t learn quickly enough. For three months just prior to my study in Indonesia, I worked in the photography department at the Colorado Historical Museum. I spent my days here looking through William Henry Jackson’s archives, and printing in the museum darkroom for different exhibitions and library collections.
The goal when I left college was to start stitching these three discoveries together.