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The magic underground
From flat land, you're staring at a vacant lot, a house moved to make room for a freeway. Maybe they left the dirt and some trees. Drive by, pass through, and you'd never imagine the glorious garden blooming beneath the ground.
That's the story of art and music in Fresno, according to Blake Jones — an hidden garden crafted from the very earth around us. It's a lofty metaphore and the basis for Jones' Underground Garden Project, a multi-media collaboration that includes music, art, even a Rogue Festival Performance that culminates in a CD release and art unveiling, April 24 at Audie's Olympic.
Jones is aself-describes media whore, so it wasn't hard to get him to talk about the project.
First off, tell us a bit about about the Underground Garden.
It was the end of last Summer. I had several missing pieces to several puzzles: Time was ticking on getting a Rogue Festival idea together in time for applications — I wanted to do something about Fresno's rock n' roll history. Our band, the Trike Shop, was trying to finish up an album by the end of the year, and there were several songs in various stages of completion. But it still needed another song or two and a title. I felt that finding a unifying thread would point me toward putting the album together. I'd been wanting to write a song about the Forestiere Underground Garden for a while. I was having trouble finding the right perspective … a point of view for the lyrics that would really make the song work.
Then it all came together. This creative outsider, Baldassare Forestiere, had created a gem. His dug-out home was a wonder of both art and practicality. It was something very unique and built (literally) from the local soil. This thing was authentic Fresno, yet it wasn't very well known by the mainstream. It was under-explored. It was … very much like our local music and arts scene.
Once this metaphor clicked in my mind, I ran with it. The song came together, it was a perfect title for the album (The Underground Garden), and it leant a focus to the Rogue Show — Fresno's music heritage — the seeds and … um, roots, if you will of the present garden. Even if stating a metaphor out loud can sometimes make it sound a bit silly — it worked as an undergirding skeleton and a way to focus my ideas.
It really became manic when I figured I'd document all of this on video (I know nothing of film-making), follow it on a blog (I'd never done a blog), and, of course, I needed to build a Web site to be ground-zero for this ever-growing crusade (luckily, Marcel Nunis is really good at building websites and came to my rescue.)
It seems like a big under talking (as compared to just writing an album/doing a Rogue show/coordinating an art project). What made you decide to present overlapping projects?
Once it occurred to me many of my current pursuits of mine had a common thread, that the many of the themes I was playing with in songs, and in this Rogue Show could be boiled down to a common core, I became super gung-ho. I also hoped that each of these projects (Rogue show, art project, Trike Shop album) would inform the others — that the things I would learn from doing one would make the others more meaningful for me and for anyone else that would be involved with them, as co-creators or audience members.
How did the art collaboration piece come about? How does it fit with the rest of the project?
Luckily Adam Wall, whom I'd only met once or twice, and whose blog I'd commented on a few times, was kind enough to listen to me rave on about this idea. I wanted visual art to be a part of the CD release party — to incorporate another branch of this underground garden. We discussed possibilities. He thought about it, and then came up with a way to make it happen in the real world. As anyone that's seen his work knows, he's quite the wood-worker. He started the ball rolling, and then Aileen Imperatrice from Ashtree Studios, and Shannon Johnson (many people know her from YoshiNow) also showed enthusiasm.
It's a pretty awesome list of artists. How were they chosen?
Between Adam, Aileen and Shannon, they all three rounded up several of their fellow artist pals, and there it was.
I heard that the individual tiles will be for sale? Yes/no?
Yes. The idea is, that if an artist sells their bit, they might replace it with another tile or open up space for another artist to pop theirs in. This way it's sort of an alive/evolving thing. And yeah, maybe that carries the “garden” metaphor even farther. Gotta stretch them metaphors, it's good for their health.
As far as pricing goes, I imagine one would have to work that out with the individual artists. We haven't had a chance to really discuss that yet.
Is there a little of Forestiere (he had to be a little crazy, yes?) in all of us?
Forestiere took a common problem (he needed a home) and solved it in an uncommon way. Some people might say it was a wacky way. Some might say it was a much better solution than the mainstream way. Everyone would certainly agree that it was a “unique” way. That's what artists do … solve different kinds of problems in interesting and unique ways — ways that make the world richer and more wonderful. I sure do hope there's a bit of that in all of us.
Anything else people need to know?
My mom's making her famous potato salad for Saturday's party.