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article imageOp-Ed: Studio 35 where artists of the canvas and of the page converge Special

By Jonathan Farrell     Oct 12, 2014 in Entertainment
Sonoma - There's that old saying that a picture is worth a thousand words. Words and images often go together so it is no surprise that Studio 35 would have a poetry reading on Oct. 10 to compliment its art display.
Sonja Bakalyar and husband Steve worked together to coordinate that Friday evening's event which attracted a full house, or rather a full backyard audience. Sonja an abstract painter and Steve, a writer/poet represented of what Studio 35 is all about.
Abstract artist Sonja Bakalyar and writer-poet Steve Bakalyar coordinated an evening event of art an...
Abstract artist Sonja Bakalyar and writer-poet Steve Bakalyar coordinated an evening event of art and poetry on Oct. 10, 2014 at Sonoma's Studio 35 gallery.
As the gallery's director Jude Cameron would say,"Studio 35, is a space and an experience that not only houses physical works of art, but helps cultivate a sense of creativity within the community through the interaction and expression of art in whatever form it takes." The blending of poetry and art, especially for that evening was seamless. In the three-room cottage that provides gallery space inside, art was displayed on every available bit of wall, while outside in the backyard, an audience gathered to hear spoken words. Words that for this reporter at least, stirred up images and pictures in my mind's eye.
Words create pictures and pictures, images stir up words. This perhaps is why Sonja and Steve's work together was harmonious and unison. Even their son and daughter were present supporting and appreciating the benefits of the shared collaboration.
Catherine Sevenau read from her recently published book of prose at Studio 35 that Friday evening.
Catherine Sevenau read from her recently published book of prose at Studio 35 that Friday evening.
As the crimson glow of evening sunset dimmed the words of each of the four featured poets, Jean Wong, Michael Miley, Catherine Sevenau and then Steve, rippled like gentle waves in a pond. Each poem unique, full of expression and very personal.
The audience of more than 50 people applauded. They anticipated every word, even when the poet stumbled on reading. Sevenau apologized more than once for her nervousness. Yet the audience listened attentively urging her to continue and not to worry.
While I enjoyed all of the poets and their readings, something about Sevenau's Passages from Behind These Doors: A Family Memoir, had my attention undoubtedly. Her prose spoke of an echo in time that really was not that long ago, yet when adding up the years it is almost half a century.
Writer and poet Steve Bakalyar was among the four poets featured that evening of poetry reading and ...
Writer and poet Steve Bakalyar was among the four poets featured that evening of poetry reading and art at Sonoma's Studio 35 art gallery and exhibition center.
Sevenau talked about that 'Summer of Love' and the impact it made upon her family, especially her father for he was a shopkeeper along Haight Street. As she read, words like "hippies" and "social earthquake" and "cosmic peace train" reverberated in my mind. Suddenly I was five years old, seeing my older siblings attired in beads, bellbottoms and paisley-patterned shirts and blouses.
As Sevenau's prose mentioned the Vietnam War, the protests and the endless throngs of young people crowding on Haight Street, I could her my parents and grandparents talking at the breakfast room table, "all those young people all doped up, that is what is going on," my grandma would say. Then my grandfather would add, "bums and long-haired freaks, they need to get a job, doesn't anybody like to work anymore?"
Their lives in the Sunset District, just around the bend on the other side of Golden Gate Park couldn't have been more in contrast to the hippie movement that was happening in 1967. The Sunset District a working middle class area, much of it built after World War I was a place were people raised families in 2 and 3 bedroomed houses. They went off to work each day downtown and returned home in the evening to a family meal. An orderly life, my grandparents and parents were dismayed by what they saw and heard. The routine middle-class life was disrupted by the scores of youth coming of age, and making their way to San Francisco. "The music is oh so loud, it's hard to make out what the words are," my grandma would say.
As Sevenau kept reading, especially as she described what the hippies were doing compared to what her father as shopkeeper expressed, I suddenly recalled that forgotten feeling of being conflicted, even at such an age of five.
As little fellow, I loved the paisley patterns, the bright colors and some of the music. Oh I heard and sang lots of music. My parents listened to the Big Bands, my grandparents listened to the songs of Al Jolson and talked of days when they were young and they would dance in a ballroom downtown or under the stars at Larkspur. But my older siblings went crazy over The Beatles. Later on as the 1960's progressed each sibling had her or his own particular group or singer.
One liked Janis Joplin, another listened to Janis Ian, one liked The Doors and still another liked The Beach Boys. The Jefferson Airplane was popular at the time and whenever I heard the song "White Rabbit" being played on the stereo in the living room coming home from school, I knew my parents were out of the house and either one or all of my siblings had taken control.
The tastes and moods of music varied, as I took it all in. I agreed with my grandma on some songs, like "Take a Little Piece of My Heart," Janis Joplin did scream a lot to my little five-year-old ears. But her feather boa and glitter-rock style was charming. She is now featured on a US Postage stamp and so is Jimi Hendrix.
The Beatles' lyrics to me as a child were fun "We All Live in a Yellow Submarine," and sad, "Yesterday." Yet, the Beatles continue to live on as some of the most prolific song-writers of the 20th Century.
Abstract artist Sonja Bakalyar is currently showing her work at Studio 35 in Sonoma.
Abstract artist Sonja Bakalyar is currently showing her work at Studio 35 in Sonoma.
There was a lot that happened in the world during that tumultuous time of the 1960s. And, while I was very young, its impression was one that shaped life as we know it today. Sevenau's description of Haight Street in some ways is still there. Only, now Haight Street is definitely a tourist destination.
Homelessness is a permanent fixture not only on Haight Street and throughout the City, but across the nation. While the Haight Street area has become a shrine to what was, the spirit it contained is almost gone. For who can afford to live in the Haight-Ashbury these days? And, the education that helped many a young person of that era have the courage and insight to stand in protest or to sing aloud for peace, who can afford that education now?
Sevenau's prose stirred up all that in me. And, I am sure much more was stirred for those in the audience who were part of that scene back in 1967. For Sevenau her recollections in prose were poignant for as 1967 marked the beginning of a new age, it signaled the ending of her father's five and dime store on Haight Street. And, for Sevenau that time was also an end to the family life she had known with the death of her mother shortly thereafter.
The Bakalyar's were pleased with the turn out and the audience lingered to chat and then view the art inside. I kept thinking what Cameron had said to me when I stopped in back in July when Studio 35 first opened. "Art is the universal language," you can take just about any life experience and if you put it into some art form, paint it, sculpt, draw it and so on, people will come to understand it."
Poetry is yet another art form and like painting and sculpting it too can reach out in such a way. The poetry that Friday moved me, it made my laugh, it made me think. Most of all it brought many people together to share, something intangible yet so much a part of life everywhere.
For more info about Studio 35 and its activities and events visit the web site.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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