Ari Fish: Run Away

8.24.09 Brooklyn, NY

I am sitting in our small apartment with boxes and stuff in half-packed-mode for our move in a few days to a new apartment, still in, you guessed it, Brooklyn. As Truman Capote once said, "I live in Brooklyn, by choice." My girlfriend, Katya and I just finished watching the internet bootleg copy of Project Runway's opening to the 2009 season filmed in LA. An old friend and classmate of mine, Ari Fish, was a contestant on the show, in which she only lasted one episode.

Thoughts on the matter would not warrant much discussion, but I figured I'd procrastinate further and try to give my own two cents to perhaps make sense and shed some light for all you out there scratching your heads saying "huh?"

It starts in Kansas City. Mid-Coast America. Where is that? Well, it's on the Missouri River on the border between the states of Kansas and Missouri, mostly Missouri. Historically, it began as a French fur trading outpost and grew into the last main gateway for Western expansion of early settlers California bound. Later as infrastructures developed K.C. functioned as a major cattle and freight train junction with its relative central geographic placement in the U.S. As time would have it, it's primary contacts to the outside world were the railroads and roadways in all directions with St. Louis and Chicago to the East, and Wichita, Omaha, Denver, and eventually L.A. to the far West. Isolated? Somewhat, then there was Radio, WWII, TV, Interstates and the Internet.

Fast forward to the 20th-21st centuries and put yourself in K.C. and you have a major urban oasis in the middle of an industrially-federally-subsidized-farmed America with less isolation and more people, highways, sprawls, etc.

In the middle of all this is Midtown. No, not the one you might think of with Rockefeller Center. We are talking about a small region with a few art museums, the Kansas City Art Institute, West Port, and Broadway Cafe. Not the kind you'd find in Times Square, but Kansas City style, a local favorite coffee shop made even more famous by driving a Starbucks out of business.

Kelly's, an old Irish bar converted from a carriage house in the West Port neighborhood that railroad men used to frequent back when they still hadn't connected the country, stands as the area's oldest building. Legend has it that during the Civil war it even served as a stop on the underground railroad where slaves were freed from their shackles and that the chains are still in the basement to this day. The Art Institute's former star professor Thomas Hart Benton who taught Jackson Pollock everything he never used, used to hit up the joint weekly as did many art students and teachers for years.

So an Art Institute in the middle of the country? Yes. It makes sense if you want a cheaper city, with room to work and without all the B.S. of LA or NY. Ari, a local of the Kansas City area, myself from the Chicago area, and many other Mid-westerners as well as coastal dwellers were drawn and continue to be drawn to the best-kept-secret tucked between the Mississippi and the Rockies. So where am I going?, well its back to Ari.

Ari Fish. In school for four years together she always amazed me with her approach to work and in conversation, which was natural, flexible, and challenging. If I said she was a socially responsible free spirit renegade, she might disapprove of labels. She is the ideal student-- a perpetual learner that continues to evolve herself and others. Ari always had an edge and was comfortable on that edge where she could operate with intensity and with the unique experimental nature only she could provide. I have distinct and vague memories of us all working in studio and her ideas, projects and comments always surprised me and kept me guessing. Russell Ferguson served as a major instructor and muse giving her more fuel for the fire. In her studies she changed majors from painting to ceramics and continued to develop her unique vision and most importantly, continued asking questions. As Einstein said, "Imagination is more important than knowledge."

As I mentioned earlier, the city and all the creative life it generates acts as both an insulated incubator and distorted amplifier of coastal influences. The major universities in K.C. and with Kansas University in Lawrence Kansas 45 minutes away function as the community's life-blood bringing in fresh views and talent every year. Kansas City, unlike many American cities, has over the years (with it's unique geography) cultivated its own collective voice. Bustling within these social communities, artists are able to live and work in affordable spaces that would make anyone in NY cry if I mentioned rents. This said, I believe Ari is one of our finest examples of creative tenacity fueled with absolute fearlessness. Let the cream rise, as the saying goes.

It is no real surprise that Ari's work was not accepted by the judging panel, as Michael Kors said, "Maybe I'm not smart enough to get it?" This may or may not be the case but it sets the tone that I'd like to convey which is this, though the show presented her as 'spacey' there is a tremendous amount of energy and volume in space which if you follow logical reasoning, gives you room to grow and flourish. Ari will continue on a path unique and with the vision and people behind her that matter. We wish her the best in Germany from Brooklyn, where she is working on a new fashion collection in Berlin.

If you are still scratching your head. Don't jump to conclusions. You don't walk out on a first date by accident. As Buckminster Fuller once stated in regards to expectations, "There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it's going to be a butterfly."


Dan Bina
KCAI class of 2006


Jack Kerouac: Dharma Bums

In the last few pages of his second major novel Kerouac's character Ray Smith as a fire lookout at Desolation Peak Washington writes in his lengthy solitude-

...I'd go out to my snowfield and dig out my jar of purple Jello and look at the white moon through it. I could feel the world rolling toward the moon. At night while I was in my bag, the deer would come up from the lower timber and nibble at leftovers in tin plates in the yard: bucks with wide antlers, does, and cute little fawns looking like otherworldly mammals on another planet with all that moonlight rock behind them.
Then would come wild lyrical drizzling rain, from the south, in the wind, and I'd say "The taste of rain, why kneel?" and I'd say "Time for hot coffee and a cigarette, boys," addressing my imaginary bhikkus. The moon became full and huge and with it came Aurora Borealis over Mount Hozomeen ("Look at the void and it is even stiller," Han Shan had said in Japhy's translation)...