Friday, January 24, 2014

Paulus Berensohn on the art of making a life

Paulus Berensohn
Do something. Start with pleasure.

So says Paulus Berensohn, author of Finding One's Way with Clay (1973), in a graceful documentary portrait by Neil LawrenceTo Spring from The Hand: The life and work of Paulus Berensohn (TOTM Film, 2013; 73 min).

Berensohn--whose wizard-like, generous life has embraced the art of dance as well as visual arts and crafts--loves to recite lengthy poems by heart and tell stories. In the short clip below, not included in the film, the artist recalls the pleasure of snaring a true thrift-shop find--a black leather jacket with a perfect fit--for $2 and wearing it while doing the most mundane things.

To Spring from The Hand offers a colorful, laid-back visit with a resourceful man happily out of step with the contemporary art industry and completely at peace with himself at age 80. He talks about and illustrates his contemplative approach to creativity and living, moment to moment, in what he calls "radical presence."

"Everyone should put their hands on clay as a way of awakening their fingertips," Berensohn says, and this sounds like the wisdom of a Graham and Cunningham student who, as he professes, never left dance and continues to practice Qi Gong and The Alexander Technique. "We devour the Earth and don't pause to praise it, to thank and to sing up the Earth," he tells the filmmaker. The deep ecology of his practice as an artist and educator rests in a stubborn moral imperative: "It's the function of the artist to sing up the Earth."

Supporting interviewees--including a few of Berensohn's so-called "fairy godchildren," a status that sounds like more fun than simply having a mentor or creativity guru--attest to the power of this man's example. Lawrence's project--and Berensohn's--might just move you to pick up a pen or brush or lift your voice in affirmation.

To learn more about To Spring from the Hand and watch a clip from the film, click here.

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