Sunday, October 31, 2010

A Tribute to Christopher R. Al-Aswad

Entered into life July 16th 1979 -
Escaped into life July 27th 2010

Henry Darger

When Chris set up this Online Arts Journal just a little over a year ago, he dedicated it to his late mother, the artist Rosalind Al-Aswad.

Shocked by his untimely death, his bereft family and followers feel that an appropriate way to honor Chris’s vision is to keep his beloved journal going. Escape into Life is now also dedicated to Chris, its inspiring and charismatic founder. It is his legacy and also, we hope, his enduring monument.

In the last incomplete essay that Chris wrote before his passing, he explored his dream of blending visual and litereray arts through this online journal. Though unfinished and almost in note form, Chris’s distinctive voice shines through. It is reproduced below, incomplete as it was found.

When Visual Art Becomes Poetry

The complex inter-relationship between literary art and visual art is like an enigma to me.

This is not an intellectual puzzle I’m trying to figure out in my early 30′s. This is my life. This is what Escape into Life, online arts journal, embodies: the fusion of two types of media; art and literature; and the urge to discover what happens when a journal allows both forms to meld and grow as an organic whole.

pEscape into Life aims to explore, enmesh, and mostly, to uncover the core similarities of the two through the growth and development of technology, community, and inquiry.

At the most basic level, there’s poetry and there’s visual art; separate and distinct forms of artistic expression. Nonetheless–the history of visual art and the history of literature reflect each other to such a degree that it would seem visual artists and poets are made from the same

It’s more like an intuition has grown over the years. Undoubtedly, my parents, my upbringing, my talents and lack thereof, contributed to these two equally strong influences in my life. Mixed exposure to both literary and visual art.

Escape into Life, online arts journal, is basically a new media experiment to blend, meld, mesh, mingle, interrelate, bind, juxtapose, and interpenetrate the two forms of art.

The best comparison is to a scholar or a scientist who comes to discover that their life-work revolves around a single theme.

Of course, there is reason for my interest in this subject of art and literature; and how they remain separate and distinct and yet intricately enmeshed. My mother was an oil-painter, I was exposed to art at an early age, and I was brought up in her creative shadow.

–and a life-long exploration of mine–that fuels the very online arts journal you are reading right now, called Escape into Life.

I have no philosophy or common goal I wish to convert our readers to. There is no academic bent or political ideology behind this journal.

Escape into Life pushes the boundaries of visual art, literature, and poetry.

Nocturne by Michael Cheval

Essays by Chris Al-Aswad

Chris published his writing online under his pen name Lethe Bashar. Lethe Bashar is also the lead character he used in the Novel of Life. Chris wrote the Novel of Life as a “recording”, a fictional history of his adolescence, to have a more comprehensive understanding of the past. He wrote 22 chapters in all. A continuance of the Novel of Life is Las Vegas, a graphic novel completed with 61 chapters. He also was writing The Book of Innocence, better known as The Blog of Innocence. These were chapters of his “present” life as it happened beginning in the year 2008. Chris intended to publish four volumes of essays online but he only published the two below.

Taking Off the Mask Essays Volume I

Sentimental Education: Essays in Art Volume II

More of Chris’s writing can be found in his Collected Essays.


Poems by Chris Al-Aswad

The Pleasures are Fleeting

the pleasures are fleeting,
on some days you’re wondering
if they even exist
but in the slow station
of all our lives, a moment of being
comes and goes, lingers for awhile
out of a plateau, pleasures rise
this wondrous hot spring
fills you with momentary delight
and even the thoughts you are thinking
echo with reason and brilliance
and even the coffee tastes incredibly rich
so you want more of the experience
and less of the waiting, I suggest
a simple remedy, I suggest
breathing, maybe taking a break with me
on the pier, we’ll sit and listen to
the waves crash


The Swan of my Youth

I awoke in the middle of a summer night,
To see her resting outside my window,
Reposing on a patch of lilacs, crashed
Flowers under her sparse plumage, looking out-of-place,
And out-of-time, depleted after many summers
Of migrating between the many lakes,
Searching for food or friendship or refuge from
The ill-tempered geese.
Unfurling her long neck, she assumed the pale moon,
And conveyed her solemn song with dignity.

My mother painted a self-portrait
That now hangs in my apartment,
I am staring at that painting now,
Remembering how, in her final days,
She retreated into her room,
And held herself there--above all of nature--
Without the taint of fear.
I remember when I rushed into her room, crying
How she poised herself,
Without a single feather stirring.

Anxious child beating in my heart

the anxious child beating in my heart is you furious whirling child of discontent and love you disentangle with grace never losing touch with unmistakable anguish you fall belatedly to the bottom of the world

a cycle will remake you as a cycle broke you down and all your thoughts about the world won't matter

i'm young again with you i'm blind and naked and undefeated anxious child come dance with me

what are you afraid of only lovers speak this way what are you running from timid infant on a wave

the dark engulfing world will cower behind you and me

Read more of Chris's poetry in Collected Poems , and in his e-book Purposeless Solitude – Selected Poems by Lethe Bashar

Podcasts by Chris Al-Aswad

In addition to his Blog of Innocence podcast, Chris started a YouTube channel in 2008 to explore and share what he had learned through his life experiences. Among the topics he wanted to talk about were poetry, philosophy and writing. In the video below, Chris talks about the characters in Dead Souls, a Russian novel by Nikolai Gogol.

The following is an excerpt Chris wrote in his own handwriting, from Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood by William Wordsworth.

From all of us who follow and love Escape into Life, thank you Chris, for everything.



VinaMist said...

Thank you all for reading Chris's blog. Please join us on his arts website Escape Into Life where we continue to help his sister Mandy, family and friends publish art along with great literature.

You can go to Escape Into Life by clicking on the gray "Escape Into Life" button on the right hand side of the blog page.

If you followed previous posts, Chris and I were very close and never gave up on each-other. Just days before he passed, we talked of big plans for the future of Escape Into Life. With the help of friends and family, we continue Chris's dream for Escape Into Life and his writing.

Thank you all for your support.

Teia/ @VinaMist

nene said...

Thank you for sharing this with us.
I had been following his blog aprox. two years ago and I was fortunate to have him following mine. His youthful perceptiveness was an inspiration to an 'aged newbie' like myself. I will continue to follow 'The blog of Innocence'/'Escape into Life' which are designated in my my tool bar under *Favorites. Thank you Chris(VinaMist).

Marcoantonio Arellano (nene)

Mad Bush Farm said...

Thanks Teia

I miss Chris so much. He was such an awesome guy with so much passion. I'm so sorry he has gone it's still sinking in. Escape into Life is a testament to his passion for the arts.I miss our conversations on Twitter.

VinaMist said...

Marcoantonio - Same for me too. I followed all his blogs then he followed mine. We all feel so fortunate knowing him. Thank you for all your support!

Liz - Thank you! We all miss Chris dearly. It is definitely different times without him. Still the same goals for EIL to promote the arts and artists.
I enjoy reading your blog also. I miss having the energy to run the big farm.

Thank you both,


Renmeleon said...

Thank you all for keeping this going. What I knew of Chris was wonderful and he is sorely missed.

Auladelenguas said...

I cannot read the webpage of his collected poems. Don't give up, we all need of these beautiful writings that he did, don't make it dissappear, please.
From Spain, I used to read his writings and he was one of the best writers I've ever read.
You've got all my support,
thank you


Auladelenguas said...

Don't give up, we all need his beautiful writings and poems.
From Spain, I'm a beginner in the world of poetry and I used to read his writings, don't make them dissappear, please, he was such a GREAT artist.
You've got my support,

P.D. I cannot read the website of his collected poems.

Michele Cameron Drew said...

This is my first visit here and my first introduction to Chris. Reading your lovely tribute and his poetry, I felt a certain connection, as if although I do not know him, I have known him all my life. I'm sorry for your loss and saddened that our world should lose another wonderful poet and artist. I will visit "Escape Into Life" and read more of his beautiful work. Thanks for sharing this.

VinaMist said...

Thank you Miriam and Michele,

Soon we will be publishing selected pages from his private journals on EIL and Blog of Innocence.

His writing carries insights to his life's challenges and words of wisdom.

Thank you all for your continued support.

Teia /

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