The Gift of the Giver 

Need creative motivation? Try art for art's sake


The art of ephemeral action exists to disappear. This is the art that lives with daily life and comes from daily life. When art crosses over into visions outside of gallery and classroom walls, acceptance and success often is a personal view.  To paraphrase Walt Whitman, if the gift is to the giver, it cannot fail.

If a tree falls in the woods does it care if anyone is listening? 

“With Gull it is kind of like a public servant. I feel it is necessary,” Nathaniel Rappole says, speaking in the third person about his alter ego. “It is like food and sustenance, just something that pours out of me.” People take it up and spit it back out then I eat it back up. It comes to feel like something I survive on.”



“It is like food and sustenance, just something that pours out of me.” Nathaniel Rappole, aka “Gull,” is keen on building a juggernaut of sound. Photo by Ash Daniel.

Gull is the one-man-band juggernaut of sound that has become a fixture of First Friday Art Walks. Playing alone and behind a $3 paper mask, he's attracted an audience that stands and listens in public space. His motives are simple, he says: “I feel good and I want other people to know I feel good.” He's not locked behind doors where cover charges are collected. He's open to all. His art form, performance and sound, will last for as long as his stamina and belief in himself does.

“It is not just following the path, but digging down into it, being constructive with it,” he says. “If you dedicate yourself to something you are going to have to push other things away. No one sees everything else you let go of to do that.”

Art as an offering produces ethereal creations obtained through sacrifice and given to the world. Without a physical object to hold or possess, the act of the artist as a giver and the audience as a receiver produces a commodity of impact and not possession.

Did anyone notice the tree before it fell?

Lily Lamberta returned to Richmond five years ago, and since then she's developed and produced four consecutive public Halloween parades. Under the title of All the Saints Theater, Lamberta has almost single-handedly grown a new Richmond tradition.



Lily Lamberta's All Saints Theater parade takes the Halloween tradition to interesting places. “It's the people's art, free and for everybody,” she says. Photo by Jenidda Chase.

“I can't help it — I can't stop,” she says. “I see opportunities in empty streets and piles of junk. I make big puppets because I can and my big puppets bring people together to celebrate each other.” Of her motives to create, Lamberta says: “I believe in parade-making as the strongest form of communication. It's the people's art, free and for everybody.”

The parade is open to any who wants to walk, and that number has grown into the hundreds. Working months in advance sometimes mostly alone, at times with helpers, Lamberta fabricates the entire visual spectacle out of cardboard. With such a commitment to an offering she maintains an existence of focused energy despite the realities everyone must face.

“Paying for my studio isn't easy, but the financial struggle of making stuff out of cardboard for a huge free event is shadowed by creating gatherings in our streets that could never be recreated — sacred spontaneity,” she says. “It's a high and I can't stop.”
The act of giving in such a manner asks the artist to remain brave and vulnerable. The reciprocity of such an act at times is nothing more than acceptance by an audience. If even in such a simple gesture the artist is allowed to be who he or she is in this world.

Maybe the tree meant to fall?

Reef Clem works at an exhausting pace, constantly. Even with a broken wrist his infective energies keep him performing his passion of fire spinning outside of Gallery5 while also organizing social gatherings. Clem is a creator of the experiential. With a collective of other fire-spinners known as PLF, he and his friends lose themselves in the meditative act of burning. The effect of such a passion has spurred him to invent forums for new delivery. This offering of energy is blinding in his efforts.



The fire sculptures of Reef Clem are designed to consume themselves. “If you think of something awesome you'd like to see, don't wait around for someone else,” he says. “Build it. ...make it. ...create.” Photo courtesy of Reef Clem.

A journeyman plumber by trade, Clem combines his skills to also build fire sculptures out of copper tubing — he even takes it a step further to craft wooden effigies. These effigies are another arena of sculpture for him, only these are meant to be burned. Hours of work are spent so that the sculptures can be eventually consumed by the flames that attract him so.

These forms are reflective of art brut, a term defined by sculptor Jean Dubuffet, as “those works created from solitude and from pure and authentic creative impulse — where the worries of competition, acclaim and social promotion do not interfere.” In his view art brut maintained a pure power of art, for it was outside the control of the mainstream culture and thus could live forever.

“We bring all these objects and performance out to a place and create this special world for a finite amount of time and with the express intention of everyone's enjoyment. Then at the end we pack it all away and move on. All that's left are the memories. All we had was the right then or the right now.”

Was that a tree at all?



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