|Steve Poleskie performing over Southampton, England, 1989|
Pilgrimage: Inner and Outer Destinations
We can none of us step into the same river twice, but the river flows on and the other river we step into is cool and refreshing, too. W. Somerset Maugham, The Razor’s Edge.
What was my journey? Pilgrims do not normally carry their destinations with them. When what you are seeking is the sky, however, your goal surrounds you constantly, its lightness weighing on your shoulders. It even extends to the ground, so you step lightly. Or did I? Or was it merely “up” that I was seeking - and hating the way?
Yes, I once sought the sky; to put my brand on it, stripe it, circle it, bore holes in it. But that was then. Now I leave it alone.
In 1985, I traveled to
, to do an Aerial Theater performance. I made numerous drawings preparatory to that event which I called
“Sky Dances of the Toledo, Ohio Maumee,” the Maumee being the river that sliced through
the city’s downtown. My program was wedded to that river, the only space I was
permitted to fly over. If the airplane was to go down it must be only me who
would be injured, or perhaps die. Thanks to a requirement of the FAA, the
sponsors provided a rescue boat with a doctor in it cruising below. I later
found out that the “doctor” had been a veterinarian, the only person they could
find who would volunteer his services. Toledo
was not my destination, only a stop on what I thought at the time was my great
For my performance in
Toledo I had dancers on
the ground, the Valois Dance Company, accompanied by musicians, the Tower Brass
Quintet. All went well. It was probably the most coordinated event I have ever
presented. But Toledo
is not a destination for major art critics, unless you bring your own. There
were nice articles in the local newspapers, and on television. When it was all
over I was paid $2000.00. The woman from Chamber of Commerce said that this was
as much as they usually paid rock stars. I was also taken out to dinner at a
restaurant owned by a popular actor, who hailed from Toledo, and whose name I have forgotten, who
once played Corporal Klinger on the TV series MASH.
was a grander destination. I would be going farther on the great journey. I had
a whole room filled with of my drawings in the Kasseler Kunstverein. I also did a
thirty-three foot tall “sky drawing” on the museum’s main stairwell wall with
blue chalk. The wall drawing was erased after the exhibition, just as my
drawings in the sky were dispersed by the wind. There were drawings in the sky,
but I was not allowed to fly the airplane. Instead they were executed by a
professional skywriter from Hamburg.
A year later I was invited to participate in Documenta, a major international art exhibition also held in
but at a different venue. Then my invitation was suddenly withdrawn. I
subsequently learned that the organizers had been unaware of my previous exhibition
when they had invited me. Documenta needed
to have the latest thing, at least for Kassel,
where I was last year’s stuff.
Now I am headed in a different direction. I have no idea how far I shall go, but the destination, as always, is up. The one thing I am sure of though is that this time I have fewer days remaining to get there.
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Stephen Poleskie’s writing has appeared in journals in Australia, Czech Republic, Germany, India, Italy, Mexico, the Philippines, and the UK, as well as in the USA, and in the anthologies The Book of Love, (W.W. Norton) and Being Human, and been twice nominated for a Pushcart Prize. He has published seven novels. Poleskie has taught at a number of schools, including: The School of Visual Arts, NYC, the University of California/Berkeley and Cornell University, and been a resident at the American Academy in Rome. His artworks are in the collection of the MoMA and the Metropolitan Museum in New York and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, among others. He currently lives in Ithaca, NY, with his wife the novelist Jeanne Mackin.
Stephen Poleskie's web site: www.StephenPoleskie.com
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