Wayne Henderson is one of a kind. He has won about every award a person can win for his unique finger-picking guitar style and is a world-class guitar builder and player. He lives today in the same little mountain community where he was born in Grayson County, Virginia. He developed his own unique style of using a thumbpick and fingerpicks, which makes his playing sound like flatpicking but with faster, cleaner notes.
Henderson carries on a long tradition of music in his family. As a youngster, Wayne was inspired by Estil Ball, who played with his family. Wayne wanted to learn to play, so he ordered a cheap guitar from the Sears catalogue. When the instrument didn't perform to his expectations, he sought out the advice of a neighbor and renowned luthier Albert Hash. With Hash's guidance, Wayne used his pocket knife and built his first guitar. He sold his second guitar, a little reluctantly and he said “Ever since then, somebody’s wanted one as soon as I get it finished.”
For years, Wayne worked as a rural mail carrier, spending his off-time performing and building guitars and other instruments. He has become so famous that he has a long backlog of orders placed for guitars. Henderson has built guitars for Doc Watson, Gillian Welch, Peter Rowan, and Eric Clapton.
Wayne Henderson has trained several apprentices, taught intensive workshops, and given informal discussions about instrument building and repair. Wayne has performed at Carnegie Hall, the Smithsonian Institution, on A Prairie Home Companion, and even for the 1992 presidential inauguration. He has hosted the annual Wayne C. Henderson Music Festival and Guitar Competition since 1995. Winning the competition is said to be the only way to skip ahead of the waiting list for a Henderson Guitar.
There is a great comfort in the knowledge that forces exist that are infinitely more powerful than we are. From the miraculous engineering of a bird's nest to the complexity of the wind and water, we are surrounded by intricacies we cannot fathom. There is divine purpose in every plant that grows and every living being.
In the twelfth century, Hildegard of Bingen wrote “I am the fiery life of the essence of God; I am the flame above the beauty in the fields; I shine in the waters; I burn in the sun, the moon, and the stars. And with the airy wind, I quicken all things vitally by an unseen, all-sustaining life.”
In our arrogance, we have somehow deluded ourselves into believing we have unlocked the secrets of Nature. We understand nothing. We would do well to listen and to cultivate in ourselves that sense of awe that we feel when we remember how very small we are and from how very far away the stars shine.
Although I've chosen art as my career path, I'm a mathematician by training, and so it is second nature for me to examine things with an eye toward logic and proof. Truth exists, and it stands against questioning. Truth is worth speaking out for and worth defending.
My grandfather was a World War II veteran. He was one of the elite special forces group known as Merill's Merauders. He and his fellow soldiers fought to rid the world of Nazi ideals and hatred. I'm glad he did not live to see white supremacists storm our nation's capitol.
Truth exists. It is our duty to question what we hear, to listen to multiple points of view and avoid the echo chambers of social media that only serve to isolate us. We must listen to one another with respect. We must question what we are told, listen critically and seek out sources that have evidence to back up their claims, We must honor the sacrifices of those who came before us by seeking Truth.
"Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." John 8:32
Again and again, I feel compelled to paint windows ... What do they mean?
As artists, we strive to get better and better at listening... call it inspiration, the creative voice.... it has been described in so many ways because it is bigger than words. I deeply believe that our truest and best work comes not from us but through us and it comes from the Source of all Creation.
Often we make art as an answer to a deep need we have to calm the turbulence inside. The act of creation can stir feelings that are buried so deep we don't even know they exist and it can be painful and chaotic. It can hold us in a trance, but it is powerful medicine and the process ends with our subconscious more ordered.
I recently found an echo in Sharyn McCrumb's essay, Keepers of the Legends, in which she discusses the theme of the power of borders between things. McCrumb points out that this "liminality... was part of a world view held by the ancestors of the mountain people for thousands of years... the border concept is central to their world view..." In The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter, Nora Bonesteel recalls that when she was a girl...
"a few of the old women claimed that Balm of Gilead ought to be harvested at dawn or at dusk, but these days she dispensed with that part of the ritual. Early mornings and evenings were colder than mid-day, and she was too old to brave a chill for the sake of rough magic. She understood the logic behind the stricture, though. There was a power in the borders of things: in the twilight hours that separated day from night; in rivers that divided lands; in the caves and wells that lay suspended between the earth and the underworld.... the mountains themselves were borders"
Deep loss or trauma forces us into this liminal state... this state of being betwixt and between. What was once a familiar world is just upside down, we are disoriented, and we are set apart until we find a way to integrate this upheaval and find a new order in our world. This can take years.
The most powerful creation happens when we access this liminal state. (And grief is not the only one way to get there.) We get a glimpse of what lies beyond the world we see and draw from that world the language that speaks to our truest selves.
The windows represent that border between what we see in here and now and the vast expanse beyond. We are spiritual beings in a physical world. Maybe these are windows to our truest selves.
Many of us have experienced profound loss since the pandemic hit. Loss of jobs, businesses, loved ones, and loss of the routine and social contact that are familiar and comforting. I hope you can find some inspiration in this state of being betwixt and between.
'Behold. I stand at the door and knock.'
‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.’ Matthew 25:40
This painting is a praise to all the gentle souls who lend a hand to children in need, who counter all the dark forces that tear us down.
April Showers bring May Flowers... and Illuminated pages!
These rainy mornings begged for some brightness, so I took out my watercolor paper, inks, and Silver and Gold Leaf and set to work on some illuminated pages. I've always been fascinated by the Medieval Manuscripts. How dark life must have been for the people who lived then with little rule of law or protection from violence, disease, and turmoil. All they had to look forward to was Heaven. The art of the time period is an awesome example of the power of the Arts to uplift the Human Spirit and give us hope where none was before.
My Mom really loved this, so I'm working on a special piece for Mother's Day, and if it's done in time, there will be prints available. I'll keep you posted.
If you're a Maker, I'm hoping to schedule a workshop at Johnson County Center for the Arts for making Illuminated pages. Let me know if you're interested! I will likely develop this into an online course later this year, as well.
If you'd like to learn more about how Medieval Illuminated Manuscripts were made, check out the video below from Khan Academy.
DAY 9 Is here already. Here's the collection so far...
These all feel like one or the other of my children.
The cycle... I'm wondering if this has anything to do with my middle son, Kyman, moving away to college this year... Tomorrow is going to be a surprise!
Last year's hummingbird Twelve for Twelve was a lesson in listening. I didn't set out to paint twelve hummingbirds, but one day led to the next, and the series came together as an acceptance and a celebration of the whole of life with its joys and challenges.