What does it take to hold focus on a path? In Kyoto I walked “the philosophers path” (哲学の道, Tetsugaku no michi). It is a simple walk along a stone path that follows a stream; it is a path a certain man walked everyday at a certain hour, and the walk was named after him. I walked that path, I walked alone in the middle of winter. When you walk the path it seems you are walking with the philosopher – that somehow his steps are also your steps, or that two meanings are overlapping. I sensed both the naturalness of walking a stone path and the foreignness of being in a place outside my language and culture. The question I asked myself that day: “Where was I usually at this hour in my life?” We can only imagine the path we are on, not an alternate—until suddenly we are on that alternate path.
So, what does it take to hold a path and conversely what is it that disrupts that hold?
A month ago I was in Lucinda’s space talking to her about her work. Studio 17 was still intact, seventy artists still inhabiting the Redlik building. Lucinda and I sat not knowing exactly what the outcome of the studios in the Mission would be. And it seemed there was an expanse of time. But that was an illusion. Days later the changes began to speed up. Boxes packed in the halls, spaces emptied out, it was ghostly. Andy and Sara were first. I watched as they wheeled the wood and lath away, the heavy machinery, one morning they were gone and only white walls were left. Kate departed soon after.
Before the studio began to empty, I sat quietly in Lucinda’s space and she talked. As a documentary filmmaker she makes portraits in short format, she has had many roles in her life including an award winning pastry chef and a film producer. So how did she end up founding her own documentary film company? “The people I came into contact with, the stories they told, the things they did.” She barely talks about herself; she moves from one story to another. “The bread doctor: people could mail their loaves of bread to him and he would analyze the loaf and write back.” I tried to picture mailing a loaf of bread, receiving a loaf of bread, analyzing it. There is an intimacy of writing individual letters about individual loaves, something baked in a private kitchen, a person’s hands kneading dough, a life within that kitchen being sent as an ingredient to be analyzed, to be smelled and tasted and weighed. Lucinda came into contact with many people as a pastry chef and each had a story she holds close to her, “There is magic happening!”
This is the second time this set of filmmakers has been displaced in two years. They came from a film collective of 18 filmmakers, three of them moved on to work in the Redlik building.
Lucinda prefers not to talk about herself, instead she tells me about a woman about whom she is making a documentary. Edna Lewes, a woman born in Orange county, who created a rebirth in Southern cooking. As Lucinda talks about Edna, the past takes shape, sometime in the 1940’s and 1950’s, “An organic farmer before organic farming was a trend…in pursuit of Flavor…interested in the revival and preservation of Southern food…A restaurant in New York frequented by the literati…a broken leg…A cookbook…‘Freetown‘…Daughter of an emancipated slave…‘I’m just a cook‘…handwritten recipes…Walked home at night by Truman Capote.”
Lucinda weaves people’s stories and there is always a focus on how these people lived their lives: the integrity, passion, determination, and the strange events that became catalysts for change. She is struck most by is these “women who are fearless in making their way.”
Mitsuo Aida, a Japanese Poet and calligrapher wrote:
“There are so many things that happen
because we’re human
for sure there are so many things
because we are living”
More about Lucinda Buxton Martin: threedaughters.com
About STUDIO 17: The Artists’ Space by Alex Nichols
At the end of June—a community of over 70 artists—at the heart of San Francisco’s Mission District—must leave STUDIO 17 to make way for high-cost working space. This blog will catalog the end of this community above Thrift Town (on Mission &17th Street) and what it means. To understand what is being lost—I will spend the next two months carefully observing how artists work in their space—to give an intimate look at the inside of this community.
More about Alex Nichols: alexhnichols.com
How the journey began… STUDIO 17: The Artists’ Space by Alex Nichols
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Published on July 14, 2015