Our most recent art exhibit featured private images of epic Beat writer Allen Ginsberg and friends as photographed by Ginsberg-insider Gordon Ball (now of Lexington, Va).
Ball, a past guest on WMRA's The Spark, has shown film projects at MoMA and at the Guggenheim. The Beats continue to influence today's arts and letters. WMRA/WEMC exhibits Ball's historic glimpses into Allen Ginsberg's most personal world: his apartment, his friends, his bedside objects, his funeral. We see the dashing in-your-face counterculture leader stride the sidewalks of New York's Lower East Side, and then slowly season into an elderly ghost haunting academic conferences about his own literary past. Finally, Ginsberg fades to a blur.
Ball's latest book, East Hill Farm, talks about goings-on at Ginsberg's rural retreat upstate where Gordon was the farm-keeper.
Those unfamiliar with Ginsberg and his influence might want to browse this Wikipedia article. The exhibit pictures Ginsberg and and also his life-partner Peter Orlovsky.
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For 28 years Gordon Ball took informal photographs of poet Allen Ginsberg and other members of the Beat Generation, the literary and cultural phenomenon which has had a world-wide impact since its inception in the mid-1950s. As well as being exhibited at five conferences on Ginsberg and the Beat Generation, at the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art, City Lights Books, the New England School of Art and Design and numerous other venues, Ball's photos have appeared in many books, including Dennis McNally's Desolate Angel: Jack Kerouac, the Beat Generation, and America; Rick Fields' How the Swans Came to the Lake: A Narrative History of Buddhism in America; Carole Tonkinson's Big Sky Mind: Buddhism and the Beat Generation; Steven Watson's The Birth of the Beat Generation; the Rolling Stone Book of the Beats; and most recently Sam Kashner's When I was Cool (cover of paperback edition, and ten photos inside). Periodicals from the New York Times Sunday magazine and DoubleTake (whose fall 1996 issue gave two pages to one photo) to the Chronicle of Higher Education have also reproduced his works.
This very small selection from nearly a thousand photographs captures Ginsberg (and Ginsbergiana) at various points of the poet's career from 1969 at his Cherry Valley, New York farm (where Ball was farm manager 1968-71) through his funerals in New York City 1997. Within it we see the poet in the company of some of his earliest Beat colleagues, such as novelist William S. Burroughs, writer Herbert Huncke, poets Philip Whalen, Peter Orlovsky, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and Gregory Corso; as well as with fellow Buddhist poet Anne Waldman and rock star Lee Ranaldo of Sonic Youth. Among locations are the streets of New York; the swimming pool attached to faculty housing at Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colorado, 1976 (where Ginsberg was then Co-Director of the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics); the Virginia Military Institute, where Ginsberg spent a week visiting and guest-teaching in 1991; Ginsberg's own fourth-floor walk-up apartment on New York's Lower East Side; New York University, site of the 1994 conference, "The Beat Generation: Legacy and Celebration;" and the loft Ginsberg had moved into six months before his death.
Gordon Ball, grandson of a portrait photographer, was born in Paterson, New Jersey, and grew up in Tokyo, Japan, where he first took up photography. Also an award-winning filmmaker, he's made fourteen independent movies which have shown at such institutions as the Museum of Modern Art, the San Francisco Art Institute, Anthology Film Archives, and the Guggenheim Museum. Starting at Ginsberg's farm in 1968, he worked with the poet on numerous literary and artistic projects, editing three books, including two volumes of journals and the Pulitzer Prize nominee Allen Verbatim: Lectures on Poetry, Politics, Consciousness. A Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, he's the author of '66 Frames: A Memoir (Coffee House Press, 1999); a volume of prose poems, Dark Music (Cityful Press, 2006) and East Hill Farm: Seasons with Allen Ginsberg (Counterpoint, 2011). He's taught in Poland and Japan as well as the United States, and now lives in Lexington, Virginia, where he teaches at the Virginia Military Institute.
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You're welcome to drop by and look at our art at the WMRA/WEMC Harrisonburg studios (map) anytime during business hours (M-F 9am-5pm). You might even bump into some regional radio personalities.