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“Those boys from the cabins”

October 2, 2011

How our collaboration began,  kinetic art and photography 

 Jonathan and I met in 2003 performing together and enjoying the zany culture of our poet friends.  To our surprise a year later, we discovered that we had known each other for a much, much longer time.   We had been curious childhood enemies, who spent our summers in a cold war over a gorgeous body of water on Cape Cod called Depot Pond.

My grandfather, like a proud farmer, cultivated a Zen-like haven on Depot Pond to inspire his family to connect with nature and relax.  Through his binoculars he surveyed all possible offenders of pond peace.   Every summer the last two weeks of August ushered in a time of my grandfather ‘s quiet cursing and head shaking.  At dinnertime he would describe the offensives of  “those boys from the cabins” who, as I found out later,  were Jonathan Miller and his brother, Matt Miller.

 Grandfather had some specific grievances:

  1.  The boy’s voices traveled a couple of football fields away over the water to be heard at our beach. (Obscenities like motherfucker were shouted, as they played games like, king of the raft, which made our beach time educational)
  2.  The boys fished in our reeds. (The reeds were planted for the fish to enjoy and thrive.  Who eats tiny shiny sunfish anyway?)
  3.  The boys capsized their sailboat over and over for NO good reason. (My grandfather believed in beauty, balance and pragmatism)
  4.  We were not allowed to take the rowboat across the pond to the lily pads.  (I found out later it was because “those boys” were  smoking something fragrant over there.)
  5.  Overall those boys were judged to be rowdy and disturbing of nature.  (My grandfather was so serious about his sense of justice  in nature that he set up a switch to give electric shocks to any squirrel that dared to eat from his bird feeder.)   

Jonathan and his brother Matt had their own observations about the “snooty people” across the pond who did not appear to have enough fun.   They ignored the anonymous complaints about their volume and use of the English language.   They proudly splashed in the luxury of being a boy in nature’s playground.

Being a nice girl, I obeyed my grandfather’s rule to stay away from “those boys from the cabins”.  We breezed by them with my grandfather at the helm of our non-capsizing sunfish.  As the obscenities flew, I just looked at them over the book I was reading.  I believed in nature like my grandfather and remained firmly connected to the elegant feeling of floating on the water in my Styrofoam lounge chair.

But 20 years late, as a 30-something year old single woman, what do you do when you meet one of “those boys from the cabins”?   Naturally, you date them.

But sure enough, I learned grandfather was right.  Our romance failed.

But my grandfather was wrong also, because our friendship has lasted.   I learned that the spirited playful energy of Jonathan and his brother are an essential ingredient for life.

When Jonathan’s brother was diagnosed with lung cancer, I had a certain loyalty and understanding.  As a volunteer, I had just finished facilitating a bereavement group with 12-year-old’s, all dealing with sibling loss.   That experience showed me the challenges that my fun-loving friend would face.  I listened to Jonathan and encouraged him to create art as an outlet while coping with his brother’s illness and, later, his own grieving process.

Jonathan would say he creates art for fun, while I would say I seek meaning and a sense of peace in my work.  We are both misguided, because when we create and work, we both tend to be lighthearted and thoughtful.   Jonathan would tell you that, now, I am the fun one, while I usually badger him to get out of his house and enjoy life.  And I find that Jonathan forces me to calm down, stop and think.   We do not fit our own stereotypes and share many qualities that help us work together and be supportive friends. 

 Our creative collaboration in this show, joins together the lively and lighthearted with a more soothing and thoughtful quality of our natures.  The movements of the photographic panels have a soothing and playful quality that becomes pleasing and mesmerizing.   A sense of contentment comes from freeing your thoughts for a moment and allowing yourself to restore.

My work in this show was created in response to the rich collaboration with Jonathan.  Although, I found myself somewhat ambivalent watching my photographs be cut up and placed on his sculptures.    Photographers are attached to the images they create, but in the end I liked the sculptures more than my images. 

 I began to want to cut up my images, so I began cutting up some of the beautiful images from memorable trips I took this past year.  I attempted to create a new image that is iconic rather than literal to serve as a memory for that past experience.

 I see this process as an attempt to explore the idea of taking a beautiful memory that you love and possibly lost, destroying the image of the memory, but also creating a new beautiful image as a memory.   When the images become more iconic rather than literal in meaning the work is calming and ultimately healing. 


“Interactive Kinetic Art and photographic Images”

October 15th – 30th   the Fridge, dc

Opening October 15th, 8pm – 11pm

Kids Class  October 30th, 2pm – 4pm


the fridge dc

Rear alley entrance directly across the street from Matchbox on 8th street

516 1/2 8th street, SE

Washington DC

Lisa Helfert is a freelance photographer working in the Washington, DC area.    

To see more of Jonathan’s work –

One Comment leave one →
  1. October 4, 2011 4:29 pm

    I remember hanging out by the lilies and smoking fragrant things… you missed a good thing there Lisa!

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