July 18, 2013

Old friends make new art

By ROBIN CAUDELL Press-Republican

---- — PLATTSBURGH — “Pull Over” is the photographic and poetic fusion of Barry Lobdell and Michael Tucker.

An artists’ reception is today in the Hale-Water Gallery located in the Plattsburgh Public Library. The exhibit is part of the North Country Cultural Center for the Arts’ “Off-Site” gallery program. 

“Michael and I have been friends for over 40 years,” said Lobdell, a self-taught photographer who lives in Saranac Lake.

“We met each other when we were first working at a place south of Albany. He was a social worker at that point, and I was doing audio-visual work. We found ourselves in the same place and became friends. I taught him how to play chess. Soon, he was beating me all the time.”

Their families socialized together, and Lobdell has photographed Tucker and his family over the years.

“We haven’t seen each other all that much,” Lobdell said. “Distance and time separates people. He lives down in Latham, near Albany. He called me last summer and said he’s been writing poetry, and this is something I didn’t know.”

Tucker has written poetry for a decade and wanted Lobdell to provide images for a book he wanted to do.

“I thought that was a great idea,” Lobdell said. “Why don’t we get together and talk about it and see what we could come up with? He came up to my place a couple of times and went through my files of photographs.”

Tucker was looking for associations with his poetry.

“We found some things that worked together,” Lobdell said. “We talked off and on about that the last several months of the year. Meanwhile, I had been dealing with the folks at the North Country Cultural Center for the Arts about having an exhibition of my photographs. I was planning on putting on some of my Adirondack work. I had a thought, ‘Gee, why don’t we try an exhibit of my photographs with Michael’s poetry?’”

The images are black and white. The photography and poems are framed together.

“We were looking for things that related to each other,” Lobdell said. “His poems came from his inspiration. He was inspired by a particular thing. And, of course, I saw something that got me. They each stand on their own. Putting them together, a different kind of energy comes out of them. I think it’s kind of fun.”

Cosmology, history and evolution are some of the big subjects that have interested Tucker for many years. 

“I had the good fortune to be able to study with Stephen Jay Gould, who later went on to Harvard,” he said. “He was a fifth-year student at Antioch; he was a pure genius. He could really explain evolution that brought you right inside the process.”

Tucker’s career has centered around special education. 

“Always interested in people and human difference; these were all ways to understand people,” Tucker said. “You have ideas what you do with them … also personal reflections. I could never find a medium to express them. It seemed important to me that I should somehow put these thoughts down, if only for myself. I felt compelled to do that.”

In 2003, Tucker tried writing poetry for the first time.

“I could fold big ideas into small packages, sort of like origami. I was really intrigued by that. I liked to write. I’ve always written. I graduated from Antioch College, Boston State and Columbia Teachers College. All that required a lot of writing, the kind of writing doesn’t lend itself like poetry did. It allowed me to capture the essence of thought … not all of them at once but parts and bits and pieces,” Tucker said.

Tucker has written several hundred poems.

“I’m writing about a lot of different things I find,” he said. “I’m writing about the human experience that can be generalized to everyone. My intention is to put something forward that people can find personally valuable. It has elements we all share in or have thought about, or have those thoughts crossed our mind, or sometimes these thoughts go on in the back of people’s mind. I’m looking for common human threads.”

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IF YOU GO WHAT: "Pull Over," an exhibition featuring photography by Barry Lobdell and poetry by Michael Tucker. WHEN: Artists' reception from 4:30 to 6 p.m. today. WHERE: Hale-Walter Gallery, Plattsburgh Public Library, 18 Oak St., Plattsburgh.