I hope this art and this experience will give you something for your own journey navigating the world. I likewise hope that gathering around a shared intention of curiosity and exploration will create a little bit of refuge; it always does for me. Secular folks may call it ‘intentional community’, Buddhists call it ‘sangha’, Christians call it ‘fellowship’; whatever you want to call it, my hope is we can create a bit of it here and that we use art as a stimulus and support on our path.
I am a musician and psychotherapist. My heart and mind are always seeking reconciliation and balance (bless my partner) between the worlds of art and mental health. Creating and interacting with music and songs has been the most effective way of processing, coping with, and finding beauty in life that I have known. It has been my deepest therapy. My sincere wish is that the music here will be of some benefit towards the same end for others. I hope the music is fun and entertaining, but it’s mostly oriented towards contemplation and making space for integration and healing.
This exhibit/listening party for ‘Fruits of the Underworld’ was conceived not only as a pandemic-friendlier alternative to the normal concert, but also as a collaborative opportunity and a chance to create a space for contemplation and intrapersonal process using mediums of musical and visual art. The themes in question are widely varied here, but they center around things often banished to the ‘Underworld’: conflict, grief, loss of identity, uncertainty, anger and setting and honoring interpersonal boundaries. I say underworld because these things are often banished from ‘polite conversation’ and every-day life; many people report not having a space where they can share their thoughts or feelings on most of or any of these things. If they could do this more safely, maybe I wouldn’t have a job. I firmly believe we need more spaces and skillful ways of communicating and sharing our experience of these things. These aspects of our lives are not inherently shadowy or dark, but rather they take on these qualities due to being banished or unwelcomed.
A follow-up question that arises is: ‘even if we want to, how do we talk about these things together, outside of a therapeutic space?’. Recent times have shown that as a society we are struggling to talk, to converse, to have productive and non-violent conflict and that our channels of social media seldom encourage our wiser and more compassionate nature. I certainly can’t give a satisfying answer to this question; all I know is that the work begins ‘at home’ as has often been said. We need to practice our compassion and wisdom and bravely look into our own immediate lives and relationships and work with the material here. My experience is that if we tend to these difficult parts of ourselves and give them some sunlight and water, they do indeed bear fruit. Hopefully these ‘fruits’ we cultivate from our own processes of growth and healing can nourish and guide us towards wisdom and compassion on a societal scale.
Fruits of the Underworld
Dedicated to James Ritter (1989-2021)
All songs and lyrics by Paul Willson ©
you can continue to scroll down and stream the music as you go
and/or you can download files for the music, lyrics and credits here: https://www.e-junkie.com/i/117ae
5-20 dollar donation suggested (not required) to the Innerwork Center: https://innerworkcenter.org/appeal
1. Most of What You Can Do
2. If You Fall Asleep
3. How Can You Tell Me
4. Wicked Witch Wail
5. Simply Circuits
6. Cookie’s Walk On the Rainbow Bridge
Background: ‘When my friend James was diagnosed with terminal cancer we created the Death Club. It was a time we set aside during the week to watch movies about death in preparation for his absence. One work we visited was ‘The Seventh Seal’, a movie in which a noble knight plays chess with the Grim Reaper to postpone his death. In the movie director Ingmar Bergman wrestles with the absurd truth that we must all face. To celebrate the movie, James and I decided to play our own game of chess. This is a still from from one of those games.’
7. The River Waits
8. The Grip
9. When You Start To Hear
10. I’m Walking Away
11. A Place That You Know (song) and Out of the Bog/Back On the Path (tunes)
Guitars, drums, tabla, violins, low d whistle, concertina, birds, whistle and Paul’s vocals recorded by Paul Willson
Synthesizers tracked by Eric Godsey and Gabriel Jessee
All Bass recorded by Evan Sarver except bass for ‘Most Of
What You Can Do’ recorded by Eric Godsey
Hannah Standiford’s vocals recorded by Hannah
All songs mixed by Curtis Fye and Paul Willson except ‘Wicked Witch Wail’, which was mixed by Adrian Olsen and Paul Willson
All songs mastered by Curtis Fye
About the Musicians
Paul Willson was born in Charlottesville, Virginia and is currently based in Richmond, Virginia.
He has released five albums and three double-albums as a leader/primary composer and been a collaborator and/or member with several artists including Rumput, Matthew O’Donnell and the Blue Ridge Bards, Psalm Swarr, UTV Chamber, Compass Rose Orchestra, Stag Baron, Old Soul, Hannah Standiford, Max Wareham, Abakis, Poojaa Shah Talwar and others.
In 2011, he received a Bachelors degree in Jazz Guitar performance from VCU and in 2015 he received a Masters of Social Work degree from VCU. Paul became a licensed clinical social worker in 2018 and provides outpatient therapy to families and individuals; much of Paul’s work has been informed by work in the field of mental health and he believes that creating and using art to process, reflect and express life in all its shades and hues is absolutely essential.
Paul performs under his own name but occasionally plays the sideman role from time to time. His work has been reviewed in RVA Mag, RVA News and Style Magazine. Paul’s compositions cross into several genres. He sings, plays guitar, fiddle, tenor banjo, concertina, pennywhistle and bowed psaltery. Paul’s past recent releases include “Occasions For Reflections” an album of songs marking specific events or points in time and “I Made Friends With A Dragon”, an album of British, Irish, and Scottish traditional ballads and an album of original songs.
Evan Sarver is a professional bassist in Atlanta, Georgia with a background in both electric bass guitar and upright double bass. Currently on the road with Southern Avenue, one of the Southeast’s hottest Soul/blues-rock ensembles, Evan continues to work extensively across genres as an instrumentalist, improvisor, composer and arranger on stage and in the studio. From a young age, Evan learned from his father Joe, a jazz bassist himself. A native of Richmond, Virginia, Evan attended James Madison University as a performance major in nearby Harrisonburg. In addition to jazz and improvisation.
After graduating in 2010, Evan found himself back in his hometown in the deeply original Richmond scene. He worked with and drew inspiration from stellar musicians such as John D’earth, DJ Williams, Devonne Harris, Paul Willson and countless others in central Virginia. It was typical for him to play late nights in regional clubs only to wake up to play in the studio or the church band the next morning. Evan moved to Atlanta in 2012, where he delved further into improvisational music as well as funk/R&B, psych-rock, salsa, country and blues. In 2013, he joined the Madrid Express and spent two years on the road with the late absurdist southern music mystic Col. Bruce Hampton. With Bruce, Evan discovered the psychic parameters of artistic limitation, how to shed the toxic ego to become a true servant of music, and how to guide songs toward to the full extent of their energy.
Kevin Johnson was born 1988 in Virginia Beach and started playing drums at an early age, collaborating with different rock and pop groups around the oceanfront area. Moving to Richmond in 2006, he began performing with fellow music students and professors at local venues, clubs and restaurants while attending Virginia Commonwealth University. He holds a Bachelor of Music degree with a focus in percussion and drum set from VCU (2010). While continuing his studies of Jazz, Latin, African, and other world music, Kevin has concentrated on the classical music of North India and studying under Loren Oppenheimer, a disciple of Pandit Divyang Vakil. He is the percussionist with Jouwala Collective and Peña Verde; two world music fusion projects, in addition to freelance performing and studio work.
Electronic music producer by night, software engineer by day. Gabriel Jessee has spent years crafting electronic music for the dance floor and film under the moniker time_frame.
Hannah lives in Pittsburgh and is working on a PhD in ethnomusicology. She comes down to Richmond frequently to rehearse and perform with Rumput, a string band that also does shadow theater. Hannah also put together an old-time band in Pittsburgh called Howling Mob so that she’d have an excuse to play clawhammer banjo, which has been her covid hobby.
Eric is a multi-instrumentalist music producer native to the city of Richmond, Virginia. He currently plays in two local RVA bands: Bass/background vocals in Indoor/Indoor as well as drums/background vocals in the suspender-wearing Wimpy rockers The Wimps. “Mr. Godsey” is also in his 8th year of teaching elementary music. He is in his 5th year teaching at Richmond’s own Patrick Henry School of Science and Arts!
Curtis Fye was born and raised in Richmond, VA. He began recording and mixing music in his teens with bands of his own. After spending several years as a professional musician, Curtis decided to turn his focus towards audio engineering. He spent three years as staff engineer at Omega Studios outside of Washington, DC, and is now Studio Manager at Spacebomb Studios in Richmond.
Adrian has been making records for most of his life. As the son of a producer and songwriter, he has been around studios since before he can remember and is definitely at home in the environment; something he hopes rubs off on the people he works with. Adrian owns a studio in Richmond, VA called Montrose Recording and has made many records there.
About the Artists
Robert Patierno is an internationally renowned printmaker, draftsman and painter whose strongly graphic and powerful works have been exhibited throughout the United States and across Europe.
Patierno’s prints, paintings and drawings reside in the permanent collections of the Frans Masereel Centrum Pour Grafiks, Kasterlee, in Belgium; the Erie Art Museum; the Lancaster Museum; the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art in Pennsylvania; the U.S. Department of State, Art Bank; and those of many universities. His exhibits and shows are numerous enough to make recounting impractical. . Corporations, museums, and individual collectors alike continue to acquire his work.
As a founder of the Pennsylvania College of Art and Design, Patierno spent more than two decades developing its Fine Arts Department, as well as chairing it before leaving in 2003 to devote himself to making art. His production capacity is evidenced by his many and frequent exhibitions — including outdoor murals in his home state of Pennsylvania. He continues to guide young artists in his role as Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Art and Art History Department at Gettysburg College.
“Art making is my attempt to make order of chaos, so in this sense my work is observational in nature. What I perceive must be simplified, readjusted, and then the personal image surfaces, disinterested to a large degree. I think any subject looked at with a careful mind’s eye, becomes significant. The Art object itself is not as important to me as the resulting conversations that occur with my audience.”
David Decker is a Richmond, Virginia-based visual artist and has been showing in the Central Virginia area since 1997. David works primarily in ink, oils, and acrylic, in a dramatic variety of styles ranging from bold, intricate abstracts to narrative fever-dream illustrations.
David’s breadth of art-historical awareness allows for his pieces to spring from worldwide creative traditions, such as 1960’s San Francisco Psychedelic poster art and 16th-century Indian Mughal paintings.
2001 winner of Virginia Commonwealth University’s Bradford Award and graduate of VCU’s esteemed Painting & Printmaking program, David’s love of bringing his inspirations to numerous pockets of influences results in wonderfully many kinds of imagery. Developed in a personal way and with certain aesthetic recognizability, David’s art is often suspected to be of his hand before one glances at his piece’s signature.
Visit David’s work at davedeckerart.wordpress.com or on Instagram at deckerdave.
Having enjoyed art since childhood, Diane kept art alive as much as possible whenever and however she could through busy years as a Nurse Practitioner and mother (likely her most significant form of creativity). Much of her art interest has been channeled into volunteer art activities/ programs with children both over the years in Charlottesville and here in Richmond, especially at Anna Julia Cooper School and with the Opening Minds Through Art Program for elders with Dementia.
She has studied both drawing and painting intermittently with the guidance of kind and encouraging artists/ instructors at McGuffey Art Studio and Piedmont VA Community College in Charlottesville and at the Visual Arts Center and Colin Ferguson at John Tyler Community College. In recent years, she has been drawn to the rhythms of day and night and the seasons with all of the beauty of nature.
Mishari is a Kuwaiti artist mostly dedicated to sculpture, drawing, and film. He is currently studying art foundation at Virginia Commonwealth University with the intention to major in film along with sculpture. His works focus on emotion, revolving around his own experiences with people and places which later sprout inspirations.
Annie Ward Love
Annie Ward Love is a self-taught painter, native to Richmond, Va. Mostly abstract, large-scale oil paintings, her work reflects the intensity of her experience with bipolar disorder, and connection to The Divine. Her work is process-oriented and relies on spiritual practice, to transcend the limits of the conscious mind. The paintings in this exhibit trace the dramatic shifts in mood, energy, and states of consciousness from 2014-present.
Wyatt Ramsey is a visual artist with an emphasis on painting. He completed his
Master of Fine Arts at The University of Texas at Austin in 2019. His work uses the iconography developed from his life as a blue collar worker living in the south, while his painting borrows stylistically from an index of contemporary painting techniques. The result is the artistic confluence of two seemingly disparate worlds.
From a young age, Marigene enjoyed expressing so many aspects of her life through art and stories, a gift she and her sister, Kate, shared. She developed her artistic abilities with the guidance of exceptional art teachers along the way from elementary school, through the Governor’s Art School in Middle School and especially Jennifer Kett at Charlottesville High School. During High School, she participated in a summer Art Program for Maryland Institute College of Art. Although she decided to pursue a different career path and hoped to become a midwife, art continued to be woven through her daily life and creation was part of each day. Much of her creative effort was put into gifts and expressions of love which have been bestowed on others throughout her life.