Monday, February 15, 2010

A Love Letter for New Harmony, Thomas Merton, Dennis Hopper and more

Intro contributed by Jerry Wade ...
New Harmony
by Matthew Graham

"The shadows of history are long here, and dark."
---John Hawkes

A distant sadness:
A smudge of light against the Golden Rain trees
And then shadows spreading through the streets,
To the fields and the river.
The golden hair
On an arm trembles in a breeze
Like a breath. Utopia lost,
Twice here in this town mapped in a dream.
Clouds build above distant church bells.
The sun dials darken.
Someone turns to leave
And all that was ever meant to be
And could not happen, flickers
As the first sweep of rain across the screened porch
Disturbs the shadows, neither new nor old,
Of this fragile harmony.
New Harmony has been in my thoughts more than usual during this long, cold winter. I was born and raised in that area of southern Indiana, so New Harmony is never far from my mind. Utopia, as it is sometimes referred to, makes up a large part of me.

New Harmony has an utterly fascinating history. I suppose that it is largely recognized as being the site of two communal "utopian" projects. Find the abbreviated information here -

New Harmony has a rich and well-established history of education, religion, philosophy, art and architecture. Consider that Thomas Merton, the phenomenal Trappist monk, author, poet, social activist and comparative religion supernova spent time in New Harmony - when he was not entertaining Dylan and Joan Baez at his hermitage in Kentucky...and Paul Tillich, the Protestant scholar...just to name two fascinating beings.

Check out the architecture in New Harmony..."The Atheneum" by Richard Meier - that seemingly rises up from the Wabash River bank like a shiny contemporary stainless steel beacon. The glaring and somewhat startling contrast of the  architecture against the sleepy farm land and river bank cannot be ignored. 

Placed neatly against the backdrop of  preserved Harmonist homes and Golden Rain Trees, you will also find my personal favorite, Philip Johnson's "The Roofless Church" ... all one underneath the open sky...

It was at "The Roofless Church" where a von Furstenberg wedding took place. Diane was still married to Prince Egon (I think!). Some of the famous wedding attendees included Dennis Hopper and Michelle Phillips. 

The bride and her attendants wore cowboy boots.

It was the talk of most of the 950 inhabitants of New Harmony. The boots gave them something to talk about besides the wacky artists at "The New Harmony Gallery of Contemporary Art".

I was 'called' to New Harmony, like so many people. Like a religious vocation, or the impossible occupation of art, New Harmony sings a siren song to whom she chooses.

I happened to be called to New Harmony by John Begley to work at "The Gallery".  Almost like a dream, my life changed forever. dream that dream again!

What a glorious place, time and seemed that anything was possible - and we were, all one, for a time - underneath that big, open, yet sheltering, sky.

In Love, Peace and Beauty...

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