So now I finally get a chance (have made myself a chance) to sit down and write about the film Proceed and Be Bold, (trailer below, or here). The film is a documentary about the letterpress printer Amos Paul Kennedy, Jr., about the challenges that he’s faced in his career and life, and how he has met them—aggressively, intelligently, and with a sense of humor and play. This film knocked something loose in my head.

(Aside: the whole experience of seeing the film was wrapped up in an amazing convergence of events. The movie was playing as part of the SF Doc Fest, and my friend James and I were talking about going to see it. Then an hour or two later, Amos himself randomly walked through our studio door. It seems he was walking down the street, saw the presses in the window, and decided to stop in and say hello. A great surprise on an otherwise regular day. We showed him around the studio, and chatted about presses and other printerly things for a bit. He gave us some gorgeous posters. We went to see the film on its opening night at the Fest, and he and two of the filmmakers (editor and director) were there, and they answered questions afterwards, which was every bit as incredible as the film itself. I am grateful that things proceeded the way they did, to put me in that theater at that moment in time.)

(A loop back to the beginning: So now I finally get a chance (have made myself a chance) to sit down and write…. It’s amazing when you see or hear or read something that fires you up, that gets your mind going quickly, that makes you expand, and it’s amazing how the quickly the stone fingers of “real life” (the ever-solidifying movement of fear through our minds) get a hold of you again, and hold you down until all of those wonderful things that you thought and dreamed are as distant as the film itself now, flickering images, only dimly remembered, abstract. This is the constant struggle of those of us who refuse to give in. This relates to the film.)

It doesn’t seem appropriate to write out a full synopsis of the film, of Kennedy’s life. What’s important about it to me, at this moment, is how, through the example of Kennedy’s work and career, it challenged some ideas that I’ve held, that I’ve felt myself slipping into, about art and what it does and how it works and how one can get it made.

Kennedy did not discover printing until he was in his forties. He left a “good” programming job to pursue this new thing that he felt so strongly about. He worked hard, went to school, taught for a bit, and moved his studio many times. He currently lives in Gordo, Alabama. He sells his posters, printed in many runs from handset lead and wood type on chipboard, for $15 for one, $20 for two. Twice a year he packs up his Vandercook, puts it in his pickup, and drives it to a festival where he shows people how to print. He lets interested people come and work in his studio. After the film he talked about generosity, about how it makes us human.

(At least a few times I have written about the shape that art makes out in the world. Here is one such tracing of one such shape, in one in which it has rendered deeply.)

[I wanted to put the link to the film site here, but it doesn't seem to be working at the moment. My apologies. I will check back and hopefully update that later.]

1 comment:

Long Day Press said...

Coincidences! I "heard" about Amos via the internet a couple of years ago. "This and that" have caused us to exchange emails a few times. On the same Saturday he stopped in to see you, he was planning to visit me class. Only I misinformed him and did not have a class that weekend. We talked on the phone and he said he would visit the next time he is out our way.

But to the film and your review, I thought it was too biographical and did not emphasize teaching as much as I had hoped. I showed it to my class on the first day and the effect was uncanny. They were so loose and creative on the first project that I decided I was too judgmental. The teaching must have come through.

I really look forward to another West Coast visit by Amos Kennedy.

Mike Day
Foothill College