High Arts on Highland Ave.
People / Jan. 22, 2009 12:00am EST
High Arts on Highland Ave.
By Stephen MorrisA little more than a year ago artists Bhakti Ziek, 62, and Mark Goodwin, 52, were living in a tract house in Tempe, Arizona trying to answer one question, "Where will we live next?"
Last January, the answer emerged: Highland Avenue, Randolph, Vermont, bringing a nationally-known weaver and a painter and sculptor to town.Bhakti was completing a one-year teaching assignment at Arizona State University. Their previous home, a solar-powered, straw bale house built by Mark on the outskirts of Santa Fe, had suited their aesthetics, but not their social needs. It was time for a change.Change has been the rule, not the exception for the couple. "We’ve been a lot of places," says Bhakti, ticking off names like Kansas, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Guatemala. "Mark has always been ..." She searches for the right word. " ... gracious when I get the urge for going."The couple met in Lawrence, Kan., in 1979 when both were students at the state university. A professor gave her the "Bhakti" name; it means "Devotion." Ziek is her family name. Shortly thereafter, the couple embarked on what turned out to be a two-year trip around the world. When they came back to Lawrence, Mark was amused to hear rumors that he had married "a rich, Indian woman." They both laugh at the memory, especially the "rich" part. As artists they have rarely had steady incomes.Leaving Kansas, the itinerant couple continued their journey, first one then the other leading the way. Mark painted, sculpted, and learned furniture-making at a prestigious school in New Bedford. "I have an appreciation of exactness," he says. While many of his creations qualify as works of art, he’s not afraid to bang a nail, either. "I’ve always supported myself through carpentry." As the couple did their research on "where next?" they considered an intentional community called New Harmony in Indiana. They were also drawn to central Vermont, having once rented a house in Tunbridge where they have close personal friends. In January, 2008 they came to town and did what everyone in Vermont advises against ... they bought a house when there was snow on the ground. Their choice was a turn-of-the-century Victorian on Prospect Avenue, about as far from a solar, straw bale house outside Santa Fe as you can find in America.They tick off their reasons for settling in Randolph: people who are "friendly and articulate," a small, but vibrant cultural scene, a local hospital, a local newspaper, and the White River Craft Center which serves as the home for the Vermont Weaver’s Guild. Bhakti Ziek is a weaver, but that is perhaps an understatement. She is a weaver who is recognized nationally as a teacher, lecturer, artist, and writer. Her book, co-authored with Alice Schlein, "The Woven Pixel," is the definitive reference for "weavers, surface designers, graphic artists and others who wish to have their work produced as woven cloth, whether on hand looms or through industrial production." Her expertise ranges from backstrap weaving to current digital textile processes. Weaving is a craft in transition, from a mechanical process developed in an industrial era to one driven by technology. Bhakti Ziek is right at the crossroads, although she is modest:"Weaving allows me to always be a beginner. No matter how much I know, there is more to learn. I can always go back to the beginning to see what I jumped over in my attempt to be more advanced. There are no walls or boundaries for a beginner; everything is possible. I like that kind of space in my roaming and exploring at the loom."Asked what defines their daily routine, Mark and Bhakti practically shout in unison "Coffee!" They are still searching for the right local roast.Meanwhile, the Victorian (the former Tewksbury Funeral Home) on Prospect is in the midst of what might be called "advanced transition." There is relatively little furniture and what there is tends to be more sculptural than functional or comfortable. The wallpaper was removed when they moved in and replaced with, well, nothing so far. When Bhakti is looking for a place to read, she often seeks out a sunny spot in the stairwell.The looms dominate the decor. They are destined for the third floor, which Mark is renovating as a studio/workshop space. He’s laying down a hardwood floor from local producer, Timberknee. His studio space will be on the second floor. Perhaps the Ziek/Goodwin tandem will get restless and move on. Perhaps Mark Goodwin’s "builderlust" will take hold and need to find new expression. For the moment, however, the impression given by Bhakti Ziek and Mark Goodwin is that the state of transition is just a fine place to be.(Stephen Morris is the editor of Green Living Journal. He can be reached at Stephen@thepublicpress.com.)