Gary Justis

Gary Justis
Bloomington, Illinois, US
April 04
Gary Justis has worked primarily in the area of kinetic sculpture for the last 34 years. He lived and worked in Chicago from 1977 to 1999. He currently resides in Bloomington Illinois, where he teaches and writes stories about his actual experiences. (please take a look at his "Sculpture" link for more info)


NOVEMBER 27, 2011 10:00PM

7 Surprises in a Middle-Life

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Blubber 1c

 Blubberstick, 5,1/2 years, 2011


In the present, these are a few of the things I have come to like, despite any pretext to dislike them from experience, imagination, or persuasion….


1.  Making my sweetheart laugh, until the tears roll down her face, is an astonishing thing. Thinking about it earlier in our relationship, I never would have imagined liking the sound of her sides splitting (she is the all-time best critic of my writing and humor).


2.  The sound of my dog snoring…. this lets me know he is okay, content, and probably perched at the edge of a dream that takes him to broad fields of green clover, where he runs faster than the wind. I am continually surprised at the peace of mind this sound creates.


3.  I’m surprised at the pleasure I get from hearing Cary Grant’s recorded voice. I know he was a gymnast (there’s no reason this skill would affect his voice), and I respect him deeply for that. He projected such class and incredible control in his art.


4.  Making the folds of paper as I construct a hand-made book gives unexpected pleasure. I never would have learned to do this 20 years ago, thinking it was a feminine activity (silly misconception). Now I love the satisfaction of holding an Artist’s Book that contains my own content. It is the ambassador of my personal esthetic, and totally different from the sculptures I make most of the time.


5.  Listening to news from Canada on NPR in the evenings surprises me with its hominess and concern for rural, and sometimes radical issues…usually having something to do with the environment.


6.  Wading through the barely decipherable texts of the fronts and backs of postcards from the early 20th Century really captures my interest (perhaps my geek quotient has risen with age). Even if the messages are mundane, I might find two from the same writer that establishes some crude, but interesting continuity suggesting the passage of time, along with the wants and desires of two or more strangers. If the images on the other side are interesting and the text refers to it, then I feel like an old, grizzled prospector might have felt finding a fleck of gold amid the vast landscape of uncertainty.

baby 1 1905

Postcard from 1905


7.  On the subject of wading, the Atlantic Ocean at Brigantine Beach, NJ has surprised me over the years. I carefully walk out into its embrace, feeling the healing power of the salty ocean, looking towards the East, as the dolphins chase away the sharks from the shallows. For many years I shunned the ocean, then I found a missing part of my life on that shore. It is eternal... eternally good.


Brigantine 1
Bringantine Beach, NJ,  Summer, 2010 

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Yours was an interesting list. I love Cary Grant's voice, but that is no surprise.
A voice so original, so laden with humor and self-confidence....
There was no one like Cary Grant.

Re the dog snoring: It's amazing how perspective can change your reaction from annoying to reassuring.
Cranky....yes no one. On Blubber: I think it's because he's my boy. He sleeps at the foot of our bed greater gift...for sure!!
Wonderful list, it shows the stretch of a life well lived.
A provocative concept and an inspired list. I'll go to sleep tonight wondering what my own 7 current middle life surprises are. Maybe I'll start with activities I used to call work and play seem to have done some changing of places.
Now that I live in the SW, the Pacific is seen more often than the Atlantic. While the shoreline is beautiful, I think that I will always love the Atlantic more, having grown up just a short walk from the hem of her skirt. The smell, the taste, the temperature, the energy is all different. It doesn't surprise me that I like it, but I am surprised that two oceans could be so different.
It's lovely to read a list so thoughtful and, well, interesting. But not at all surprising since its yours, gary. You make handmade books? How did I miss this? What a truly fascinating thing.
Gorgeous... I agree with most of yours.. Hearing your dog snore?? Such an unexpected delight!!
Hi, Gary! My double ex (2 bf's ago) and I have a game we call points. Whenever one of us says something funny, the other one gives a quantitative points pronouncement. Sometimes a coment is so funny, that the other one awards the whole day, week, or month. It's a great system!

I listen to that Canadian show on NPR too - with the funny music (heavy base). I love their accents, too. And, I 'm a nightowl.

I have always loved the ocean, (used to swim 1 - 3 hours every day when I lived in the Bahamas) but, lately when I go to the shore the water tosses me out, vigorously and repeatedly. I miss it!
Hello Sheila! Thank you….I hope to live well most of the time, with a few bumps here and there!

Marti, It is a seemingly insoluble paradox…

Oryoki, I have seen both as well and I just keep going back to the East…It is a quality so different from the West. Thanks!

Candace, Yes, we make them occasionally. It is a very satisfying experience, especially when you can get one in a great collection. Thanks for the visit!

Brazen, He makes the nights go on w/out any worries…strange I know….

Wren, I am very happy to see your comment and thank you…I just wish I knew what you are referring to in the first 2 sentences.
Gary what a list of cool and wonderful things.Happy Holidays and more..
So comforting to see a photo of Brigantine. I don't usually get references so close to home!

Your list was very you: warm, homespun, eclectic, finding the magical in the mundane.

I like your choice of Cary Grant's voice. They don't make voices like that anymore.

Okay, but what the heck are they doing to that poor kid in the postcard? Lucy seems to be quite used to it, whatever it is.
I share your love for old postcards. Do you know Robert Olen Butler's book, WISH YOU WERE HERE, which is an entire book about old postcards and the stories we make up about what's on them?
Such attention to significant detail here...You are tuned in...
Thoroughly enjoyable. I never had the pleasure of seeing Cary Grant perform in public, but he died at the Black Hawk Hotel in Davenport, Iowa, where he was to give a performance of his one-man show. As the night police reporter for the then Davenport Times-Democrat one of my jobs many a night was to stop at the Black Hawk to give a colleague a ride home after an evening of "source development" over many imbibements. These evenings were so frequent that Tom had given up driving himself.
Inspiring and personal. Very nice!
Favorite Cary Grant line: "For what it's worth she's telling the truth. I knew her before you and I loved her before you. I just wasn't as lucky as you." (Hitchcock's "Notorious").

I find it's a real conversation stopper when a woman at a party says something like "I've started taking Pilates!" and a guy says "Oh really?"
#8: The continual surprise of Open Salon blog posts?
It's great to see everyone this morning. I'm starting the setup on a student show today (something I am surprised about enjoying) and I want to respond to each of you this afternoon if not sooner. Be well, as we all head back to address the day.....
...oh, and the comments?
Happy and peaceful all at once, a perfect first read for me today. Thank you.
I have a few dog snoring is very reassuring, and I am making a handmade book, writing and illustrating it. What fun!

Wonderful, thoughtful list! Oh, and making one's love laugh is music for the soul.

What a great list! I particularly like the last one you listed. That is beautifully written.
nice. it's those "little" things...