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Martha King reads from Outside/Inside


Martha King, who was coming of age in the nineteen fifties and sixties, and lived to tell the tale, has just written an autobiography about those times right up to the present called Outside/Inside. In 1955 she ran away from her well to do family in Chapel Hill, North Carolina to Black Mountain College, then to North Beach in San Francisco and then to Manhattan in 1959 with her life-time husband, the artist, Basil King, New York which is where she stopped and stayed. She has met and known many writers and artists along the way, and writes about herself and them with such detailed inviting prose that I, for one, was unable to put the book down. It is part of the history, some of it before my time, that I wanted to know more about, and partly it’s an essay taking a good look at the durability of poetry and art, how artists and writers create it, and why this one is famous and this one is not. I just finished reading Outside/Inside and want to pass it along because it brings to life this seminal time like no other book I’ve read before. And you can hear Martha King read from it in the Vimeo below. Enjoy.




Outside/Inside is published by BlazeVox. You can check them out here:

http://www.blazevox.org/




Two recent reviews of the book here. The first in The Wall, Issue #6:

https://www.wittypartition.org/

Here is a review of Outside/Inside by Mike Foles in Ragazine:

https://www.ragazine.cc/2019/01/outside-inside-book-review/

For many years when I was of high school age I wondered what it would be like to go to Black Mountain College. I didn’t know at the time what little I’d heard applied to an institution that no longer existed, except, that is, in the influences it would have on social, economic, cultural and scientific life in the coming decades – and, perhaps, centuries. While I missed out on sharing in that provocative educational opportunity, I had a chance to experience it in some fashion in the pages of Martha King’s wonderful Outside/Inside, a personal narrative that introduces the reader to a pantheon of literary and artistic personalities, not the least of whom is her life partner Basil “Baz” King. Many of that group shared months or years living, working, creating and recreating at what was Black Mountain, and later in life in other parts of the United States and the world. The appendix of capsule bios of people mentioned “in order of appearance” is as impressive an assortment of creative and influential friends and acquaintances as one might desire to have had in the aesthetically critical, politically and socially conflicted, and economically free-wheeling post-War, mid-Century America.

King lays out a personal history of experience as girl, daughter, woman, wife, mother, writer and artist in a captivating memoir overflowing with details of events and conversations culled from decades of experiences that carried her on wings through good times and bad, from a childhood in Chapel Hill to a term at Black Mountain, to San Francisco, New York City, as well as places between and afar, to finally settle in Brooklyn where she and Basil made a home for themselves and their children in Park Slope. What begins as an explanation of how she came to attend BMC evolves into the story of a lifelong relationship wrapped in a manifesto presenting Basil’s work as authentic and as valuable as any of their contemporaries. “The jury is still out…” she writes in a preface, in reference to his output, and throughout the book elevates his drawings, paintings, mixed media collaborations and publishing efforts to a level that demands we take another look. That we analyze and examine Basil King’s output against the backdrop of works by Koontz, Warhol, de Kooning and other of their (and, for many of us, our) contemporaries as more immediately recognizable by name, if not on sight.

While she writes of well-known personalities and familiar events, King also offers portraits of friends and acquaintances whose lives ended unheroically in tragedy from disease, addiction and accidents, of failed relationships, of questionable ethics and supreme efforts that went unrecognized. She steadfastly stands by Basil’s work as exemplary, and in a section of the book about their time in Grand Haven, Michigan, discusses his work and influence on a community not used to the sort of incongruous thought patterns that generate energy and evidence of commitment to the creative life. The framework for the claim that Basil King deserves to be remembered for his contributions to life and art is based as much upon his collaborations as with his output, itself.

As I write this, I see that Edward Hopper’s “Chop Suey” just sold at auction for more than $90 million, where it was expected to fetch around $70 million. So what is it with art today that the work of someone else who spent a lifetime putting shoulder to the wheel to transform ethereal to material and share it with the world in ways not seen, heard or read before, should not be remembered as having served his master in the same vigorous pursuit of truth? Who is the visionary, and who is popularized by some who should know better? Whose work deserves mention in the afterlife, which is the life of those who survive the creator?

King rightfully acknowledges that her belief in the value of the work of Basil King is not to be misread as a woman standing by her man, but as an assessment of output against the panorama of people, places and things she and he lived with and through, and the influences they had on one another, as well as the work of unknown others, that make Basil King’s work important. And, as Martha King’s witness to, and assessments of, those same Times prove, she is a literary power in her own right. I don’t believe it is too much to say Outside/Inside is an informative and enjoyable read, and important reference to a vital era of intellectual curiosity and creativity too rapidly passing with its well-drawn characters into the realms of Art History.

About the reviewer: Mike Foldes is founder and managing editor of Ragazine.cc.

Outside/Inside from BlazeVOX Books, 480 pages/paperback

Order from Blazevox.com or Amazon


“Inside Outside, from 4th Street” (previously called Mirage II)
mixed media on canvas 43″ x 60″
Basil King, 2018. With permission of the artist.


“Highway Obstacle, Mirage II” mixed media on canvas, 34″ x 48″
Basil King, 2017. With permission of the artist.


Basil and Martha King


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