Howard Cravis 1926 – 2010

On Thursday, November 18 my father died in the hospital, with my sister, my brother, my great friend Lukas and I at his bedside.  He was 84 years old.  Without over-thinking my action, I quickly created a stamp to honor my dad.  When guests came to his house in observance of the Jewish tradition of mourning, following his funeral, they found the pathway strewn with stamped leaves.  My eight-year-old niece, Caitlin, helped me to place the leaves on either side of the slate path.

“All that I desire to point out is the general principle that life imitates art far more than art imitates life” said Oscar Wilde.

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Workshop Participants Transcend Human Thought

Close your eyes… empty yourself of all human thoughts…start to think Tree thoughts… It may be helpful to picture a favorite tree or trees…now ask your Tree Self what message you would like to send to the humans? What message would you like to send to the other trees?

So began the second of three public workshops on Saturday, in association with Leaf A Message…  Click on the thumbnails below to see results from the workshop!

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BOSTON CENTER for the ARTS website is DOWN…

The forces of evil are hacking overtime to bring the non-profit sector to its knees…
Until further notice the BCA website is down… However:
Workshop is on for this Saturday, November 6
1 – 4 PM

For information about the workshop, click on thumbnail image to the right…

You can also contact:
Cynthia Woo
Program Manager
Boston Center for the Arts
Phone: 617.426.1119
Fax: 617.426.5336

OR contact me directly: / (608) 658-9680

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Who will save the human race… from ourselves???

Today, a mixed report.  I scattered exactly 500 maple leaves on one of the big paved pathways in Boston Common, each leaf tattoo’d with the latest stamp: TO REPORT A FALLEN LEAF…

How gratifying it was to stand to the side and watch passersby halting to look down at the leaves… and many stooping down excitedly to take a leaf as a souvenir.
I overheard a conversation behind me:
“That’s why that guy was picking up leaves yesterday!  See!  He stamped them.”
“Whadduzzitsay?  William Cravis dot com slash leaf a message…”

Now, this is what an egomaniac artist like me dreams of: absolute strangers chanting
my name!!!  – or, o.k., chanting my URL… basically the same thing.
However, the ensuing conversation dashed all my hopes, not just for my project,
but for the overarching project, The Big Project known as the human race:
“Yeah, I get it, they want to trick you into going to the website so that your computer
gets a virus…”
It was a pessimistic male voice, with an unmistakably Jewish, Newark accent (although maybe my perception is colored by the fact that I’m currently reading Phillip Roth’s novel, The Plot Against America ).

A woman, adapting his tone, responded, “…and this is how they get your email address…”

Good people of the Park:  it is not an evil ploy to steal your identity, or to bombard your
email inbox with spam.  There will be no virus on your PC.  It’s just a public art gesture designed to bring a smile to your daily routine…

NOTES: Yes, I am a Jew, not an anti-semite.  And NO, I will not give up… when artists
lose faith in humanity, what’s left?

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Halloween: The Day After

I asked the Universe for a sign

Faced with uncertainty about the project, I asked the Universe for a sign.  The Universe sent me a rubber nose, in the gutter amongst the fallen leaves of the South End.  It’s given me the strength to go on…

Better yet, outside of the Boston Ballet Company School I came upon a young ballerina (Bless her soul) picking up a few of the “PHOTOSYNTHESIS RULES” leaves that I had scattered up and down the Clarendon Street sidewalk this afternoon.
“Cool!” she exclaimed.
I expressed curiosity (and ignorance) and she showed me the leaves.
“WOW…What do they say?” I asked her.
“I don’t know,” she replied, handing me a leaf, “but they’re so cool!”
Whereupon she handed me one of my own creations…

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Leaf of the Day

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Sunny skies predicted for Workshop! This Saturday!

Join me this Saturday, October 23 for the first public workshop, in conjunction with LEAF A MESSAGE at Boston Center for the Arts.  Workshop is free!  For more information and registration:
NOTE: Late registration O.K.!

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A shot in the arm

I dragged my ass from the studio to Boston Common this morning, clutching two white plastic bags (13 gallon, tall kitchen garbage with drawstring, unscented), and expecting very little.  Two measly plastic bags!  And it took a whole two days of stamping just to fill them up with leaves.

Choosing a site along a main pathway in the Common (or does one say on the Common?) I spilled the contents of the first bag, pictured above…

If having one’s work photographed is any measure of success, my gesture was a huge victory!  O.K.  let’s be honest: there are squirrels in the park who had their photograph taken more than my pile of leaves…  But if you knew my mood this morning (plagued again by those feelings of obscurity that serve as backdrop for an under-recognized artist’s day-to-day life) you would understand why i was overjoyed to see people consuming my work.  Not just looking at the leaves but photographing too.  (Initially i was curious as to why everyone settled for a photo instead of simply picking up and taking a leaf.  I guess that taking a photo is the contemporary way to own whatever one sees).


3 cameras at once!


Even the horse was interested...


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CHRIST! Look at me…

LOOK AT ME… 46 years old.. a grown man, with no proper job… I spend my days stamping ink on to these autumn leaves… JESUS!

But really, it’s not right to boast.

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First action: Harvard Square Oktoberfest

What better way to kick off the project than a bit of absurdist theatre?  This morning i stamped all the big leaves that i picked up yesterday in historic Concord center… and by noon i was in Harvard Square, where throngs were already converging on the annual Oktoberfest celebration.  I dispensed about 200 stamped leaves in approximately fifteen minutes… (looks like i could have easily handed out tens of thousands more, had i been prepared).  At any rate, a good start, and a seminal moment for Leaf A Message…

“Good at any participating vendor” i cheerfully barked, handing out my artwork.
Most people cheerfully accepted.
Many people, wary of handouts, politely declined.
and two, at least, said “Thanks but i’ve already got all the leaves i need at home.”

I arrived at Oktoberfest with about 200 leaves...

High noon: there was already a crowd at Oktoberfest

Some were skeptical, but most recognized a good deal...

Do not accept imitations!

Blog, shmog.  Now that i’ve handed out several hundred leaves, will anybody be curious enough about the project to track me down here….?  By the way, i totally missed out on one of the mainstays of Oktoberfest in Harvard Square… HONK FEST brings performers and anarchists (but mostly performing anarchists) to town every year at this time.  They parade from Davis Square to Harvard Square to kick off Oktoberfest.  Sure wish i had known…

To get a feel for Honk Fest check out this video (and others like it) from 2009.  Some new footage will go up, no doubt, tonight or in the days to come:

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