Smith & Lens Gallery presents Heaven's Radio, a one-woman show featuring Kat Fitzpatrick

Smith & Lens Gallery, 106 Second Street, Bay Saint Louis will feature an exhibit about the power of music in the artist's studio by Kat Fitzpatrick, Oct. 29 - Nov. 21. The gallery is open Friday and Saturday from noon until 6 p.m., and by appointment.

ABOUT THE WORK: Time in an artist's studio lurches, rambles, zooms, foxtrots and waltzes. Sometimes it is a turtle's crawl where the flow is almost non-existent. Images feel stagnant, you lose sight of land and founder. This can be a good time to clean brushes and ponder why you ever thought you could live the life of an artist. Every artist I know is on a first name basis with this experience. (Scroll down to see images from the exhibit.)

Before giving up and doing something else for a while, changing the music can dramatically shift the energy in the room, breathing life and rhythm into an exhausted artist until a second wind is found. Sometimes, just the right song links with your spirit and can be played over and over without tiring. To the music listener, there is no past or future. Mozart can play on a double bill with the Carter Family.

We have all heard a song that has the power to transport us to our 16 year old selves, for whom music was a declaration of who we were... and were not. It was important that our parents not "get it," even better if they hated it. I once hauled a record player to Mexico on a family vacation. I was fourteen and had newly discovered Bob Dylan and could not bear to be parted from listening to him for the 2 weeks we would be gone. My parents had no idea what they were in for. In motel rooms across Texas and Mexico, Bob's voice drove them crazy and made me feel like an insider to something big, something important. It was the music of my generation. My own loyalty to Bob was tested when the change in Mexican electrical current gave his already high voice a boost.

“Heaven’s Radio” is a prayer of gratitude for the richness that music has brought to my life and to the people I love. Bless this music. Bless the musicians. Bless the artists and their work.
— Kat Fitzpatrick

There is an amazing family tree that musicians and artists both roost in. We share a love of the seductive qualities of sound, color, harmonies, lines and the endless possibilities contained in each song or painting. The same song sung by different artists can unlock shadings unfamiliar to the original artist but powerful, nonetheless. An older song that was perfectly in synch with its time, is given new life when it is expressed by a contemporary musician using the language of today. One of my favorite Facebook pastimes is to post the same song as sung by 3 or 4 people and to notice where the juiciness is greatest. This connection can be different for each of us with no clear winner and that is a wonderful mystery to fathom.

Some of the biggest joys in my lifetime have involved music. As a devout Catholic child of the fifties in New Orleans, I learned to sing Gregorian chant and to strip any spontaneity from my voice in service to a trance-like sound that caused eyes to be lifted to the choir loft of Our Lady of Good Counsel. We could lip read the congregation as they mouthed "They sing like angels." Job done.

Years passed with me too shy to sing "You mean in FRONT of people!?!" although a rock and roll band I liked needed a lead singer and wanted me. Fifteen years, a marriage and two children later brought a move to Bay St. Louis via Florida. St. Rose de Lima and their phenomenal gospel choir welcomed me into their fold without an audition. "But you don't know if I can sing!" said I. "It's enough that you asked", said Philip "Smooth" Williams. For the next 15 years I unlearned the lessons of my youth, replacing the cool, detached and perfect Latin with a living, breathing sound.When we were learning a new song, our choir director Alfriza Acker would sing each section of the four part harmonies in turn, with nothing written down. He couldn't read music but could FEEL what needed to be expressed. We memorized it on the spot. Each time felt fresh, as if we had never sung the song before. I was told that "if you always sing a song in the same way, you are not open to Spirit using you...." This idea captivated me. It meant feeling the song and letting it move through you instead of controlling all facets and striving for perfection and uniformity with each performance. I was broken open, again and again, until I could get lost in feeling a song, rather than thinking it. There was a new understanding of what it means to live inside of the music, to inhabit it.

Hurricane Katrina brought many challenges including "How do we create a life worth living in the midst of brokenness?". Ellis Anderson and I began singing together one night at the Mockingbird and liked what we heard and how it felt. Through the power of harmony, we were creating and restoring order out of the chaos that surrounded us and permeated our hearts. "Amazing Grace" may have been the first song we ever tried and it reminded me of some fond moments harmonizing with my daughter Molly. We got together and put together a list of songs that we knew in common and began working on them together. As a former busker in the Quarter, Ellis was keen to perform in front of other people and with other musicians. One by one, Scott MacDonald, David Sallis and Billy Ray Hammons came on board and we performed as "Full Cyrcle". As each new member came along, the music shifted to reflect our diverse musical tastes, but we were always strong on harmony.


Kat Fitzpatrick