Beyond Calder


The documentary KIRK will have its premier at the Mill Valley Film Festival this weekend. The film hits all the right notes: Gorgeous visuals, a warm and lively subject who is still creating in his nineties, and a compelling dramatic arc. I can’t be there, but it would be great if everyone in the area could go support the work of my cousin, Ashley James.

Here’s what I posted when I saw the first incarnation of the film in 2013: Ashley James is creating a beautiful and sensitive portrait of a man with “Kirk: Work in Progress.” This ninety-year old has for years been making art in motion with his fluid sculptures. This film should move him along the road to the recognition he deserves. Mr. Kirk uses the elements – wind, light, earth, water – to enhance the grace and perfect balance in his mobile sculptures. I remain in awe of anyone who can see the shape inside the wood or the metal. Mr. Kirk not only sees the shape; he sees the motion, which continues, even when the pieces have come to physical rest.

Ash captures the essence of the man, especially the joy that erases years from the craggy face. The poignant moment when he connects to the image of his younger self shows the sensitivity that allowed the boy of the Midwest to explore the wonders beyond ethnic Detroit.

Much on display throughout is the energy of this man well into serious old age. Most people half his age lack the physical strength to grapple with a vice to bend metal to his will, let alone the aesthetic sense to create massive and balanced works of such beauty.

The film has the same fluid seamless feeling that the sculptures display. I felt that Mr. Kirk was talking to me as he walked with his dog on the dusty path. And I thoroughly identified with his need to be alone when he worked. How else could he be certain when he walked into the studio each morning that all his tools and materials would be where he left them and where he needed them for the day’s work?

So glad KIRK will be on display for the world to see.