Raleigh Rambles

John Dancy-Jones at large!

Highly Personal Rauschenberg Exhibit Brings Back Memories


“Auotobiography” lithograph set 1968

all images shown in deference to Robert Rauschenberg’s estate


The Black Mountain College Museum + Art Center is hosting a traveling exhibit of a special set of work by Robert Rauschenberg – gifts, many made just for her, to his studio manager and confidant of 30 years, Bradley Jeffries. It’s an outstanding show with an initial grouping that is one of the most sensually beautiful I have ever seen in this or any museum. A good range of different media from this most versatile artist is shown, but a predominant one is solvent transfer, which captures pre-existing images, from text to photos to anything, in a dreamy and bluish hued tone of nostalgia.

Much nostalgia for me in seeing a certificate of participation in a glass case, earned by Ms. Jeffries, for completion of the workshop The Power of Art, a program sponsored by Robert Rauschenberg at the Lab School, a self-contained day school in Georgetown in Washington, D.C. which serves students with learning differences. Her’s was for 1999; I was a charter participant the first year in 1994. I was a new art teacher at The Achievement School (now The Fletcher Academy) and applied for the workshop using student linoleum prints executed on scrap linoleum from the school’s gymnasium.

Mr Rauschenberg spent the day with us,as I describe on my Black Mountain College page.

Robert Rauschenberg found out as an adult that he had a learning disability ( as distinguished from being what he thought was “stupid”) from Sally Smith, founder of The Lab School.  He became a supporter of the school, and the “Power of Art” program, of which I was a charter participant, rewarded art teachers who worked with that that population.  Mr Rauschenberg treated us to a presentation along with his assistant, gave us signed posters, a five hundred dollar gift certificate to Jerry’s Artarama,and sat and listened to each of us present about our work. That evening, we were feted at a private reception at the National Gallery’s East Wing, and Mr Rauschenberg favored us with a tour of his own work on the walls.  He discussed his decision to create the “white painting” while at Black Mountain (Josef Albers thought it a needless extreme), and he gave a vivid description of painting the huge 25 foot work which was on display in the main room -smearing his hands with the white lead paint for hours and then having to go into immediate treatment for weeks because of the lead poisoning.  He was charming and down-to-earth, yet fragile and a bit ethereal in his personal presence.  That was a wonderful day.

Below is a photcopy of my certificate. Sadly (and thoughtlessly) I displayed the original near a south-facing window and it has faded considerably. Just as bad, I used dorm room sticky to mount the poster Mr. Rauschenberg SIGNED. Such is life when you are a generalist with too many pies cooking. But now I have added this event to the several that have linked me repeatedly to Black Mountain College over the years, leading me now to be a private scholar in the field and an active participant in the activities of the wonderful BMC museum in downtown Asheville.

All BMC posts on RR

February 3, 2023 Posted by | art, Black Mountain, reflection | , , , | Leave a comment

Truth Responds

Mail Art Titled “Truth”

for John Dancy-Jones


Truth comes to me in the mail

wrapped grey in hand-made paper,

a gift and memorial

from an old friend to his friends,


to those who remember all

his letters, lovely labors.

Truth kept over time will tell

beautiful truth without end.


Or so it seems. It could end.

Or rather crawl like a snail.

Steady. Even on razor’s

edge, it makes a slow slick trail.


Truth can be like that, my friends.

Gaps here and there, serial,

zigging, zagging, circular,

and like this art, not for sale.


Pick it up later, send again,

Truth, and all it recommends,

in a phrase—whole or partial—

in a stamped posted parcel

sent from friend to distant friend.


Paul Jones


Thanks so much to my dear friend Paul Jones for sending this poem after receiving Plague Daze, and Beautiful Truth, two pieces of pandemic mail art. Paul is retired as professor and digital librarian at UNC-CH, and is an accomplished and widely published poet.

March 9, 2021 Posted by | literary, mail art | , | Leave a comment

Beautiful Truth 2020/2021

From January 1st through the 20th, I posted quotes about truth on Facebook. These became a mail art zine, whose text and images are below.

Prelude for 2020

Laying Down the King

Motives suspect from the start

Each move examined as a curse

Lashing out at poor prospects

Desperate to protect your own

Geometry? Real estate? Who knows?

Fairness in an infinity of moves

Beauty in pure form- abstract death.

The consideration of consequences

     Entails a morbid view.

The convulsive strike can gird

     Dystopian dreams anew.



Truth is the property of being in accord with fact or reality


…to agree with the facts, or to state what is the case. Truth is the aim of belief; falsity is a fault. People need the truth about the world in order to thrive. Truth is important.

     Encyclopedia Brittanica

1.archaic: fidelity, constancy  2.the body of real things, events and facts: actuality.



And ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.



Trouthe is the hyeste thing that man may kepe.

     Chaucer, “The Franklin’s Tale”


Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth.

     Henry David Thoreau, Walden


In his Metaphysics, Aristotle stated: “To say of what is that it is not, or of what is not that it is, is false, while to say of what is that it is, and of what is not that it is not, is true”.


To deny the existence of efficient causes which are observed in sensible things is sophistry…Denial of cause implies the denial of knowledge and denial of knowledge implies that nothing in the world can really be known.

     Ibn Rushd, Islamic philosopher, the “ultimate rationalist,” who interpreted Aristotle to Renaissance Europe.



If you would be a poet, write living newspapers. Be a reporter from outer space, filing dispatches to some supreme managing editor who believes in full disclosure and has a low tolerance for bullshit…If you would be a poet, speak new truths that the world can’t deny.

     Lawrence Ferlinghetti  Poetry As Insurgent Art


Probitas laudatur et alget.  Honesty is commended, and starves.



Once to every man and nation comes the moment to decide

In the strife of Truth with Falsehood for the good or evil side

Truth forever on the scaffold, Wrong forever on the throne

Behind the dim unknown, standeth God within the shadow

  keeping watch above his own

       James Russell Lowell,  The Present Crisis


“You mustn’t exaggerate, young man. That’s always a sign that your argument is weak.”

― Bertrand Russell, BBC Interview (1964)


Foreshadowing the now-familiar framing of reform-minded truth-telling as a brand of elitist meddling, Spiro Agnew’s [anti-media remarks] reinforced a mood that had been building since at least the 1968 Democratic Convention…There evolved a new media definition of civility that privileged “balance” over truth-telling – even when one side was lying…Right-wing ideologues lie without consequence. But they only succeed because they are amplified by “balanced” outlets that frame each smear as just another he-said-she-said “controversy.”     Mother Jones



If the ability to tell right from wrong should have anything to do with the ability to think, then we must be able to ‘demand’ its exercise in every sane person no matter how erudite or ignorant.”

      Hannah Arendt, The Life of the Mind


Men fear thought as they fear nothing else on earth- more than ruin, more even than death. Thought is subversive and revolutionary, destructive and terrible, thought is merciless to privilege, established institutions, and comfortable habits, thought is anarchic and lawless, indifferent to authority, careless of the well-tried wisdom of the ages…Thought is great and swift and free, the light of the world, and the chief glory of man.

     Bertrand Russell


There’s a word for using truthful facts to deceive: paltering. [i.e.answering a question with a true but non-responsive answer, as in “Did you do your HW?”  “I wrote an essay for English”].  Like outright lies, paltering is an active form of deception, one highly preferred in the art of negotiation.

  1. Gino in Harvard Business Review


The worst thing you can possibly do in a deal is seem desperate to make it. That makes the other guy smell blood, and then you’re dead.

     Donald Trump’s ‘The Art of the Deal’


Did technology kill the truth?

We carry in our pockets and purses the greatest democratizing tool ever developed. Never before has civilization possessed such an instrument of free expression.  Yet, that unparalleled technology has also become a tool to undermine truth and trust. The glue that holds institutions and governments together has been thinned and weakened by the unrestrained capabilities of technology exploited for commercial gain. The result has been to de-democratize the internet.

     Tom Wheeler, Brookings Institute


Media have perhaps never before been so numerous or so diverse. The … point is that in spite of this variety, all of these forms are still considered nonfiction media. For the audiences they attract, they engender a degree of faith in their ability to accurately reflect reality. Simply put, they can tell the truth. They are, in other words, documentary media.  Of course…wrong.

     Where Truth Lies: Digital Culture and Documentary Media after 9/11 By Kris Fallon


[Media has helped create] a culture of manipulated passivity…The decline in adult literacy means not just a decline in the capacity to read and write, but a decline in the impulse to puzzle out, brood upon, look up in the dictionary, mutter over, argue about, turn inside-out in verbal euphoria, the “incomparable medium” of language.

     Adrienne Rich, On Secrets, Lies and Silence



It is not the truth that a man possesses, or believes that he possesses, but the earnest effort which he puts forward to reach the truth, which constitutes the worth of a man. For it is not by the possession, but the search after truth that he enlarges his power, wherein alone consists his ever increasing perfection.



God offers to every mind its choice between truth and repose…He in whom the love of truth predominates…submits to the inconvenience of suspense and imperfect opinion, but he is a candidate for truth…and respects the highest law of his being.

     Emerson, “Intellect,”  Essays


…let us keep the feast, not with the old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

     Paul, Corinthians I


If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don’t have to worry about the answers.

     Thomas Pynchon,  Gravity’s Rainbow


The truth is so often the total reverse of what has been told us by our culture that we cannot turn our heads far enough to see it.

     Howard Zinn author of A People’s History of the United States


“Everybody is entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts.”

     Daniel Moynihan (some ascribe to Schlesinger)



Truth-telling practices within American medicine have evolved. In the 1960s, most physicians believed that disclosing a cancer diagnosis could be overly distressing and potentially harmful to patients, with 90% preferring nondisclosure.1 By the late 1970s, however, a complete reversal of opinion had occurred, with nearly 100% of surveyed physicians reporting full disclosures of cancer diagnoses.1 In 1980, the concept of honesty officially became part of the American Medical Association’s professional code.          US National Library of Medicine


It is important to stress that what has been accomplished to get organic farming from the early pioneers to where it is today is the story of a groundswell of natural truths flourishing in the face of a passel of corporate industrial lies.

     Eliot Coleman, author of The New Organic Gardener



The key to wisdom is this — constant and frequent questioning … for by doubting we are led to question and by questioning we arrive at the truth.”

     Peter Abelard, Medieval scholar who laid the base for universities


Uncertainty is simply unacceptable to conspiracy theorists,” said Dancy, who taught a course on conspiracy theories. “What conspiracy theorists offer is certainty and speed.”              Geoff Dancy, poli-sci professor at Tulane University.


In this moment in time, it’s important to emphasize that inherent unpredictability — so well illustrated in even the simple Game of Life — is a feature of life in the real world as well as in the Game of Life. We have to figure out ways to flourish in spite of the inherent unpredictability and uncertainty we constantly live with. As the mathematician John Allen Paulos so eloquently said, “Uncertainty is the only certainty there is, and knowing how to live with insecurity is the only security.”

      Melanie Mitchell in The NYT on John Conway, mathematician who invented the cellular animation Game of Life, which demonstrated inherent unpredictability in a mathematically generated system.



As soon as questions of will or decision or choice of action arise, human science is at a loss.

     Noam Chomsky

Is The Goal of Scientific Research to Achieve Truth?

Giere recommends saying science aims for the best available “representation”, in the same sense that maps are representations of the landscape. Maps aren’t true; rather, they fit to a better or worse degree. Similarly, scientific theories are designed to fit the world. Scientists should not aim to create true theories; they should aim to construct theories whose models are representations of the world.

     The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (IEP) (ISSN 2161-0002)


  • I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality… I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.
  •      Martin Luther King, Jr

…We need to believe that there is truth and that we must operate in life with the conviction that truth is accessible and worthy of pursuing, despite its mystical elusiveness.

     T.S. Tsonchev, Montreal Review



‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty,’ that is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.

I am certain of nothing but the holiness of the heart’s affections and the truth of the imagination – what the imagination seizes as beauty must be truth – whether it existed before or not.

I never can feel certain of any truth but from a clear perception of its beauty.

     John Keats


Truth isn’t always beauty, but the hunger for it is.

     Nadine Gordimer, South African Nobel Laureate

Art matters not merely because it is the most magnificent ornament and the most nearly unfailing occupation of our lives, but because it is life itself. From Christ to Freud, we have believed that, if we know the truth, the truth will set us free: art is indispensable because so much of this truth can be learned through works of art and through works of art alone…And all these things, by their very nature, demand to be shared; if we are satisfied to know these things ourselves, and to look with superiority or indifference at those who do not have the knowledge, we have made a refusal that corrupts us as surely as anything can.

     Randall Jarrell, Poetry and the Age



Truth of necessity involves belief. Correspondence with physical reality is beautiful truth to the scientist, the transforming power of language creates beautiful truth to the poet in us, and our inner emotional self finds comfort in the beautiful truth we hear in descriptions of experiences with which we identify. But truth plays its most prominent role in the recognition of justice or its absence in the world around us. That world is built by society – us as a unified humanity, trusting truth to win.

John Dancy-Jones

Epilogue for 2021

The Manuscript

So there it is in words


And if you read between the lines

You will find nothing there

For that is the discipline I ask

Not more, not less

Not the world as it is

Nor ought to be –

Only the precision

The skeleton of truth

I do not dabble in emotion

Hint at implications

Evoke the ghosts of old forgotten creeds.

All that is for the preacher

The hypnotist, therapist and missionary

They will come after me

And use the little that I said

To bait more traps

For those who cannot bear

The lonely


of Truth.

                         Gregory Bateson



all mail art posts on Raleigh Rambles

February 9, 2021 Posted by | mail art, reflection | , | 1 Comment

Utopian Dreams at Fruitlands Museum

The Fruitlands Farmhouse in Harvard, Mass.

So proud to have my letterpress work displayed at an exhibition at The Fruitlands Museum. Fruitlands was the site of Bronson Alcott’s 19th century utopian community, and the show Recruiting for Utopia: Print and the Imagination explores past and present examples of “the capacity of print and the schematic imagination to build community.” For over a decade, I have been creating hand-laid paper printed objects to give away at the annual Black Mountain College conference conducted by the BMCM+AC. Shana Dumont Garr, curator at Fruitlands and former Program Director at Artspace in Raleigh, received a couple of these at the conference and learned of my tradition. She asked to display these items for the show. The museum purchased all the available items I sent, and now  is collecting my mail art pieces!

Below is the Wayside Gallery, a large Fruitlands outbuilding which hosts the exhibit.The pictures zoom in a bit to show my pieces, with the Anni Albers Red Meander and Ted Pope’s blue broadside reasonably visible. The show now runs through March 21, 2021.

My photo below shows the collection of of conference handouts involved. I make about 50 and give away to the visiting scholars and the conference regulars that provide most of my friends in my retirement town.Click on the phrases to read about these pieces. Fish by Ted Pope, Harper Lee bookmark(BMC Museum workshop), Red Meander, Cut-up, Jacob Lawrence, John Dewey on reason.

The larger show in which my pieces take part is a fascinating duel show with a historical collection and a contemporary collection of visual artifacts.  Shana Dumont Garr, curator at Fruitlands, explained the overall premise of the exhibit: “To look at New England in two specific time periods: the 1840s and 2019-2020. And to explore how print and design helped express peoples’ worries and their desires to make the world a better place.”  There is a local feature article here. I hope to make it to the show to see printing from the time of my favorite Transcendentalists, and see some creativity from my fellow artists in the show.

Black Mountain College posts on Raleigh Rambles

October 21, 2020 Posted by | art, Black Mountain, literary | , , , | Leave a comment

Plague Daze Zine Features in Asheville Zine Fest Exchange

September 20th, 2020 marks the scheduled day for the Asheville Zine Fest, a long standing venue for the numerous micro-publishers in Asheville as well as zinsters across the state. The Paper Plant was set to participate, and I was very excited to network with other publishers and display the Paper Plant catalog at The Center for Craft in downtown Asheville. Alas, the event was cancelled but then replaced by a wonderful idea: a zine exchange among the publishers. That motivation pushed me to one last version of Plague Daze, the May 2020 mail art project that I also had converted to poster form for a mail art show at The Flood Gallery in Black Mountain. Above is the zine I created along with a spread of the zines I received in the exchange.

The packet I received contained a predictably wild variety of graphic designs and content. The organizers used the now-closed Asheville Bookworks as headquarters, and Laurie Corral, Jessica Smith and Mica Mead and Colin Sutherland of Woolly Press,  a west Asheville publisher and risograph shop, worked to make this happen. I enjoyed all the entries, particularly Laurie’s risograph project “Forager’s Favorites,” and a wonderful textless mini-comic by Carrboro artist Julia Gootzeit called “B-Sides.”

I enjoyed all the entries and hope to meet many of the publishers in person at next year’s Zine Fest. A dominant theme in the collection above is risograph work, which was new to me until I discovered Woolly Press a while back. To quote the School of Design at the University of Illinois,

The Risograph is a stencil duplicator. Think of it as a cross
between screen printing and photocopying. The Riso prints
one color at a time in bright, vibrant colors. It is ideal for
posters, graphic prints, zines, comics, and other graphic arts.

Each color requires a separate print run. The colors are like strong watercolor tones, and I like the effect very much. Asheville is a hot scene for alternative arts, and zines and fine art printing are no exception! Below is a description of the rather laborious process used for my own contribution.

Plague Daze started as a mail art project sent out on May 1, 2020. Rubber stamping was the primary means of making images, with collaging of hand-laid paper some monoprinted and marbled. The poster version I created featured a collage and marbled version of the “40 days” concept from the mail art piece. That image, along with the art of guest artists, was color photocopied and then cut out and glued on to the background pages. Those pages are my secret ingredient for this zine. In printing covers for my book, The Natural History of Raleigh,” I set aside a ream of 11×17 copier paper to use in clean-up. The excess ink was removed with these, leaving strategic marks of the curved platen, the brayer marks, and various accidents of the cleaning motions. I collected over 200 of these and when the call for a zine came, I knew these were the perfect background for some pandemic content! Enjoy the contents of my zine below, and be safe!

Connie Bostic is a founder of the River Arts District in Asheville, and a leading figure in the Black Mountain College Museum community.

You may recall that Mary’s booklet, reproduced and stapled into the middle of the zine, was featured, along with the Anna Weaver poem below, in a post here. (full size scans).

Bonniediva is a mail artist with whom I came into contact through a national mail art organization.

Sure honored to have this set of zine publications for the Paper Plant archive of zines and other alternative art and publishing from the 1980’s.

September 20, 2020 Posted by | art, literary, mail art | , , , | Leave a comment