Jazz Theology

 Contents: UU World Back Issue

Chance and Control

by Tom Stites

When Margaret Lampe Kannenstine creates jazz paintings in her Vermont studio from sketches made during performances she has attended, she works in complete silence. “I feel the music come back through me as I paint,” she says.


Kannenstine paints with acrylics on Plexiglas, then pulls monoprints on paper or canvas. The process yields unpredictable results, so she keeps adding paint and layering on the impressions until she likes the outcome. Sometimes she adds paint directly to the print. “There’s an element of improvisation in it,” she says, “like jazz—chance and control, chance and control.”

Music “has to be part of my life, and my art,” says Kannenstine, who has formal vocal training. She sings in the choir at the North Universalist Chapel Society in Woodstock, where she also chairs the governing board. Her husband runs a jazz recording label out of their barn. Many of their friends are musicians.

When she attends jazz performances, Kannenstine says, she sketches in ink or with wax crayons to capture “a moment, the music, and the musician—sometimes just notations that remind me of the sounds and rhythms I heard.”

The Prince Street Gallery in New York City presented her jazz and landscape paintings in a solo show in June, and another solo show hung through July in the gallery of the Vermont governor’s office in Montpelier. Two of her jazz paintings were shown in the juried “Color, Rhythm, and Harmony” exhibition at this summer’s JVC Jazz Festival in New York. And her work is offered by galleries in Woodstock and in Center Sandwich, New Hampshire.

Tom Stites, the editor of this magazine, has conducted jazz services in Unitarian Universalist congregations in four states. He was the founding editor and publisher of Jazz Magazine, which published from 1976 to 1981.

 Contents: UU World Back Issue

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