The Expanding Artist
A storied 1960s-era artists colony on California’s Sonoma Coast returns to its roots, resulting in a string of beautiful new works and recordings by Further residents Jojo Abot, Bedouine, Sasha Spielberg, and more.
Back in 1963, when the architect Richard Clements completed work on Timber Cove, a former meditation lodge and artist colony set on a dramatic stretch of Sonoma coastline, California was on the brink of a cultural revolution. Betty Friedan had just published The Feminine Mystique, the birth control pill was newly on the market, and Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters were already holding “acid tests” down south in La Honda (the following year they would board the Further bus, beginning a journey that would serve as one of our inspirations). Within just a few years, the anti-war movement, Civil Rights, Flower Power, and women’s liberation would be in full swing, culminating in the 1967 Summer of Love. Born in the midst of all this foment, Timber Cove became an incubator and retreat for the growing creative scene that coalesced in California. Ansel Adams came to stay, as did the sculptor Beniamino Bufano, who created a peace obelisk, “The Expanding Universe,” the summer after the Cuban Missile Crisis to stand watch over the site, as it does to this day.
It’s this history that was the inspiration for Further Timber Cove: The Expanding Artist, which brought a new crop of against-the-grain California creatives to today’s Timber Cove, which was recently revived by new owners. This group of musicians, including Syrian indie-folk songwriter Azniv Korkejian aka Bedouine, Ghanaian singer-songwriter and multidisciplinary artist Jojo Abot, and Jamaican-American alternative R&B singer Jesse Boykins III, helped transform Timber Cove into a pop-up recording studio, resulting in a string of original compositions, music videos, and an ambitious visual EP by Jojo Abot, which she will release in the coming weeks.
“When I got here, to this incredibly beautiful place, I knew I had to create visuals for my EP,” said Abot, whose work spans music, film, photography, performance, and visual art sometimes classified as Afrofuturism. “I like to call it ‘village Sci-Fi’,” she said. “I feel that what I do is take everyday life and sort of flip it.”
In the EP, titled "Power to the God Within," Abot wanders through the landscape surrounding Timber Cove in a spectacular dress of red tulle that hovers around her body and trails behind her like a train as a spoken-word recitation leads into layers of music, a style bearing elements of jazz, afro punk, hip hop and soul, as well as tribal and indigenous sounds from her native Ghana. She makes her way through a shadowy thicket of redwood trees and then breaks through to a dramatic cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
“It almost felt like a quest through a dreamscape,” said Abot, “like a return to self, a journey towards one's own freedom, starting in the woods and then ending up by the waters … like pilgrimage towards one's own healing and liberation.”
“When I got here, to this incredibly beautiful place, I knew I had to create visuals for my EP.”
- Jojo Abot
Azniv Korkejian, aka Bedouine, a Los Angeles-based folksinger whose shimmering, 70s-tinged compositions have drawn comparisons to Joni Mitchell and Karen Dalton, seemed to draw directly from the history of Timber Cove in a Further-produced video in which she performs an unplugged version of her latest single, “When You’re Gone.” Born in Aleppo, Syria, to Armenian parents, Korkejian spent her early childhood in Saudi Arabia, then moved to the US with her family at the age of 10, eventually winding up in California. This nomadic upbringing and wanderer’s spirit led to the name she chose for herself, Bedouine, and can be heard in the music of her critically acclaimed 2017 self-titled debut.
Another Further resident, the Emmy-award-winning Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter Axel Mansoor, composed an original song while at Timber Cove. “There was a boy / born from thunder. / He lost his father. / He lost his mother,” goes the opening refrain of a lyrical narrative dealing with alienation, loss, and the redemptive power and magic of creativity. His time at Timber Cove, said Mansoor, was a productive one.
“There’s the practical aspect, which is that I get to come to this beautiful place that’s visually arresting and inspiring and basically have all my needs taken care of so I can just focus in on the things that are most important—it creates this world of possibility,” said Mansoor. “And being in a space that allows me to nurture myself, it also allows me to nurture my art and approach it in a healthier way. When I’m in LA grinding away, a lot of the time I create out of this feeling of necessity. I’m sometimes more motivated by guilt and fear than by pure desire.”
In addition to writing and recording sessions, the Further residents were brought into conversation on a number of topics tied to the history and culture of the destination. What is the state of the California avant-garde then and now? What is the relationship between travel and creativity, revolution and landscape? Collaboration was encouraged, but whether cooperative or solitary, the emphasis was on creation.
“I've learned a lot about myself and my writing process through this,” said Sasha Spielberg (yes, that Spielberg), a musician and actress who also goes by the stage name Buzzy Lee. “Because what happens when I go to a space that's really beautiful, you look outside and you're like, ‘Oh I'm definitely going to be writing the best songs I've ever written in my life because of the setting.’ And because of that, I put a lot of pressure on myself. So I actually have been closing the blinds and not allowing for that, and then I write and then I step outside and take it in. But in terms of the actual writing part, I like being shut off.”
“It’s the place. It’s also being around other artists, learning from them, hearing their perspectives sharing the things we’re excited about, the things we’re scared about, it’s tremendously inspiring.”
- Axel Mansoor
After playing in the indie-folk act Wardell with her brother Theo and in Just Friends, an electro-pop collaboration with the producer Nicolas Jaar, Spielberg released her first solo musical project last April, an EP titled “Face paint.” Her Further output includes a black-and-white video in which she performs a song from that EP called, “On the Radio,” as well as work on several undisclosed in-progress compositions. All in all, it was a productive stint.
“I'll take away from this experience that, yeah, I can't write in my house anymore. I love having a different new space—and that sucks!” joked Spielberg.
Mansoor put it another way: “Being here, I can do literally nothing, but I keep finding myself wanting to create,” he said. “It’s the place. It’s also being around other artists, learning from them, hearing their perspectives sharing the things we’re excited about, the things we’re scared about, it’s tremendously inspiring.”