Christopher Lubinski and the persistence of vision

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Christopher Lubinski, who passed away last month at the age of 64, spent the last eight years of his life as an unsolicited documentarian of Greensboro musicians. (Daniel Wirtheim)

by Daniel Wirtheim

A series of black and white photographic prints capturing moments of Greensboro’s music scene spread across the table, each bearing a serial number next to the subject’s name like the cataloged moments of a bygone era. Each one, attributed with neat graphite print to the name C. Lubinski, offered itself to the attendants as a token to the photographer’s legacy.

On a Saturday night at the Elm Street coffeeshop Urban Grinders, a group of musicians and friends frequently caught in the crosshairs of Christopher Lubinski’s camera remembered the photographer and artist who died of cancer on Dec. 13 at the age of 64.

Lubinski’s prints, glasswork and photography spread along the venue’s walls like ivy. A series of lively, celestial circles within a collection of prints bearing titles like “Helios II” and “Age of Copper IV” hangs next to linocut prints, a series of framed photographs, and a spine-like glass sculpture.

A projector cast a series of images that Lubinski had taken of the Bronzed Chorus, the F- Art Ensemble and other local performers onto a screen while musicians took turns at a microphone planted near the front of the crowded coffeeshop

Lubinski, an artist of many mediums, had left USSR-controlled Poland for the United States as a young man. He settled in Connecticut as an educator in glass art, photographing life on the side before realizing that Greensboro would be a more affordable and comfortable place to live. And Lubinski continued to photograph, spending the last eight years of his life as an unsolicited documentarian of events for musicians who were often half his age — not unlike the one happening around the table of photographic prints.

Local musician Anna Luisa Daigneault, better known on the scene as Quilla, became closer to Lubinski in the last six months of his life than she ever had, driving the artist to and from medical appointments and caring for his cat. Along with Greensboro-based musician Ben Singer, Daigneault organized and performed at the event: Chris Lubinski: Art Show and Life Celebration.

Christopher Lubinski’s art will be on display at Urban Grinders in Greensboro throughout January. The Piedmont Print Co-op will host a series of Lubinski’s work in the spring.

Daigneault pointed to a black-and-white print hanging in one corner of the room and said that it reminded her of her first day in Greensboro. Lubinski took it at her Greensboro debut at CFBG in 2012. After the show Daigneault met Lubinski for the first time and they debated over a sub movement in the history of photography. He loved to discuss art, Daigneault said.

During the event, Greensboro musician Singer weaved in and out of the chairs, aiming a camera at the stage and attendees, shooting whatever caught his eye.

“I’m kind of taking his role,” Singer said. “He was probably taking most of the pictures around.”

According to Singer, Lubinski thrived when it came to movement, choosing to aim for camera blur rather than portrait-styled photographs. Taylor Bays, frontman of Taylor Bays & the Laser Rays, said Lubinski had a way of capturing reality in a manner that most photographers never do.

Bays said Lubinski would sometime irk a subject who had no idea they were being photographed. Lubinski aimed for candid shots and disliked when Bays would make faces and put on a show for the camera.

“It makes sense that he would get on me for hamming around,” Bays said. “His photography was a testament to his appreciation for real people, real life and real moments.”

Perhaps Lubinski’s appreciation for the arts is best stated in his own words, on a website that he created, lazycatarts.com.

“I believe that medium is secondary to the idea of art and changing it from time to time keeps the mind fresh allowing the artist to find new ways of expressing an idea,” Lubinski wrote. “For me art is like ‘candy for the mind’ and it is very important part of my life.”

Lubinski’s son, George Lubinski, said that his father’s unrivaled passion in life was art, even when it brought him little monetary compensation. For as long as he can remember his father was “simply taking pictures non-stop,” George said in an email.

“He  was an old man and the people [in Greensboro] made him feel young,” George wrote. “My father lived a very difficult life and the trials of day-to-day life were always a source of difficulty for him, but something about the music and people made him feel a great amount of joy.”

The table with photographs was growing bare by the end of Lubinski’s Life Celebration. Those printed images of spectators and musicians, frozen moments of elation and determination, left with the living.