Saturday, September 24, 2011

Art, imagination and obsession

A preview of upcoming solo show at El Zaguan opening November 4, 2011 entitled  Assemblage & Narrative: conversations with bones & barbed wire --about identity, family secrets and a homage to my sister Cheryl though her inspiration may not be evident in the ironing board.  It became my obsession yesterday when I attempted to document it in my studio.  First carried it outside and placed it against the worn adobe and then back where I rearranged the table, the rug, anything in the way (and everything is in the way) and then I surrendered to happenstance and light and delved fully into the magic of imagination.

When I told her about finding an old wooden ironing board at a antique/thrift store in Madrid she wrote me of her childhood memory of ironing.  "Iron the flat things first" she was told.  Sprinkle them with water (from a coke bottle with cork placed nearby): pillow cases, table cloths, sheets, etc. then roll them up and place them in the basket.  In those days even bras were ironed (can you imagine?).  I am five years younger and no memory of such a task, but her childhood was more adult than mine.  She took care of me along the way too and I can't even remember though I'm grateful.  At seven she dressed us for church and there we walked all alone, so grown up but without our mother.  Where is she?  the other women asked.   And so this piece contains a deconstructed coke bottle though likely no one will notice.  Doesn't matter.  I don't have a title yet because somewhere along the line it morphed into something else.  As art does.  Life.  Love and intention.  The lasts on top are walking forward.  One back --I think that might be me.  Or you. 
My work often uses buttons and thread.  Those common themes of domesticity.  Dresses.  Gloves. Perhaps to honor the women of earlier generations.  So many women, their choices and fears. So many children.  A man to take care of them.  Or not. Wifery.  No judgment.  Contemplation and scenario.  I read recently that "making art is inherently risky.  You're exposing your imagination, the most private thing about you" --and I love that.  Naming imagination as the most vulnerable thing.  Though I have an entire closet of "most vulnerable" it comes down to self-confidence & a ridiculous need for approval.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

September Song

I need to figure this thing out, what is eating at me, no not that crazy stomach bacteria and the fact that I have to wait three months to get into the clinic here, no what is it in my head, what is making it so goddamned difficult to paint.

Photography? I am really getting off on taking pictures, I mean seriously enjoying the hell out of it, but if it is this much fun can it really be considered art? In the past nine months I have taken close to two thousand pictures, large format, eating my memory on the computer, who cares, I am compelled, driven, forced by some instinct, some urge. And the thrill of it, intoxicates me, satisfies me, pleases me greatly, like any good muse should.

The interwebs? Hell today I spent more time on line that I did with the brush in hand, why? I read and reload the same twelve sites hourly, sometimes every half an hour, looking for what? More news on the evil diatribe against Gays, more bad news about the global economy, another impending natural disaster, one that would make the last one seem like Oz? I do try and balance this lust for information with the occasional funny kitty video, and then if I am really horny for journalism I will read Al Jazeera.

My dire straits? I've never had any money, never had a credit card, never had credit. But I have really never been this in debt and it can really fuck with my day. I owe the landlady $500, and today I mistakenly looked at the calendar, oh shit, rent time coming upon us quickly, my stomach bug has great company with the growing ulcer, think I'll call them the twins.

Is it the sparsity of paint? Well one of my best friends just sent a gift card for art supplies, the truck should be showing up any day with that sweet delivery. Is it my horniness? I mean really this dry-spell is record setting, especially for me as a Gay man, and that is hard to beat. Well still I do paint everyday and even though this has been a very challenging year, yeah I've been in Santa Fe a year now, I have also painted like a fool, been consistently productive and there for my friends, so while I may need a break from the stress and day to day, September, November and these few precious days I'll spend with you,  these precious days I'll spend with you.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Monday, Santa Fe

Seems like I have something to say, at least it feels that way. Is this happiness? Am I bored? The ceaseless clouds  have given way to rapturous sunshine, the light is perfect for painting. So why am I not painting? The flowers are fading, a few remain here and there, then there are the waves of blooms on this and that other weed, soon these too will fade.

thoughts along the High Road & Ojo Caliente

Had a magical Saturday with a foray up the High Road for the annual "studio tour" with stops in Chimayo (for chile & weaving), Truchas (maybe the most stunningly beautiful place in all of New Mexico) where I wandered right into a hug from a stranger at Anna Karin gallery and immersed myself in that wonderful mix of their old world adobe with Victorian touches --a special place with oil paintings by Anna Karin & mixed media by Jeane Weigel.  The gongs of Bill Loyd danced in a lace veiled window. I turned left to reach Ojo Sarco (where I gifted myself a ceramic pitcher the colors of the desert by Connie Christensen and took a brownie, for later), then to Penasco where I bought an "upcycled" shirt from "Art for the Heart" --a nonprofit project dedicated to creating jobs for women in rural northern NM, and one-of-a-kind fashions at an affordable price.  Look for this behind the Walking Woman gallery right across from the Post Office. 
My plan was to stop somewhere along the slow moving Rio Grande for a picnic before venturing up to the Mesa and cutting across to spend the night at Ojo Caliente Hot Springs --a somewhat belated birthday present and almost one year from the day I spent there on my way out of Santa Fe for a 3 month adventure into "family immersion" and a self-imposed Art Sabbatical in Mexico --where I went to study Spanish and contemplate my life to date (I suppose).  Now that is all behind me. Within me. The trunk unpacked.  The lights are on but still I am slow slow in defining the experience.  My upcoming solo show at El Zaguan which opens November 4th, 2011 Assemblage & Narrative: Conversations with Bones & Barbed Wire is certainly part of that process. 

Self portrait in pink adobe --that's me on a walkabout along the Bosque River Trail at Ojo Caliente and just past the very cool historical and recently renovated Adobe Barn (in the round).  The light was amazing as the storm clouds that threatened in the distance easily rolled away to bring in the late afternoon wash of sunshine.  So much happened for me here.  An apparition to others as I walked along the path in yellow green linen as someone from Santa Fe --a one diminensional being --as if that assumes wealth and abundance and a lack of any connection to wild places.  They were friendly and we chatted but I was certainly seen as "the other" and of course I am except for the assumption of wealth.  I get that from strangers when I travel --often mistaken as having a trust fund.  How funny.  One time a man outright asked how I can afford . . .kayaking the mangroves in Mexico, and I was a bit offended and wanted to tell him I don't have a mortgage or 5 bicycles or a big screen TV but he would have missed the point.  And it was a good question.  I think because I live as if I have money, even though I don't.

I want to write about minimalism and intimacy but my mind is a mad dance from all the contemplation and so I will say that I put too much into things --like this blog post.  And often the paintings and mixed media work I do. Oh, and poetry too.  I try to tell the whole story, well every story ever imagined all in one place, on one page or canvas.  And so I will only surmise that public bathing, or soaking rather, in a pool with 12 (plus or minus) other people, mostly groups of women or couples, many ignoring the "whisper policy" was anything but relaxing.  I found myself most contented hiking along the lovely Bosque and eating carrot sticks along the Rio Grande.  Hanging out in water with glances of innuendo or perhaps nothing at all except an overactive imagination (or memory) was almost upsetting and the opposite of what I anticipated, to the point of surprise more than dismay, hence the contemplation.  But another time for those words.  The joy in the adventure was the actually going of course, getting out the door, into the car, on the road. Driving.  Stopping.  Pulling into one way driveways and out again. The magic culminated in sipping a glass of red under cover of darkness, a piece of harvati with salami, in the garden Ramada in lieu of dinner at the Wine Bar.  That was in the spirit of the day as I watched the stars appear in the night-- illuminated by my own thoughts, the gifts of art, the amazing skies in this land of enchantment, an easy walk, the glow of light against the cliffs.  And a soft pillow at the end of it all. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

I've put off writing because I've been busy with odd jobs and booksales and a fun friend in town, but mainly due to too much contemplation and not enough focus.  Initially I wanted to respond to the 9.11 anniversary and connect it in some way to the memorial dedication at the Encaustic Art Institute and a new sculpture garden where my piece "A Poet's Heart: Reflections on Compassion" has come to rest, but I think I'm still thinking and now that day is past, and on "US time"that means it's old news anyway-- until it becomes a marketing tool or "in our best interest" so I'm moving on: to apples and autumn and a tarantula hawk that I observed in the wilds of Cerrillos Hills State Park on Sunday. 

A tarantula hawk is a spider wasp which hunts tarantulas as food for its larvae.  The more familiar species are up to five centimeter (two inches) long with a blue-black body and bright rust-colored wings making them among the largest of wasps. The coloring on their wings warns potential predators that they are dangerous (Aposematism). Their long legs have hooked claws for grappling with their victims. The stinger of a female tarantula hawk can be up to 7 mm (1/3 inch) long, and the sting is considered among the most painful insect stings in the world.
The female tarantula hawk captures, stings, and paralyzes the spider, then either drags her prey back into her own burrow or transports it to a specially prepared nest, where a single egg is laid on the spider’s body, and the entrance is covered. When the wasp larva hatches, it rips a small hole in the spider's abdomen, then plunges into the spider's belly and feeds voraciously, avoiding vital organs for as long as possible to keep it fresh. After several weeks, the larva pupates. Finally, the wasp becomes an adult, and tears open the spider's belly to get out. The wasp emerges from the nest to continue the life cycle. WOW!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Imagination & book(worm)

Imagination: 1) the act or power of forming a mental image of something not present to the senses or not previously known or experienced 2) creative ability 3) resourcefulness 4) a creation of the mind (Merriam Webster) or something I was told I did not have as a child.  Basically I was a bookworm.  Boring.  Uninteresting. Quiet. An introvert. And of course I was all of those things and more. Or less.  Contemplating that belief recently and whenever anyone tells me the opposite I marvel how it has resided inside me all these years.  "you have no imagination. . ." Words so formative yet untrue, and it didn't really matter that I didn't know what I lacked (since it existed all along), but strange now to hear that same word from complete strangers in a variety of diction --all glowing and somewhat incredulous. A compliment.  In response to my art.  "I want to get inside your brain" or "you have such imagination" or "how did you come up with that idea" or "you have such an eye" and well it is rather stimulating.  In contemplating "my normal" I have to surrender to sometimes social misfit. That's okay.  Sometimes I play the role of the happy extrovert.  A delicate dance.  I do not exactly marvel the masses on the think index. It also makes my art less accessible though I don't equate that with less important.
All this pondering is not here or there.  Not applause or criticism or judgment but rather led me back to the books I read as a child.  Not great literature mind you but those early childhood detectives expressing their independence and sleuthing in ways that drew me right down the rabbit hole.  My favorites in the early years included: the Happy Hollisters, the Bobbsey Twins, and of course Laura Ingalls Wilder "Little House on the Prarie" series.  Moving on to Trixie Belden (my favorite) and a few Cherry Parker and Nancy Drew.  Somewhere in those years I brought home the plain orange hardcover autobiographies from the bottom shelves of the basement school library including Clara Barton and others but I remember Jane Addams in particular, and the Hull House.  Now I read, just today in fact, that she was awarded the Nobel Peace Price in 1931. I missed that part when I was ten. An ardent feminist and social worker back in the day, before women were recognized as cognitive beings.  Interesting these influences on such young minds --subliminal choices I made.  I still love a good detective novel to this day (Sue Grafton, Nelson DeMille, Kate Atkinson) though wandered off into the wilderness with Ed Abbey, Doug Peacock, Wallace Stegner, and of course enjoyed the offbeat literary and fabulous writings of Jim Harrison and Tom Robbins, interspersed with the occasional memoir.  The Glass Castle a favorite.  I still get hopelessly nostalgic whenever I'm in a midwest antique store and stop to browse through the books.  All my favorites.  If I ever land in one place permanently I vow to buy back those imagination building books that labeled me "bookworm" and "houseplant" --beats turning out to be a serial killer.  I'll take artist, poet, bookworm  --sure.