Sunday, July 14, 2013

Dreamscapes, Orange and Texas Women's Reproductive Rights

Life is such a jumble. The wonderful and the terrible inform every moment of each day. Friday afternoon ES and I drove to Beaumont for the opening reception of an exhibition of his paintings at the Art Museum of Southeast Texas. As we drove east, I checked updates on the activity in the Texas SenateOf course, we knew SB1 would pass, but the day was taken up with amendments, voted down against the backdrop of protester shouts around the Capitol. The authors of the bill honored no amendments. Of any kind.
The legislature ignored the voices of thousands of Texans and on Friday, they inadvertently offered a secondary plot line with the farce of security personnel searching for sanitary pads and Tampons in women's purses. Did they expect to be showered with Tampons from the Senate visitor's gallery? There is a terrible irony here. 
Tampons, a symbol of women's fertility, could have rained down upon the Senate floor as a protest against the assault on women's constitutional right to control the timing of their pregnancies. I suspect it was simply paranoia run amok on the part of the legislators. When the world via social media found out about the confiscation of Tampons and sanitary napkins, the Senate relented. Tampons could enter the visitor's gallery just as guns can enter.  
I imagine that Republicans don't care a whit about being the butt of Tampon jokes on late night TV and on-line commentary, because on Friday they got what they truly wanted - passage of the SB1 and thus, the full support of the Evangelical radical right that votes in Texas primaries and will keep them in power.
But back to Beaumont and Dreamscapes. Don't we tend to live each of our days on several tracks? 
Dreamscapes looks wonderful. The show is beautifully installed. Thanks to Caitlin Williams, Curator of Exhibitions and Collections for her sensitivity to Earl's work and its placement in the space itself. She even added two benches in the gallery, so that one can sit and contemplate. Dreamscapes so lends itself to reverie and thought, best done while seated.
ES calls the paintings joyful and in his gallery talk, he said they document changes in his life. ES said he stopped painting Indians and realist paintings in 2007 and 2008. It was work that few folks ever saw. He began to paint skulls again, always, he's learned, skulls are a precursor to change and growth. And then he began to paint New Mexico and Big Bend landscapes that became Dreamscapes.
Earl's show runs concurrently with Eyes Spy, Folk Art from the Permanent Collection. Folk artist Andy Don Emmons was there to speak about his work and folk art in Texas. The museum has quite a good collection and  Eyes Spy was also beautifully installed.
Also saw a permanent installation of the work of Beaumont outsider artist Felix 'Fox' Harris. I loved his contraptions made from cast off metals, bottles and assorted junk.
Reminds me of Dean Ruck and Dan Havel's terrific piece made for the Houston Permitting Center. That's Mary B Hansen posing in front of their work when she toured the facility last fall.
Nice gathering at the museum. Ginny and Bill Camfield and Richard Stout drove over from Houston. Began to think that it might be a nice idea to organize a Saturday field trip for friends and caravan over to Beaumont while the show is up simply because it looks so good on those walls. Anyone up for a day trip?
Rob Clark and sculptor David Cargill were were among the crowd as were US District Judge Marcia Crone and her husband Seth. Also Grace Mathis, style columnist for cat5, entertainment and culture weekly for Southeast Texas. Grace Mathis took a photo of me for cat5 magazine and emailed me a copy. See below. 
Ron was instrumental in acquiring Earl's very large painting, Gifts From the Sea, for the Art Museum of Southeast Texas. Museum has it on permanent display.
As the sun set, fifteen of us headed out of the museum for dinner and conversation. End of a very nice opening for Dreamscapes. Toward the end of the reception, I noticed a couple engaged Earl in conversation. Earl described their conversation to me later.
"Your paintings are very sexual," said the woman. The man elaborated. 
Earl agreed that sexual imagery abounds. Most folks don't notice.
Earl and I stayed at MCM Elegante, one of a stated 'family of hotels'. Elegante was a very pleasant place to stay and had a good breakfast buffet. And here's what I noticed at the front entrance after we checked out on Saturday morning.
Earl and I spent Saturday in Orange, TX, visiting the W.H. Stark House and The Stark Museum of Art, the first is a very personal place and the second is overwhelming in the breadth of its collection of 19th and early 20th century Southwest art.  Both venues are treasures and I suspect are not on most folks' radar. Too bad. The Stark Museum of Art receives only 30,000 visitors a year. I bet that the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth gets tens of thousands more to see its collection of Remington and Russell. I think I heard a Stark Museum guard say that the Stark collection has over 7500 paintings and they are rotated. Indeed. Earl and I were in Orange in 2010 and some of the paintings I remembered  were back in storage and we were treated to many others.
And the gallery filled with paintings from the Taos Society of Artists is now a stunning mustard yellow. 
Love the painting on the right by Ernest Leonard Blumenschein, 'Ourselves and Taos Neighbors,' which was painted specifically for Mr. Stark. Earl and I visited Blumenschein's home in Taos last May and loved it. Wished at the time, and again on Saturday, that we knew even more about Blumenschein's wife, the talented Mary Sheppard Greene. After wandering through the rooms of their adobe home, I asked if her biography had ever been written. No. Still an opportunity waiting to happen. Here's a detail of Greene's skirt and her daughter's hands. Must be my cropping of the image that makes the detail so strange?
Magnificent gallery of paintings. We hardly knew where to turn. I did catch Earl in front of this painting, hat to hat with this work by Joseph Henry Sharp. Take a second look at the painting. All four figures have the same face. Turns out Sharp did this repeatedly in his paintings. "Easier," he is said to have stated, "to paint one face over and over instead of many." There's that mustard wall again. My living room might need a redo?
Must write about the W.H. Stark House, that 14,000 square foot Queen Anne style home built by William Henry Stark and his wife Miriam M. Lutcher Stark. It looks big, but inside it's almost cozy and just right for a family of three and occasional guests. Servants and storage are on the third floor. 
There was strict protocol for visiting this house which took ten years to restore. My purse went into a locker and then we and our docent Sally were met at the door to this home by a young guard named Cody. The tour was great because the house was filled with a lifetime of Miriam Stark's personal picks. She was indeed a shopper. Traveled the world, mostly with her mother, and SHOPPED. I wish I knew where she travelled in Italy - the family kept journals, but they've probably not been scanned and put online for general perusal. 
We paused before a small white marble sculpture of a boy pulling a thorn from his foot. Earl gave a brief discourse on the history of Spinario, a much copied Greco-Roman Hellenistic bronze sculpture. The original bronze lives in Rome and a marble copy made for the Medici is in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. Earl talked about this small marble copy of Boy With Thorn/Spinario and suddenly, our docent was totally engaged. As we paused at each new space in the house, we asked many questions and I am sure our tour took much longer than most. We looked in ceiling high china cabinets and marveled at sets of china that could be mixed and lingered.
We stood in doorways guarded with corded stanchions to ogle painted urns and sconces and silk Oriental carpets, stained glass windows, lots of rocking chairs, Italian lace curtains and silk lined walls. The Stark home is worth a visit, simply because this is one couple's personal collection of things they loved to live with. (Is it still a bad thing to end a sentence with a preposition?)
So, that was the gist of our 26 hour trip to Beaumont and Orange, TX. Wouldn't have missed a minute of it. And how strange it is for this experience to be juxtaposed with the events that led to constitutional rights being taken from Texas women and to the acquittal of Trayvon Martin's killer in Florida.  
We live in a time of fear. How come so many folks are afraid of black men, especially when they wear a hoodie just like those guys do in Silicon Valley? And how come white men are still so afraid of a woman's right to choose when to have or not have a child?
Our world is gifted with paintings like Earl's Dreamscapes and tormented with injustice and rage. Every day is filled with the wonderful and terrible. Enjoy the beautiful and work diligently toward ending the terrible.

1 comment:

Grace Mathis, Beaumont's original beauty geek said...

Mary Margaret...It was so nice to meet you and I am so honored to be on your blog post!! What an inspiring post...Thank you for what you do and the beauty and perspective you bring to the world. I am digging deep to find my own inspiration to share as fully and honestly as you. Thank you!!