Sunday, January 30, 2011

Works in Progress

The artists for the new Houston Permitting Center are all at work and I've begun to photograph some of them in their studios. You can see the first two forays at Artful Interventions, that other blog that will begin to follow this project more regularly. I guess I can also do a quick cut and paste of that blog's latest post and put it right here on Rockbridge Times.
Now, a lot more than this project is going on in my day-to-day life, though it's sometimes hard to even for me to discern that face. I hope I have time to write about some of the other things that go every day. Endless little details and general administration of my life including health, family, friendships, civic activities - find myself on two boards of directors now - and then, there's that man of mine. All is good and 'all' is also a lot.
In the meantime, here are photos of what several on this team of artists are doing. I'll talk about more artists at work for this building soon. Their ideas are terrific and the facility will certainly reflect their energy and talents.

Below is a post copied from Artful Interventions 1002 Washington Ave.

"So much to tell and seemingly little time to tell it. However, all the artists are now underway with their work for the Houston Permitting Center. I'll be posting more. At least, that is the hope. Here are a few photos of some of the artists at work. Everyone is heading for an April 15 deadline, which is when the AIA will have its annual gala in the lobby space of the building. I suspect that guests will have access to the entire building that evening, so the work needs to be done in time for this first public viewing.
"Visited Dean Ruck's big red barn studio today and photographed Dean and Dan's latest finds from their foray to Spectrum Metal Recycling. Folks dispose of the most beautiful, wonderful stuff. Sure looks like treasure.
"Here's a first look at where the two are headed with this giant wall piece that will be installed at the top of the ramp entrance into the Green Building Resource Center in the main lobby area of the building.
"Interesting to see how they work. I guess artists just work this way. Stuff goes up on the wall, assembled bit by bit and you begin to get a feel for the piece, the direction it is taking and what may be important, or on reflection, not important to the work at all. Off it comes, up goes more. Takes time to think about it, then return to the piece. I probably won't recognize the piece in a couple of weeks when I go back to take more photos of this work in progress. However, I can see already that this is sure going to be a 'piece of work'.
"Visited Jesse Sifuentes in his studio at Texas Southern University days ago. He's got his canvases stretched and began to paint on the larger of the two. Jesse is using the iconic images he's used in murals before. Magnolia trees, house roofs, downtown Houston skyline. He'll paint four magnolia trees in this new work, a reminder of that early community known as Magnolia Park, first settled in 1890 near the Houston ship channel by John T. Brady. It is reported that the original Magnolia Park had 3500 magnolia trees and was a magnet for picnics and bayou boating.
"Magnolia Park is now a largely Mexican American neighborhood in Houston's East End. I doubt, in these busy times, that anyone has counted its magnolia trees recently. But it's nice to know that Jesse is painting a mural that represents an early slice of Houston's history. Jesse was a student of John Biggers and I think you will see a bit of Bigger's influence as the mural develops.
"More photos of work in progress soon."

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Back to the First Lady's Fashion Moments

How am I missing what Michelle Obama is wearing? I just perused her wardrobe for the state visit of China's President Hu Jintao. Gorgeous. Picture the deep red gloves that she wore for Hu's arrival. Red is such a Chinese color signaling good fortune. Again she chose red for the state dinner, wearing a red Alexander McQueen gown. She has good instincts and her own personal flair.
I used to ponder over dozens of photos of Michelle and her fashion choices. Posted many of them on this blog. But for months, I haven't seen many images of her and just thought the times were too difficult for anyone to be focused on what she was wearing. Wrong.
Clips of Michelle Obama's wardrobe have been there all along. I just wasn't clicking on the right links. So here is one link with a story about the first lady's venture into vintage. She chose a Norman Norell gown for the White House's broadcast of Christmas in Washington. Good for her. The Norell is from New York Vintage.
Michelle Obama is doing it right. Too bad, the times are so tough and vitriolic that we can't all enjoy her as we did Jackie Kennedy. Michelle Obama represents all of us at every public event she attends or hosts. She does us proud.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

An Aside

One could be emulating Sloane Crossley. After all, she's writing, sort of, what one (that would be me) would like to be writing.
The New York Times writes, "SLOANE CROSLEY, 32, is the author of the essay collections “I Was Told There’d Be Cake,” a best seller, and “How Did You Get This Number,” which will appear in paperback this spring. Currently working on a screenplay and a novel, Ms. Crosley recently left the publicity department of Vintage Books to write full time. She lives in Chelsea but can often be found at the New York Public Library at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street."

Dick Wray

It is raining again this Sunday morning. Just as it was last Sunday morning, though without the thunderclaps. It's been just a week since Dick Wray died quietly in bed during that early morning thunder storm. I just read Dick's obituary in the January 11 Houston Chronicle. Douglas Britt, you hit the high points of Dick's career. Made a good read. Now I'd like to be in a roomful of folks who remember the old days, the everyday outrageousness of Dick Wray. I'd like to hear those stories. In the mean time, see Dick's work on his website DickWrayArtist. That, he was.

Evening on Colquitt: Exercise in Disppointment

Last night was Colquitt gallery night and Earl and I headed over to take a look. Now I know why I don't often go to these monthly gallery events. There was very little or nothing that I couldn't find a facsimile of at Midtown's High Fashion store. At High Fashion, you can buy impressionistic, abstract expressionist and realist paintings in small, medium and large for very few dollars.
Let me narrate our evening, which I would classify as disappointing. At least, the art was disappointing. I must say that not often do I enter an art space and feel a rush of possibility, a thrill and perhaps, most important, a covetousness response to the art. When I get that rush and want to possess what I am seeing, then, to me, that art has some meat on its bones. It's gone past decorative.
Decorative is what we saw last night and its effect is dispiriting. Give me an Earl Staley or a Dick Wray, paintings filled with energy, that engage, that are assertive, aggressive, that give and give and give. And take, too.
Here's a Dick Wray, from when I do not know, but it's energy jumps right out of this blog post. Worth looking at. For a long time.
Sometimes, even my 30 year old Dzubas and my 40+ year old Dorothy Hood look like calm waters next to Earl and Dick's work.
This morning, it is raining softly and we are still in bed with the two cats, the Sunday NYT and mugs of quickly cooling coffee. We've just engaged in an intentional conversation about what we 'saw' last evening on Colquitt. Here's what we said, more or less.
We'd just entered the first gallery (Thornwood Gallery, LLC) when Earl said, "This is what you see in Santa Fe." I looked around and saw a lot of traditional landscapes, competently done, paintings one could pass by without seeing. Except that we were there to see. So I 'saw' paintings that perhaps many folks want in their homes because they are serene and pleasant and accommodating.
Earl said more this morning, "They're all dumbed down. They make 'nice.' They're 'modern' without an edge. A never-never land of impressionism."
"Never-never land?" I asked.
"Real impressionism was always about the 'real' landscape. The artists were pushing themselves to paint what they saw optically right in front of them. Now, it's thick paint, thin paint and good brush strokes, so you can tell they really worked it."
In the rear gallery space, we found faux Gerhard Richter paintings, lots of them and little bronze sculptures. A trio of square pear and apple paintings appeared, very like the ones at, you guessed it, High Fashion.
"Might as well go to High Fashion, because you're not going to get any better or worse."
The next gallery was New Gallery-Thom Andriola, that featured a series of photo realism work, painted with a high degree of skill. Lots of swimming pool or ocean view backgrounds with portraits of folks whose faces clung to the bottom edges of the canvases. Hard to tell if the paintings were paintings or photographs. I guess the magic lay in the fact that they were made with paint, not with digital images, though they must have come from such images. The artist revealed skill, but might the images have been more unnerving as photographs? The work was repetitious without building to a finale.
Then we came upon the John Cleary Gallery, filled with photos mounted in large spare white frames. All horizons. The space between sky and sea shown at different times of day, in different seasons. Meant to be repetitive, gaining power from the repetition, with only slight changes in the light, in wave formations. All horizons. "Nicely done."
I said, "Nice for law offices. For the work's ability to 'center' clients, to assuage conflict, to indicate contemporary knowingness. Good for a corporate setting, a firm collection. I'd not put these photographs in a hospital corridor or even a bank. Those places have staccato energy, even when they might prefer 'serene'."
We saw the new work of Kelli Scott Kelley, a friend of an artist friend. I wanted to love this work that used old table linens and doilies, embroidered and bounded by fine vintage crochet and tatting. The artist had stiffened the old fabrics (with old fashioned starch?) and then drawn, stitched, collaged and appliqued on each piece. She called them fairy tales. The work was pinned to the white gallery walls with the effect of a butterfly collection. I wanted more.
More, meaning that for me the drawings on the linens were not quite fanciful or bold or disturbing enough. The artist was careful, seemingly tentative. As if the linens themselves contained the narrative and were now revealing their stories with help from the artist.
I thought of my own collages where I struggle to break free and instead find myself playing tentative too, over and over. When I am unable to break through to something absolutely compelling. I could relate to the work of this artist because I thought that it needed to fly on its own linen, and if not, then to be surrounded with 'context'. Dark colored walls, strange lighting or hung as if swirling through the gallery space like small kites or wind blown leaves. So there, that is what hit me as I looked at this artist's work. She reminded me of myself. Not enough, Push further.
I thought about Jermayne MacAgy, who came to Houston decades ago as the first director of the Contemporary Museum of Art and then worked with the Menils.

MacAgy had the ability to make both fine art and everyday objects absolutely dazzling because she could place them in a context of color and light and space, all of which became integral to the work and quite seductive. As I said, I thought about MacAgy when I saw the drawings and applique on those vintage linens. Yes, I wanted more from those linens.
We saw ceramics at Goldesberry and Earl said, "Wow, they really can do that." Meaning, "Is that the point?", but we weren't inspired. Ceramic animals accompanied large color photographs in heavy black frames. I liked some of the animals, but if I were buying, I'd not put the accompanying photo right next to the animal. I'd place it in a more unexpected place so the viewer might wonder where he/she'd seen one or the other 'before.' I'd play a game with the two. Otherwise, it doesn't intrigue. Back to context and placement again. Where are you Ms. MacAgy?
Entered another gallery, the name of which I cannot remember. Had to cross a lot of pebbles in the dark to get to the doorway. Climbing the stairway, I met young patrons in leather jackets with cell phones in hand, texting, heading for the next and the next place. The work here was shiny and slick, looked like they'd been produced on a production line for a whole series of cross country galleries. The crowd was young, the noise level high. Buy this work for the lofts in Midtown.
Ronnie McMurtrey was showing a series of abstract paintings by Sydney Philen Yeager. The background color of one of her biggest paintings took my breath away until I realized that chartreuse is my favorite color. Of course, the background rocked for me. But the work as a whole with its broad brush strokes of many colors seems the kind that I'd see on a AIA house tour in those big new homes with granite counter tops and closets as big as bedrooms. Beautiful colors and totally safe.
I like many of the artists in the McMurtrey Gallery stable. Always wanted an Ellen Berman painting, Keith Carter photos and perhaps even an early Lance Letscher. I even showed work at Ronnie's during the early FotoFest years, a very long time ago. And that chartreuse I saw last night was memorable.
We headed to Moody Gallery where I am often intrigued with the art, if rarely covetous. We saw pleasant little tableaus of sculptures by Page Kempner, carefully placed on pedestals or on walls. She's been at Moody for a long time, since the late 1980s. I remember looking at her earlier work when I lived in the immediate neighborhood and wondering why it was good. It's spare and possibly has a little mystery. I like the little objects, the houses, the leaves. But I wonder too. The work is precious and I bet it sells well. The rest of the show comprised a piece from each of the gallery's stable of artists. I'd seen the work before and some of it I've always liked. But all of it was safe. None of it demanded that we look or try to understand or fall in a state of love and covetousness for the work itself. None of it took time to ponder, to wonder about.
I said, "Maybe galleries are not the best way to show artists' work anymore."
He answered, " Years ago, I heard an art critic say, 'Yes, yes, get on with it.' So, artists and galleries and patrons too, get on with it.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Killings in Arizona Spawned by Fear and Hate

Paul Krugman got it right in his NYT's column this morning. He asks if we are really surprised by the shootout in Arizona. I'm not. There's fear and hate swirling like a dust storm around this country of ours. Obama's election scared lots of folks and when folks get scared and see changes in the offing, they hunker down, literally with guns and ammo and wait for something to happen. It's happened again all right.
I am reminded of the story I heard right here in Houston after Obama's inauguration in January 2009. Academy, the hometown sporting goods store, was said to have sold more ammo between Obama's election and early spring 2009 than they'd sold during all of their years in business. Many Americans equate their personal safety with guns, sort of like buying car or household insurance. Better safe than sorry.
Krugman writes that he remembers the upsurge in political hatred after Bill Clinton's election in 1992 that culminated in the Oklahoma City bombing. And I remember the crowds, mob-like at the McCain Palin rallies, filled with a sense of hate and urgency, under girded by cold constant fear. For those crowds, guns seem to protect, perhaps kept the fear at bay?
I haven't turned on the television, but I know that the dialogue is 24/7 and there is a tremendous fight going on between the 'left and the right' about the true nature of this shoot-out. Seems everyone is fighting for their version of America.

Missoni Family @ The Museum of Everything

Just found the NYT article 'Outsider Art Finds Its Place in Fashion' by Suzy Menkes. Seems that Missoni packed up the entire family and flew from Italy to London for a multigenerational photo shoot at the cult private museum
Like a madcap traveling circus of party people, the Missoni family descended on Peter Blake's private museum in London last month.
Menkes writes, "Angela Missoni, the creative director, first saw the Museum of Everything, in London’s Primrose Hill, during the Frieze Art Fair in 2009. “I thought it was fantastic and very close to my aesthetic — I don’t consider myself a collector — I am an assembler,” said Ms. Missoni, who believes she has inherited a magpie vision from her mother, Rosita, whom she took to see the exhibition when it traveled to Turin."
Missoni says, "When I was ready to do a new project for the campaign, I was thinking about Peter Blake, who had an exhibition in Venice, and then I realized that he was doing an exhibition at the Museum of Everything,” she says. “I asked Juergen Teller to do the pictures — and we put it all together.
"So on a bleak winter day, the patriarch Tai Missoni with Rosita, daughter Angela, sons Vittorio and Luca and the vast cousinhood they have spawned, sat at long tables lunching, as if 'al fresco in Italy'."

Monday, January 10, 2011

Tasty n Sons: Dates and Bacon

Ok, I am working this afternoon, drafting fund raising letter, creating a TO DO list, sorting files, getting back in the a 'move the meter' mode. But in sorting, I also came across a business card for Tasty n Sons, a restaurant that Mary and Queta introduced Earl and me to last November. Menu is wonderful. How about dates wrapped in bacon and drizzled with maple sugar syrup. Here's the photo and now I can throw away the card, because I can always check this blog if I need to remember anything else about this very crowded popular brunch stop. Portland's got good food.
And I am not knocking Houston food here.
Ok, back to work.

Arizona: Consequences of Running Scared

Read Jeff Biggers "Lock and Load and Lost in Tucson: What's the Matter with My Arizona?" on what's happening in Arizona, the state that at the moment, appears the most visibly scared of brown folks and change and now perhaps, the most horribly influenced by the opinions of Sarah Palin and FOX News.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Dick Wray's Tower and Towering Life

We got the phone call a few miles east of Marathon, just after we'd watched a couple of tumbleweeds blow across the highway and after we'd stashed a half dozen tumbleweeds in the back of the Subaru. We were laughing and loving the notion of tumbleweeds cavorting down the open road.
And then my iPhone rang. The call was coming from Beth's phone and it was CeCe. Our connection was bad and I heard CeCe say that Dick died and that it had been magical.
A magical time, she repeated, because Dick Wray died early Sunday morning in the middle of a thunder storm. Dick Wray died in a clap of thunder after a thunderous life. Fitting. Perfect. That man was strong, even in death. Beth was there to say, "I love you," in their little piece of heaven.
Last week, I heard Beth say to Dick, "You promised a great ride and you gave me a greater one than I could have imagined." So he did.
Dick's life and his paintings jump right out and grab you. Both loaded with high octane energy, humor and a sly take on life itself.
Dick completed the civic art design for the four story elevator tower for 1002 Washington Avenue. We've got his maquette, his drawings, his in-put on materials and installation. But he's not going to be around to see this enormous piece fabricated or installed. Now will he be able to simply revel in the finished work. But Houston will have a Dick Wray. That piece of work will be 'one tall tower'. Tower, phallus, whatever. It'll be Dick Wray.
As for tumbleweeds? Aren't we all a lot like them? Just tumbling down a highway and sooner or later, we each take that last tumble? And maybe some of us will leave a tower behind?

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Terlingua: Dust is Swirling, Wind is Blowing

It's late in Terlingua on this Saturday night, though I know there's still live music at the Starlight. Earl and I had dinner there with Josef and we saw Terry Anderson again whom we met last night in Mimi's kitchen over spaghetti and champagne. And then, lo and behold, at the Starlight, Earl met one of his students from Rice U. from way back in the 1960s. He'd been on the look out for Paul and there he was at the Starlight.
I've not seen Earl so excited to meet up with someone in a long time, maybe ever. May have been a decade or two since he and Paul had a visit.
This has been a busy day, but no big endeavors. Breakfast down the hill again. Had that good strong coffee and a couple of burritos and then we went to Terlingua's Farmer's Market and bought some Indian seasoning and a couple of plastic Mexican baskets. Got there too late for homemade bread.
Mid-day, we drove out to see Terry's house which is very nice. A complete interior world with soft music and beautiful views from every window. Drove him over to Study Butte to pick up a car and then we went on to a rock shop to buy several rock planters to take back to Houston. I am loving them. Folks here fill them with succulents.
Back to our room to take naps. Earl slept, but a fly kept breaking my sleep pattern, so I never did more than doze off. The day itself was magnificent. There is always that changing sky and light and it looked like dark rain clouds over Big Bend for a while.
Here's a view of Terlingua in the late afternoon from Mimi's house. Light changes from moment to moment. And it was brilliant today as you can see from the shadows falling over the adobe and stone walls from the roofs.
I am surprised by what I am partaking of in this tiny town. One of the musicians we heard this evening wrote the intro tune for Weeds and he's good on the harmonica too. Sandy, a yoga and flame dancer, performed and then Earl spotted Paul, his old student from Rice U days. And by the way, the Starlight food was good too.
Tomorrow, we must make sense of this room we've been living in for these several days and get everything into the car for the trip back to Houston. It's been a great ride. Terlingua is the MOST UNLIKELY place. It's jam packed with musicians, artists, actors, dancers, organic desert gardeners, craftsmen and folks who just want to get out to the great open skies and stay awhile.
When we left the Starlight about 9:00 this dark night, the wind was howling and the dust was billowing across the parking lot. Cars were covered with dust. Wind is still at it outside. We are quiet inside. Earl is very quiet. He is asleep. Tomorrow coming soon.

Last Trip to Big Bend: Jack Boynton

It is almost 9:00 on Saturday a.m. The sun rose over the mountains just before 8:00 and now our bedroom is blasted with light. Granted, we did open the shades to see the sunrise. This is the first morning that one of us awoke before morning was well underway. There are two flies in the bedroom and they are an annoyance that will drive us down to breakfast very soon.
We were in Big Bend all day yesterday.
Took the Mule Ears Peak Trail, one that Earl and Jack Boynton used to take decades ago.
We hiked to a specific vantage point that overlooks what Earl calls a sacred space. We were there to deposit Jack under a cairn where the wind will overtake him. A long way from Houston and the April 2010 memorial service where Earl gave Jack's eulogy.
His remains were not much more than a juice can of gray ashes. Since Mom's death, I see that the things we do to commemorate a life and a death are all done by us, the living. We may be carrying out the wishes of the now dead, but the dead were living when decisions were made. Jack wanted to drift away in Big Bend and so he shall.
The day was filled with vistas and color and colossal beauty. Who cannot believe in a Divine Maker. Where did this world come from? Each mountain is covered with dried puffs of grass, cactus, rocks that make rainbows of colors.
The sky changes moment by moment and because it does the landscape changes moment by moment. The quiet is immense and comforting. We could hear only our feet on the path, stumbling over stones, through sand and gravel.
There is more to say about yesterday. But breakfast and that potato chorizo burrito and orange mug of strong coffee calls.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Terlingua: Twenty-four Hours

Earl and I have been in Terlingua 24 hours and what a time we've shared. This 24 hours feels like time suspended and we are filled with 'moment to moment'. We are staying at Posada Milagro, or rather at the home of a friend of Earl's from long ago. They reconnected on Facebook last fall and he found that she works in L.A., lives in Terlingua and operates a bed and breakfast or what might be better called a petite hotel called Posada Milagro. Her home is a series of small stone buildings with several casitas (we're staying in one), a cottage with a tub, another small building with a walk in tiled shower and sink and two 'outhouses.'
Outhouses, yet there is wifi and running spring water. The stone buildings, the walkways, the walls, are all hand made with recycled stone and tile on the side of a hillside that looks toward the distant Chisos Mountains of Big Bend and on to distant mountains in Mexico. It's a magic place and I wish she were here right now to tell us more about this place and the life she leads. But she's off in L.A. right now.
The mountains, the light, the air, the place, are all spectacular. Hard to believe I've stayed away from Big Bend country for over twenty years. We woke at 9:00 and were down at the tiny coffee shop for breakfast at 10:00.
Really good coffee and burritos stuffed with potatoes and chorizo or in Earl's case, eggs, bacon and cheese. After breakfast we wandered through this ghost town, stopped at the store, which is a fine store with hard to find items like cotton Peruvian shirts and pounded tin frames. We indulged.
We walked further up the hill to the village church and then back down to Leaping Lizards, a shop where Earl found the silver work of one of his long ago students. The woman who owns the shop actually lived temporarily in a bus on a plot of land below a house that Earl and his former wife began to build twenty years ago. The woman has since built her own adobe dwelling, paints watercolors and has settled, marking 25 years in this 'end of the world' place in Texas. Terlingua feels much different than Marfa.
It's not high art and chic-chi-ness. It's still an almost invisible town covering a rocky hill town where stone buildings stand without roofs and the roads are gravel. You can hear your feet crunch on that gravel and hear a pick up truck from a long distance away.
It's quiet here. Not many places were you can hear 'quiet.' This is one of them. Tomorrow we head to Big Bend and a specific trail, at the end of which we will spread Jack Boynton's ashes and say some good by prayers. Enough said. Here are more photos.
The Rio Grande River is down there. Not much water. Earl says they'll be much more when the winter snows melt in New Mexico. Nevertheless, this is a site to see from high up on a hill top on the road between Terlingua and Presidio.