Monday, March 30, 2009

What is this plant? Besides lagniappe.

It's been weeks that I haven't been out shooting--too much hard scrabble going on to do that. But, I had to go to Enosburgh to hang my photographs in the Artist in Residence Gallery AND it was a stunningly gorgeous spring day!

I did get some good shots which I am still processing and a couple of them I know already are keepers. It was long work in the gallery and so I was ready for lunch at the end, starving and dying of thirst. As I was trying not to chew on the menu, I saw some sort of plant off to my left--it looked artificial, but because artificial "restaurant plants" usually attempt to resemble something common and this one certainly wasn't "common" to me, I took a second look. Didn't help. So, I got up and walked up to it and touched it. It was not artificial. It was incredibly beautiful and real. But, no one in the place knew what it was. And I need to know what this thing is.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Kinky Boots

I'm really getting ticked at this hard-scrabble life that leaves no time for thinking or reading. It sucks. But occasionally there's a moment of bliss.

A few days ago, brain-fried and depressed, I collapsed on the couch only to find the television service a blank screen. Too tired to deal with it, I checked out the recordings for something--anything--watchable and stumbled on this from the Bravo network: Kinky Boots.

How is it that, at least in my experience, the Brits can produce incredibly delightful comedies with real stories on a consistent basis. Sans sappiness, sans non-stop sex jokes, sans stupidity, sans 14-year-old-male humor?? This one is, interestingly enough, based on a real story. And, the musical performances of
Chiwetel Ejiofor are absolute delights!

This movie gave me almost two hours of real pleasure and real escapism. If you ever get the chance to watch--do.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Rousseau, Alfred Watkins and Landscapes

In a New York Times article today about the European Fine Art Fair in Maastricht, was this painting, Farm in Les Landes by Théodore Rousseau. It was one of those images that, for me, possesses something ineffable. A tranquility and "rightness" that speaks instantly. I don't have many in my "collection" of this sort of image; they are few and far between.

I have another on my bedroom wall, a colored photograph, I think -- I really don't know, in an old gilt and wide-edged wooden frame. And a book illustrated with many such images, albeit in black and white.

The book is The Old Straight Track by Alfred Watkins. Many of the images which appear in that book can be seen in an online version of his "Early British Trackways, Moats, Mounds, Camps, and Sites". This continues to be one of my all time cherished books (as is John Michell's View Over Atlantis, the book that first led me to Watkins). Watkins, besides being insatiably curious, was also a photographer, for which I am thankful. His landscapes are taken with a good eye and a good heart.

His theory was that ancient inhabitants of Britain, traveling by foot and without navigational aids, created a network of straight lines marked by landscape points and connecting "sacred sites" with one another. A friend recommended Michell's book to me in the late '60s and I think I read it in one sitting. But, the value of that book was that it led me to Watkins and his photographs. Recognizing something out of the ordinary about the images was the start of my "collection".

We are deluged with landscape images--in tourist brochures, television and magazine ads, state web sites, and the like--but the kind of image I speak of is rare. For me, it is as if, when I see such an image, I understand immediately that what I am being shown is some sort of essence of place. A kind of reality that in its utter "realness" opens a window on another world, a timeless one, a proof-of-paradise if you will. The one thing they all possess is a heaviness of tranquility. A rock-solid peacefulness that is not saccharin, not "beautiful" in the blatant manner of spectacular images. I've taken one, only one, of these kinds of images. Books

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Howl's Moving Castle

More than a year ago I read about this animated film and wanted to see it. I now think I must be the only person in Vermont interested in such things that hadn't seen it.

At the end of a 12 hour day yesterday I was ready for the couch, a soda pop and chips, and some wonderful and reliable entertainment, like Casablanca. Instead I stumbled onto the second hour of Howl's Moving Castle.

I was enthralled, and in fact watched much of it standing up. Fifteen minutes had gone by before I thought to hit the record button. There is so much to see--shadows, tiny, movements on the periphery of scenes, the incredible art of the backgrounds, and of course, the castle itself. I'm desperate to see the first hour, and will be checking the Independent Film Channel every day until they repeat it and I get the whole thing.

It is a splendid display of internationalism-- British author Diana Wynn Jones, Japanese animator, Hayao Miyazaki, and--by the time it gets to us--the voices of Lauren Bacall, Billy Crystal, et al.

When I do get the whole thing at last, I know I will run the parts where the castle moves, over and over again. Here's a tiny, tiny video clip and a link to the book.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Your very best red . . .

Two things combined this morning: a reported conversation between Gauguin and Sérusier, and the painting posted by Susan Abbott on March 7.

The conversation ran like this:

Gauguin: How to you see the colour of that tree?
Sérusier: Yellow.
Gauguin: Well, use your very best yellow. How do you see the colour of the earth?
Sérusier: Red.
Gauguin: Then use your very best red.

This bit was on p. 193 of Ball's Bright Earth, still my nightly read.

There's a lot to chew on in these few lines: about color, and about how to make art.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Lillie May Nicholson

Lillie May Nicholson
I had a bit of luck in St. Albans' only second hand book store, The Eloquent Page. I was for once without a book when I found I had to wait a long time in the city. So, for $6 I bought Lillie May Nicholson 1884-1964: An Artist Rediscovered, by Walter A. Nelson-Rees.

And, as I came to write this, I looked for a decent link to her bio or work. No luck. It seems her paintings sell well, and galleries and collectors are looking for them. But there's no in-depth bio, at least in the first five pages of Google. I finally found a gallery (Trotter Galleries) with a decent number of thumbnails and a short bio. The image here of "Fishermen at Pier" is from their site.

Nicholson's work is strong and almost entirely of California coastal scenes, both of the water and of people and workers near the water. Many boats, much light and water. She also looked at the social ills in Oakland and in 1943, at the age of 59 became an aircraft mechanic. After the war she never took up art again.

I am fascinated by these paintings because of the incredibly strong, even harsh, brush strokes in many of them. I'd love to see one in the flesh. The paintings are small, the largest one I came across in the Catalog at the back of the book was 16" x 20".

The catalogue lists 335 works, a large number of which are owned by the book's author. On January 25 of this year, one of her paintings realized nearly $6,000 at auction.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


I have some news! And it's 5 a.m. and damn it, everybody's asleep! But, Vermont will be in North Carolina soon!

I submitted work to Dimensions 2009, a national juried show, running since 1964 and sponsored by the Associated Artists of Winston-Salem, NC.

I got a piece accepted! The juror was Jennifer McInnes Coolidge, Executive Director, Museum of Florida Art.

I'm so excited I'm even forgetting to smoke! This is my first juried event! (Well first non-Vermont and first post-AOA.)

Monday, March 2, 2009

WR II and Home Again

This image is for Susan, Charlie, Phil, Mariella, and James--who will understand the reference.

"Of shoes and ships and sealing wax and cabbages and kings . . ." and so it went at WR II. At times the conversations were loud! So loud that I found out later that the phone in my pocket rang at 6:28 and I didn't hear it.

For me -- former nascent connections were strengthened and, I hope, one new one in the making.

It was, once again, colder than hell at 5 a.m. At WR III we will be talking on the benches at the RR station after dinner, or at least I won't be freezing to death the next morning.

I was not in fact at the Polka Dot at 5 a.m. It didn't open and I learned that its hours were in fact quite irregular. This together with the information I picked up at WR I -- that the owner is quite ill and what I noticed -- that everyone working there is close to 70 -- and that the building itself is for sale, makes me fear that the end is near for this small, unassuming landmark. So, I ate my breakfast in New Hampshire. Grrrr.