Sunday, September 30, 2007

Over My Dead Body

Yup, I've had another long break from painting, but tomorrow I'm baaaack. Here's hoping I kick off those sideways heels a little earlier this time around.

The more I look at this painting "Passage," the more it looks to me like it's about this whole process of stepping back to let a painting happen, even if it's over my own dead body.

Although "Passage" isn't the painting I was writing about in my "Doing It the Hard Way" post, when I completed this one a couple of days later, it too looked like parts of it were opening up to reveal the rest. In this case, the top and the bottom were opening up to reveal the middle.

And then yesterday---someone in the gallery looked at this itty bitty painting--it's 12" square-- and said, "It looks like it's being stretched open." Music to my masochistic ears. it's...baaaaaaack to the raaaaaaack...

Friday, September 28, 2007

Me, Revealed

Don't you just love those little quizzes you can take while thumbing through magazines at the checkout? Tally up your answers and you have Answers.

What Breed of Dog Are You? (Pound puppy.)

What Model of Car Are You? (Ford Pinto.)

Do You Have Your Retirement Ducks in a Row? (You are a potato without a couch. Why not take up skydiving?)

Are You a Masochist? (You've been in the gallery business how long? 22 years? And they let you have scissors?)

Are You Depressed? (While you may not be clinically depressed, you do have a tendency to seek comfort in sugary snacks, cheap magazines, and facile quizzes such as this.)

The Snack Food Personality Profile. (The results of this one I'd just as soon keep to myself. Yes, I did take it while standing in the express lane at Albertson's, and yes, my score almost made me put back the Krispy Kremes, microwave popcorn, and Jose Cuervo.)

Who's Your Dream Date? (Orville Redenbacher.)

What's Your Body Mass Index? (Now I AM depressed and for the hell of it, I'll take TWO boxes of the Krispy Kremes.)

Well, I just took another quiz. It was online. My friend Lee took it. Her friend J.S. took it. Why not?

This particular quiz had a little more depth. It was:

What Color of Crayon Are You?

This is what I learned:

I am an orange crayon.

This means:

  • My world is colored with offbeat, confident, and stimulating colors.
  • I have a personality that is downright weird.
  • I wouldn't change it for anything.
  • I am loud and expressive, I voice my opinions fearlessly and strongly.
  • While I have a strong personality, I can be friends with almost anyone.
  • My color wheel opposite is blue.
  • My confidence is something blue people truly envy.
Sorry, blue people. I had no idea.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Theory of Now (and Later)

The Painting Displacement Phenomenon. I observe it in the gallery time and again, much to my ambivalence. What happens is: an artist brings in something new, something exciting, something wonderful they've just completed. They're really excited about this painting. It's new and it opened a door for the painter, a door to a place they'd never been. The world looks different to them because of this painting. We too get excited about the painting! It starts to open doors for us as well. We look at that painting and our view of the world is altered. Across the street, the sunlight hitting the head of the brown-haired girl walking out of the parking garage is turning her hair, for a moment, this absolutely neon yellow. Our excitement is contagious; it begins to magnetize people off the sidewalk. The gallery door swings open. And again. People walk right up to that new painting. They LOVE it. They have just the wall. They bring their friends in to take a look. The friends, they love it too. It looks like this painting will sell right away!

But the painting doesn't sell just yet. Several days pass. So we rifle through the older paintings in the back room, dust one off--one which was once the New, Exciting Painting. We hang the Former New, Exciting Painting right beside the Current New, Exciting Painting. The next person that walks in the door walks right up to the Current New, Exciting Painting. Yes, they LOVE it, but then...their head begins to turn in the direction of the Former New, Exciting Painting. They show interest in that one now. Considerable interest. They take their glasses off and clean them and put them back on and look again. They step back to get a different perspective. They walk through the rest of the gallery, carefully considering the other paintings, taking the glasses off and putting them on. From time to time, they sigh. Then they're drawn back to the older painting. They sigh. They confide they have just the wall that has been waiting a LONG time for this painting. They really have to have it. And the funny thing is when they came into the gallery, it was just a whim, they weren't really shopping for art. It seems like a destiny thing--do we take American Express?

Don't ask me why. All I know is The Painting Displacement Phenomenon happens. Albert Scharf, who paints exceedingly beautiful skyscapes, has noticed it too. He talks about "bringing in something new to push something old out."

Well, I had the pleasure today of seeing my new "Spirit of the Afternoon" push out my older "Theory of Now." And high time too. When I brought in "Theory of Now" late last November, we were so excited about it, we called the show we were hanging then "Theory of Now." Every painting from that show sold pretty quickly, except for one...that one languished in its unsold state for almost ten months. Measuring 40 inches by 30 inches, "Theory of Now," pictured above, is at last custom-packaged in bubble wrap and corrugated, industrial-strength cardboard and awaits pickup by DHL for the fully-insured journey by air to its long-awaited proper home in Colleyville, Texas. Martha and Jerry, my latest collectors, have just the predestined spot that was waiting for it all along. "How long will it take to get there?" they ask.

We opened your mail...

Received a plain brown wrapper in the mail yesterday. It was addressed to one Oakley C. Merideth, and being the responsible parents that we are, we promptly opened it. Turns out it contained the notification that OAKLEY C. MERIDETH (yes, they even spelled your name correctly) has been designated an AP Scholar with Honor. According to the accompanying documents, this is awarded to students who receive an average grade of at least 3.25 (you exceeded this) on all AP exams taken, and grades of 3 or higher on four or more of these exams.

Sorry we opened your mail, Mister Mokes, but we were searching desperately for cash. (Those belated graduation gifts have been coming in quite handy.) If it makes you feel any better, no cash was found. No checks. No pizza coupons. No movie passes. Not even a laminated refrigerator magnet.


Sunday, September 23, 2007

Crossed Trajectories

Deborah Bleich was filing a new rental contract in her home office in Chicago when she decided to clean out a few older files. Among the old contracts and receipts was an invoice dated January 15, 1990. It was from Convergence Gallery, San Francisco. She now remembered purchasing an etching by Japanese-American artist M. Mori Proschan. Although it was after 10 p.m., Deborah's first impulse was to email her boyfriend Paul Merideth. She discovered she had purchased the etching from one Bennie Merideth, whom she had met--now she realizes she had re-met him-- just a few months ago when he and his wife San visited Bennie's cousin Paul in Chicago.

During that visit in June, while awaiting a concert at Millennium Park, in conversation with San, Deborah had learned that she had lived on the same street as Bennie and San had--Heather Avenue, a very small street in the Laurel Heights neighborhood of San Francisco--albeit at slightly different times. Other odd near-misses unfolded: Deborah grew up in Albuquerque, where Paul's mom had lived for a few years, albeit during different years. After leaving San Francisco, Deborah moved back to Albuquerque, a little before Bennie and San's offspring moved to Albuquerque.

Even though Deborah had asked me, on that early summer evening, the location of our former gallery in San Francisco and I had said "1738 Union--between Gough and Octavia," Deborah didn't actually realize she had made her etching purchase from our gallery until last night when she was cleaning out her file folders. And what she doesn't know yet, until I email her, is that she made that purchase on our son Oakley's first birthday.

The picture above is of Anish Kapoor's Cloud Gate, popularly known as The Bean, the dazzling mirrored sculpture in Chicago's Millennium Park. People walk into Cloud Gate, look up and see themselves coming and going, all over the place, at different sizes and from different perspectives. At some points in Cloud Gate, they loom large. At other points, they disappear into the looking glass. Observe the image closely, or enlarge it, and you'll see several elongated reddish areas that repeat themselves, at one point converging into a kind of V, and on and on, until they too disappear. Those reddish areas are Bennie's shirt. And I am that smaller dark area beside him, traveling along for the ride, right up to the vanishing point.

Paul and Deborah are far, far out beyond the photo's frame. They are going about their workaday lives in downtown Chicago, anticipating meeting Bennie and San later that evening in Millennium Park. They'll listen to Mendelssohn in the dreamscape of the Jay Pritzker Pavilion. Before the concert begins, while watching the other concert-goers wander into the dreamscape, walk down the aisles, and find their seats, Bennie and San, and Paul and Deborah will get to know each other by talking about the times their paths almost crossed.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Another photo opp missed...

The day's winding down at the gallery. Made one small sale and I'm getting ready to close the terminal when three young men--age 14 or so--walk in, carrying small handmade signs that say FREE HUGS. "Would you like a free hug for Peace Day?" the one with the glasses asks.
"Sure." I mean--what harm could it do? They line up at the desk; each gives me a shy hug.
"Thank you."
"Thank you."
"Thank you."
They strike me as the quiet honors student type and I wonder if this is some kind of extra credit thing. They leave and begin walking across the street.
"Hey, we should go to the parking garage next!"
They seem to be getting into it. The more hug takers the more extra points I guess. Hey, I should ask them if I can take their picture--it would be great to get a shot of them lining up to hug Justo the security guard!
But by now they've disappeared into Sandoval Garage.
Yes, I've seen the YouTube video of the Hug Campaign. If you haven't, really, you should go there.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Spirit of the Afternoon

Thank you for the lovely, extremely supportive emails I received about my treacherous return to the studio. I wish some of you would be less shy about posting comments on the blog. I am blessed with wise, articulate friends and I'd like the blog to be more interactive. Believe me, it's a very small group--all friends--who are viewing these postings. No one else, except for--well, that one token representative from the CIA--is watching us. Even he has assured me that he means no harm. And, like Barney Fife, he isn't allowed to keep a bullet in his gun.

Yes, I "completed" the painting. More accurately, I let it go. For me, the process of letting go of a painting involves hanging it in various rooms, propping it up on the woodstove (when there isn't a fire going), leaning it against the stair rail, sometimes taking it out to the deck to look at it in northern light. Going to sleep. Waking up. Seeing what it looks like before my morning coffee. If something about the painting surprises me in a not altogether unpleasant way, and before the benefit of French roast, then I'm tempted to let it go toddling off into the real world.

This one, which measures 36 inches by 48 inches, reminds me a bit of the colors of an afternoon in September--a slightly more yellowish light, longer shadows--but still the pansies are in bloom and the ash tree, thanks to a generous monsoon season, is very green. (No, you're not supposed to be able to see those things.) I call it "Spirit of the Afternoon."

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Doing It the Hard Way

An uninvited perk of purchasing a Kaplan prep course for Flannery's MCAT has been a subscription to The Wall Street Journal. Flipping through its pages and seeing how the other half, or should I say 1/4 of 1% (at most), live, has been morbidly entertaining. This past Wednesday there was a story about something called "The Mercedes Benz" fashion show, held in The Armory in New York. These shoes with sideways heels caught my eye. Apparently they're part of Marc Jacobs' Spring 2008 line, which also features yellow dishwashing gloves. It was unclear whether he designed the rubber gloves or just bought them at Target like the rest of us 99.75%. The look is "deconstructionist" someone said. Another said "surreal," yet another, "performance art."

No, this isn't a rant about the decadence of the fashion world. That topic has been done to death. As a matter of fact, an internet search for "sideways heels" revealed that they too have been done to death. Junko Shimada introduced them in the Spring 2007 line. Typical. The Japanese invented the sideways heel; an American got it written up in the business pages. I honestly liked seeing pictures of the Jacobs line. It's playful, the fabrics are beautiful, and, yes, the sideways heels, the incomplete jackets that reveal underwear, and the "found" rubber gloves appeal to me as ideas. Would I like to see people start dressing like this in Real Life? Well, maybe. But only if they created the outfits themselves.

Also, the picture above captures perfectly the way I felt this week getting back into the studio to paint after a too-long absence. I was walking sideways, tentatively, on my toes, and with nothing beneath my heels to keep me down to earth.

Day One was filled with "avoidance behavior"--grocery shopping, calling a friend, calling Bennie, straightening the kitchen, setting up the easel, changing its position, walking back to the kitchen for a snack, lining up the paints, walking back to the kitchen for a glass of water, considering various palettes, walking back to the kitchen to think about what to make for dinner, mixing a little paint, walking back to the kitchen and having the sudden inspiration to make a chicken pot pie from scratch. That was my art for the day. I never got around to actually touching the canvas with any paint, but I did derive great satisfaction from chopping vegetables. And the chicken pot pie, which I decided to season with curry, was delicious!

The morning of Day Two I took a nice long walk with Melinda. I got into the studio earlier. I actually started putting paint on canvas. It was excruciating. I felt completely disoriented, fraudulent, and decadent. The emerging painting recalled the most disappointing of my Fall 2006 line. That's been done to death, I thought. I called Bennie and vented. "You need to give it a break," he said. I made dinner. Taco salad with fresh baby spinach and spring mix and Vidalia onions and vine-ripened tomatoes, and ground beef seasoned with lots of New Mexico red chile. The painting wouldn't leave my mind and I forgot to include avocados.

Day 3 was spent in Total Agony. The painting grew worse--scattered and overworked and shrill-colored. I called Bennie and told him and what he said was, "Don't call me and tell me this. STOP PAINTING RIGHT NOW. GIVE IT A BREAK." I understood the wisdom of what he was saying, but if there's one thing I hate it's somebody telling me not to do something. Especially my spouse. I was back at the canvas, fueled by sheer orneriness. I turned it upside down. I turned it 90 degrees clockwise. I turned it counterclockwise. And back. I started toning down the red with gold. Then I had an irresistible urge to let the gold, in a kind of reverse alchemy, morph into peridot. I enlarged the purple area, so that it began to look like a curtain of purple drawing itself back to reveal peridot. The effect wasn't completely hideous. I was starting to have fun. I was observing the curtain of despair slowly drawing itself back to reveal hope. It was right there, in front of my eyes. The painting was starting to have its way. Did I finish the painting? No! I still have A LOT of work to do.

But for me, there's a magical "tipping point" when I'm working on a painting, a point at which I just know I'm on the right track, and I disappear into the process and I forget about food and water and I forget to look at the clock. Because of that timelessness factor, Days Three's dinner was grilled hot dogs and defrosted french fries.

And then on Night Three, last night, I dreamed I was painting. I was painting without pause, in a rhythm as natural as breath, and I believe I was barefoot.

Monday, September 10, 2007

3:10 to Yuma and Other Good Times

My birthday celebration just keeps happening. After the Chips'n Salsa runs, we met up with Oakley at Flannery's house. Look behind Oakley and you'll see my birthday present! Look behind Flannery and you'll see her Andy Warhol-informed tomato soup installation. And if you look still more closely, you will see that Oakley, with unflinching attention to detail, has taken care in coordinating his outfit with the prevailing banana motif in the decor.

We went out for huevos rancheros and breakfast burritos at the Gold Street Caffe. Bennie and Flan loved the huevos. Oaks and I wished we were at Flying Tortilla or The Pantry or Tia Sophia's or even the southside Shell station in Santa Fe--all of those places have Gold Street beat when it comes to breakfast burritos. The breakfast burrito was invented in Santa Fe and I believe there's something about the atmosphere here, and the altitude, and the light, maybe even the weirdness of the population, the diversity of spiritual practices, any number of mysterious, invisible factors--that infiltrate the Santa Fe-crafted breakfast burrito, making for a superior taste-bud alchemy. My opinion.

Then we went to see
3:10 to Yuma. Four enthusiastic thumbs up!!!! This movie has it all, all of the features we've come to expect and love in the classic western:
2. someone pitched over a cliff
3. torture at the hands of vigilantes
4. lots and lots of bleeding from the mouth
5. a heartless villain with an unexpected artistic side, not to mention a photographic memory of the Bible
6. greed
7. heroism
8. unexpected turns of items 6 and 7
9. big sweeping vistas of northern New Mexico (this movie, like the original 50s version, is set in Arizona, but this one was filmed near Santa Fe--part of it looked like it was outside our back door!)
10. removal of a bullet with unsanitary implements,with no anesthesia, and by a veterinarian.

I know I sound like I'm making fun. And I am. A little. But
3:10 to Yuma is a completely entertaining movie, replete with nice plot twists, and asking lots of questions of the nature of good, and evil, and motive, and courage, and personality. And the acting is just about flawless.

Chips 'n Salsa in the Bosque

Yesterday Bennie and Flan participated in the Albuquerque "Chips'n Salsa" runs. Bennie had originally planned to continue with his tradition of running the New Mexico Marathon (26+ miles), but having a change of heart this year (and in my book, a highly strengthened grasp on sanity), he scaled back to the Half Marathon (just 13+ miles), which he ran in 1 hour, 55 minutes, and 30.4 seconds. I call that rather brisk. You?

Flannery ran the 5K. Her time was 29 minutes, 47.8 seconds. Prior to the run, she assumed she would actually have to walk the distance because of a muscle injury she sustained a couple of weeks ago, a stubborn one that didn't want to heal. But on the route, which winds through the cottonwoods and willows and olive trees of the Rio Grande bosque, she discovered her muscle soreness was gone and that she could run again. Nothing like the alleviation of pain to make a person glow! that I think of it...
glow is a verb characterized by a 95.2% tendency to possess syntactic correctness when occurring in a sentence having Flannery as the subject.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Acknowledging receipt of my report card...

Okay, so I got this report card in the mail. It came from my "amazing offspring" and was quite a convincing replica of a real live report card. It was in honor of my birthday. I am pleased to report I got quite high marks. I was even designated an "honors" student. But F- in Generosity of Heart? My little pretties, what is the meaning of this? Couldn't you at least have put that one on a curve?

I do glory in some of my other grades:
Experience Stockpile (A+), with the comment "Well Prepared."
Insight into Complexity (A+), again with the comment "Well Prepared."
Ability to Adventure (A+), same comment
Dream Cultivation (ditto)
I am a bit bummed to get a mere
B+ in Small-Stuff Nonsweating but take heart in the comment "Work Improving."
I am not sure what to make of getting an
N in Corporeal Elasticity and Resistance to Gravity. This, according to the chart at the bottom, means "Incomplete or Not Applicable." Which??? Incomplete?? Or Not Applicable??

And of course I take considerable pride in not only getting
A+ in "Storytelling Vigor" but also the comment "crazed." That's more like it, my little pretties. And thanks a million for the "Satisfactory" in Hygiene.

A Birthday That Was Simply Nuts

When I opened the front door, I heard the murmur of expectant, wine-softened voices sifting through the kitchen window from the deck. Yes, Bennie had surprised me with a party! Albert and Susan and Lee and Ginger and Melinda and Bert and Beverly (but no Mike, as he'd just left for San Diego) were awaiting my arrival. I felt self-consciously pleased. We feasted on artichoke dip, blue corn tortilla chips, salad with cranberry walnut dressing, steaks smothered in mushrooms and cream, pasta salad with smoked mozzarella, edamame with orzo, couscous with cilantro...I was simply amazed that my spouse had been able to prepare all of this in less than a day. He confessed that the Whole Foods deli did play a significant role. Thank God. I was starting to feel that my husband had morphed into June Cleaver.
And the presents! Keeping with the June Cleaver persona, Bennie had set a theme for gift-giving--gags that had to do with nuts. Albert and Susan brought beer nuts and spicy Thai peanuts. Melinda brought an elegant, see-through carton of roasted peanuts in the shell--a little frantic digging brought up the agate necklace I'd admired in her gallery months ago. Here's hoping it was not lurking there by mistake as I have started wearing it and it really suits me and I am NOT giving it back. Ginger came bearing recipes for peanut slaw and peanut divinity and a graceful leaf-shaped bowl containing oversize hand-wrought "acorns" adorned with sliced nuts. It now graces the center of my dining table.
And the cake! Chocolate with buttercream icing and what Bennie claims were 54 candles. As you can see, whoever said that candlelight is the most flattering was not observing someone blowing out this many candles...

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

I blog, therefore it's my birthday...

My form of blogic--it's my birthday, so I've given myself a blog. No fuss. No muss.

About this birthday. Something's up. Bennie called a few minutes ago and asked me to bring the camera home and to park in front of the house. I'm getting excited!!! He says he has a gift for me on the deck and he wants to give it to me. Now our deck is about 600-feet square, so it could be almost anything. A year's supply of chocolate maybe? One can hope. I don't believe in The Secret, but some of my friends do. They say you attract what's on your mind, and yes, chocolate is a fixation, so there you go. I can see the stacks and stacks of boxes, arranged neatly like firewood, gracing the backdrop of the Sangres...damn, the suspense is a killer. In 78 minutes, I'll close the gallery. It takes 28 minutes to drive home. Correction. It'll take 27 minutes today, since I'll be parking in front of the house. Let me do the math. That's 106 minutes. A little less than the length of your average movie. That reminds me. I wasted lots of time today making a list of favorite movies to put on My Profile. I never had a Profile before. It's grueling.
75 minutes and counting...