Friday, June 27, 2008

Feel-Good Friday: Jeff Laughs His Head Off, Raven Gets Cooked in Her Own Wordzzle, & Everyone Gets an Award!

Mine was a fitful sleep. I tossed and turned with grotesque dreams. Dreams of a horse's head. A disembodied horse's head that floated over my bed and laughed a maniacal, cruel laughter. I awoke the next morning with the disquieting realization that perhaps I hadn't been dreaming after all. Demonic laughter reverberated from the walls of my bedroom. The horse head scene from The Godfather flashed before my eyes and I began to shake. Closing my eyes, I peeled back the sheets and held my breath. After what seemed like a good five seconds, I managed to pry my horrified eyes open. Horse's head? Nope. Blood oozing out of the comforter? Nope. Blood on my hands? Nope. No blood. No sweat.

Still, the grotesque laughter persisted. It was leading me down the stairs. I walked trance-like, round and round the endless winding staircase, stepping over Trudy's slumbering body at the foot. I seldom envy a dog's life, but in that moment, I longed to trade her existence for mine. She snored in innocent bliss, her dog breath floating upwards from the peaceful depths of blogless sleep. For a moment the laughter seemed to be coming from the mysterious woman in the Marie Larson painting...

Trudy awakened, sensing danger...

I crossed the living room. I counted the bricks in the floor as my bare feet trod over them, wandering into the kitchen. Hypnotically, I lifted a cheese danish to my frightened lips. Funny how simple things--counting bricks, devouring a trans-fat-infused pastry--can keep one from being overwhelmed by hysterics. I wandered down the hallway, one hypnotized foot in front of the other, compelled, counting bricks. The laughter was coming from my studio. I grasped the knob on the door at the end of the hallway, holding my breath.

What awaited me on the other side of the door stopped me in my tracks. The cheese danish stopped in midair, halfway to my mouth. Things were worse than I'd imagined.

The laughter was coming from the i-Book, whose lid opened and closed, opened and closed, in a frantic rhythm. Like a toilet lid in a crazed Tidy Bowl commercial. Up. Down. Up. Down. Up. Down. All the time emitting that eerie i-Book glow. Licking my trembling fingers, I sat down and opened Entourage. I held my breath and clicked SEND & RECEIVE ALL.

And you know what? That maniacal laughter? It was just the laughter of Jeff B.

That horse's head? It was only this award he'd presented me over at A Word in Edgewise.

I'd gotten all worked up for nothing.

Thanks, Jeff. Everybody, go to his place and try your damndest to get a word in edgewise. But beware: Jeff lives a bit on the edge, as do his cohorts. It's so easy to fall in with the wrong crowd. Today, a laughing head. Tomorrow a dead one:

I narrowly escaped the horse-head-in-the-bed-fate, only to fall prey to another attack of wordzzle, courtesy of Raven, who actually wormed her determined self into this week's offering:

The heady fragrance of lilacs wafted on the soft summer breeze, entered Raven’s open window, and proceeded to tango with the aroma of Dr. Elsey’s Precious Cat Premium Cat Litter sifting from the garbage can. Such a fabulous olfactory contradiction, thought Raven, inhaling deeply. I simply adore the violent collision of unrelated things. Meanwhile, Abraham Lincoln, all elbows, knees, and Adam’s-apple, was pedaling his tricycle up the hill to Raven’s house. He was late! He was late! For a very important date! Raven sighed. Where oh where is that silver-tongued, womanizing aristocrat Abe? LATE AGAIN?? THE NERVE!!! He has toyed with me one too many times. He is not even MY TYPE. Talk about a violent collision of unrelated things. And now he is trouncing on my good name. As God is my witness, when Abraham Casanova Lincoln walks through that door, I will smother him with kisses. Then I will proceed to beat him with the business end of this curtain rod. The door opened….

I woke from this appalling nightmare to learn of two more awards, both of them sweet as daydreams. Both of them from lovely Anna over at A.Bananna...

Anna has outrageously winsome offspring and an uncanny knack for photographing them at just the right moment. Here's her little enchantress Rue looking at the world through her bubble spectacles...

Like mother, like daughter.

The first award from Anna is the Special Scribe Award. Anna says she honored me with it because of my "creativity in tying my art with everyday stuff." Here's hoping the award isn't revocable after she sees THIS unraveled post, its loose ends dangling all the way to Fort Worth.

I now toss this beautiful blossom, the Special Scribe Award, at the following keyboards:

Raven, of A View from Razen's Nest. Mad scientist/wordsmith. Creator of the wordzzle: every week Raven flies over cyberspace, dropping random words on our heads. Our task is to scrape them out of our hair and shape them into paragraphs. Lady Raven practices what she challenges with a diabolical, beautiful frenzy. Like her namesake, Raven finds literary nourishment everywhere, picking every bone clean of meaning and nuance.

Paschal, of murat11. Paschal's MS (Master of Surrealism) diploma was shoplifted from the BAKING NEEDS aisle of the Piggly Wiggly in Jackson, Mississippi, soaked in agave reposado, hung out to dry in Langley, Virginia, debriefed and chopped into pieces, rolled in powdered sugar, fortified with beeswax, then fired from a cannon by Tibetan monks at the top of Mount Everest in observance of International Choose Your Weapon Day. Most of it landed in San Antonio, and now Paschal dishes it up over at his place. It's an acquired taste, but what an acquisition!

The second award, Shine On, I won by virtue of being female. That's right. Anna awarded it to all females who read her blog. I grabbed it and ran with it. No DNA samples were required.

And now this award is up for grabs by anyone reading this blog who'd like it. I am accepting bids in the form of cash, chocolate, and gasoline, preferably all three. Highest bidder gets the award.

Just kidding. If you'd like this award, just post a comment to claim it. And keep shining, all of you. That's the only requirement.

Friday, June 20, 2008

A Brief but LARGE Life

A week ago the University of New Mexico received word from the Spanish embassy that John Smeltzer, a classmate of Flannery, had died in Barcelona. Reports of a knife-wielding mugger circulated in the media, but the final official word is that John simply collapsed with a coronary while running up a big flight of stairs in the Olympic Village. Paramedics were summoned, but John's heart had suffered massive damage. Nothing could be done.

Any death is a huge, significant event, but the completely unexpected death of a young person leaves us reeling with uncertainty. WHY?

A few short weeks ago, Bennie and Oakley and I sat in a banquet room at UNM. We and other proud families were there to observe our daughters and sons receive recognition for their achievements and contributions. The air was palpable with the energy and joy of these exceptional young people, not to mention the deep gratitude of the families, all of whom were counting our blessings to have raised kids who had "turned out" fine. Here's a picture of the radiant group of honorees.

Our Flannery received an Alumni Association Citizenship award. John Smeltzer received a Clauve Outstanding Student award. John is standing on the far right in the back row. Flannery is immediately to his left.

Although John and Flannery weren't close friends, and I had never met this brilliant young man, I do remember watching his list of achievements unfurl--as did Flannery's and some of the other students'--on two big screens at the front of the room. The list was remarkable. John had four majors--political science, French, Spanish, and European studies--and he minored in economics. I won't try to list his contributions. I do recall he held leadership positions in numerous organizations, among them the UNM Model UN Conference, the UNM World Affairs Delegation, and the UNM International Affairs Committee. He was involved with Amnesty International and the American Civil Liberties Union. His passion was working to bridge gaps in social justice, working to unite people.

I imagine that John must have been born with some kind of heart abnormality. It's as though his destiny were to live LARGE for a brief period of time. No, I don't understand it. I cry for his mother. I cry for the rest of his family and for his friends, here in New Mexico, and around the world. I can't help but feel that he was cheated by the Universe, that the whole world was cheated. Here was someone who would make a difference. And we need the difference. Then again, my understanding is so very limited.

My hope is that, as John's spirit left his body, it hovered for a moment at the top of the stairs, then rose in the thin air over the Olympic Village and looked down. From that height, John's body looked small, collapsed on the stairs. And how small the stairs were, when only a moment ago, they had loomed huge, as he ran up them. He had run up the stairs with purpose, the kind of purpose that had informed his entire life. I like to think John's spirit climbed a bit higher and saw the city of Barcelona as a beautiful swirl of lights merging with the lights of the rest of Spain. And the lights of Spain were merging with the lights of other countries. The entire earth became a mesmerizing puzzle of countries, somehow fitting together, twinkling with lights. For a moment, it all fell into place and made sense. John even saw himself as a child, lying in the Illinois grass, looking up at the stars and wondering about the reason for it all. Now, looking down at that remote and small self, he somehow knew the reason.

And that's when John may have looked to his side and observed a beautiful, radiant Being. Larger than life itself. Unspeakably good and calm and beautiful. The Being was so close, John felt his heart fill with unfathomable peace. And in that bottomless moment, John didn't feel cheated. Not in the least.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Wordzzle Librarian

Lee has tagged me to do something called a wordzzle:

Take the following ten words...
chocolate cake
...and weave them into a paragraph.

Here is my paragraph:

Inside the meek librarian is a tangerine soul, tangy and adventurous. Don’t try to catalog that soul in a Dewey Decimal drawer. That soul is a bobcat and will spring out at you, clawing your masks off, one after another. She too wears many masks. Her secrets are deep and prenomial, inexplicable as Stonehenge. Her secrets rush like a river of history—a florid panorama of battles and blood. No sweet chocolate cake moments for that soul. At midnight she stretches out on the floor of the poetry section, eats blood oranges, and dreams of war.

Blogging with a Purpose

My good buddy John-Michael has honored me with this lovely Blogging with a Purpose award. My sidebar now displays it and I am happy to pass it on to the following purposeful bloggers:

Sandy Carlson of Writing in Faith. A spirit-infused place, like the center of a labyrinth. Approached quietly, meandering, and with a listening heart.

Jennifer Harvey of Thursday Drive. Deliciously wry stories of family life, informed by humor, personal history, and wonder.

Doris of Poetic License. Honest, soulful, midlife confrontations. Life, pain, joy. The sweet spot where they intersect.

Rhea of Texas Word Tangle. "A swirl of words tangled with human emotions." Rhea's own Texas-sized tagline. I couldn't have said it better.

Chris of The World According to Indigo! Giving a voice to disassociated selves. Saying good-bye to a painful past, lightening the load, and flying.

Thank you, John-Michael, for acknowledging my blog. And thank you, my purposeful blogging community, for enlarging my adventures in cyberspace.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

We Need the Eggs

In 1993 as we were preparing to move from the fog-enveloped hills of San Francisco to the starkly lit, high desert of northern New Mexico, I had an odd dream. I dreamed we were looking at a house in Santa Fe, a house we were thinking about buying. The house contained a beauty shop equipped with styling chairs, an endless row of mirrors, built-in hairdryers, shelves of conditioners, the works. I forgot the dream until ten years later, when a woman walked into our gallery at 219 West San Francisco in Santa Fe and said, "I just had to see what this place looks like now. You know, back in the Seventies, I went to beauty school right here in this space. The chairs were along this wall and the dryers were back there. Looks a little different now!"

So that would explain the water fountains in the hallway behind the exhibition area...
... the separate "institutional" women and men's restrooms, equipped with a total of five stalls, two sinks, and a urinal.
I mean it's nice to be able to spread out a little, but all of this behind-the-scenes plumbing for a mom-and-pop gallery is overkill.

It does seems appropriate, however, in some quirky way, that the current home of Convergence Gallery was once home to an institution that schooled people in the art of beauty. That's part of our job description too, has been since 1985, when we opened our doors in San Francisco, California. Back then our children sometimes accompanied us to work...

They blended right in.

Through the years, they continued to blend. Ours has been a "family" business in the most fundamental sense. Here we are sitting on the steps of our earlier location in Santa Fe...

And here we are again, a few years later, standing in front of that location. We were on Alameda Street at Old Santa Fe Trail, across from the Santa Fe River. We had a lovely view of the cottonwoods lining the river and a sweet little garden area in front where we planted petunias, pansies, and painted pots.

The rent was low and we stayed in the Alameda space for almost nine years. Then one evening we were walking to the Lensic Performing Arts Center on San Francisco Street to see a screening of Nosferatu accompanied by live music by Club Foot Orchestra. Two doors from the Lensic was an empty retail space with large windows. For years we had wanted a space on Santa Fe's main drag, West San Francisco. Next morning we called to inquire and learned that the rent was triple our current nut. Ouch.

Somehow we put together a bearable deal and a couple of months later, we hung our egg-shaped sign in front.

If you happen to be staying at the Eldorado, Santa Fe's largest hotel... need only leave your hotel, walk to your left, cross the street, and we're less than half a block away. Enter the door at 219 West San Francisco, and you will most likely be greeted by a scene like this...

Look to your immediate right, and you will see a small front gallery where someone's paintings will be hanging. In this picture you can see just a part of Albert Scharf's "Captivated," an oil painting measuring 60 inches by 48 inches. We are blessed by twelve-foot high ceilings. Large-format paintings have plenty of room to breathe.

A good thing, as Albert's paintings breathe rather deeply...looks a little like SKY WATCH FRIDAY, except in oils on canvas.

This one's called "Blue Dusk." It's an oil on canvas measuring 30 inches by 40 inches.

Mesmerizing, isn't it?

Walk forward and you will come face to face with one of Bennie's "grandfather" clocks.

It's called "Magician's Birthday."

Continue walking, glance to your left, and you will see our work station, which is graced by a Paul McCobb desk. Various dealers have attempted to buy our desk for a few hundred dollars, with the intention of restoring it to its original blond maple and selling it for a few dollars more. I purchased the desk, when the kids were babies, from a crowded little store called Past Tense, in the Mission district of San Francisco. It already had a sad coat of off-white paint, but the lines were retro and Space Agey and I readily paid the $20 asking price. The desk was assigned to our home office. When we decided to use it at the gallery, Bennie painted it in the turquoise/periwinkle/hot pink scheme.

Funny thing is people seldom notice the other notable piece, the Eames chair which is pretty much in its original condition. And one just like it resides in MOMA, New York. Bennie acquired the Eames chair from his landlord in San Francisco.

That was one of my paintings hanging over the desk, in the harsh spot of the halogen.

And here is "My Forgotten City," which measures 24 inches by 48 inches...

"Inside the Pyramid," a painting of the same dimensions, now resides in the collection of the CEO of a chain of art supply stores. He and his wife visited our gallery and decided they'd like it in their home. And guess what? I'd just bought my last batch of canvas in one of his stores. A Klassic Kase of Kanvas Karma...

And here are still more of my paintings, ranging in size from 24 inches by 30 inches to 48 inches by 36 inches. They are hanging on the left wall, just inside the front door.

In the foreground is yet another view of "Magician's Birthday." The top is actually a lid which lifts off to reveal a secret compartment. We have one. We put love letters and utility bills in ours.

Keep walking, look back over your shoulder, and you can see the back of the Eames chair, another of my paintings, and our pink columns. You will also get a fleeting glimpse of the realist paintings of Massachusetts painter Laura Anderson. Several are hanging on the columns, along with some painted, carved bateas, or, "small flat boats."

That's too fleeting actually. Here's a better view of one of Laura's sumptuous paintings--"Two Chairs, Open Window," acrylic on canvas, 12 inches by 11 inches.

And here's Laura's personal take on one of the artists of the Hudson River School of painting. She "pears" it with her personal vision and calls it "Huntington's Late Afternoon Pear." It's acrylic on canvas and measures 9 inches by 10 inches.

A jewel.

Our gallery is blessed by two other extremely talented realists. Carolyn Lamuniere lives here in Santa Fe and paints light-suffused interior spaces that open to other spaces. And when she paints an exterior space, it's from a similar perspective--with a hint of things to come...

Again, that's far too fleeting a glimpse. Here's one up close. "Place of Stillness," oil on canvas, measuring 28 inches by 18 inches.

And "Staircase III," measuring 27 inches by 18 inches.

Talk about a tricky perspective. This makes me dizzy, and in the best of ways.

Fulbright scholar Christopher Terry lives in Utah, where he's a professor of art. Believe it or not, he doesn't consider himself a realist.

Although his technique is highly realistic, he sets up his compositions to evoke the notion of ritual. Here is my personal favorite--"Offering," oil on canvas, measuring 40 inches by 32 inches.

Isn't that floor dazzling?

And later this week, we will be adding the paintings of a fourth realist--Karen Cole, who paints sensual macrocosmic views of flowers. Our gallery is a block and a half from the O'Keeffe Museum and I can already hear people comparing these to Ms. Georgia's. Similar perspective, wildly different technique.

And did you know we enjoy whimsy?

Portland painter Bonnie Taylor-Talbot works in a "naif" style...

and stamps phrases on her acrylic paintings in silver ink...

I had the pleasure of selling one of Bonnie's chicken paintings to actress Connie Stevens. The canvas depicted a chorus line of chickens in exotic headgear. It was called "Party Girls." It suited Connie.

Bonnie's paintings are kindred spirits to Bennie's clocks, all of which have those secret compartments...

(Are those Wild Bill Tick Tocks not some extraordinary time machines?)

...and to Elizabeth McNitt's vibrant painted vessels, which take southwestern design to the next level...

Want to see what's in the back gallery? Well, walk through this door...

...and feast your eyes on the amazing paintings of Iran-born Sussan Afrasiabian. Hers is a Modernist sensibility--there's a bit of a nod to cubism, but even more so, a 21st century, feminine awareness, a grace and fluidity that is simply stunning.

I enjoy the way Sussan's faceless, archetypal women watch over the little Tungsten Table, purchased in the SOMA district of San Francisco, from a designer/artist who came up with a clever line called "The Periodic Tables." The chairs are Sixties era Italian wrought iron dinette chairs from Modernology in Hayes Valley, San Francisco.

In our side gallery are the dramatic, larger-than-life figurative paintings of L.A. artist Sarena Rosenfeld, along with the painted vessels of Elizabeth Mcnitt and the paintings of Christopher Terry, both of which I mentioned earlier.

"Pagliacci" looms beautifully, his inclined head contemplating a whole new slant on things.

And "Baby, Baby, I'm Falling in Love" makes a splashy statement about the largeness of love. It measures 72 inches by 72 inches. Sarena's paintings have been collected by Meg Ryan, Pierce Brosnan, and Dennis Quaid, among other Hollywood notables.

They are show-stoppers, aren't they?

In our main gallery we are featuring the sparse, pared-down-to-luminous-essentials, New Mexico landscapes of Spanish painter Julia Gil.

We recently shipped this 48-inch-square oil painting to a collector in Manhattan. She wanted to reserve the right to gaze regularly at the peaceful "Hills of New Mexico." Lucky city dweller.

Julia's paintings have a storybook quality.

This one's called "The Arrival of Good News" and measures 36 inches square.

...It's a little like stepping into a dream. A very good dream.

Can you see why I look forward to my workday? When I open the door in the morning, I feel a mini reawakening to life. So much joyous energy resides in each artist's work. I walk around, rearranging the pots and clocks, touching the surface of a canvas or two. So many dreams being released into the world. I can hear those dreams, humming underneath the surface. Or is that the hum of the hairdryers from the old beauty school?

I couldn't count the hours we've invested here since 1985. And we keep coming back...

It's like what Woody Allen said about human relationships.

"We need the eggs."