Friday, September 18, 2009

When Faith Moves Mountains and Other Geographical Experiments

Slice of Time, acrylic on canvas, 24" x 18"
private collection, Littleton, Colorado

"Experimental Geography explores the distinctions between geographical study and artistic experience of the earth, as well as the juncture where the two realms collide and possibly make a new field altogether." The spaces where realms collide--that's where hope resides.

"Experimental Geography" is a traveling exhibition, currently at the Albuquerque Museum of Art and History. Nineteen artists or teams of artists from seven countries have presented their personal "geographical study and artistic experience of the earth" through various mediums.

There is a film documenting "A Project for Geographical Displacement," a project by Francis Alys, wherein 500 volunteers formed a line to move a sand dune near Lima. Described as a "human comb," these 500 human beings "pushed a certain quantity of sand a certain distance, thereby moving a sixteen-hundred-foot-long sand dune about four inches from its original position."

Such a tangible metaphor for hope. What hope, combined with sweat and teamwork, can accomplish, on a monumental scale. That's what I call faith.

Equally moving was the "NOTES FOR A PEOPLE'S ATLAS." These were small printed digital outlines of the city of Albuquerque, on which residents had been invited to "plot their personal knowledge of places, histories, and ideas on the map of their community." The most poignant one for me included only two large penciled-in dots, loosely marking two locations, a couple of miles apart. Each was accompanied by a message. One said, "where I was raped, age 15." And, in the second location, "where I got my life back together, 14 years later." For that young woman, getting her life back together must have been as monumental as moving a sixteen-hundred-foot-sand-dune four inches. Even so, after 14 years, it budged. That's what I call faith.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Old Man Gloom Dispatched by Fire and Ceremony

Sparkus Illuminus (the Honorable and Exalted), the  berobed, besceptered man on the stage is holding court:

"Santa Fe, it's time to consider the fate of Old Man Gloom:

  • Zozobra, for being a hideous 50-foot bogeyman who scares the innocent children of Santa Fe;
  • Zozobra, for being a menace and making our dogs howl at the moon;
  • Zozobra, for haunting our dreams and upsetting our peaceful way of life;
I ask the citizens of Santa Fe:
  • Shall we now send Zozobra to a fiery death?
  • Shall we burn him?"
The mob of 20,000 gathered at Fort Marcy Park, comprised of upstanding Santa Fe citizens, visitors from New York, Oklahoma City, and Albuquerque, young parents holding their toddlers on their shoulders, white-haired seniors, teens (LOTS of teens), Dems, Greens, and Republicans--roar in unison, "BURN 'IM!!!"

It's unanimous.  Sparkus Illuminus proclaims Zozobra's fate:
  • "I declare that on this evening, September 10, 2009, that Zozobra, otherwise known as Old Man Gloom, shall be dispatched by appropriate fire and ceremony.
  • With the execution of Zozobra, we release all anxiety, suffering, heartache, and gloom of our fair city.
  • Bring on the Glooms and Firedancers!
Zozobra's fate is sealed.  The Glooms (ghostly, sheet-wearing schoolchildren) and Firedancers in red costumes, bearing torches, solemnly proceed to the platform.   At 9:00 on an evening in early September, Zozobra, a towering paper marionette, is consumed in flames to the delight of our people.  For an evening, we watch our troubles go up in smoke. 

In past years I have written notes about a particular personal trouble I wanted to release.  I have deposited that note in the Gloom Box (the contents of which are burned with Zozobra), along with other people's divorce papers, bankruptcy papers, mortgage notes, medical diagnoses--you name it--and felt the thrill of seeing all things troubling from the past year reduced to a puff of smoke, a spectacle of fireworks.

There's a time to let things go, to get over it already, to move on.   Other troubles await us, but for now: Viva la Fiesta!

(The video is from a TV station in Albuquerque.  You can't fast-forward through the opening commercial.  But once you get to the Zozobra coverage, you can fast-forward through segments.  If this ritual interests you, you might want to do that, to see the sentencing of Zozobra, some of the firedancing, some of the burning, some of the pyrotechnics.  I'll warn you though.  It's nothing like being here in person.)

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Running with the Wrong Crowd

There's a line a blogger crosses. From Bad Blogger to Dirty Rotten Blogger. A Bad Blogger posts sketchily, willy nilly, in fits and starts. When she returns to blogland after an extended absence, people say wry things like, "Oh my, you live and breathe." But the Bad Blogger at least has the decency to put in an appearance for solemn occasions such as blogaversaries. The Dirty Rotten Blogger does not.

I've crossed the line. Friday was my second blogaversary, not to mention my 56th birthday. And I refrained from commemorating. I morphed from oaf to scoundrel. I'm a Dirty Rotten Blogger. Maybe that's because I'm in the Terrible Twos. At least in blog years. Maybe it's because I've taken to running with the wrong crowd.

These kids are a bad influence.
Foreground: daughter Flannery.
Back row: David (Flan's boyfriend) and son Oakley.
Their deviousness is outdone
only by this one...

This one is bad to the bone.
He cooked TWO birthday feasts for me,
the first one two days before my birthday.
I came home from the gallery,
walked up the back steps to find
the bad one holding hands with Cinde, Bob, Christy,
and Russ. Their heads were bowed, their eyes were
closed, and they were chanting OOOOOOOOOOOMMMMM.
"What's going on here?" I asked in indignation.

Then there's that thug Otto...

Otto, my Stephano-Pirovano-designed
dental floss dispenser,
a gift from the dastardly Christy.
My birthday cards and letters, from various low-lifes:
My mother (who surreptitiously slipped me cash,
then brazenly sang Happy Birthday on my voice mail).
The infamous Sometimes Saintly Nick
(alias Alex the Blogging Cat).
JS (knee-deep in "discernment"--
an Episcopal euphemism for parole--she emailed me her first,
highly subversive sermon).
Paschal (who penned a wicked acrostic based on my name).
Belinda and Armand (from L.A.--lower Alabama--
can't get any lower than that).
Cinde and Bob, who harbored on their premises
Christy and Russ, accessories to the birthday perpetration.
The Out-Laws (disguised as the in-laws).
The Bad Influence Kids.
Notice all of the cards are rallying around
the large bottle of Reposada,
a gift from Flannery and David.
(I told you they are a bad influence.)
The chocolate from Bad-to-the-Bone is hidden,
as are the various items of intimate apparel.

My birthday roses, grown by my neighbor Cynde
and arranged with greenery from her garden,
in a French tin pot, adorned with a white satin bow.
She's the scourge of the neighborhood.

Four pots of Russian sage,
foisted on me by my in-laws.
They wrote the book on Bad.
A selection of headily fragranced incense
and a heart-carved case to keep it in.
A gift from my insensitive lout of a son.
(That's the hem of my skirt in the foreground.
Not that you were asking.)
My Bradley mixed-media ceramic mask.
Gifted by, you guessed it, Bad-to-the-Bone.

My brand new great-niece Allie Rae,
whose timing could not have been worse.
She arrived home from the hospital on Friday,
my birthday,
my blogaversary,
the official opening day of Santa Fe Fiestas,
the official kick-off of Santa Fe's 400th Anniversary.
Some people are dirty and rotten from Day One.
But I adore the headgear!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Indian Market Discovery

A Good Omen, 24" x 36"
mixed media on canvas
(my painting)

Santa Fe recently celebrated our 88th annual Indian Market, the largest juried Native American arts event anywhere. With over 1000 artists participating, our little downtown district was packed with vendors, buyers, and unsuspecting tourists who just happened to stumble into town during the most exciting event of the year. It's always a busy weekend at the gallery, kicking off with a reception on Friday night. Often I'm so tired from minding the gallery, which remains open into the night on Saturday, I don't take the opportunity to stroll through the Market. This year was different, however. Family members were visiting for my in-laws' 60th wedding anniversary--that celebration occurred Sunday evening--so naturally, they had to be introduced to Indian Market.

I'm so glad I visited the Market. There in the Emerging Artists section, I happened on the exciting ceramic sculpture of Chippewa artist Patricia Bradley. Truth be told, my daughter first spotted these evocative masks sporting the semblance of animal ears, face paint, headdresses, and various sculpted wrappings--around the forehead, over the mouth, over the eyes. "Hey, Mom, look over there at those AWESOME masks!"

Lil Brother



Animal Guidance

from a series of 25 mixed-media ceramic masks
modeled on the faces of the artist's children

They were powerful and carried a wild, joyous energy. I fell in love. With the art and with the artist, who struck me as a straightforward person, open to possibility. Flan snapped up what I had decided was my favorite mask. It was the only piece loosely modeled on Patricia's own face; several strokes of red paint were dashed across one eye, warrior style. I have to hand it to my daughter: she has quite an eye and she knows what she wants and when she sees it, she takes it. She's a warrior herself.

The next day I returned and saw that Patricia had sold a number of her pieces, but her tabletop sculptures--faces emerging from a mass of fired clay, with coils of metal emerging from the backs of the heads and pieces of found metal sprouting from tops of the heads, a fusion of smooth and rough, playful and sad, Earth and Spirit--remained unsold...

Sun on My Face
mixed-media ceramic

I was mesmerized again. Patricia smiled at me in this open, disarming way and asked, "Hi, what are you doing back here today?"

I confessed that I owned a gallery and that I would love to show her art. Without any pretense, she said, "I would love to leave all of this work at your gallery."

And that's just what she did Monday morning.

The whole process felt effortless, as if it were meant to be.