Christmas Show

People asked yesterday so here’s the low down on the little show at the Rio Grande County Museum. The opening is Saturday — I have no idea how that’s going to work, only that the woman who runs the museum is as concerned about C-19 as I am. But, I’m pretty sure there will be no crowds of people and it will not be a super-spreader event. Masks are required.

Today I’m hanging my stuff. I’m the first artist to hang (ha ha) so in a little while I’ll head into the snowy world just west of Monte Vista.

I’m hanging 3 oil paintings, taking three garden signs, some tree ornaments and Christmas cards. Yesterday I put a price on the tree painting. I thought, “I can’t hang it in this tiny house, and I need a new computer and phone.” In the middle of the night I woke up realizing I can’t sell it. A little voice said, “Not for sale!” I don’t know why, still if your painting is going to talk to you you either call the men in the white suits or do what it says. I’m hanging it but NFS.

Along with me is a very eclectic group of people and art, including two children. I think that is very cool.

I’m nervous, honestly. It’s the first time I’ve shown my work along with that of the people who gave me so much shit five years ago. Long story, but when I first moved here I joined two artist groups and an art co-op. Being the new guy, and from “outside,” it was a little tricky (ha ha use of understatement). I read recently that in this valley of 40,000 people there are 500 known artists. I think that might be a high percentage. But maybe after my being here for six years, they’ve accepted I’m here to stay.

I finished all the relevant tasks yesterday about 4 and loaded the car.

Apropos of other news, I wonder if we’re so inured right now to the daily crisis that we’re going to have a little trouble coming down from all that angst and adrenaline.

Art Appreciation for the Kids

I got two beautiful things yesterday from the National Gallery. Both are for the kids’ art class. One is a book An Eye for Art and the other is a set of activity cards, Famous Paintings. The book turns out to be not quite their thing at this point of their learning trajectory. The cards, though? That was a brilliant idea. On the back is information about the artist, the painting, the times in which it was painted and an interesting historical fact.

My plan is that out of six cards every few days they will each pick one. It will go into a notebook we’ll make this Friday along with worksheets that tell about the painting and the artist and five reasons they like the painting. I don’t plan to tell them how or why to like a painting. In my humble opinion, there ARE bad paintings, but a lot depends on who’s looking at a painting whether it’s good or not, becomes famous or not. And then there’s personal taste. Because I know them and how they have been raised, I want to stay within their realm of competence, only stretching it a little. My entire goal with the kids is just to get them to look at paintings.

The book is a textbook for art history and art appreciation. What I like about it is its organization — the chapters are not “arty” but instead they look at what the artists were doing in the making of their work. There is a chapter called “Studying Nature” (the first <3) and others “Telling Stories” and “Observing Everyday Life.” I love that. I love the focus ( ha ha ) on artists observing their world and representing it.

I included a geography component to this — in their notebooks they have maps and they have to identify the countries from which the artists come. And, as I was writing this, I realized that the kids are also going to take small journeys through time.

Stocking the Store…

My Etsy Store is like any other store. It has to be stocked, so today I ordered some stock to replace the sold out notecards and decided it was time to put garden signs in there — but I had to paint some.

So now there are two. More sunflowers and I’m starting to paint autumn things. You can see them here.

It’s just amazing how much the sunflower garden signs vary from each other because of the texture of the wood they’re painted on. It’s cool not to be able to totally predict — or control — the result.

I am taking custom orders, too. 🙂

Krishna and Me

In India, we are celebrating 74th Independence Day today. As we unfurl the tricolour, I would like you to use it as the prompt.

I will probably never go to India, but India has had a big influence on my life. As recently as last year I found myself buried in a wonderful writing project because of a man from India with whom I have a conversation here on WordPress.

Back in the hippy days, a lot of American young people went to India seeking spiritual enlightenment away from the Judeo/Christian mythos of American culture. I don’t know exactly what pop-culture inspiration led them there, whether it was the Beatles, or Timothy Leary, or or or? Those were the days of Krishna Freaks in airpots trying to get people to accept free copies of the Bhagavad Gita.

Most of those who went were ten or fifteen years older than I was, a group that I didn’t know until later in my life. Some of the people I got to know had lived in India for decades and were practicing, and proselytizing, Hindus. I would need to write a book to show their influence on me, but all of them felt like friends I’d known in other lives who waited for me to be born in this one so we could know each other. I say that without believing in reincarnation (except for Lamont and Dude).

But the most important thing India gave me was an answer to a question that was tearing me apart. Sometime in the 90s I was semi-in love with a guy. One of the things we did together was visit the San Diego Museum of Art. A donor to that museum was Edwin Binney who collected Mughal paintings. My friend was a philosophy instructor which was lucky for me because, when we walked into the small room where these paintings had been hung, I had no idea what I was looking at. All I could see was their beauty and mystery.

One of the most mysterious paintings seemed to be insisting I look at it, study it and fucking GET it. It made no sense to me, but, luckily, my friend could kind of explain it to me. As he told me the story of Arjuna and Krishna, I stood there and wept.

It told me what I had to do, eloquently illustrating the horrible moment in a human’s life when he/she must break away from something or someone for his/her own good or, maybe, even, the good of the world. That something might be something they love with all their heart. The painting wasn’t a gorgeously colored Indian painting. It was light brown and the details were set forth in black lines and white highlights. It was a rectangle about 10 x 12 inches. The worlds — representing the endless repetition of incarnations (samsara?) — were set forth in concentric arcs of people working, tilling the land, selling stuff, fighting — the usual, and on the left, heading right, was a chariot driven by Krishna and carrying Arjuna. Krishna was explaining to Arjuna that the only way he could save his kingdom and his people was to go to war against his cousin. Arjuna didn’t want to fight his cousin, but Krishna explained that if he didn’t, the world would be engulfed by evil.

Arjuna’s cousin was my alcoholic brother, and I was Arjuna. I saw so clearly that sometimes life demands, a miserable, painful, excruciating sacrifice like that. I got that lesson like an inoculation.

So…I began a not very systematic study of Hindu scripture/mythology. And, some years later, when I’d had to eject the Evil X (same story) I went to my art shed and made my own Thangka of my own life from 2003 to 2008. I wanted to SEE it. In the thangka you can see Krishna, me and my dogs in my Ford Focus driving away from evil toward, well, the art shed. The Thangka is at least R rated, so be warned…

I know there is a lot more to Indian culture than these small experiences of mine, and, with Hindu mythology, I felt Shiva’s stories more than Krishna’s but these stories changed me for the better as a human being.

“Oh yeah? I gave up more than YOU did!!!!”

“Don’t be such a martyr.” I used to hear that around my house a LOT. I got the impression that a martyr was a person who sacrificed his/her own interests for the interests of others, and then wanted accolades for doing that, basically, a blue ribbon for cooperation. As time passed, it took on another meaning which was a person who would give up what they wanted for the well-being of others, BUT then wore a veil of suffering and sacrifice the whole time. Not a lot of difference between those two explanations; it’s more a matter of nuance and motive. That’s how martyrdom played out in my family.

Then I became immersed in the Middle Ages and learned what martyrdom meant to those people. It was a carrot on a stick. It appears that self-sacrificing actions — even small ones — need to be rewarded. Lives of the Saints is full of the stories of martyrs, naturally. Martyrdom is a short road to sainthood and dying for the Holy Cross was the one sure road to Heaven. But not all of the actions of saints required the ultimate sacrifice. Sometimes it was just about giving your coat to a poor man on the road or kissing a leper — simply an appeal to people to be kind to others. It seems people have always needed an incentive for that.

In Milan 20 years ago, before 9/11 when a lot of the art was put away for safety, I was able to wander around the Castello Sforza for days. There were paintings of martyrs. I was able to see the changes in the rendition of the lives of the early Christian martyrs, and, more importantly, their death. St. Sebastian was, to me, the most surreal. In some paintings his arrow-pierced body stood calmly with total equanimity and little blood flow as if every day of his life, Sebastian went out, got shot with numerous arrows, and then went home for dinner. The point of that — I though later — was to give the sense that sacrificing the earthly life for a Heavenly life was no big deal and people shouldn’t resist the opportunity.

An important thing about the early Christians who became martyrs is they didn’t sacrifice their lives in order to get recognition for their suffering or even to get into Heaven. They ended up martyrs out of their sense of conviction. There were 1200 years between St. Sebastian’s day with arrows and the paintings of him.

The early Christian martyrs became propaganda tools. The future — the Middle Ages — used them to turn people into willing martyrs. Any young man who died on Crusade was guaranteed salvation. This is the same idea behind Islamic death cults that, in our lifetimes, have turned young men into bombs, or, in WW II, turned some Japanese pilots into Kamikaze fighters, ready to die for the emperor — the idea that there is glory in death and great rewards beyond.

I could probably write about this all day, but, sigh, I must shoulder my burden and go pick up dog shit.

P.S. In looking for the image of St. Sebastian I wanted for this post, I found this article.

Worried about the Coronavirus? Pray to St. Sebastian Apparently he was the saint to which people prayed during the great plague of the 14th century which killed at least 30% of the population of Europe. I can see that. The plague buboes would have looked like arrow piercings in a way. But I’m not sure about our plague…