Thursday, August 26, 2010


Spoke on the role of a critic today, being my own worse at times; yet in that it was more pertaining to art, folks might have noticed a twitch or two, but being young artists, know that such idiosyncrasies are sometimes a driving force that ends them in the seats from which they gazed and listened.

I opened with the telling of a bar fight over stylistic differences. My buddy, Kurt, can tell the story better than I, and certainly more factually, memory still a more reliable facility when it involves witnessing an event. I missed that particular night, cannot recall why, and guesses would be just as unverifiable as me trying to figure out if he who threw the first punch was more a culprit than, say, the cause for a no-fault divorce. Just who is calling out who?

I prefer the vernacular. Add a little excitability, though, and there can be a problem. I lose adjectives, as my DM would say. Luckily, no such today, catching myself. What is that little game called? Trust something?  It’s not like I walk around prepared all of the time. The trick, perhaps, is don’t try to see it coming. Not that the opposite is necessarily the answer, but to describe the periphery can be a bit daunting..

Funny, a week to do less than fifteen minutes on the topic. Makes sense though, as another fifteen minutes of just looking at art takes at least three days to process. Think a nice kielbasa with a side of applesauce, all homemade.

I thought about citing my credentials. No, they were noted on little cards in my pocket. It is more that the paper remained close to my heart. After all, the transition from, to, and back again, might have seemed awkward, or at least more like hanging a tin star with some pomp in a town not known for trouble. Better to just sit out front and wait for someone with the time to play some checkers.

Ah, that’s a seminar.

What do you suppose… suppose a five minute riff on an opening line, a lot of pauses to check for cross traffic or even a side road of one’s own? Everyone is somebody’s t-bone, eh? So is there any sense in going slow? Only if everyone does. I know I’d fall asleep at the wheel, and sometimes it’s the road contour, not the traffic. Or, in the case of incorporated areas, pedestrians.

The potential for trouble everywhere.

And if not, I’ll make it up, especially in the comfort of my chair back home.

I’ve checked, and nothing otherwise seems to be broken. Nevertheless, I’ve never needed much of an excuse to convalesce.

I’ll see you in a few days.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Monday, August 23, 2010

Barbers know a lot.

They are collectors and disseminators. At least good ones are.

It’s give and take. I ask, he answers; he asks, I answer. He knows my neighbors, both likable and not. That takes care of him, so I set forth my agenda.

Those dry bales, for instance. Is it as bad as it seems for the local farmers? Seed prices, we both knew about; the bales, I was deficient. He, on the other hand, runs heads other than those of his customers.

—They make a patty is about all.

—Yeah, I figured, but why feed it then?

—Gives ‘em somethin’ to chew on this winter in the eastern ranges, Roughage between feedings of the good stuff. Otherwise, they’re sqirtin’ like they do on grass. Hey, you wanna see an Obama joke?

—You know that I’m a bleeding heart, right?

Of course he does, given that my hair is 1/30 the length it was year ago.

—Yeah, but you might get a laugh.

So I read it. The crux was about types of manure.

Contrivances are not always reliable as metaphors, and therefore may not be conducive to discussion. That leaves being receptive to only what we want to hear. It’s better to not take any of it/them at face value.

I guess that’s why I like the idea of composting those bales.

About as much

The dandelions needed beheading today before any more took wing. The grass isn’t growing much, despite the sprinkler system, but the weeds are doing well. So what else is new?

I could stop writing now. Such an intro doesn’t even work for me, so I can only imagine… Except there was a bit of excitement associated with the chore of mowing.

The way-back lawn (we’ll call it the Peabody Stretch) had not been mowed in a month, but since it gets no water, even the weeds were conserving their energy and just started going to seed in the last couple of days. And in that I didn’t much feel like mowing in the first place, decided that it might be wise to start back there.

I followed my usual strategy of following alongside the outbuildings and fencerow, and then head behind the compost piles/growing mounds. In that I wasn’t using the bagger, I was moving at a pretty good clip. As I headed behind the piles, I saw the male California quail scurry from my path and head up onto a small brush pile. Then I saw the female scramble out from the inside the fence surrounding the piles and head in another direction, halt, and the run back through the fence. As I was watching where she went, still mowing, I caught some movement low in the grass. Then another. Two baby quail.


The pair of adults has been around our place all summer. While we’ve enjoyed watching them, they’ve also given us some pause, and for DW, not a small amount of fret. Our first question was regarding the small number to their covey, two, a good thirteen less than the group we had last year. Had the others moved on, been killed by cats or coyotes, that sort of thing. Secondly, where were the spring chicks? Then the female disappeared for a few days a while back. DW feared the worst. Then she showed up again. And then not.

And now we know why. Needless to say, there will be no mowing in that area until October.

But then I got to worrying: Did I see the chicks in time? I mean all of them? I’d hate to think that I was not as observant as I could have been. So, I went back to look for down. I was relieved to not find any, but frustrated by what I did see: A gopher had wound its tunnels into the growing area. It was getting too close to the mounds for my comfort, and I went to fetch my traps.

I dug around for a while looking for a tunnel. For some reason, as the weather gets drier, it is harder to find the burrows. Eventually I found a hole that appeared to be fresh in that it had not been covered, and I started digging there.

Typically, a single, auxiliary tunnel leads to the surface. This is where the gopher brings the dirt from the main tunnel. To effectively trap a gopher, it is best to dig down to the main thoroughfare and place a trap heading in both directions. Yet, this single tunnel was different. It went on for a considerable distance, so I just gave up and decided to place one trap.

As I was setting the trap jaws I happened to look over at one of the growing mounds. The dirt had been disturbed and there were blue potatoes lying above the ground. It then knew why that open tunnel remained. The gopher was feasting on the spuds. And so as not to disappoint, cut a small potato and placed the halves behind the spring on the trap. We’ll know by tomorrow morning.

The remainder of the mowing was uneventful. I stopped up at the house to tell DW about the chicks. Oh, and I did see where I sake had shed a layer of skin.

As I was closing up the buildings for the night, I just had to check the trap. As I walked toward the area, I saw the male quail again in the same area. The nest must be very near. Perhaps even on one of the mounds.

Yeah, I’m going to miss this place. Maybe not the mowing and gophers as much.

Sunday, August 22, 2010


I've made mention of a couple things over the last few weeks: the difficulty I am having finding burned fields that will add to the stock of photos I already have on the subject; and the evidence of grass fields that are not being harvested for seed, but instead made into bales. 

As I came to a crest on Waldo Hills Road, I came upon this bucolic setting. It was the second such scene I had witnessed today. Another field closer to home was being baled as well. 

I drove by the field near my house many times last week. The field had been cut and windrowed the same day as one adjacent. The latter had been harvested for its seed... a week and a half ago. What was baled today can hardly be classified as hay as it is bone dry and therefore absent of nutrient, except for the seed perhaps; yet I believe it is not the seed on which feeders of livestock depend. 

Same with the field above. As I drove closer, it was readily apparent that this hay had about as much moisture in it as our drainage ditch is without road dust.

So, I wonder, first about why and second, a slightly different question, for what.  The straw market is no more. And then I imagine.

In the area there ares several large dairies with their corresponding settling ponds. The compost that could be made with that slurry and these bales! And it just so happens plant nurseries are the largest ag businesses in the region. A lot of soil goes out with newly potted plants.

Saturday, August 21, 2010


This is some of the best looking corn in the area, maybe within five, six miles. About six feet high right now. There's another field over closer to the town where the annual Corn Festival takes place the third week next month. It's up a bit higher, and probably a different hybrid. All sweet corn.

Most of the other corn fields around here may be little more than knee-high. You know, almost end of August and all. Late start because of the rains and persistent cool weather. Of course, now it's dry as a bone, as it's supposed to be, but still on the cool side.

Aside from the ears boiled and/or bagged and sold to the festive, most everything else goes to the cannery. The labels on their cans are in dire need of redesign, but this year might not be the time to go to such expense. I do like me some cream corn. Grew up on it. Better stock up now.

Had another occasion to take a stroll down that lane tonight. Our orchardist friends had birthdays and invited us to porch sit, watch the sun set (oh, if I had brought my camera) and eat peaches, picked, pitted and sliced an hour before. Nice folks: she sweet, he with his faux-gruff manner. They would have gotten on with my grandparents.

—How did they care for that peach tree? he asks.

—They did nothin'. Just picked.

—Any other?

—A McIntosh in the front yard we climbed. Both trees are long gone.

—How go the deliveries? DW asks. I cringe a bit.

—They go. Orders are down this year, economy being what it is. Just as well. Fruit is for shit.

We all get quiet. The sun is behind the Coast range now, looking something like this:

Friday, August 20, 2010

Back when

I'm going to need a little help from my Midwestern friends. The below weed grew around my grandparents' barnyard. We were warned at an early age to not eat of the fruit, which turns a very deep black-purple when ripe,  lest we become aware of ourselves naked on a hospital gurney.

The below photos were taken on a Portland street. The same plant as back home was part of a landscaped patch of earth right along the sidewalk. Please help me name the plant. Thank you.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Adjusting the tie, profusely sweating and bemoaning fate.

I moved to Chicago from Syracuse, New York in 1985. At the time I was not an artist in the most traditional sense of the word, meaning that although I knew ‘how’ with some level of skill, I did not paint, draw or sculpt very much. I was a poet (again of some level of skill but at least degreed) and a performance artist. Even so, I had little to show for it. I was connected to a cooperative of artists, Artisera, in Syracuse, but aside from a couple readings and one large-scale performance, I was a working stiff with a young family to support. I worked nights, the wife worked days, and I slept evenings.

The move was somewhat of a return home for me. I had not lived in Chicago before, however many of my college friends lived there and we picked up much where we had left off some years before. A few of those friends were artists.

By the time we moved, I had designed a couple of sets for my performances and had gotten it into my head to try my hand at sculpture. So, instead of seeking out a group of writers I knew, I spent a good deal of time with my good friend who was a painter, and he introduced me to a group of artists.

I relate all of this as a prelude to a theme, and, for the moment, I will remain in 1985.

My friend lived on the near west side of the city, in a 3,000 square-foot loft in a building with twelve such live/work spaces. Several other artists lived in the building, and many more had similar arrangements in this industrial ‘neighborhood’. A good number of these artists were abstract painters of one ilk or another and had formed a discussion group of sorts, in which on a weekly basis they took turns meeting at each others’ studios to look at and talk about the art in progress, plus discuss any other ideas that arose.

While I was not a painter, the group was not exclusive. In fact, sculptors attended and presented, and even someone’s latest paramour sometimes sat in. And though I was just a budding sculptor, I was well-versed in philosophical thought, and the fact that names like Wittgenstein and Baudrillard were bantered about, I was doubly interested in attending. And I was welcomed.

We met on Thursdays for two hours. As I wrote above, we would look at the work, discuss issues of composition, move on to ideas, and eventually, inevitably, end the night bemoaning the lack of appreciation the collectors, galleries or museums had for local artists, or more to the point in some cases, the neglect one felt for one’s own work. Even those who had gallery representation were dissatisfied if their work did not sell out. Mind you, not everybody bitched and moaned. Just a few. But everyone recognized that there was some substance to the complaints, so we began to discuss ideas about how to get more exposure. Before long, that’s all we talked about. Sad to say, the group met for less than a year.

It is common knowledge among practicing, dedicated artists that there are a helluva lot more of us than there are opportunities for exhibitions, let alone sales. The lucky few who make a living solely from their art are out-numbered by those who teach while making art (college level teaching positions in art often have 300 applicants), and these numbers are overwhelmed by artists who work at any job they can get to pay rent and buy art supplies. Very few of the latter two categories sell enough art to actually pay for their art making. And art schools are popping out new graduates like puppy-milled Labradoodles. (Not that more than ten percent of those graduates will be making art in five years’ time. Notions, idealism and even passions fade.) To speak of an art market is almost ludicrous, for the supply far outweighs a demand.

Artists who wish to continue to make art therefore have to find other sources of funding; whether it come from grants or a generous relative, some form of patronage is necessary. But even here we are talking about a very small number of artists who benefit. Ultimately, if one still makes art despite all of these obstacles, with little or no financial benefit, there is something else motivatinging that person. More than likely they are driven to make art and cannot conceive of a life in which they don’t make art.

And still, Keynesian notions fail to provide a benefit to the majority of those who endure.

Last night I went to a presentation organized by Jeff Jahn, a Portland curator, writer, historian and artist. Jeff is a dynamo and an asset to the art community. His latest curatorial project is at PNCA. Entitled “M5”, it is a collection of artists who work in what may be described as minimal gestures. In conjunction with the exhibit and expanding the concept to include reductive and perceptual artists into the mix, Jeff gathered a group of local artists to show pieces of their work while giving a short presentation of their ideas behind the work. As I don’t know much about Minimalism, let alone know how to talk about it, I was excited to attend and learn.

And learn I did. Many of the presentations, though brief, were concise and informative. I was surprised to hear many of the same considerations that I use expressed for a genre that initially seems to use another language, if much language at all. I learned that the line is not so thickly drawn that it entirely separates minimal and content-laden art.

After the presentations, and after a brief summation of his notes, Jeff opened the floor to questions and discussion. In mere seconds the topic was put aside and replaced rather insistently by the alienation and lack of appreciation that comes with making art, or more precisely, making a living as an artist. And off-topic did we go a-wandering.

Thankfully, the rest of the evening did not become purely a bitch session, even though we did not successfully return to the presentation. Instead, we engaged in a wide-ranging discussion about how to disseminate one’s work, the value of social media in that endeavor, and eventually, what it means to be an artist, including who can be considered an artist in the digital age. Even so, the subtext remained: How do we make money as artists so that we may continue doing what we feel compelled to do? This is the sore tooth to which the tongue is readily drawn.

There are no easy answers. And even the question itself is rife with problems for it suggests a certain sense of entitlement. Subsidies? An educational system that predisposes a society to have more appreciation for the arts and therefore potential for more benefactors? Answers as questions. It exhausts me.

I have been making art of one kind or another since high school. My exhibition record before moving to Oregon was not paltry, yet it remained largely confined to Chicago area galleries. I had street cred. Yet, I have only sold two pieces: a drawing in 1972 and a small, mixed media sculpture in 1998. (I have given away and/or thrown out hundreds of drawings and sculpture.) Those two sales amount to a few hundred dollars. I have made considerably more from grants and working as an arts administrator and writer, but rarely has it been enough to sustain me. And even though my wife and I ran a critically successful gallery for a couple years, we sold precious few works, which forced us to abandon the project. My point is that I know how tough it is, and I used to get pissed about it, but not so much anymore. It goes nowhere except down the road of assured disappointment and depression.

Instead, I just continue to make art. Like many others, I feel like I have no choice. Money remains an issue and I don’t expect that to change, for me or the vast majority of other artists, regardless of chosen form(s) of expression. I am inspired to question, to find answers, and to share that experience through my art and in conversation with others of my ilk. This is of small pragmatic comfort, perhaps, but I know of no other options. And I know few greater joys.

After I returned home, I wrote Jeff a short note on his facebook post where he had announced the presentation. For those of you who do not have access to that, here are the pertinent parts of our correspondence:

Me- Jeff, thanks for organizing this. As one who has not had much of an occasion to participate in discussions about tonight's topics, I was happy to hear artists who work with those strategies share their thoughts.

I am also grateful to Victor for introducing me to a bunch of new people. As I drive 120 miles for these events, it is difficult to feel like I have much of a community, so let me say that if I met you tonight, feel free to add me as a fb friend so that we might continue a dialogue.

Now that I have ingratiated myself, let me ask an uncomfortable question. How is it that when we are gathered together to talk about a specific topic, the conversation gets hijacked to the old saw about dissemination/monetization? (And yes, I'll be blogging about this.)

Jeff - because there is a patronage problem in the usa... There are no more Panzas or Dwans and that is an issue. In a way it isn’t a Hijack either... minimalistic work is very demanding on high level patronage so it's a real issue. (And this morning): still the education of patrons is on the artists not the museums.... so if there's a problem with patronage the artists aren't being convincing enough.

Although Jeff’s initial response begins to address the problem, after some additional thought on the subject, I believe he sees that at some point, an artist must demonstrate some merit to his pudding. I was not aware of any arts patrons or museum personnel at the presentation last night. I suspect there were none, even though Jeff had done a good job of getting the word out. That leaves the artists to talk to each other, and what better setting to discuss and hone one’s ideas about the creative process than among others similarly engaged?

Since emerging from the farm and back into a community of artists, I have been fortunate to meet what seems to be a core group of the most active in Portland. They are intelligent, inspired and motivated artists, curators and writers. I love getting together with them to suss out ideas for our work, and much of that conversation also includes ideas to get the work seen, read and shared. Folks in the art world are public relations experts. They have to be. Yet, there comes a point where that old adage rings true: If your work speaks for itself, don’t interrupt it. Don’t whine; don’t construct elaborate conspiratorial or persecutorial (sic?) systems that are responsible for holding you back as a successful, paid artist; or if you do so, make that your ‘art’. Then I will gladly join the discussion.

(I know that I have barely begun, and perhaps done little justice to a much larger conversation. If so inclined, let us continue it in the comments.)

Long Day

Long post coming sometime soonish. It's kept me up late.

I have No Idea how or when, but I like it.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Gettin’ Religion

People who know me fairly well still might find it surprising that buried under the foul mouth and vices that periodically creep into excess lays a Protestant given to prayer, raised so right that I found it necessary to go up to the front of that small Evangelical church twice to get saved. Like the first time didn’t stick.

I suspect that at such a young, impressionable age I figured having my sins washed away would mean that I would be walking away, washed in the blood, never to sin again, Satan permanently put behind me; in short, free of temptation. Sweet dogmatism.

Of course, the world intervenes, along with other aspects of conditioning away from the pews, and the negotiations begin, both the navigating and bargaining kinds.

I suppose I could have taken young VF up on her offer to cop a feel at the Sunday School Ice Cream Social when I was fourteen; however, I rebuffed her advances, for her playmate seemed so much more willing to provide more, in size and under the blouse. Of course, the latter came with conditions, and as it turned out the terms involved additional compliances from an unwilling third party with something akin to step-children becoming more familiar. Not that I was horrified. And not that a marriage didn’t come out of it later. Still, I ‘got’ none that night.

The possibility, the fantasy of flesh, of which I knew nothing, nevertheless bred a naïve avarice that soon found an outlet in the comics of Robert Crumb. Lord, have mercy.

Tomorrow I am going to see his “Book of Genesis” drawings at the Portland Art Museum.

Monday, August 16, 2010


I had a difficult time sleeping last night, the dreams an exciting aftermath of intriguing reading and consequential ideas for a new project. With such stimulation, temptation to put the slippers back on and steal away to the dungeon postpones the deepest sleep until the alarm can disrupt. Except that I woke with a start two minutes before the set 0500.

I was going fishing.

There already was light in the east. I made coffee, ate a banana and an energy bar, loaded the rig, poured the joe and hit the road. Out the door in under twenty minutes. This from a guy who usually takes his time waking, a couple cuppas, a constitutional and quiet for at least an hour. I guess I was excited.

The ride east and upstream was very nice, spots of fog and few cars. I took the back way. I made it to the fishing hole and had a line in before the sun crested the mountains.

I have a confession to make: I don’t find fishing all that relaxing.

Multiple snags with braided line. Monofilament breaks off with comparative ease, but not this stuff. And as I’m tugging, I hear a noise not unlike a slight cracking sound. Could it be? Yes, possibly, for I am using a pole that snapped in two places last year. I had it fixed. Surely not again. I convinced myself, surely not.

No luck at hole #1, I thought to head further upstream. The weather had been exceptionally hot, and the steelhead most likely would be in the coldest water possible, a few miles on. I packed to leave.

Some time ago I posted pictures of the rocks on which I stood and stepped down from a distance of two feet or so. I had gauged my momentum to step, step, step, but neglected to factor in a right leg lift to clear a broken tree root resulting in a scraped right shin, left knee and jammed right thumb. At least the gear had been protected.

So, up the grade, taking care to not tumble back, and onward to the truck. I note that I am less winded than passed years.

Upstream would require wading, and I had the proper footwear. The water felt good on my shin and knee, but it was warmer than I expected. Too warm for the fish, but on I  tread to a midpoint on a gravel bar a foot below the water’s surface and a good third of the way across the river. I had good position on the deeper south bank with sizable but submerged boulders behind which the fish can rest and wait for food to float by.

The same boulders have to be navigated with care, lest a spoon-type lure get its hook wedged or otherwise caught up, and a stern tug or two shatters an already (apparently) weakened rod.

Maybe a ten-foot rod is by nature fragile. I will not concede that possibility when I write the manufacturer today.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Thursday, August 12, 2010

End of a long day

I Can't Help Myself

That's the title of this photo: I Can't Help Myself. The working title, anyway. I saw the possibility of the photo as I was driving into town today. The subjects were a good fifty yards away, I turned on my camera in auto mode, pushed the zoom a bit, pointed the camera in their general direction, coasted through the stop sign and snapped. It wasn't until afterward that I saw the zoom was fully extended, passed 300mm. I thought for sure I'd have a blurred close-up of some tree branches against a sky.

If and when you enlarge the photo, you'll see that I got the blurry part right. The frame is uncropped, and certainly tweaked in Photoshop. But even before post-production, I liked it.

I could be talking myself into liking it, for it occurs to me that over the last few days I have been thinking about those unconventional photos, the ones with the sun glare that edits the shot 'just so' and the blur that doesn't directly represent movement, and still they manage to 'work' and convey.

However, let's imagine for a moment that I came to a full stop, or moved in closer, set the camera's exposure, even bracketed, kept the same framing, and the resulting photo was sharp. The intentionality is the same, but would it be appealing? Perhaps there are elements that would draw me in: the ball in front of the tree, the child's t-shirt, the dandelions in the foreground, and the camper as a frame within frame. The things that might have attracted my attention in the first place, had I the time to actually think beyond ooo, me likey.

Likewise, upon seeing the image, I immediately thought I had something special.  I've taken a lot of out of focus photos, and dismissed them right away. Not this one. I can't justify it, and maybe that's okay.

 TM's suggestion for sepia (50%)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Bigger Issues in Drake Deknatel’s Small Paintings at Elizabeth Leach

As a relative newcomer to the greater Northwest art community, I am often at a loss when discussions arise regarding all but the most prominent of local artists. The upside of this situation is that it is still possible for me to be surprised.

Cris Bruch suggested that I see the paintings of the late Drake Deknatel. While I took his recommendation under advisement, I didn’t think I’d be writing about Deknatel’s work, first, because that would mean two reviews of Leach exhibits in as many months, and because I don’t have a strong relationship with a lot of contemporary painting.

I will, however, admit to a long-held notion that fertile ground can be found in the medium when a painter plays with the boundaries of abstraction and figuration. I am not alone in this notion, or in the assessment that Deknatel’s painting often succeeds in this challenge, especially in the work just prior to his death in 2005. The surfaces of his canvasses are richly textured, and the figures, while standing apart, also blend with the field in which they are positioned, thereby reinforcing the dynamic quality of the work. To over-use a phrase, Deknatel is clearly a painter’s painter, which is all well and good, for his proficiency with paint will hold one’s gaze; however, it is still not enough to make me put pen to paper merely to reiterate what has already been better said elsewhere.

Leach has titled this exhibit, “Small Paintings.”  The paintings are arranged in two groupings, each with one large painting and several corresponding smaller paintings. One group shows a person holding what appears to be a satchel. The large painting in this first group is titled “Boy Sisyphus” (2005). The smaller ones in this grouping are untitled, but all have notations on the back that read either “Figure with Ammo” or “Man with Ammo”. The second group revolves around a large painting in which a figure stands with a similar posture to the other set, yet in this group holds a toy airplane. All of this second set is untitled, although the large piece has the notation “I wish I could fly”, and for the small ones, “Figure with plane”. The treatment in all of the small paintings from both groupings varies significantly from that of the large paintings, as well as between themselves. As studies, the palette, textures and details of the surface and figure change, and their interest lies in those differences. Even so, one must ultimately return to the large paintings that they reference.
In Deknatel’s “Boy Sisyphus”, no mountain is visible, as the background is an over-painted void. However, the figure is shaped somewhat like a pyramid with very large feet and a smallish head. If the boy in the picture has a boulder to push ahead of him time and again up a mountain, it may be an inner struggle. The other large painting, annotated with “I wish I could fly”, suggests a desire to escape or rise above. Overall, “Small Paintings” consists of reflections on the artist’s youth, and nostalgia of that sort, particularly when life becomes tenuous, necessarily encompasses a meditation on mortality. The mood in Leach’s back room takes on a somber tone despite the vibrant colors.
Drake Deknatel died of a heart attack not long after having open-heart surgery. Many of the small paintings at Leach were completed during his presumed convalescence. These facts are thoroughly covered in the number of articles and eulogies written shortly after and since his death, and it is therefore almost impossible to relate to the paintings on any other terms than from the romantic notion that beauty sometimes comes with facing the inevitable. Regret turns to release. But Deknatel’s message, not only for those among us who are of sufficient years or similar health, but for all with eyes to see, would not be so poignant without his mastery of the medium.

Phoning it in

I've been busy. Or pre-occupied. Regardless, I aspire.

Mood-dependent, I am either too hard on myself, or not enough. It is not just my pair of opinions, the assessment shared by an assortment of associates in regards to my behavior and how they see it play out, and perhaps most importantly, how the same paradox plays in their mirrors to determine whether or not they cut me slack. But enough about them.

What might pass for a sense of effacing humor in anonymity is not the same as a strategic reliance on ambiguity among friends. And so was born 'the edit'.

I have been involved with the art world long enough to know that August is a barren month (which may be why the French avoid it). For galleries on a whole, it is when the directors play catch-up with group shows: “Sorry I couldn’t fit you in to our September to May rotation. Let me make it up to you by putting you in a group show in (June, July or) August.” Whether part of the gallery’s stable or a newcomer who shows promise, most artists know to what and where they’ve been relegated. Attendance and sales at a minimum, the shotgun approach to an exhibition might be the safest and wisest move in a business sense; however, unless an artist’s work really stands out, it will more than likely get lost in the shuffle. And, of course, if the work really popped, it wouldn’t be in a summer group show.

The above assessment might seem too harsh, too cynical and even ill informed; it may even be the heat, sweat stinging this gallery-hopper’s eyes, the air-conditioned gallery visit all too brief to provide real relief and a more discerning look. Still, these shows, largely lacking continuity or a theme, are more akin to window-shopping, and therefore do little to inspire a mention in the context of a review.

It gets worse. Well, it did. That portion is non extant as it was nothing more than impatience with youth, or rather, the beginnings of a thesis that remains in a metaphorical state of over-indulgent parenting and circle jerks, and therefore inadequate as a critical analysis. Nor a way to make friends, you know: join the love fest. Nevertheless, the above was saved for some reason, even though it has been removed from the next draft.

In other news, I have just finished reading an intriguing little book: The Hour of the Star by Clarice Lispector. A unique writing style that still manages to capture a mood and allow for compassion.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Is it an obsession when it ceases to hold interest and you still do it?

If one needed more proof that the grass seed industry is in a slump, the freshly burned fields that are even more freshly plowed would be a good indicator. Bits of ash stayed atop the red soil; not quite Georgia-red, but the iron is readily apparent. I’m guessing winter wheat will take its place next.

Although I knew there were a fair number of torched fields in that area northwest of town. I missed the one road that would have led me to several, including the plowed field. I went out today with that road in mind, for I remembered that I had managed to get a few good shots there last year.

Those same fields were hayed or had been plowed and left fallow (which means weeds) this year. The road, however, was just a washboarded. (I should really wash my truck some time.)

So, maybe the burning restrictions have made an impact, and reduced my photo ops as well. If so, I am not prepared to give up quite yet.

Yesterday I awoke to a lot of interesting clouds interspersed in the blue. I should have taken advantage of them right then and there, jumped in the truck and hit the fields, adding the clouds into some of my shots, but I had another plan. I wanted to wait until the sun had abut another hour and a half in the sky, a time of day I had neglected in last year’s shots. By the time six o’clock came rolling along, the sky overhead was nothing but clouds all bunched up in a most undistinguishing way. The colors were flat.

Today, or rather this morning again, beautiful puffy clouds; and by six o’clock, all but gone. There were some shadows though, and when I finally found a field to photograph, I included them in a shot or two.

Saturday, August 7, 2010


Rocket surgery
it's not: with something to prove, one
ceases to wonder.

The above is a little ditty I made up as I pulled into town. I was/am tired, so "it's" and "something" aren't going to bother me too much at this hour.

Long day in the big city. Saw a lot of art. I have two reviews to write.

I'll leave you with this:
Nouveau Americana, by Peter Gronquist

Thursday, August 5, 2010


I shot a raccoon this morning. First thing. No coffee, no breakfast, no second cup of coffee. Composted it after attending to my needs.

Aside from that, I’ve been trying to make something of the photos I took today, one burned field holding some potential, but the end product lacked. The color was off, the sun was wrong, and the sky is full of smoke.

There is a large wildfire on the other side of the Cascades, a good sixty miles from us, but we might as well be in Los Angeles with the haze that surrounds us. And it only got worse.

I had to go into Salem for a couple hours, and by the time I was heading back east, the grass seed field fires had started. I wasn’t sure at first, for from fifteen miles away, all I could see were white clouds poking above the haze. They could have been large cumulus clouds on the other side of the mountains as there was a forecast of thunderstorms over there this afternoon. Yet, as I neared home, I began to see the plumes, four or five to the north and to the south. By the time I arrived home, visibility was down to 1/2 mile or so. The air smelled of smoke. I kept the house closed up.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

More burning

There were quite a few burning fields yesterday, more than I had imagined. I had intended to get out early to find these, but other things came up. By the time I hit the road, more fires were being set, and it wasn't too long before the air was hazy with the smoke, and the color of everything orange-tinted as the sun filtered through. I also noticed something I had suspected but couldn't verify until today. A field that had been harvested for grass seed last year had been hayed. I thought there was more hay this year than last, and with the burning restrictions and seed prices in the toilet, it makes sense.

I did manage to get a few photos.

One thing is clear: I am going to have to work hard to find some unique shots this year, as these are more a variation on a well-documented theme. Perhaps I'll have to trespass a little.


I was up in Portland today (if this is Monday). I've been waiting for this type of photo op.

For scale.

And just because.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Poker Content!

How to put this? Imagine two women, one a totally inebriated Ethiopian and the other with Down’s Syndrome, singing Karaoke duets for four hours at a volume that makes it difficult to hear whether the person across the table is calling or raising. Neither could carry a tune.

I lost six bucks after being up $25. Trips, not a set, with a worse kicker did me in during what was otherwise a limpfest. It did no good to raise in this short stack, five-handed extravaganza without power behind, as one was certain to get three callers. Post flop was everything.

The game broke early.