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Monday, September 26, 2011

More art! Because you can't have too much...

These are a couple of drawings called "Screaming Tree". Around 1996 (or was it '97?), we'd had a mother of a winter followed with a spring full of wet. There was a big ol' tree our neighbor's backyard that arched over the fence and up a good couple of stories (or storeys...if you want to be really English about it.) The upshot is that the largest limb cracked and fell into the side of the house I was living in at the time. Didn't cause any major damage, but sure rocked the joint. The limb was sodden with several months of moisture and it's a wonder that it didn't do more damage. The next day, looking out at the tree from the second story (or storey), I couldn't help but feel that the gaping maw left from the breaking off looked very much like a mouth in agony.

Hence, the title.

Last, this following picture is from Powderhouse Park, across from where I last lived in Somerville, MA. It was one of those late fall days and the shadows seemed to have lives of their own. More than a couple of times, I've opted to render the absence of light as a its own etched form irrespective of its relation to the surface on which it's projected. I find the thick density of these black fields more interesting than if I'd modeled them with some more delicate sfumato in the rendering.

Dot your i's, cross your t's

Visas are important.

I'm pretty used to getting my passport stamped when I bounce around Central America or Europe but shit, India wants you to take care of this stuff beforehand and I've done a terrible job of that. I'm hoping against hope that this all works out before I leave....otherwise, I reckon I'll have to find out where the Indian embassy is in Belize or Mexico.

Actually, as I reflect on this, I'll just come back after Mexico and Belize and take care of all that then. I'm not on a schedule!

Aside from being blind as a bat, Mr. Barrett, you have incredibly healthy eyes

I'm getting new glasses. The cool thing is that my prescription is not so radically different from what it's been for the past decade. As it is, I figured I best get new and more durable glasses and sunglasses before I split. I have this image of watching my spectacles go blowing off my face and then me squinting. A lot.

Lastly, I'm hoping, really hoping that this India thing isn't further delayed by the visa process. Actually, it's not the process: it's my own lackadasical attitude. Of course, if I have to stick around in Belize or Mexico longer than I thought to take care of it there, that wouldn't be the worst thing in the world.

Return to Galveston

We headed to Galveston last Sunday late afternoon/early evening. I neglected to bring my camera, so the shots all came from my phone and when expanded, turned out okay. After a truly great meal at Landry's, we headed to a timeshare provided through the good graces of Barbara Johnson and settled in for the night.
It's hard to see, but there's a faint iris of a fading rainbow upper left.

The following morning I arose, took a couple of shots and had a quiet sit. I left sis to her own devices but we struck out around ten-thirty or eleven and strolled up to the seawall and back again and then headed into town.

If my previous post didn't make it plain, I'm fond of Galveston. It's not like any other city and was a vital place to be. That I know of, it's never been insanely prosperous nor has it been an epicenter of music or art the way, say, New Orleans was and perhaps is yet. But Galveston has something different and indefinable. It has a sense of itself and an identity completely different from any other city in Texas.

She's survived hurricanes worse than Ike but not with the same population density or development. Sis pointed out to me that where we walked along the beach used to reach further out into the gulf. I couldn't honestly say I remember how far out the coastline stretched at that point, but it was obvious that the vegetation line as it is is the result of survival more than planting.

We headed into town in after noon and that's where I took the pics of the different houses with antebellum and Victorian flourish. The rubble from immediately after Ike has been cleared but so many businesses lie vacant and for a Monday, the town was practically deserted. We were downtown around lunchtime and would have been hard pressed to find a guy in a suit.

Personally, I think Galveston would be great to invest in and if she's to come back, it should be done with a clearsighted sense of what should/shouldn't be developed. That is to say, I'd be leery of building up to the water's edge. Hell's bells, you shouldn't build on sand in the first place. But that's the least of it. There's a potentially vital downtown that could be as cool as Berkeley, Cambridge and the Village given a little attention and a lot of love.

If you build it, they might just show up. Thing is, Galveston has to develop a reason or set of reasons for people to come. It's got art, it's got community. It's got some pretty cool spots to hang out at. But it needs more. It needs to build back to what it was (without ill-advised expansion into the gulf). There's a buttload of history here and the pity of it, probably most people outside Galveston, aren't even aware of that. Anyway, even with its reduced state of existence, she's worth a visit. The gulf isn't blue gulf of South Padre Island or Florida, but it's warm. The sand isn't the soft stuff you'll find in the Caribbean, but you can run on it and make some kick-ass sand castles with it!

The long and the short of it is that if I had deep pockets, I'd toss a few wads of cash Galveston's way. A third of the population left after Ike and it doesn't look like they've come back. It would be inspiring to see a high speed rail to Galveston from Houston; it would be cool as hell to see a shitton of galleries open along the strand and clubs and bars and cafes. Of course, that takes investment and planning (the word “planning”, by the way, doesn't exist in any area of Houston development).

Take a look at these photos. If you look at some of the buildings, you'll see them empty, particularly the ones downtown. You'll see some wonderful painted ladies and some being restored and some in need of restoration. There's the venerable Hotel Galvez and some beach homes, too. A shout-out to Cafe Mod, by the way; one of the coolest cafes I've ever had the fun of hanging out in.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Galveston, oh, Galveston

I'm in Galveston as I write this; however,  I left my fun little point and shoot camera back in Houston. Thus, what I'll do right now while I can, is post a few pictures from a trip from last year. The beach and the Gulf of Mexico doesn't change much here and while not the Caribbean, both are not without their charms.

I've taken a few pictures with my cellphone and I do want to share something of the architecture of the town itself. The city's taken its hits over the past century and change and Hurricane Ike did a number on Galveston and surrounding areas far more than people realize. As with Richard in Belize, Ike may not have been a monster hurricane on the order of a Carla or a Katrina, but owing to population density alone, the result was devastating. The medical center here was for all intents and purposes wiped out. About a third (some say more) of the business sector was washed away or blown out and with this comes the cost of people leaving whose homes were blown off stilt or foundation.

When I came down for a visit a couple of months after Ike, we came down Broadway and while a number of businesses and houses were draped in blue tarp or had scaffolding out where you could see repair work being done, the first shock came from looking down the side streets off Broadway; some structures weren't even recognizable as houses, merely timber and painted lumber to be hauled away. The second shock came more subtly but nonetheless hit hard like a punch in the gut.

We were walking around a subdivision on West Beach, if memory serves and my sister pointed to some stilts in the water not too far from the beach. I thought at first that these were the remnants of a pier. But no, these were what was left of houses along the coast. It took me awhile to adjust to this. If that was so, then basically a whole neighborhood had been wiped out. On a little more reflection, it dawned on me as well that the beach that we were standing on was the new, redefined coastline and that the vegetation line had been erased.

We straggled around this subdivision a little longer and it became eerily visible that many of the houses were abandoned. As we drove down along toward the seawall, we saw buildings with windows blown out and one building with a whole side facing the water just gone. At least, there was still a building there; in most cases, you could only surmise that there had been structures from the remnants of piers of ravaged to splinters and holding together through sheer luck.

Some buildings were relatively intact, particularly those built to withstand hurricane force winds and establishments like the hotel Galvez and some of the more venerable businesses that had survived worse. Not to dwell on this sort of thing, but it hurts to go back to a place you grew up with and see it hurting so badly. Galveston's in much, much better shape now, thankfully, but it's still going to take some time for her to get back to where she was.

For anyone who hasn't visited this wonderful place, my description won't do justice; however, that's why tomorrow I'll head out and try to get some shots of some of the more remarkable places around. In the meantime, here are some beach scenes. These are images that are definitely meant to be looked at deeply; so please click on them and look at up close. A lot of people look at me like I'm an idiot (mea culpa?) and wonder what I think is so special about this flat, often duneless stretch of terrain surrounded by brown water. Well, take a look.

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Saturday, September 17, 2011

Belize III: Richard, that blowhard...

<Belize I <Belize II

The long and the short of it is that we moved next door to the Radisson. Good thing, too, because the cayes were being evacuated and hotels were filling up fast. We'd gotten settled in the evening before Richard actually hit. So there was another day of hanging around Belize City and by this point, we were both ready to consider moving on. Sis asked me if I thought the cayes were a good idea and while my original inclinations were to head inland to Guate, I knew she'd really enjoy the beaches. I would, too, so it was really moot to me if we did some island hopping first and then headed over the border.

We strolled over to the water taxi places and checked out fares and departure times. I was even thinking that maybe instead of heading to Guatemala after the cayes, a quick trip to Lamanai or Chetumel might have been in order. At any rate, we did some more strolling around, went out to the Government House of Culture, saw a show of some stunning photos by a fellow who was still employed by the G.O.B. Sadly, I can't recall his name and after a half hour of poking around online, I can't turn him up. The House of Culture only has the Facebook page and their oldest posts only goes back to February of 2011.

Be that as it may, it was a day well-spent before heading back to grab some dinner and get ready for Richard, who took his sweet time getting up to speed. He did. The following day was replete with high winds and rain and power failure. We were lucky; the windows stayed intact but leaked like hell. Other people weren't. The next day, we saw how extensive the rains and flooding had been. The Radisson crew stayed on through the night and the general manager was there through it all. Naturally, they wanted to get home to their families.

Although Richard was a category one (I think), it left a swath of destruction, causing at least one landslide and wiping out thousands of homes. Much of the water had receded around where we were, but you can see from the photos that quite a few places, including the Radisson, took hits.

By this point, I think we were pretty ready to split Belize City. We checked out and got the first water taxi we could to San Pedro Town, Ambergris Caye.

The following give a good idea of the winds picking up and the sky darkening. Sorry about the last two, they're pretty murky, but give you a better idea of the choppiness of the sea when you click on them and see them up close.

The aftermath is pretty self-explanatory. The nice white colonial building below is the Chateau Caribbean; they got flooded and you can kind of see how their roof got chewed up.

Just to be clear, this isn't the Chatea Caribbean; this place was across from the Radisson.

We took a stroll around the 'hood.

Baron Bliss bids us farewell.

A monument's not a monument without graffiti.

 The irony, if you want to call it that, is that although the cayes had been evacuated, Richard pretty much fizzled out in the ocean and blew back and over toward Guatemala as a tropical depression. We heard that the worst that the islands got was a little spray here and there. The winds churned up a lot of seaweed in the ocean; but basically, people were evacuated to come experience the hurricane.

Friday, September 16, 2011

New Toy!

There's really nothing I need to add. There's something beautiful about a picture of an iPad taken by a Toshiba netbook....

ART!...or "um, wanna see my etchings?"

A few years back, Hurricane Allison came barreling into Houston and caused extensive flooding. Some of the damage was devastating and took out servers at the Medical Center. Some of it was maybe not so devastating, but I suspect there are a lot of homeowners who would disagree with me. Lastly, for me, I lost my portfolio of art that I'd made over the previous thirty years or so (Allison hit in June of 2001) and by that time, I had come to terms with the truth of the impermanence of things, even things that I had made and often with a great deal of love.

When I got the call from the friend of mine who had the caretaker of all this, I was more grateful that he and his wife were okay than anything else. I had kept some stuff on me over the years and I hadn't been entirely idle in drawing every now and again. Still, I had to admit that I was tickled pink when my sister found this among some of the items she had in storage (make sure to click on these - as well as other photos in this blog) to see them in greater detail):

This was one of a fair amount of etchings I pulled at Hoo Doo Press with John O'Fiel in the mid-80s. This one in particular was a knock-off; I was just messing about with using spray paint for aquatint and playing around with extremely loose uses of ground and foul-biting. Looks like some dry-point in there, too. I think this was one of the last I did around that time because I was starting to feel kind of anal about intaglio. A short time after that, we started doing a bunch of monoprints and what's funny about that is that we'd pretty much thought we were the only people in town doing them. Until we found out that Dick Wray had been churning them out (enough for a one man show at Moody Gallery, if I recall correctly) and I'm pretty sure Dave Folkman's Little Egypt collective had been doing a bunch, too.

I remember Frank Davis coming over and just whipping a bunch out and I wish I had some pics of those. Really cool stuff. But back to etchings. Here's another one:
This is called "Small World" from around 1984 and as I recall, this was entered in a show of miniature prints that we took part in every year at Marie Laterme's Atelier on Times Boulevard in the Village in Houston. This took its origin in walking around the corner to my apartment on Richton late at night and looking up at the cyprus trees planted on top of Parvizian Rugs on Kirby at Richton. A lot of the images I was goofing with at the time incorporated geometric form like tetrahedra and rhomboids and maps of the solar system and references to the very, very big and the very, very tiny.

I went to Honduras twice in 2001 to hang out with my dear, dear friend Julie Leonard who had a wonderful townhouse in Tegucigalpa with a wonderful garden and three wonderful cats. In this drawing/watercolor, is Moosh, short for Moo-Shi. La Moosh was one of the coolest cats I've ever met, one of those types of cats that you might just be certain is just a human in feline guise. Oh, and there were a couple of branches or roots or something I was drawing, as well.

Last, for now anyway, is a drawing of an orange. I was asking myself one day what it would look like if you could stretch out a particle or decompose an object into component units, something not unlike pixels, but more like if they weren't rectilinear and you could stretch them out a bit. I wanted to do that, but I also wanted to let the object maintain its integrity as a readable something.

Oh, the things kids come up with these days...I've got more images rolled up that I'll unroll and put up later.