Saturday, August 16, 2008

A Few Fine Things

A question that nags at the back of my mind, “What is authentic and what is kitsch?” Where does “environmental design” end and “fakery” begin? Being here in Santa Fe it’s hard to avoid these comparisons. What’s “real” adobe and true Santa Fe design and what is the “Santa Fe Style” brought to you by “Schmaltzy Retailers Plus”?

I love the “real” southwest, the blend of Hispanic and Native American sensibilities and ethics. Their designs are simple, clean, uncomplicated, and organic. I hate the tacky “reincarnation” of these designs. I’ll throw up if I see one more cheesy Kokopelli sign or one more “yard shadow” of a leaning cowboy silhouette.

I’d only selected four galleries to visit today because I didn’t want to overwhelm myself with images and schlock. I can’t tell you how I chose the four – it was a web search – and they were the ones that looked most intriguing. Boy did I choose well!

After a wondrous breakfast at Horseman’s Haven where I consumed Huevos con Chorizo covered in the most divine Green Chilie sauce, I headed downtown. My first stop was the Gerald Peters Gallery.

As I turned into the crushed gravel parking lot I knew I’d hit a jackpot. The building was adobe – it had a large veranda – fired Mexican tile – and pots of blooming desert plants leading to the entry. One step inside and this vast landscape greeted me.

All the tension left my body. This is the desert I know and love. THIS is authentic. Not some stylized over worked color scheme.

The artist is Arturo Chevez. This is the first time I’ve seen his work, but he is beyond talented. I was struggling to figure out why his work spoke to me so much. In reading a little bit about him, I realized the word I was searching for was “authentic”. He paints the way I hope I write, with careful attention to detail and realism.

There were several other artists whose work I also enjoyed. Two pieces by William Shepherd attracted my attention. The first, Roaring Judy, would fit in perfectly with Blue’s project, “Collected Horizons”. The second (which I cannot find an image of) was titled, “Surface Events”. It is something Talla Paula would fall in love with – and her daughter wouldn’t be far behind. This is one set of rocks that I wouldn’t mind having in my home. Here’s a similar piece.

G. Russell Case was the final artist to capture my heart at this gallery. There were a few of his pieces hanging in a small room with a decorative tin ceiling and old, worn leather chairs – that invited one to sit down and sink into the moment. I did just that, staring at his vistas and the other cowboy art hanging on the white washed wood walls. The chairs – classic in design – worn with years of comfortable sitting – are what I’ve always envisioned in “my library”. Sitting there – soaking in the experience I wished I had my laptop, some Bob Wills and The Texas Playboys playing in the background while I sipped some bourbon or scotch. I can’t imagine a more peaceful place to let my mind wander down the roads of creativity.

Leaving the PG Gallery, I headed next door to the Nedra Matteucci Galleries. Here was another sprawling building. Room among room tucked in here and there, with the occasional doorway opening out onto a garden full of water features, sculptures, and trees with leaves making music as the wind blew through the leaves. Clicking on these links will show you why I instantly lost my heart here.

I thought I was safe and would be able to keep my lust under control – until I stepped into a room full of William Matthew’s work. This image, (Snowy Day #26) stopped me cold. Here are the men (#3, 7, 21, 25, 27) and landscapes (#6) I dream about.

As I thought about art – I thought about writing. Am I drawn to these types of paintings because they tell a story I understand? Or do the images allow me to create my own stories? Is this really “my” world – or just the one I’ve absorbed through osmosis. Pondering these thoughts, I came to this painting.

It’s a great illustration of what I want to learn in this craft called writing. Having the skill to frame my tales so that some of the story is just outside of what I tell. To draw images so strong that I can leave out a detail or two – like the cow’s head – and yet still have it be a complete scene. Or maybe – what this picture really represents is a good ending, one that allows the reader to continue the story in their minds after I’ve ended my part.

As I left Nedra’s a light rain began to fall. I decided I’d seen the best, so I headed back to the hotel. How decadent to take an afternoon nap, maybe find a wi-fi café and surf the net when I wake up, before heading out to dinner.

This is the life, a few fine things, savored and memorized.


Anonymous said...

I haardly know where to start on this Blog - it's absolutely wonderful !!! And the pics with it are spectacular - wish I was with you !!!!!!

You certainly have captured the 'soul' of the desert - and I'm sooo sorry you moved away !! I want to go back again, soon !

Well --- if Collected Horizons are all Chris's works, he has such a gift !!!! I love his works - the subjects, the colors, the close-up shots - what a talented man !!! I could travel with him to the ends of the world !! *o* You know me and pictures !

Your day at the galleries was a real treat that you needed !!! Too much stress in your life lately - or maybe all the time ???

Oh how I wish we could talk about these things together - we are missing so much ! The Blog leaves so many questions and answers to be discussed ! Love you, tp

Christopher Paquette said...

Sounds like an amazing day... and you know I am in full agreement on the authenticity factor. Same thing applies for me anywhere in the country. America has become so architecturally fake it is disgusting.

I love the analogy you make between the cowboy & calf illustration and your own writing. Art should do that. It's why we need to go to galleries and museums.

One of my favorite quotes about art is from Mexican artist Gabriel Orozco..."What is most important is not so much what people see in the gallery or the museum, but what people see after looking at these things, how they confront reality again."

So true in the context of this post and your renewed spirit in visiting the Southwest.


Woodstock said...

I've been thinking about this a lot myself and the only thing I can offer is this: authentic is imperfect and warm; it is what it is, comfortable with that, and it offers you a relationship with that. Kitsch is "just so," cold, and demands that you interact with it on its terms, not on yours, that to be involved with it you must change rather than finding the mutual contours where you fit together naturally.

Thank you for sharing your art explorations. I enjoyed them.

Anonymous said...

By the way - I absolutely love the picture you have here of the "arriving storm". It is surreal !

And I agree with Chris's favorite quote: it's not what you see in the picture, it what you see in reality AFTER you've seen the picture !" !!!!! That's the reality ! tp