On being an artist….a writer….a dancer….a poet….an actor…

Just received this oh so true article by writer and friend, Todd Walton, who used my newest painting as illustration.

Assignments

September 29th, 2015

GRACE UPON THE VISIT

Grace Upon The Visit painting by Nolan Winkler

(This article appeared in the Anderson Valley AdvertiserSeptember 2015)

“Tell the children the truth.” Bob Marley          

Even at this late date in the arc of my life, I am occasionally invited to speak to high school kids about the career path of a writer. When I explain to those soliciting me to speak that I am not a journalist or a non-fiction writer or a writer of murder mysteries or bodice rippers or young adult dystopian vampire novellas, but rather a writer of unclassifiable fiction and essays, and I further explain that I don’t recommend my career path to anyone because that would be to recommend working long hours seven days a week for five decades, my wages paltry and unreliable. After such an explanation, the invitations are withdrawn.

I have on a few occasions over those five decades earned noteworthy chunks of money for books I’ve written, but that hardly qualifies as a career path; more like staggering through a trackless wilderness and every seventh blue moon coming upon a clearing with potable water and catchable fish where a tent might be pitched for a year or two before I stagger back into the wilderness.

Reading a story by E.B. White yesterday, The Hotel Of The Total Stranger, I came upon a line that struck me as an apt description of my career. “…the sense of again being a reporter receiving only the vaguest and most mysterious assignments.”

Hello. I’ve been asked to speak to you today about my career as a writer who receives only the vaguest and most mysterious assignments. I want to emphasize the vague and mysterious aspects of my career path, as well as the notion that I am being assigned the mysterious writing I undertake. Who, you may ask, is doing the assigning? Who is my boss? And what kinds of companies employ artists to undertake only the vaguest and most mysterious assignments?

To be honest with you, I have no idea who or what is behind these assignments, I am unaware of there being any sort of boss, and there are no companies who employ such artists. In other words, if you choose this career path, you are entirely on your own and will probably get paid little or nothing for many years of hard work. Interested?

“A fool’s brain digests philosophy into folly, science into superstition, and art into pedantry. Hence university education.” George Bernard Shaw

The last literary agent willing to represent me, 1996-1997, was a wealthy New York socialite married to a venture capitalist. I met her only once when she came to San Francisco to meet with her west coast clients, and my fifteen-minute tête-à-tête with her in an exclusive hotel was a memorable moment in my career trajectory.

Imagine traveling for many years on a barely discernible path traversing rugged mountains and hostile deserts and murky jungles as you follow the quixotic scent of vague and most mysterious assignments, when quite unexpectedly you find yourself in the plush lounge of a snazzy hotel bar having drinks with a person with the body of a shapely woman and the head of a manikin.

“Buzz says there could be a bidding war for the movie rights toRuby & Spear,” hummed the literary agent. “That’s why Bantam took a chance on you. Despite your previous flops. They think this could be huge.” She sucked hard on a golden straw sunk deep in a massive strawberry margarita. “There are some worries about the lead male being a bit anti-hero, the lead female too strong, the lesbian stuff risky, the multiple wives dangerous. But your main thrust is right on the money.”

Something about the expression main thrust emboldened me to look directly at her, and I was stunned to realize that only her eyes, small beady brown eyes, gave any clue to the actual person’s face. Which is to say, she was so heavily made up, her foundation color—Tan Caucasian—applied so thickly, her face appeared to be an oval shell on which the garish details of an Anglo geisha were painted.

“Buzz,” I gurgled, imagining a sad angry little girl behind the mask.

“Tell me,” she said, smiling a sad angry little smile. “How much money would you like to make every year for the rest of your life? Think big.”

“Oh…fifty thousand?” I croaked.

“Come on,” she said sternly, her smile vanishing. “Be serious.”

“A quarter mil?” I said, giggling.

“No problem,” she said, raising her hand to beckon the waiter. “Now listen. Here’s your assignment. I want you to read and analyze the top ten bestsellers on the New York Times list and give me something that will fit in there nicely. Okay? Good. You’ve got a foot in the door again, dear. We want to sell your next something before Ruby & Spear takes off or doesn’t take off. These windows don’t stay open long. Oh, here’s my next client. Stick around and meet Gina. We just sold her memoir for high six-figures. About all the celebrities she slept with during the Disco craze.”

“Happiness is racing along in a chariot on a dark night toward an unknown destination.” Henry James

As I hurried out of that snazzy hotel on the fringes of Union Square, my first thought was that I had escaped yet another emissary of the evil ones. But my second thought was that the evil ones are just sad angry children venting their anger and sorrow by despoiling our culture with ugly imitative junk, sad angry children hiding behind masks so we cannot see who they really are and cease to be afraid of them.

I did not do the assignment given to me by that agent, and she found my next book so revolting she had a lackey inform me on scented stationery of the dissolution of our connection—that revolting book being Under the Table Books, my cherished result of a long journey beginning with a vague and most mysterious assignment, the antithesis of the New York Times bestseller lists of then and now.

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Participating artist at OYE! EcoFest… VMR

I will be a participating artist in the upcoming OYE! EcoFest, and will be performing with Karuna R. Warren & the New World Drummers (performing tracks from our CD, IKTUSHIWI: Raven Speaks… (inspired by my artwork & poetry); and with my work in a group show Based on Fact at the Black Box Theatre, LC, NM (downtown).  Hope to see you there!

OYE_POSTER_2015

 

Yuna:Wikko’o / 48″ x 36″ / 2015 / Acrylic on canvas

IKTUSHIWI GROUP PHOTO 2012 for website COVER FRONT IKTUSHIWI-Raven Speaks VMR 2012

“In Gourd We Trust”

Not my line, but appropriated from a CNN news article 2 nights ago. This break in art museum posting has been brought to you by all things PUMPKIN!
The article reported the explosion of pumpkin product and paraphernalia as America approaches Halloween and Thanksgiving. Of note was the new term ‘pumpkin creep’ in reference to financial gains in the consumer market. Rival beer markets were squashed (come on!) by Pumpkin Beers’ “1500% gain in 10 years”. Perhaps they meant 15 fold? 😀

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After the reporter interviewed a gentleman who’d formed a group protesting the consumption of pumpkin—whose decorative catch cry was “We don’t eat Christmas Trees so we shouldn’t eat pumpkin”—they also revealed that in the Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte (developed in 2003 and alleged to have started the pumpkin flavored lifestyle choices we see today) there is “no trace of pumpkin”.
Now I know you’d like me to go on but never fear there will be more pumpkin breaks ahead. Meanwhile, I tricked you, here’s a perfectly hued and titled piece from the Smithsonian American Art Museum – Fermented Soil 1965 Hans Hoffman

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Creamy pumpkin surfaces…

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PS We Australians are mad for pumpkin food.

DC One: the emu has landed

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(Picture Album Paul Klee 1937 Oil on Canvas)
My Annapolis guides switched badges on Sunday and we 3 embarked on my Orientation ‘n Overload tour to set the tone for the next few days in Washington DC. First stop: Metro hop.

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Which took us to the Phillips Collection near the beautiful DuPont Circle district. The Phillips proclaims self as ‘Americas first Museum of Modern Art’.
I really loved the scratching into oil in the Klee above as I’m using board for the first time here and grappling with how to paint on it (let’s call that temporarily failing). And this Klee on burlap with seemingly no gesso was gorgeous – Arab Song 1932.

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All set amongst beautiful and decorative rooms.

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Mr and Ms Guided introduced me to Arthur Dove who I enjoyed so much. Masterful greens and composition, I have a difficult friendship with greens and notice that I gravitate to photographing that palette. Interesting that this one is of water – Shore Front 1938.

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And Senoré Gogh has no issue with greens in The Road Menders 1889 Oil on Canvas.

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There is also a small room bedecked in fabulous Rothkos, so good I almost bought a Rothko coffee mug. Still time! But really it was time for food art with a Wild Rice fix at the American Indian Museum (okay, there may have been ‘fry bread’ too, but I stayed away from the Bison burger :-0 ).

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Fueled, we set off in quest of De Kooning at the Hirshhorn Museum. The National Mall is lined with museums and they are peppered throughout the city. Feet start to drag by afternoon especially when the De Koonings proved elusive. So we paused and enjoyed some gun powder blasts on paper by Chinese artist Cai Guo-Qiang. Delicious sized paper too.

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And some yellow Madonnas for Marlies…

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Back out in the Mall we meandered (okay, let’s call that ‘staggered’) to the car past the original Smithsonian museum, now a visitors center that can help you understand that you can’t possibly see all the Smithsonians in one lifetime. There was nought to be done but to retreat to the store and buy comestibles for a night under the moon eclipse with friends. Memories locked in. Renoir will never be the same again CC.

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Strategic planning at the NGA

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Double espresso and the map, setting up for the day in the National Gallery of Art in Washington. Even the lift lobby was bedecked with this print series: Green (edition print) 1986, by American artist Richard Diebenkorn 1922-1993.

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It’s my second day in DC after the best of days with CC and HBC and their excellent intro to the National capital. More blogging on that soon, one must push on …

“Have you ever seen Sydney from a 747 at night?”

A line from the song Sydney from a 747 by Australian Paul Kelly. Humming the final line as I flew across America on Friday: ‘Me I’ve never seen Dallas from a DC9’.

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I did see Dallas from the 737 though and landed into an East coast dusk over the ships and boats in the Chesapeake Bay to be met by new old friends from the WBHD1 project.

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In the morning we strolled the streets of Annapolis and I oohed and aahed at the stunning buildings and cottages and street paving in this city dating back to the mid 1600’s. For an Australian immigrant that’s an eye bugging date.

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After a hearty breakfast that involved a jalapeño waffle and lots of coffee, we set sail for more Easterly treats and crossed the Bay, heading to Chestertown.

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We parked and wandered the streets for ages and my trusty guides pointed out significant architectural features (more oohing etc) and a whole new range of foreign plants waved at me from the parks and gardens.

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Yummy details everywhere.

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1726 people!

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We eventually tore ourselves away to rehydrate and then headed back to Annapolis for it’s culinary institution: Crab Cakes! Wow, they’re pretty yummy too. What a day, Dog bless America 😀

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Lamy Get together

Dear fellow artists,

As promised, I would like to have you all at my Lamy home and studio for drinks, a meal, engaging conversation and fun.

How is October the 10th for Adrienne and Marlies? I would love to have you both over while you’re still in NM.

The rest of you, I would love if you could all make it–but totally understand if the commute is too much.

Please let me know whether the day would work and for how many of you, so that I can start planning.

Looking forward to seeing you soon!

Alex

Finally, a new painting

GRACE UPON THE VISIT 20z20″ acrylic, crayon and Adrienne’s Australian Red oil paint

grace upon the visit site

I started this one while Adrienne was in another room in my studio working on her beautiful cacti watercolors. I was also working on 4 calligraphy jobs in my mind so couldn’t quite get this completed. Took me another week till I sent off those jobs…then I was FREE to finish it. Yesterday. Yes, a bit influenced in the end by a visitor in the studio….a first while I worked. So, thanks, Adrienne. Not only for that glazing color but for the visit.

Barrel cactus

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There’s a large area of land up behind ‘home’ in Las Cruces that spreads East towards the Organ Mountains and is a perfect spot for early morning strolls. Though the Autumn sunrises are making those later by the day.
Found this gorgeous barrel cactus this morning when I strayed off trail. Can’t wait to show the neighborhood to Marlies.

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