Speaking over the crunch of corn chips…

We wish all the NM artists could be there tonight, but we’ll make you blush from afar as we gush about your country, your state, your city, your art and your sharin’.

RedChilliGreenChilli

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Feb 5: Date claimer for little pieces of New Mexico in Maryborough

Hellooooooo from Mt Perry.

Friday night, February 5, will be the opening of ‘Road to Somewhere’ at Gatakers Artspace in Maryborough.

Jenny Gilbertson and I have been meeting since early 2014 to plan a show of small works about New Mexico. When I say ‘meeting’, well, a coffee here, a margarita there, several good excuses for trips to see Trevor, a project, a panic, a postponement: finally we’re there… well, when I say ‘there’…

We have the venue, the guitarist, and a show of works all 20cm high and we hope you can all come and bring everyone you know and paint the town Turquoise! (Too much? 😀 )
And last week Jenny constructed our beautiful opening night piñata – you wanna see that for certain! So fun to watch her deftly weave this piece together. More gratuitous plugging to come 🙂

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Crafts person Cam

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Cane frame swings hypnotically.

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Piñata masterclass.

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Apt tee.

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Hanging out for a good whacking!

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White Sands, saguaro cacti, and prickly pears take shape on my desk.

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And shape shifting cacti, retablos and Southwest icons fill Jenny’s studio.

Lovely to be home but still ‘be’ in New Mexico.

Home, sweet work.

Hello from Perry!
One of the things I knew before I left Mt Perry in late August was that Red Hill Gallery had secured a commission for me, and Marlies and Phil got the usual call “can you make me a 100cm x 100cm stretcher frame, tickety boo?”.

Stretched and primed, with some texture in place to dry, I closed up the doors and headed off.

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After working 4+ years full time in the studio, and never for a minute regretting any of it, I did hear myself often quip “it’s no way to make a living“, making light of a genuine concern about income. And yet my struggle with commissions continued. So I got onto the plane knowing it was time to ‘reframe’ those thoughts, and be brave enough to ask some other artists theirs.

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Off and on over the weeks I spoke with about 6 different artists and of course everyone was generous and thoughtful. And yes, it’s a no-brainer: someone is prepared to pay you to paint something you love painting. They like your work, therefore they will like what you paint. This was the gist of reply each time amidst a great broad ranging discussion.
But will I like what I paint?

Well probably not if I tie myself in knots over it! And I already know I have a process in place that avoids being asked to replicate works, or to be heavily directed, but apparently I have numerous doubts. Other questions I’ve posed to self have been: What is this angst over studio paintings versus commissioned pieces?
Will money corrupt the process?
Am I a lesser artist afterwards?
Is the work less interesting?

Answers: sshhhsshh, stop the voices;
yes, and buy you a canvas roll, get over it;
no, doh, build a bridge and get over it;
and, only if you let it be!

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One of the things the residency fostered was my willingness to ask questions of the US artists that I may not have so easily asked of my home crowd. Nearest astutely observed that we can often be more ourselves when a long way from home—a little more fearless in our approach perhaps—as the importance of the lasting impression seems lessened. Or this may just reveal more of my own shortcomings back home, but I certainly won’t forget the responses I received. Either way I came home emboldened.

I am really enjoying the lightness of the work on this one, I’ve started some sketches around it (2nd pic) and also started the base painting (above). I’ve decided to not finish the sketches first, to not be too prescriptive, but instead move from one format to the other and maybe some interesting things will occur in that process.

The coffee is flowing, the oils are out, the watercolours too, and Nearest is still terribly impressed with how many Qantas meal trays I managed to flog on one long flight to Australia. Thank you Qantas, they make excellent watercolour palettes.
And the studio assistant (cue the gratuitous pet photo) is very happy to be working again.

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Winding up, down, waving not drowning

We are ensconced in LAX, surrounded by these strange accents of people from Australia and I realise I’ve been away a while. The last few days have been full of hellos and farewells. After a great stay in Hillsboro and coming away with a stash of Dorlands Wax, we got to wave ‘hi’ to Phil in Mesilla and he already looked right at home. And Marlies is a true local now with lots of great stories to tell. It was great to catch up.

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Thursday night was the NMSU Postcard Show and Jenny’s piece was snapped up very early. And Friday night was a perfect party night thrown by Ouida Touchòn at her beautiful home in Mesilla, with great food and beautiful company and generous farewells. Thanks Ouida, it was such a memorable way to finish this NM stay.
This morning (Halloween here) a fine young stormtrooper dished out the shots in El Paso which prepared us for a total power blackout at the airport.

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We think hamsters on treadmills were supplying the emergency lighting and the power to one single computer terminal that allowed the attendants to check our bags and issue boarding passes. Luck fell our way as the electronic scales were off line so we avoided awkward weight conversations and avoided eye contact until our bags were lugged away – hopefully to our plane.

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The Los Angeles County Museum of Art LACMA was kind enough to open until 7pm on Saturdays so it was an easy alternative to 10 hours in LAX.
With more than six major exhibition buildings in the complex, we bumbled around for several hours, coming to rest in front of many treasures.

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Ed Ruscha’s Actual Size, 1962 Oil on Canvas

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Téte Au Fort Menton, Jean Debuffet 1957 Oil on canvas seemed a little like looking in the mirror after a night of Double Eagle margaritas and Californian Pinot Noir.

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And a small Picasso Weeping Woman with Handkerchief 1937 sat nearby a small and delicate Joan Miró Group of Figures 1938.

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A divine Joan Mitchell, I’ve enjoyed seeing more of her work this trip. Not someone we see back home. East Ninth Street 1956 Oil on canvas.

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And the Broad building at LACMA houses some fabulous and fun (complex race track through futurist city amongst them) installations, and massive and gentle indoor sculpture, Band, by Richard Serra.

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And this may be the last chance in a while to photobomb a De Kooning. Montauk Highway 1958, Oil and combined media on heavy paper mounted to canvas!

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I’m so thrilled with the time I’ve had, my life partner has sacrificed a lot this last year to help me get here and while I’ve been in New Mexico there has been endless generosity and assistance from ALL of the artists inside and outside the project. I’ve done work I’m really happy with, it doesn’t always fall that way, and the Hillsboro crew and Diana and Dean Ayers provided the working space to do that.
The Thomas’ home was a huge part of making the stay in Las Cruces possible, and Catherine and Don sure know how to throw a great opening and hang a good looking show.
Jenny and Trudie, the BRAG crew and vollies, RADF, and those behind it all at Bundaberg Regional Council, we all thank you, and I thank you for allowing me to be part of this project. It has been an affecting experience and will be for some time.
Tomorrow I wake up at home. And then possibly go straight back to sleep. 🙂

Patterns of many surfaces

Or ‘Scratching the surface’ as we make our way and the back roads toward Hillsboro and the Winkler retreat.
Thanks Dave for the tip to visit Tent Rocks National Monument outside Santa Fe: amazing layer patterning.

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Little abstract compositions everywhere. Clever Mother Nature.

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And who’s a happy penguin to be in Santa Fe?

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A town the size of Bundaberg with 250+ private galleries plus many public museums, and said to still be the third largest art market after NY and LA. Some art leaves a few of us perplexed…

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A gallery I visited two years ago near the Railyard district, Lew Allen Galleries, is still stunning. Plus slightly overwhelming and heartening at the same time – both via the work and the juicy prices.
Carey and Nolan told me about abstract artist Sammy Peters last project and seeing his work close up again is so informative. The surface grounds, working, layering. Sigh. This detail from Celebration: Confirming; Enigma 2013, 30in x 48in.

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Other Santa Fe treasures include a visit to Alex’s home and studio and a wonderful night there with he and his Nearest. Thanks to you both for a beautiful meal and many great words. I’m sure we’ll meet again somehow.

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And Jenny, some fine chili roasting at the Railyard Farmers Markets – this guy had all the lines including It’s Santa Fe aromatherapy day. We nearly burnt out heads off eating roasted chilies last night.

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Then it was on to the ancient patterns of Three Rivers Petroglyphs.

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And we just snuck into White Sands for the sunset again.

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And this morning we head to Hillsboro! Cue the skunk, javelina, deer and turkeys Nolan.

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The rooms at Encino are currently off line.

Art and architecture

At risk of travel blog again, but today I couldn’t help think of HD Virginia and WB Ariella as we toured through Mesa Verde National Park in SW Colorado.

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Between 600 and 1300AD it was home to 6000 or more Ancestral Pueblo people and the park contains over 5000 archeological sites including 600 cliff dwellings. 600! The Palace House above is one of the star attractions.

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With 1 week to go before seasonal park closure, emphasized by newly snow capped peaks on the horizon, we tagged onto a $4 ranger tour of a dwelling named Balcony House (above).
We learned some amazing things based on 100 years of archaeology, carbon dating, and tree ring counting of the juniper logs used in the structures. And it’s known that the people of Mesa Verde moved down into New Mexico and along the Rio Grande and their culture is still alive today.

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Survival at Balcony House was secured via this tunnel constructed in the approach crevice. Unwelcome raiders could only enter this way and were promptly sent over the cliff. Hippy tourists could just become trapped until lean enough to slide through.

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Later in the Park museum we found some great models explaining the construction of the Kiva (the round underground cosy place, shown as an open circular room in photos) and its roof of geometrically placed logs, then covered with mud and stone.
The museum also had some beautiful pieces of pottery found in the dwellings – the grey with black patterning particular to Mesa Verde.

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PUPPY!
(Okay, that’s a stretch ☺️)

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After such a moving experience it seemed like a ‘sign’ to be welcomed back to New Mexico by this happy art beetle as we crossed the State line.

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And as spontaneous travel brings rewards it also brings laughs with no bed booked for the night and we find ourselves in possibly the worst (deliberately) decorated motel in the history of mankind – The Step Back Inn. It’s on line tout: Simple, contemporary inn with Victorian accents offering rooms named after pioneer families & WiFi.

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But of course, delightful hosts as ever. So as to erase that imagery I’ll sign off with a beautiful 1920’s painting from the museum today, by a Zuni Pueblo artist, and an early example of the beginnings of works on paper by Native Americans artists. Sigh. We love this country.

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Dim sim, joy, luck.

We have spent the last 2 days traveling across the northeast of Arizona through Navajo Nation lands. (We think) due to the quality of our SIM cards, we have had zero phone coverage and it’s been pretty perfect as an escape mechanism. This blog brought briefly to you by motel wifi before we disappear back into the red rock canyons and ancient crevices of Canyon de Chelley (pron. ‘Shay’) and Monument Valley (pron. ‘wow’ or ‘oh wow’).

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Unavoidable Biro scribbles of the saguaro cactus in southern Arizona…

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…brought on by 7 hours at the Tucson Sonoma Desert Museum with friends last seen 27 years ago in Canada.

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I bought this owl for Jenny G…

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… and this Bear Grass Tree for Roana.

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And this little beauty for Trudie (which was genuinely on the corner in Winslow, Arizona)…

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…to which we strapped 20 of these chairs for Marlies.

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And Wendy, we got you this little patch of Navajo sky from Window Rock, AZ.

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So after all this souvenir shopping we finally got a thunderstorm free sunset at the madly beautiful Monument Valley. For some it was so droll…

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(PUPPY)
For us it was far from that.

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And yesterday saw some carpark art acquisition despite complete lack of room in homeward baggage, but who can resist these mountain sheep? Apparently not me.
Tomorrow brings a Navajo guided trip into the back blocks and rocks of Monument Valley. Joy.

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Things I will miss

I had my last walk around the hood this morning, a private little farewell now ironically shared on the interwebs.
I will miss the BLM area 2 blocks from home.

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And the personhole covers.

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The stoned dolphins.

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The amazing adobe homes and their gardens.

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The hilarious Halloween efforts.

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The yuccas dancing.

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Exotic fruits, pomegranate season draws to a close.

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The purplish prickly pear pads.

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And her…

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