Sunday, August 18, 2019

Rhythm and Light at Wilder Nightingale

Ebb and flow
Wagon  Ruts

When Peggy and I sat down with Rob Nightingale to plan our third two person show at Wilder Nightingale Fine Art we had no particular theme in mind and hoped something would pop up as we tossed ideas around. The only thing I knew for sure is that I didn't want to be bound by subject matter or geography. Couldn't do that if I tried this year. Peggy on the other hand would be showing work with a decidedly southwestern bent and a strong emphasis on New Mexico. How to reconcile those countervailing approaches was a challenge. But as the sage once said, "If you can't rationalize it dazzle them with baloney." And that, dear friends, is where I shine.

The only givens were that we would both show a dozen or so new works and that they can't have been shown before. And mine would all be toned black and white for which I am entirely unknown. Already you can tell I'm writing in my wise ass voice.

The conversation meandered on and all I wanted was no boundaries. Finally, Rob asked, "What should we call the show." We agreed that the title would begin with Immel + Immel like the ones in 2015 and 2017. Then it dawned on us that this was becoming a biannual affair and maybe we were developing an Immel + Immel brand. One hopes. The inaugural event in 2015 was called Immel + Immel "Monument" to celebrate the designation of the new Rio Grande del Norte National Monument which wraps around Taos from the Orilla Verde on the Rio Grande on the south and west and north to the Colorado border and east to the John Dunn Bridge in Arroyo Hondo.

The 2017 soiree was Immel + Immel "Our New Mexico." I'm guessing that was about the Land of Enchantment.

Guardian of Santa Barbara

Which leads us to Immel + Immel "Rhythm and Light." What does that even mean? Got no clue. Rob and I just thought it sounded cool. One can weave a narrative that Rhythm and Light refers to the patterns, flow and energy that are part of any successful painting or photograph. And that the juxtaposition of light and dark provide the key shapes and the inherent design of the art. If that's too much artspeak for you, too bad. Or as Peggy writes, "We wanted to have the work relate but not necessarily in terms of subject matter." She adds, "We are both taken with the effect of light on our subjects in terms of color, values, key and design relationships. Both of us feel that the mood of the piece is determined by the qualities of the light."

Fall on the Cimarron

"Whether in nature as exemplified by rows of crops in a pasture, trees on a mountainside or the facade of a building punctuated by doors and windows, patterns and rhythm create compositional interest."

Whew. She's even better at tripping the light fantastic than I am.

According to Peggy she's been working in small series of three or four paintings that might be subject oriented or might be about color and design. She may explore a color theme like a complimentary purple-yellow scheme in several pieces, for example. But her work continues to be of the Southwest and especially near home in Taos. She is particularly interested in the relationship of man to nature and is known for her mastery of architecture in the landscape. Recently much of her work has focused on the sky, clouds and the light patterns that the sun creates in the clouds. That's evident in Ebb and Flow, Guardian of Santa Barbara and Solitude shown here.

Clarkdale Store
Water Wagon

My interests hew in that direction, too. I am drawn to vestiges of man's fleeting presence in the natural world. The abandoned and forgotten resonate with me. Always have. There's a sweet melancholy to it. In this show there are examples of that kind of landscape photography but also street photography that intersects with environmental portraiture. And, finally, there's some more experimental work that's more abstracted and that employs darker tones, vignetting and applied blur. I'm fascinated by the the ethereal and timeless look this creates. Water Wagon above is an example of that new direction. From this series will be a cluster of 4"x6" prints matted and framed to 8"x10."

All of my photographs will be black and white. That's been my playground for more than fifty years.

Immel + Immel: Rhythm and Light opens on Friday, August 23 and runs through September 15. The opening reception will be held from 5pm to 7pm, Saturday, August 31. We hope to see you there.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

The Lighthouse Keepers

Des Peintres Américaines

As guests of Keremma resident Pierre Guidetti, the eleven visiting painters were treated more like luminaries than tourists from the United States. Pierre’s imprimatur gave the group access to otherwise inaccessible sites and the warm welcome they received from the local gentry would not have happened without his caring hand. Merci, Pierre.

The Bretons showed real appreciation for the artists and often watched as they painted on the beaches and in the villages of the Finistére, meaning “Land’s End. And Land’s End it is. The Finistére is northwestern most corner of France which is framed by the Atlantic Ocean to the west and the Celtic Sea to the north.

Le Phare de Moguériec

Most notable among these connections was the opportunity for the group to participate in a benefit paint-out to help fund renovations of the decaying lighthouse in the fishing village of Port de Moguériec, population 400. In 2018 the Interregional Directorate of the North Atlantic Channel announced a plan to decommission and demolish the beacon but the townspeople, fisherfolk all, treasure their lighthouse and are committed to preserving it as a symbol of their seafaring heritage and of the resilience of their quaint town and its picturesque harbor. They have been given a two year stay to raise funds to rehabilitate the landmark at the request of the Save the Lighthouse Association of Moguériec. Bon chance.

Jan Norsetter above the tiny harbor

When Pierre asked if the painters would be willing to paint in Port de Moguériec and to donate the proceeds of the sales of their paintings to save the lighthouse all eleven gave a resounding ‘oui’ to the proposition. And so, began what would be a highlight of the visit to Brittany for the artists who were dubbed The American Painters and who enjoyed a measure of notoriety including a spread in the local daily. The title of the article read, “Des Peintres Américaines Au Chevet du Phare de Moguériec.” Which translates to “The American Painters at the bedside of the Moguériec lighthouse.” Hmm.

The Lighthouse in living color

The lighthouse was designed and built by Gustave Eiffel in about 1861 when Eiffel was just 29. So, its importance exceeds its diminutive size. Just 33-feet tall it’s little more a prefabricated cast iron cylinder painted white with a dark green lamp housing. It is not prepossessing to say the least. As we neared the village in early evening, we spied a small two-color protrusion on the horizon and Peggy declared, “That must be the lighthouse.” To which I sniffed, “That can’t be it. That’s not a lighthouse.” There is no house and there is no light.

Au contraire, mes amis. The modest structure in the distance was the alleged lighthouse and would be the subject of our crowd funding efforts that memorable evening.

We arrived at 7pm and were greeted by the mayor and Arnaud Lampire the president of the Save the Lighthouse Association. Both of spoke about the beloved landmark and the town’s mission to return it to its mid-19th century glory. The town’s share of the 540,000 euro cost to renovate the “phare” is the princely sum of 140,000 euro. My mouth is still agape. That’s 350 euro for every man, woman and child in Moguériec. The painters listened to Monsieur Lampire as they sat on the seawall for photographs before spreading out along the trim harbor at low tide, Peggy, Krystal, Paul and Cynthia choose the narrow beach; Richard, Vered and Jan opted for the breakwater to the east; Tia, Ellen, Nancy and Lori painted from above the beach.

Vered Pasternak and Richard Lindenberg
Peggy Immel and the boys
Krystal Brown at the easel

As the orange sky turned slate gray all the paintings were finished and the mayor invited us for drinks at a vest pocket bar just off the cove. What a treat. We all knew how special it was.  Pronouncing the town’s peculiar name was a struggle for everybody so Monsieur Lampire led us in three rousing choruses of “moh GUER ee ack, moh GUER ee ack, mo GUER ee ack.” He jabbed his forefinger at us each time we came to the syllable “Guér to emphasize the accent over the e. Then came a mayoral oration in French as translated by English Bob who came to the town as a guest worker forty years ago, married the lovely Geneviève and never left. Earlier at the harbor he told me he came from England’s industrial north between Manchester and Liverpool. I asked if he had been accepted as a local after all those years. He laughed, “Probably not but Geneviéve’s family goes back centuries so they may let me stay.” He pointed out their house. “It’s the second one in. You should come by for a drink.” I didn’t and regret it. Bob and I would have become mates.

Bob brought Geneviéve to the thank you soiree and the first thing she said was, “We were waiting for you.” with the hint of a smile. I began to wonder how it would be spend a year in Moguériec and to tell the story of life in a hamlet by the sea, of the pounding waves against the jetty, the boxes and spinvers setting out in heavy weather to catch Red Mullet, Sole and Turbot in the open sea and to harvest scallops, oysters and mussels from the shallow waters of Siecke Bay.

Beers with Arnaud Lampire

The raucous thank you celebration at the bar ended with a toast to the American Painters and with Krystal Brown fending off a shoulder rub from an attentive admirer. She kept saying, "No. I'm married. The elderly Romeo responded, "But you're not wearing your wedding ring." Krystal told him, "I'm still married so stop." Beneath the raucous laughter and the clinking glasses I could hear a disgusted Moguériec matron tell her companion "What an asshole." Apparently, some words are universal.

For you sporting types Moguériec is a surfing mecca known for its big rollers and, more impressively, is the site of the World Periwinkle Spitting Contest. There’s a sport you don’t hear much about. The periwinkle, as you know, is a sea snail the size of your thumbnail that's also called a whelk.

I do wonder if the goal of the spitting is volume or distance. And, either way, what’s the world record?

Sunday, August 04, 2019

Keremma on my mind

Chez Pierre in Keremma

Two weeks removed from beautiful Brittany we are still basking in the glow of our time in the coastal hamlet of Keremma where we spent carefree days painting and photographing on the beach, in the dunes and in the glorious towns of the Finistère. We were captivated by the pastel tones and soft light of this pastoral region where artichokes, onions and potatoes flourish and where shellfish are harvested for savory Moules et Frites and briny oysters on the half shell. This part of Brittany is off the tourist trail and we were the only Americans we saw. It was bliss.

Ellen Howard, Paul Kratter and Peggy Immel at Chez Pierre

We are grateful that Richard Lindenberg included us in his list of potential housemates and even more grateful that we said yes within five minutes of being asked. Sometimes it pays to be impulsive. There were twelve slots available to share Pierre Guidetti’s country home in Keremma and, according to Richard, all the beds were taken within 24 hours. We are so lucky.

Pierre’s house is a handsome three story affair built in typical Breton style and, while a relatively new iteration, it has the country estate esthetic that abounds in the area and blended seamlessly with the palatial residences in the neighborhood, a neighborhood of 2,500 cousins according to local lore. It seems that a distant forebear of Pierre’s bought the land and established a commune in which only family members can own the property. There are no commercial services to be found in Keremma save a campground and a windsurfing school. What you will find is the world’s largest family compound. I exaggerate to make the point. As guests of Pierre we were greeted like long lost relatives. Our reception couldn’t have been warmer.

Richard Lindenberg and Paul Kratter at the Saturday market in Plousecat
Duck sausage among others

For a supermarket and other services it’s a ten minute drive to Plousecat, a charming town of 3,800. At the center of town sits the 15th century Les Halles, a timber framed open air market structure and the neo-Gothic Eglise Saint Pierre de Plousecat from 1870. The Saturday Market cannot be missed. The selection of cheeses and sausages is breathtaking. The roast chicken and local produce induce gasps and giggles. I am very hungry.

Ellen Howard painting on the dunes above the beach at low tide

Every day was perfection with daytime temperatures in the low 70s and sweater weather in the evening when it stayed light till 10:30. It made for long days that started with a 7am run on the beach and ended after painting till the sun fell into the sea. I was so enthralled that I lived that life for eight days with nary a nap. I’ve been examining that phenomenon, how it is that one has so much more energy when stimulated by new and special places.

Peggy Immel, Krystal Brown, Vered Pasternak, Ellen Howard, Jan Norsetter, Lori McNee and Tia Kratter above the beach at 10PM
Guevroc Chapel

The dunes above the beach were riven with paths which led from Keremma to Brignagon Plage in the west and Plousecat to the east. Much to my surprise I saw more runners in a day that I’ve seen in Taos in, well, ever. Nestled in the shallow dunes sat the 17th century Eglise Guevroc. The first room in the church may even go back to the seventh century as told by Jacques Rosseau, Pierre’s older cousin. To be steeped in that kind of history is a thing of awe.

I can't recommend Brittany enough if you want leisurely days, gentle people and caressing beauty.