Sunday, March 29, 2020

Furious Sky

This week has been about the Taos sky. Each image tries to capture the magic of brooding moisture laden clouds juxtaposed against bare trees and the occasional manmade element. A photographer friend, a member of my geezer club, has been lamenting the lack of sunshine and that he's not motivated to photograph at all under these conditions. Au contraire I replied.

"Jesus, Cris. The dreary sky is treasure as far as I'm concerned. Give me dank and cloudy every time."

The drizzly late winter, or is it early spring?, sky over the last couple of weeks has led to something that resembles a series. The infinite fodder for this kind of work, I proffered to Daryl Black, a close photographer friend, could keep a person occupied for a very long time. As in forever.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Les soeurs Meunier

Rene, Nany, Peggy, Josiane and Titoune at the Immel rancho with the Sangre de Cristos beyond.

Two weeks ago, we had visitors from France. Well, three who live in France and one who has lived in the States for nearly fifty years, Nicknamed Titoune, I’m pretty sure that’s slang for breasts like tit, tete and teton, Marie Meunier hails from Chamonix the adventure mecca in the French Alps and who came to our shores for the first time as a camp counsellor when she was 16. She lived in Tahoe and Taos, of all things, with her former partner and wound up in New England’s outdoor capitol, North Conway, New Hampshire. That’s where she lives but her heart remains in France. Or so it seems to me.

Titoune, Nany and Josiane

That may be because she comes from a family of twelve siblings, eight girls and four brothers. One brother has passed. With the visit I have now met at least four of the sisters. Titoune, of course, Josiane whose house in Baudinard sur Verdon we inhabited for a month in 2011. I know that because I turned 70 there. Then a few years ago Titoune and her sister Laure, also from Chamonix, stayed with us for a couple of nights. And this time Nany and her husband Rene from Provence joined Titoune and Josiane on a grand three-week tour of the Southwest that Titoune had planned for two years. She took the group on a sampling of our National Parks punctuated by visits with a long list of friends she’s made over nearly fifty years in outdoor adventure world.

Chimney Rocks at Ghost Ranch.

Rene and Josiane. She called it "Superb."

Nany scrambling for a shot of the valley of the Chama below.

It was in North Conway that Titoune started Wild Things, the high-end manufacturer of rock and ice climbing clothing and accessories with her former husband, John Bouchard. When they divorced, she operated the company on her own. We met her when Peggy was a climbing guide at International Mountain Climbing School. The climbing community is small and very interconnected. Friendships forged in that adrenalin drenched world have proven to be lasting ones. 

Today Wild Things concentrates on high tech clothing for the military. We learned that every part of the garment must be made in the USA, zippers, buttons, cloth. Literally everything. And while Titoune has phased out of the day to day operations of the company, she told us that she still does the occasional trade show and, in her words, “I can be as involved as I want to be."

John Bouchard was a specimen, a wild man with a perfect though atypical physique. Wild Things garments were cut for his ideal body. It was like designing a little black dress for Barbie. Whatever the perfect measurements are, John had them. The standing joke was the Wild Things a one-piece ice climbing suit would fit Bouchard but not an actual human being. Peggy and I each have one stowed in the garage. Let’s just say that mine tugs at the waist and bags at the chest.

Titoune remains unapologetically French despite half a century in the US. She is most proud of her roots in the Haut Savoie and of France in general. She tells an apocryphal creation story that goes something like this.

“When God made France, he made it indescribably beautiful. Then he created its unparalleled cuisine. He added the best wine in the world. The finest cheese. He created the lyrical French language. When he realized he’s bestowed France with such an embarrassment of riches he made up for it by creating the French people.” I paraphrase liberally.

Amazingly, Titoune lived in Taos from 1971-73 when she and her then partner operated an art supplies store on Kit Carson Road in the historic district. We didn’t know that till her March visit. When she searched for her old location, she discovered that the space is now a high-end contemporary art gallery, DAFA, or David Anthony Fine Art. DAFA is owned by our acquaintance David Mapes and is managed on weekends by our dear friend Thea Swengel. That’s yet another small world story to add to your journal. Alas, Titoune’s abode in nearby Talpa has turned to rubble. It’s the house where, upon returning from Tahoe on one occasion, she discovered a pack of hippy squatters. That she let them stay is a mystery to me. Though I guess that it shouldn’t baffle me since she’s famous for taking in strays.  

Titoune turned 70 in February. Nany is 76 and Josiane is 80 though you’d never guess it. Each sister is trim and can wear clothes like a 40-year-old. They were as lithe as cats on our hike to Chimney Rocks at Ghost Ranch.

During dinner at our house the first night Titoune told us that Josiane remembers seeing German soldiers in Chamonix and that despite their ominous presence she had her friends frolicked outdoors at the farm as toddlers will do. And speaking of Germans, in 2000 my friend Ian Cruickshank stayed at the Hotel Richmond in Chamonix during one of our annual ski safaris. We learned that the Richmond, the cheapest hotel in the town, had been Gestapo headquarters during the occupation. It was a chilling discovery, one made even colder by its granite walls and brooding lobby. One could hear the echo of glistening jack boots clacking on the tile floor. On one occasion Ian and I were drinking beer in the salon. A blustering troop of Brown Shirts entered the space and ordered us to get out.

Duly dispatched, Ian and I took the stairs to the basement and turned right to ski storage and found ourselves imagining the dank space as a dungeon or worse.

The next year we booked the modest but charming Hotel L'Arve, instead. In those pre-Euro days a ski package including round trip airfare on Swiss Air from Boston to Geneva by way of Zurich, transfers to and from Chamonix and a two star hotel with breakfast and dinner was $865. Those were the days my friends. Those were the days.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Real World

That was me lurking around in the alleys of Taos, New Mexico. I was the guy in the tan raincoat. As is I’m fond of streetscapes and especially of what’s happening behind the scenes where rooflines, wires, conduits and trash cans create intricate forms and patterns. I’m a wire man myself. Not that I shy away from the front side of the back side.

Streetscapes can be the real thing or as shown here can be a facsimile thereof like the small-town movie set on the Warner Brothers lot in Burbank. The rain and threatening made it seem even more real.

Sunday, March 08, 2020

No look what I've done

Last time I wrote about the struggle to choose images for juried exhibitions. It’s a pursuit that came to halt in 2012 when I calculated that it was a purely ego driven activity that took a lot of time, cost a lot of time and psychic energy and bore no fruit save the nominal satisfaction of being able to say I’m in a show in Brooklyn. And sales, well sales sure didn’t pay for the effort. I remember a time back in 2010 that was I was in three overlapping exhibitions during the summer. I do admit it was kind of cool.

Why? you may ask would you even there. Boredom? Desperation? Running out of time?

Nah, the shows are local. One is prestigious and one, the more local of the two, hasn’t had an open call since the last time I didn’t get in.

From the Harwood Museum of Art, the Taos museum that’s part of the University of New Mexico came the call Contemporary Art/Taos 2020 which invites artists living and working in Taos or those have moved away but have deep roots here. I delivered some paintings here in 1963. Does that mean I have deep roots even if I didn’t ever live here? Anyway, it said Contemporary so I chose three images that are both contemporaneous and may even be contemporary.

For the Albuquerque Museum call, formerly called Miniatures and More now called Art Thrive, I went modern, as well. Since Peggy has been in the show, I’ve attended opening night for the last several years and have watched show become more modern. To that end I’m visualizing a new no glass no frame presentation. But lest I get ahead of myself, here and up top are the four I submitted. 

The Albuquerque Museum will hang three images which needn't be from the ones I submitted but have to be in the spirit and style they represent. The Harwood will hang one of the three you see here.

Sunday, March 01, 2020

Alley Cat

I’ve had a thing about alleys and backsides of the historic facades and glitzy storefronts that we normally see. Oddly ignored, the grit and disarray of the rears of buildings are oddly beautiful to me. The gaggle of mechanicals, the twisted wires, junction boxes and meters all speak to the basic needs of life. Unadorned but for the graffiti that personalizes the scene.

And so here are several images of just that, all taken in recent days and every single one was made with an iphone.

As I contemplate which photographs to submit to the two shows I mentioned last week and as I review three years of work I’m reminded that for the second year in a row that among my favorites are ones from the always with me camera in my pocket.

Ton of mood in these suckers.