Sunday, March 31, 2024

James Iso and the Book of Names

The extraordinary James Iso at Heart Mountain in 2014

Thursday Peggy shared a podcast about a book compiled by students at the University of Southern California to recognize the 125,284 Japanese American citizens imprisoned without due process at so-called internment camps during the Second World War. The oldest, Yaeichi Ota, was 90 when he was shipped to the camp in Arkansas and the youngest, Paul Masachi Masumoto, was born in the Crystal City, Texas camp in 1947 more than a year after the war ended. According to Professor Duncan Ryukan Williams of the University of Southern California whose team compiled the names, “We were going to give people their dignity, their personhood, and their individuality back by making sure we named them correctly in the book and made sure we didn’t leave anybody out, and also that we spelled their names correctly.” The project took three years.

The book is currently on exhibit at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles. It’s in an alcove off the museum’s main lobby where it’s displayed on a pedestal, beautifully bound, and lit like a sacred object. On a thousand pages are 125,284 names to finally be remembered.

A docent flips to the page for Karin Nakahira-Young’s mother Toyoko Toyo Hirai. Nakahira-Young declares “I don’t want to cry on the book.”  She takes a small ink stamp and presses a blue dot next to her mother’s name. The exhibit’s goal is to have every name individually recognized this way. Other than by stamping the book, visitors aren’t supposed to touch it. An old man bent over to kiss the name of his wife who had recently died. Many pages are stained by tears. When I listened to the podcast and got to the part about tear stained pages I thought about James Iso. My eyes welled up and I sobbed. I collected myself and began crying again,

James Iso and Heart Mountain Director Brain Liesinger

James Iso arrived at the Heart Mountain Internment Camp in Powell, Wyoming in 1942. He was 18. Iso and I met at the Heart Mountain Pilgrimage in 2014. I sat across the dinner table from Mr. Iso and overheard him tell the Wyoming Veterans Affairs Commissioner that he had served in three wars. When I encountered him in the museum the next day I introduced myself and said, “Last night I overheard you say that you served in three wars. How is that even possible?”

“It’s true. I served  in World War Two, Korea and Viet Nam but not always in uniform. I started out in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team along with my brother, John. Iso is quoted as saying that he joined the military to “prove beyond a shadow of doubt, my patriotism.”

”But because I spoke Japanese, I became an intelligence operative assigned to General McArthur. We shortened the war by two years by planting disinformation that led the Japanese forces on failed missions throughout the Pacific. The 442nd gets all the recognition because it was the most decorated unit in the war, but we made a major difference behind the scenes, too.”

James Iso and his brother were awarded Congressional Gold Medals in recognition of their patriotism and service to their country. Ronald Reagan appointed him a Foreign Service Officer, a consular officer, and a secretary in the Diplomatic Service of the United States.

Sunday, March 24, 2024

Eddie's Rosemary


As we walked to the Albuquerque Museum from the Hotel Albuquerque in Old Town we strolled along the east wall of the hotel and spied the largest rosemary bush in the Western Hemisphere or so it seemed. As we ogled the 20-foot-wide behemoth a sturdy Hispanic gentleman in a crisp uniform with the name Heritage Hotels on his shirt stopped for a visit. At first our conversation was about the about the huge rosemary plant and how it could flourish against a wall and six inches above a dirt path lined with river stones. We wondered how much water the plant must take. Eddie told us that “We water it three times a day during the summer. I installed a drip system that has valves that spread the water over the whole plant.”

Eddie and his epic Rosemary

We asked Eddie if he headed up the landscaping at the hotel and the Hotel Chaco next door. He said, “No. I’m the number two man. My boss is a younger guy who gives orders but doesn’t do any real work.”

He told us he started landscaping as a teenager in Bernalillo just north of Albuquerque. We guessed Eddie was sixty or give or take. So, he’d been gardening and landscaping for more than forty years. Eddie knew his plants and his pride in his work was palpable. Eddie was a gentleman.

“My wife left me when my kids were little. I couldn’t take care of them and work to support us. So, my folks let me build a little house behind theirs and my mom took care of the children. She was a saint.”

“My mom liked to gamble so I’d take her to play the slots at the Santa Ana Star Casino in Bernalillo. That’s where we always went. I’d take her gambling because that’s what she loved to do the most. One time I had a hot streak where I won $2,500 on the slots and almost immediately I won another $5,000. It was crazy. I always gave her half so she could keep playing. The same thing happened in Bingo, and she got half. She deserved it for everything she did for me.”

He pointed at all the properties nearby that were owned by Heritage Hotels and it was everything in sight. “The owner Mr. Long wants to build another hotel across the street. We just opened The Clyde in the old Hilton downtown. And he owns El Monte Sagrado in Taos and the Inn at Loretto in Santa Fe. He owns a lot of first-class hotels all over New Mexico. We keep growing. He’s the real deal.”

We commented that we knew the properties and that they were the top hotels in each town.

“Yeah. Mr. Long knows what he wants and has the savvy and bucks to make it happen. He wants his properties to be the best. He’s demanding boss but it’s good to be part of something you can proud of.”

As I’ve noted many times in these pages, a first brief encounter can lead to a life story or an intimate snippet. It’s a miracle of sorts. How Eddie went from describing how he cares for the giant rosemary bush to sharing a nugget from his life is a mystery. There was no segue from botany to single parenthood. Yet the most important thing bubbles up to a total stranger. Unprompted and guileless.

It has happened dozens of times and counting.

Sunday, March 17, 2024

ArtsThrive Accolades

Peggy and her Thursday night quickdraw. All of this in two hours.

The unframed wonder.
Peggy and fellow artist Michele Byrne frame Peggy's entries.

Rough Rider, Taos Tipis and Ruedas Turquezas

My little corner of the world.

Once again ArtsThrive was a feast for the cultivated eye. With 335 artworks from 135 artists the annual fundraiser for the Albuquerque Museum was a resounding success and Peggy and I were blessed to be part of it. After five years in Peggy’s case and two for me it was also an opportunity to reconnect with artist friends and collectors who attend every year. I can’t say enough about the handsomely mounted exhibition, the first class food and drink, the music and the professional stewardship provided by Albuquerque Museum Foundation president and CEO Andrew Rodgers, Director of Events Elaine Richardson and Event administrator Erik Parker. They are the very best.

The show is up through April 14. You should take a gander. It's the largest and finest juried exhibition in New Mexico.

Monday, March 11, 2024

The Iconic William Davis

William Davis at home in 2009

At Wilder Nightingale Fine Art in 2016

Bill Davis was the dean of Taos photographers who arrived in our art colony straight from 1967’s Summer of Love in San Francisco. He says he was never a hippy, but I’ve seen pictures that challenge that notion. Photography was Bill’s life. I don’t think he ever did anything else. He was a wonderful writer, too, something for which he was less known. He lived an artful life unflinchingly on his terms.

I don’t recall exactly how and when we met but it must have been shortly after we moved to Taos in 2003. For many years he was part of a photography salon that included Terry Thompson, Howard Green, Cris Pulos, Richard Niemeyer, and me along with the occasional ringer. We met irregularly for ten years or so until it devolved to four codgers meeting for breakfast a half dozen times a year. Of the four, only Terry and I remain. It’s a bitter testament to our octogenarian reality.  Bill will be missed. Two does not make a quorum.

Bill, Terry, Cris, and I had a four man show in 2016. It was called Four Photographers Two Galleries as it was held at Wilder Nightingale Fine Art and David Anthony Fine Art. I am grateful to have shared wall space with Mr. William Davis.

As to photography, Bill left an eclectic body of work beginning with color then mid-century black and white and ending with colorful highly manipulated abstracts constructed on his computer as his mobility declined. Last August Bill had a well-attended, and successful retrospective at the Barreis Gallery. He was surrounded by those who loved him. There are a lot of us. He was faltering physically but demonstrably energized and very much in his element. 

When I saw him two weeks ago, he was bedridden and seemingly asleep. I touched his cheek with my cold February hand. Startled, he grumbled, “Ow! That hurts.” I responded that I thought it would be refreshing. Even in that last visit he was lucid and Bill Davis funny. I left him the most recent copy of Black and White Magazine as I always did. I told him I’d exchange it for a new one on my next visit. 

Sunday, March 10, 2024

ArtsThrive 2024

I’m delighted to announce that Peggy and I are juried artists in the Albuquerque Museum’s ArtsThrive exhibition and sale. It will be Peggy’s fifth year in the prestigious event and my second. For as long we have lived in New Mexico, a requirement to be invited, we’ve been aware of the show because it features some of the state’s most recognized visual artists. To be included in such company is an honor and a privilege. Above are shots from ArtsThrive 2023 and below are our contributions to ArtsThrive 2024. It must be noted that there were six dots next to Adobe at Ranchos Plaza, Fresh Oven Bread and Turn Signal when the final tally was taken, three, two and one from top to bottom.

Adobe Rose

Apple Picking Time

Up at Dawn

Rough Rider

Ruedas Turquesas

Taos Tipis

ArtsThrive, which began as Miniatures and More twenty years ago, is the Albuquerque Museum Foundation’s biggest fund-raising event of the year. This year it will exhibit 350 works of art from 135 notable creators. The event is handsomely mounted and the Collector’s Premiere on March 14 between 6 and 9pm and the Saturday Gala on March 16 from 6 to 10pm are must attend events on the New Mexico art calendar. They are tickets only events. You can purchase tickets on the Albuquerque Museum website.

Peggy Immel, John C. Barney, Sarah Drummond, and Aaron Richardson will be creating works of art from start to finish in just two hours during the Collector’s Premiere. These Quick Draws are a chance to see the process and completed artwork in real time. Peggy was a demonstrator last year as well.

The exhibition will be open to the public from Monday, March 18 through Sunday, April 14.

We encourage you to see the show. It’s one of New Mexico’s finest.

Sunday, March 03, 2024

The Boxed Set Lives

The top of the clamshell box


Artist Statement

The ever lovely Butternut Squash

This is the first time I’ve tried to write two articles for Shadow and Light at the same time. It wasn’t planned that way, but I was torn between two subjects, El Camino Alto (The High Road) and Sketches of Winter Revisited. Then I remembered doing the latter several years ago. So, halfway through Sketches I pivoted to The High Road, as a fallback. I looked back at five years of bi-monthly articles, saw that the first Sketch of Winter was a meager two paragraphs and three images so it seems fair to follow up with something more expansive. And now I have El Camino Alto ‘in the can’ in cinema speak. I’ve got a second nearly finished story in my hot hands.

And after that bait and switch this post is unrelated to either one. I ended last week’s post with a mention of my Sketches Winter Boxed Set at the erstwhile Boxed Set Gallery in Santa Fe 15 years ago. I located the handsome sucker and here it is. Mint condition but for the white gallery gloves which would have added so much.

There are 16 8”x12” images on 16"x20" fine art paper in the clamshell box. The math says that they are $375 each for a total of $6,000. Even I’m impressed. The first $4,000 takes it. Shipping included. And I’ll throw in the missing gloves.

Boxed sets are an elegant and tactile way to appreciate cohesive portfolios. Alfred Stieglitz had it right a hundred years ago. 

I really like boxed sets.