The Chamisa Creatures are Coming

The Chamisa Creatures are Coming

The likeliest segue that I can summon for this occasion, is to introduce the larger than life fantasy figures that I have been sculpting for the past decade. These sculptures came about out of a need to get rid of some excess boughs.

Every year, for fire safety, I trim the Chamisa bush back away from my house. The loose slash must either be strapped to a vehicle and carted off, or it must be made useful.

Misha 2007

I’m giving the definition of “useful” a pretty broad interpretation here.

However, in another dispatch, we will visit the shelter project we have undertaken since the fall in which we will demonstrate the viability of constructing quality shelter from the same native shrub, for survival through all four seasons, in high altitude.

Many seasons have passed since these native shrubs first began to be transformed into magical allies and indigenous dwellings here. Now, pretty much everywhere you look around this place you’re going to find one. They have accumulated. This is partly because, like the shrubs themselves, of which they are kin, the figures are incredibly enduring. The one in the above photo has stood outside for ten years and looks as good as day one.

This work is intended to engage your magical child. Be the first to invest your personal myth into my 3D image. Or give it a name, in your story, one that only you can reveal. It’s incredible how these figures seem to be real, breathing beings. Is it the landscape itself imparted in the sculptures that imbues them with such personality?

Forces of our imagination will want to always make these collections of boughs and wire into living, interacting magical beings. It’s the same part of the brain that our ancestors fabled in. I am merely cutting a shrub, rearranging it and making them stand again.

So you come across one of these larger than life figures in the southwest lands, which lend such mythological context and you say, hey, is this real, like some kind of spirit god or goddess, ally or totem figure that watches over this place? Surely this must have a magical purpose. What else could explain its existence?

The rest is up to you. For my part, I’m just waging war on weeds.

Well, you can’t blame me. My dog has a lush coat that is prone to snag every type of bract, burr, head-o-goat, you name it, whatever. I have had to painstakingly, remove the cling-ons, one-by-one, on more than one occasion, before I calculated it would take less time, and trouble, to pick those suckers out by the roots from the rubble, than tugging and tweezing it out of my dog’s coat every time he runs through the stuff.

Sometime after a late spring rain, I’ll go out and root out every horehound in sight. The first time I did it this I filled six wheelbarrows. Enough to construct this sculpture. People say it bears an uncanny resemblance to my dog.  

 

Horehound Hound 2015

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The origins of my display work go back to school days when I was first immersed in theater and stagecraft. There I contemplated the possibilities of influencing mood and psychology through the combination of light, sound and visual design.

Then, just out of school, I had a magazine route, where I trafficked in print advertisement for years. That was still the main way people consumed information in those days. I read more magazines during the late 70′ s and early 80’s than anybody else I know. My head was filled with all the stuff. I delivered it for a living. Leapfrog a few years and one or two occupations forward and I landed in television production at Grassroots TV, the nations first public access station.

All this had its way of tuning me in to marketing, mass communications and programming. The fine arts became my scripture. Zoom ahead again, then. For over a decade, my lady and I travelled 20-30 times a year showing our original, one-of-a-kind jewelry and fashion accessories which we designed and hand-made for juried art and wholesale trade shows coast-to-coast. While our art earned frequent awards at those venues, the displays we designed for our exhibition began to receive attention as well.

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Here is one of our “Best of Show” displays from the early 2000’s. We made the furniture out of light plywood and acoustic wall covering. Seafoam was what they called that color. To its fuzzy surface, using the hook side of Velcro, you could stick anything, endless numbers of times. Over the years, carded merchandise covered every surface of those columns and countertops, from the waste up. There are tall, stand alone columns that go with this display which aren’t pictured. You could stick ton’s of art on one, and a full length mirror besides.

Those triangular modules stacked in such a way they made squares. Because we sometimes drove and sometimes rode trains and planes, the display fit neatly into the back of a small cargo van or ten-odd blocks of cardboard. The wall display integrated laddered bamboo canes for hanging our hand-painted-silk scarfs, shawls, vests, purses, belts and jewelry on.

We went with durable, earthy Japanese goza mats, in the background. Meanwhile, we got extra mileage out of utilizing four color pallets from our art designs to organize the flow of the gallery as well as draw attention to the many potentially pair-able sets of merchandise.

For me, art fair booth, like a shoe sales room, or any display window, is like the proscenium stage of a theater or a single shot of cinema. Use it to experiment with ways to convey feelings and ideas efficiently and compellingly. Load either with the most essential information for best results.

Apologies for the quality of the following images. Professional ones will replace them as soon as they are available.

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The windows for the Goler Shoes 2017 Summer season were inspired by the Indian corn we have been growing for the past 3 years in the backyard. In the late fall we typically hang up several dozen red, blue and multicolored ears in my garage to dry. Once dry, you use a high-powered blender to turn fresh kernels into flour. We eat home grown indian corn all winter.

So, I was walking past the corn drying in our garage one day last winter, when I noticed how some of the ears bend at the tip. Before long I imagined  how they could be fashioned to look like high-heeled shoes. I’m combining the food that sustained the natives here in Santa Fe, where Goler Shoes is headquartered, with merchandise that draws tourists from around the world in the 21st Century. The intent is to keep alive the past, while celebrating the present as an ode to the future enhance appreciation of all three.

That became my excuse for designing the fantasy figure that currently hangs in the main display of Goler Shoes in Santa Fe. She came to life so she could wear my high-heel shoes of corn, and so the real world shoes,\ displayed around her, will look even smarter and more sexy than they already do. Let me ask you. What is an more pure object of art than a high-heel shoe?

It all began with those corn shoes. I needed them to look like something nature made. For weeks I mused over what material to use. The answer came from other things that were drying next to the corn, namely sunflowers. Their stems had an ideal thickness, color and feel, with the kind of slight variation that nature makes so pleasing. So I hot-glued a couple lengths of that sunflower stem to a well-matched pair of red corn ears and they strode off into a world of pure imagination.

What kind of creature would wear such shoes? When I got the idea of making a fertility princess, I went mining those sunflowers again for hidden fortune and found her face. The flower I chose had been picked early last fall. It wasn’t immature, but it had a more tender appearance than the larger ones harvested late season.

The Princess herself is waiting for her boyfriend to fly up and fertilize her any moment. She’s both nervous and aroused. The delicacy of the flower’s center conveys vulnerability in her expression, while the totality of it radiates a confident, regal bearing.

There were also some Christmas wreath blanks that were hanging in the garage from last year. I stripped one down to support the bust and arms of the budding monarch. The garden is full of culinary sage. It’s my favorite herb, the leaves have just the velvety flourish one needed to drape a budding madonna’s bosom. Not to mention their intoxicating aroma.

Her highness’s lower stories are decked out in flouncy petticoats. Lot’s of plants were utilized, in fact. I layered on alternating stems of dried fronds in shot-sized coriander, moving up to pearl-like strands of horehound, and finally a graduated range of downy mullen interwoven for her skirt.

Mullen has grown everywhere I’ve ever lived. It’s pelt like surface is light green, broad and inviting. In the spring up high, you can wipe your behind with it, if your ever short of paper. Normally it shoots a stalk and bud two to six feet tall by fall. Happily, mullen and sage both grow in voluminous, velvety tongues. I was drawn immediately at how they recall one another, as friends, tying the upper and lower garment together, like a well-matched costume of the Renaissance.

Her majesty’s soft heart and majestic wings are made of apache plume, a local shrub I have sculpted a lot of fantasy creatures with for many moons. I’ve gotten to know this plant well. Normally, you harvest them for their strength and shapability. During this time of year, however, they grow a profusion of fuzzy, mauve plumes, which soon dry out and vanish on the breeze. It looks like eider down. I took a gamble that those I harvested a week prior to the sale, will last at least a full three weeks in a store. They lend a refinement that would be hard to find in any of the other native plants anywhere around here.

Finally, she is crowned in corn husk, so that from head to toe she shows off the plant’s amazing personality, it’s versatility, and its aesthetic charm.

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Finally, we present the men’s window display. This season’s slogan Step Into Your Personal Myth was conceived of by my lady, the multitalented Phoenix Simms who can be learned about more extensively here, (link to OCC About page, and here (link to phoenixsimmsart.com). Her idea for the slogan came after the mask was finished, which was also her achievement.

I was out of time. I reached out to her for help. I realized immediately I had asked the right person.

Phoenix got busy, utilizing most of the same materials I used to make the Fertility Princess, aiming for something more masculine this time. The mask which resulted impressed us both, at first sight, as something from myth.

I didn’t realize until I reviewed the above photograph, just now, but the chunky pine blocks behind the head serve as neck and shoulders to the face in the mask. That was pure luck, an accident, that the scale was so well-matched.

The effect was quite surprising once I spotted it. It makes the piece all over again for me. With no second thoughts, this blend of word and image speaks to me, on an essential level, while it simultaneously manages to convey an artfully inviting approach to men’s dress for Summer/Fall 2017.

 

Seventh Richest Realm Blues

My initial reaction to “Sequestro Express” was revulsion. I came away with a sense of dead-end dread. After it was over, I had to go search the web for something positive about poor Venezuela. And it wasn’t difficult, especially considering their abundant rainfall feeding the rivers Orinoco and Negro.

The geographic region of Venezuela is the seventh most bio-diverse on earth. What a mother lode of security against uncertain times that is. It’s a gift that keeps on giving. Long after resources run out here, they will flow in earth’s seventh richest realm.

Another somewhat less well-known gem is that the state-run gas monopoly practically gives energy away to the citizens of that country. To fill your gas tank in Caracas costs nickels and dimes. I learned this from listening to the director’s commentary track ( included with some supplemental material found on the “Sequestro Express” DVD). Not that I support the expansion of carbon economies, but for the natural resources be treated as if they belong to everyone sounds fair to me.

Likewise, everyone acknowledges Venezuelans are a country renowned for their physical beauty. This is owed to a particularly richly diverse racial fusion. Caucasian bloodlines make up only about forty percent of its population, suggesting pure white, if there ever was such a thing, is hardly attractive by itself.

A brief Wikipedia investigation turned up another nugget. There exists this bizarre meteorological phenomenon, in a land of eternal storm, at the mouth of a river where it flows into a lake. Nowhere else on the planet, supposedly, does lightening strike so consistently than in this place. Titanic storms resound through the clouds and pound the ground, day in and out , for weeks on end. It must be one of the modern wonders. Who can imagine a more shocking plot of land? So now we have something completely different that we can zoom out to for perspective, to maintain an appreciation of that distant country, whose political ideologies clash so much with the US.

 

Allow me to digress momentarily. I’d like to hit pause and praise the people that help purvey rare and fine films to the public. These are the somewhat invisible agents in the supply chain such as distributors, projectionists, video storeowners and festival programmers. They deserve a fair share of credit for the education we’ve received from watching fine films.

I picked up “Sequestro Express” at Video Library, Santa Fe’s last picture show, where one can still rent movies on VHS, DVD, and Blu-Ray. Its proprietress, Lisa Harris has helped elevate the minds of her fellow humans with her curatorial savvy for over 35 years.

Thanks to her impeccable taste in foreign films, we have spent all summer looking at cinematic masterpieces from Muslims.  Last year we were treated to seven great ones from one Soviet socialist. Another while back we watched thirteen of the finest Sci-Fi movies of all time. I rented most of them from Lisa Harris. Thanks Lisa for the many fine movie-watching experiences Video Library has helped provide.

Getting back to our movie, the three main obsessions in “Sequestro Express” are crime, cocaine, and Caracas. At least on the surface, this seemed like just one more gangster film not able to hold my interest. If you’ve read my posts, you know my threshold for brutality is low. Images of violence toward women are particularly not my taste. Even though I know it is cooked up just for the camera, it still won’t digest.

The scenario in this movie was so disturbing I had to turn it off after ten minutes. It made me afraid this hideous crime that’s recently taken hold in some low latitude metropolis thousands of miles to the south of here might actually be coming to a neighborhood near me real soon. Despite this, I was determined to feature a Venezuelan title this month in this series on films of our enemies, and there turned out to be so precious few from that northernmost South American nation, I eventually slid this one back in to the player and gave it another glance.

We will continue with Venezuela’s “Sequestro Express,” in the next post…

Big Wheels Keep on Turning

“You leave us with the consequences.” Suha pleads for forbearance and calm. Said kisses her then flees on foot, flitting from life, like a moth toward a flame.

“Paradise Now,” is a best foreign language Oscar winning film. Whatever people want to say in critique of the lack of diversity evident in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences annual awards celebration, that this film took away a statue, bears witness what an enlightening influence such an august institution can still have on mass consciousness from time to time.

These films we’ve viewed this summer live and breathe the daily life of the Muslim, none more so that this one. Strip away the wall in the Holy Land, if you can. Life looks surprisingly similar to the average American, shocking as that sounds. No wonder Said’s interactions with his family at home remind me of codes and customs my puritan grandparents practiced in the mid nineteens when I was still at home.

Every film in the past five titles we’ve discussed, acknowledges the ubiquity of traditional ways in the Middle East and beyond. Long practiced, tried and true, certain codes are deeply embedded, but there is a global quantum leap to be made too, ejecting paralyzing agendas.

Materialism is one modern trend, for example, that Muslims try hard to resist in these films. Can we show some respect and not shove it in their faces? You can’t blame orthodox folk for not wanting their sons sporting corporate tattoos on their necks, nor watch their daughters to be strutting fashion runways from the moment they can walk. That stroke of modesty alone should not make them outcasts. It’s hip to be square. It seems evident, by watching these Muslim films that they’d rather not become rotten with the same insatiable lust for stuff in which they observe so much of the first world caught up. What shall we take home from this? The immature response to have would be to make war on them for daring to not be like us. On the other hand,we could stand to reevaluate our relationship to stuff.

Militaries repeatedly keep being deployed here and there to make the world safer for corporations to do business, while often making it more hazardous for the rest of us. One inevitable consequence of iron rule, once it sets in, seems to be, sooner or later it becomes a matter of honor to resist. Much of this has been discussed in previous weblogs on Open Channel Content, such as our series on Sci-Fi. Revolution is like trying to align an earthquake with a hurricane. Mother earth eventually beats everyone. In a world ruled by war, everything is always finding a balance of its own. No one can control it, no matter what. It won’t either be rushed nor slowed down once its been embarked upon, so why be so hasty to be always throwing down?

The endgame of this unsettling tragedy is envisioned unflinchingly, with a masterful tracking shot pushing in, invincibly, like death itself, zeroing in on Said’s transfigured gaze. An explosive chunk of intelligent meat sits there, fit as a flute, in the rear of a bus where he’s somehow gotten himself immersed with a batch of fresh, young recruits. They look like soldiers to us, but in Israel, because of their age, they are looked upon more like first and second year college kids are here; remember, every kid in Israel is committed to serve in the military for two years.

A uniformed boy and a girl sit close together across from Said on a public conveyance. They are flirting. The vengeful, solo, self-crucifixion Said is about to undertake will undoubtedly inflict that budding young romance with the same fate.

Which makes so much sense, since love is the other great treasure Said forfeits along with his life, in this script. If his physical body is his public sacrifice, his relationship with Suha is his private one. As good a reason as any to explain why the last thing we hear on the soundtrack is a girl’s laugh. What could be a better send off and what better way to convey all that Said is throwing away, in that penultimate frame, before the screen goes blank?

 

Lesson in Leadership

According to Wikipedia, the director of this month’s film Muhammad Rasoulof was arrested on the set of his next film and sentenced to six years prison. None of his films have been released in Iran. How frustrating and isolating it must be for an artist to have his work banned in his own country, much less be put behind bars for it. I cannot fathom why any government would wish to persecute an artist whose work exhibits such compassion for humanity.

“Iron Island (2005),  is the third film from Iran in our series entitled Films of Our Enemies. With these essays I declare my interdependence with the vast majority of humans alive on the planet today. Nothing beats travel to foreign destinations, but global cinema offers us deep insight into those cultures and provides abundant evidence of our common cause. Foreign film provides us with rich opportunities to soak up culture. I will use this film to talk about community building and leadership. That alone is reason enough to watch this film, although there are others.

I have heard some viewers of this film refer to the protagonist, Captain Nemat, as malicious. I came away thinking of him as a saint. His keen industriousness is defined by his forthright conduct and omnipotent accounting book. His spiritual dedication and maturity is evident in his instinct for swift resolution as well as his ever-faithful invocation, “As-salamu alaykom.”

The translation means, “peace be upon you.” It must be a peace loving people that imbues their most common personal greeting with that wish. Nevertheless the children in the makeshift school onboard the ship all have to ask who the enemy is. We grown-ups are really confronted with the senselessness of such concepts when children have to be taught in school who the enemy is.

While there is a Romeo and Juliet sub-plot embedded in “Iron Island,” it does not end in double suicide, because the film is not about the pitfalls of arranged marriage. It can’t be the main point.

It does, however, make the position of the story’s hero all the more sympathetic. In judging between romantic impulse and the letter of the law, the Captain is bound by the latter. Just one of many conundrums that confront a true leader.

Captain Nemat is not a schemer or a tyrant. His behavior is never heartless, even at his harshest. His intent is to sustain collective hope. Here is a role model with the responsibility for a lot of folks on his shoulders and he must angle in a number of streams, simultaneously, to fish out enough cash to keep this boat afloat. One gets the impression Nemat could go anywhere and create something fine. His genes stoked him with genius for founding sustainable communities pairing forgotten folk with abandoned machines.

A truly enlightened leader understands the greatest resource in the world is a healthy society. Here’s one that occupies itself inventing sustainable strategies for the benefit of the common good.

That boat is an allegory for sustainability and Nemat’s method, a model for survival. Underneath the shell of that rusting hulk exists a community. Cooperation is in constant ebb and flow.  Its leader is not without flaws and his model is imperfect at best, but the place is way better than no place for the majority that call it home.

The Captain is performing a supreme service. Even so, that doesn’t make their home impervious. When the speculators arrive to take it away, the boat’s inhabitants are grounded. The captain must devise a back-up plan, on the spot, under the grilling gaze of the sun. And like a true leader, so that hope may prevail, Nemat devises one.

The brazen spectacle of predatory speculators, storming the ship like pirates, evicting the its inhabitants and snatching that ashcan utopia out from under them, cranks up the contrast between greed and generosity to its most stark.

The filmmaker projects Captain Nemat as an example of how compassionate leadership can inspire and lead the collective to do its part. No matter how adrift we are or how tenuous the situation becomes, our best hope and the surest way to a sustainable future is on a path of heart.