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

Hammer Toes

Hammer Toes

Know why shoes became such a big deal to me? Me at ten years old cramming my feet into a certain pair of Buster Brown’s long after they were outgrown. I had eight brothers and sisters. The budget didn’t quite keep pace all the time.  In this photo, you can see my hammer toes. So when I say I’m a “shoe freak,” look at poor me, My toes are literally kinky.

It was my intention with this snapshot to infer that they honor feet at Goler, and good shoes are capable of offering so much more than mere protection. They’re symbols of identity, indicators of relative security. Silly as it may sound, evolution is what makes shoes and feet sexy. Combining art and technology for ambulating the body has an universally authentic ring. It’s a primal thing–another explanation for why, “the shoes make the man, or woman, or anything in between.”

This photo also makes light of a rather serious situation, but I did not intend it to trivialize the plight of the street people with this piece. My pose indeed mimics those unfortunate ones asking for hand-outs, with hand scrawled cardboard signs, perched on curb sides, whenever commuter traffic’s at high tide.

Someone told me they caught a cardboard sign holder making so much money the IRS went after him. I think that’s an isolated case. I don’t know what I’d do if I was reduced to begging. I can never just sit around.

The facts are, most people probably only do it out of desperation. Some do it out of habit, of course, others have made a total racket out of it, no doubt. Some beggars are creative about it. There’s a lot of panhandling that blurs the line. One could even argue that street performing, for passing change, is the same vice. More power to the troubadours. If they can get us spontaneously tapping our toes or bobbing to the beat, why not reward them?

Incidentally, no one came up and offered me work in exchange for shoes during this photo session. Good thing too. I can’t take on any more for the time being. I’m in the middle of other projects which you will discover in future posts.

As an artist there are more pressing priorities, in real life, for me, then where my next pair of shoes comes from.  So, when the idea came for the shoot, it began with the sign. I grabbed a random piece of cardboard in my studio, just to get it over with. It happened to be dotted with Christmas colored polka-dots and originally purposed for shipping presents through the USPS. Dot’s are fun. Now how can we make the letters pop on top?

Black tape is one of my current favorite line-making methods for sketching out big, bold figures in the most direct fashion and the least amount of time. If you draw from life, try to sketch a nude in life size with black tape.

You can’t always make tape do what you want, but if you let it do what it can, it’s full of surprises. So much depends on how you aim, fold, peel and tear. Making marks with it involves much more of the body and therefore, leaves behind kinesthetic evidence. This imparts dynamic tension to any text. The folds and wrinkles enrich the bold strokes with black-on-black detail. We can see and feel it. Lovingly piloted, the edge of the tape takes place of a pencil or stylus to establish the font’s pleasingly varied, width and shape.

With slogan and sign in hand, then, it was just a matter of deciding where exactly on the curb to sit. I discovered that spot, not so much because of that big colorful window display, which I wrote about in the last post already, but because of the tiny BUY LOCAL sign in the bottom corner of the window just above my head.

The time of day was another decision. Santa Fe has so many moods depending on what the desert sky is doing. We got there just before sunset. Finally, throwing on the sport coat and tie I hoped would eliminate any inclination to read it pitifully. I have money in my pocket, most likely. Anyone can easily deduce that I’m just making a play for your focus, which will deepen, with time, and end up in the open door and the Goler store.

I had some lean times growing up. I thought I might have to go the homeless route more than once. Thankfully, I never have. Not so far. So the photograph is a sort of celebration of that fact. Even if you didn’t know that about me, I hoped you’d get a laugh out of that decked-out dude with his priorities skewed. If I ever do have to ask for charity, I’ll be grateful for times like these.

Art has many lives. My art is constantly reincarnating and redefining its purpose. There are so many ways I’d like to reach out and connect to others with mine that I haven’t even tried yet. It’s about time.

We will seguey from my years in fashion and my fascinations with displays and shoes, to my past decade exploring sculpture, using indigenous plants and how I am now incorporating them into architecture.

Buy Local

Buy Local

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

 

Global cinema illuminates the web of the collective imagination

12-filmI don’t understand the intricacies of empires and dynasties or nations. Government is really no more complicated than, some like coffee others prefer tea. In order to justify their preoccupation with hoarding resources for the benefit of elites, it would appear that unscrupulous leaders are forever sowing distrust and hatred among the very people with whose freedom they are charged, thereby converting them to slaves. If you study history, it would appear all nations need an enemy in order to unite them. Occasionally, some tyrant will behave in some way that proves he truly does need to be brought down, but if such a figure is absent from the world stage, one is manufactured.

What if there were more sustainable ways, not to mention noble means for uniting disparate nations? Imagine the possibility of each individual in society being able to achieve their optimum potential as they envision it, or the mind-blowing prospect of an entire society, indeed, an entire planet in which each individual is working at their optimum level in concert with the whole. Wasn’t that our heart’s dream before we were indoctrinated by history?

In certain quarters of most countries, there exist numerous groups where individuals are functioning at their highest level and doing so in a way that allows the group to thrive, while simultaneously incubating an environment in which what they are doing invites coffee and tea drinkers to cooperate, equitably participate and flourish. These groups are scattered throughout the arts and sciences and include filmmakers. In every country of the world they are doing what was just described. As with all these groups, not all filmmakers and their crews are achieving their highest potential at all times, but the formula for quantum leap is there, whenever we can rise to the occasion.

With the cell phone revolution and the motion picture medium in full flower, instantaneously vast, highly enriched cultural subsidies are now being circulated at fantastic speed throughout humankind. Judging by its bona fide value to the early 21st-century citizen, digital connectivity renders all other institutions outdated and obsolete. More than words or even figures, motion pictures close the communication gap between individuals and nations, immediately and without prejudice. You don’t need money or education to have your baseline intelligence elevated nowadays. The only requirement is to have at least one good eye.

Filmmaking always was and will ever be an open-source medium. The way that cameras have enabled us to play with time is its own triumph for the human race. Motion pictures put human genius into overdrive. Couple it with the internet and our present evolutionary leap becomes like that image of the Millennium Falcon in “Star Wars” blasting in to hyperspace.

Filmmakers are witnessing, documenting and conspiring in a global dimensional shift that will make the Renaissance look like a beansprout in hindsight. It would seem impossible to quantify all of the tectonic shifts in awareness that are taking place this instant. I am confident that the advent of this easily accessed, ever improving tool for multidimensional communication will open up space in our minds for insights that allow us to outrace our present impasse and relegate its numbing inertia to the past.

World Cinema has led a bona fide, triumphant, non-violent revolution for 100 years. The earliest inroads in motion picture distribution grew into what we now relate to as the information superhighway. The language of cinema is a single, universal, multidimensional instrument for connecting humankind. Currently, its technology is being placed into the palms of more than half of the world’s citizens, turning each one into a potential wizard.

Cinema can be used to make enemies or friends, depending on the intent, but it always dissolves boundaries between past and future. Being able to capture and re-purpose the past in the present challenges all former perceptual conventions as it exposes and dissolves subjective molds and reconciles outmoded paradoxes. Compared to how much it will eventually reveal of our potential to heal, we can’t see or feel it very much yet, but we have the remedy for social dysfunctions with which we were once terminally ill.

With the intention of exposing how completely arbitrary the notion of “the enemy” truly is, the movies I’ve chosen for this next series will all be made by movie makers in countries presumed to be my own country’s present day enemies. The fact that it was necessary for me to distinguish past from present day foes, speaks to the faulty logic of violent conflict from the get-go.

Global Cinema illuminates the essential unity of our collective imagination. People are people. That’s what we see on screen. All of our dreams, our demons and secrets are exposed. The vast majority of people on the planet relate to the same basic characters in the same basic plays, and are fundamentally aligned with the same essential morals in all our foundation stories. Our national prejudice gets eclipsed every time we witness how similar our nation’s are when we watch each others’ films.

First in line, from the Russian Federation, “12” (2009) by Academy Award winning director Nikita Mikhalkov. An opening card introduces this film’s straightforward, common sense directive. “Seek the truth not in mundane details of daily life but in the essence of life itself.”

Open the film on sneakered feet descending dark stairs fluidly. Intercut this with titles of men’s names and numerals gaining in value flashing up alongside them from one to twelve. The steadily descending footsteps contrast with the crescendoing series of digits, in stark, edgy graphic grit, assigning the order of names of principle cast in relation to where in the jury they sit.

A simple but brilliantly stylized intro; twelve being such a number that forever courts mystery with there being twelve tribes and twelve disciples, twelve houses of heaven and Zodiac signs, besides beaucoup other permutations which this masterful sequence draws upon. This hooks us way down deep. That and the enticing possibilities behind any dozen men in any scenario when they finally align. This masterful first few minutes proclaim, if these twelve blockheads can agree on one truth, then anybody can.

Twelve is a superior high-quality composite number, according to Wikipedia. It’s also described as an abundant, a superabundant and a sublime one, as well. Twelve is also the kissing number in three dimensions, I hear tell. Swell! Any title with the number in its title evokes the tolling of month and year. Take our present day calendar, for example. I don’t know about you, but my ancestor’s math got hip during the 12th century precisely when Arabic numerals gained their grip. There’s another example of cultural exchange leading to quantum leap.

12th-ccentury mathematicians, 21st-century makers of movies; we’re talking about aligned groups of folks, from all different walks that have paved their way out of mass manipulation while dedicating their efforts to the collective liberation.

Now lets watch the movie “12” and reconvene here in a few weeks to discuss details.

Costs of Conformity

12 Better blade“But what can be done when mercy has a greater force than law?” This question opens the movie “12” (2007) by Nikita Mikhalkov.

In “12,” a dozen middle-aged white men in a grade-school gym debate and pontificate regarding the fate of a Chechen youth. Meanwhile the accused hunkers down in a dim, cold, concrete stronghold.

For the sake of a smooth transition, since we’ve talked at length about Tarkovsky, there is plenty evidence of his influence in this movie. Note the way that Mikhalkov’s film idles on nature in the beginning sequence, encompassing a bicycle ride in the Russian countryside  and an official holding forth from a dais, inexplicably situated in the same backdrop. The succeeding image of the rider’s mother, surrounded by greenery in a meadow, is highly reminiscent of scenes from Tarkovsky’s first film, “Ivan’s Childhood” as well as his third and fifth films, “Mirror” and “Nostalghia.”

It is no surprise to find similarities the works by these two directors.  In addition to being Russian, they can both claim Michael Rhomm as their film school mentor. The utilization by both directors of music by Eduard Artemyev rounds out the comparison. You may wish to refer back to the support material on the DVD of “Solaris” to reacquaint yourself with Artemyev.

In case you have not watched this movie yet, this film is a master class in cinematic efficiency. The gag with the model train horn, for instance, demonstrates how easily twelve men can be moved in one direction, on the spot. Yet how scattered they become when logic’s introduced. Why should such a fine tool as reason be so divisive? Because, with it, we can so easily mislead ourselves.

To begin with, the jurors are put on lockdown, which does not go down entirely well with all. The director cleverly intercuts this segment with the incarceration of the young Chechen in his holding cell. As the captives settle down into their respective confinements, yet a third captive is introduced. On one wall of the gymnasium, caged in iron bars three feet off the ground, stands a piano, still and silent, a protest for the way that a jail cell squanders human potential.

Over the course of the jury’s proceedings, two of the twelve men are compelled to play the incarcerated instrument despite the inconvenience of stretching overhead to the max, between bars, to caress the keys. This multi-tasking imagery can’t help but ask, if brilliant concertos can be coaxed from eleven octaves, then why not at least a crude harmony from a dozen average Ruskies?

I’ve not yet looked up the song titles those men are actually playing. They are undoubtedly significant. The metaphor develops even further, later on, when the action cuts abruptly to a different piano going up in flames after a firefight. It evokes Tarkovsky once again, but more to the point, what a heavy metaphor for how punishing a fellow human being in our society is a bit like burning a piano for some music that was played on it.

Savor the sublime testament in favor of Mercy this passage exudes. We are all like pianos, to some degree. Are we not all practiced on by society? So, can we be entirely responsible for the sounds we make?

With typical Slavic wit, it is a scientist, in “12” who floats the only “not guilty” vote in the beginning, throwing apathy’s gyre off kilter and it is an artist that holds out for the guilty charge to the bitter end. Ironically, after the others become convinced of the Chechen’s innocence, they must reconsider their verdict due to potential ill consequences the others previously neglected to fully comprehend. The accused may be innocent, but he’s safer in jail than on the outside, where he’ll most certainly meet a violent end.

The script for “12”  is impeccable. When one thing moves, everything else does too. Besides those eighty-some ivories mentioned before, there also flies one tiny sparrow and a duo of contradicting blades. Even so, for better or worse, this story’s arc is mostly cranked by verbal escapades.

Mercy versus judgment and the script exploits a wide range of emotions in the space between. The confrontation is heightened in the way the action is staged. The camera’s constantly prowling up, down and around the long, narrow table. I prefer less talky films usually, with the assumption that moving pictures were made for more than just recording history and lit, but the cinematic mastery practiced in this movie unfolds all its deeper mysteries.

Contempt and jealousy alternate with bouts of shame and conscience. The balance of prejudice and self-doubt are re-sifted each time a juror recasts his vote. Condemnations and true confessions compete, low murmurs and high pitch rants may fluctuate, but the tension ramps steadily as each actor riffs on themes of guilt and self-hate.

Cut back to the hole where the Chechen boy’s fate methodically unfolds. His jail-bound pacing to-n-fros turn into an ethnic dance, we saw him engaged in before; in front of some soldiers, when he was a boy.

He’s hot-footing now, not to impress us but to keep alive and dancing without the benefit of actual blades this time. That’s not the point and never was. Witness how the whirling roots his frame and sets his spirit in flight. Could there be a more apt representation in that moment for a universal spirit that unites?

I was dismayed when a friend of mine recently told me that the director of “12” has become a right-wing bully in his country. I’ve never been to Russia and I don’t tune in that station, nor can I presume to understand the country’s language or customs. I barely have a sense of  Russian history, so don’t take any of this as firsthand but, for a great director to become more a part of the problem than the solution, I find that hard to understand.

Admittedly, I have researched very little. Reports in Wikipedia and IMDB are too vague to draw conclusions. I’ve watched his movie again and again though and I think it simply can’t be true. A person who manipulates with hate over the public air waves would never be the same as the one who exhibits such respect for humanity on the international cinema scene. But in huge, complicated countries such contradictions sometimes do occur. Despite the puzzling news, we’re going ahead in our analysis with “12.”