Sunday, July 27, 2014

Abu Ez

“Don't forget me and my family!” 

My friend Abu Ez smiled at me with a hint of concern as I was leaving Luxor, Egypt. We had become friends after a chance meeting along the Nile River. (See my blog: What I Want And More). I had helped him by painting the name of his youngest daughter, Amira, on his sailboat. 

Abu Ez made his living sailing tourists on the placid water of the famous river. We had become pals, and I had been to his earthen home and come to know his family. The home had no electricity, or appliances. The floor was of earth, all four kids slept in one bed, and an ox was brought from the fields through the house to the stable each night.

I have often thought of Abu Ez and his family. Especially since the turmoil in Egypt and through the middle east. I think his circumstances have become worse.

I am going back to see him, in mid-September. I will bring him money he needs.
In exchange for a donation, my fine art prints are available. The money goes toward Abu Ez . . .

Monday, July 21, 2014

More Than A Day

Occasionally, it occurs that a day is experienced so fully, that it seems more than a day—but rather more like three that are condensed by alchemy. The moments weave tightly and seamlessly, full of wonder and excitement, with variation. The mind is exploring while the spirit soaring. I have felt this magic before and it is usually during travel.

Yesterday was such a day. Heidi Of The Mountains and I had drove north into Colorado for a four day sojourn and ended up in Crested Butte, a gem of an outdoorsy town situated in a broad, lush valley surrounded by pristine mountains. In winter it is renowned for skiing, and in summer known as the wildflower capital of Colorado.

To begin the day, we left our condominium apartment and headed to an organic bakery for quiche and coffee. The place bustled with patrons, yet we found a quiet table by a window where we leisurely ate. Then we drove along a river that goes into the mountains. Following the curving path, we found an overlook that revealed the river below and mountains up the valley in the distance. For the next two and half hours we created, making oil paintings while standing in wildflower strewn surroundings with the sun on us and occasional fly bites. Our artwork complete, we clambered down the slope to lay by the cold flowing river on a pebble strewn bank, and let our feet get wet. A beaver dam was only step away. I remembered a spiritual verse: “Cleanse the rheum from out thine head, and breathe the breath of God instead.”

Riding back toward town, the condo-hotel is by the ski area, just a couple miles from the town center. We took our paintings to our room for a review, then napped. Soon, Heidi wanted to shop so we drove a couple miles to where the main street is lined with eclectic shops and restaurants. We walked and I held the dog, Gracie, while she went into boutiques and bought clothing. Plant baskets filled to overflowing with blooming flowers were hung everywhere, and profusions of poppies bloomed along the clapboard house fronts. I snapped pictures.

When the shopping was done, we headed farther up, into the mountains toward a lake, where we parked our car and hiked on a trail up into the primitive and pure alpine terrain. The late afternoon light gave more drama to the breathtaking scenery. We climbed steadily higher, with the landscape becoming more wild and free with each step. To wander off the path was to step into flowers. Although at a high elevation on steep terrain, I commented to Heidi that I felt perfect, without fatigue. The beauty was like an aphrodisiac and remedy. Standing up to my chest in a thick glade of leafy flowers, I felt like a child again in a magical realm of wonderment. I composed pictures and took photos—some will become paintings in the future. 

We turned back and found our car, then headed into town. It is the peak season for visitors, and every cafe was packed. Everyone seemed ebullient, as if just back from exciting adventure; either mountain biking, hiking, fishing, or camping. Our dinner was in a retro establishment called BONEZ, serving a Colorado style Mexican cuisine. Over a big community table in the middle of the cavernous main room hung hundreds of empty white glass bottles, illumined with electric bulbs. 

Sunburned, relaxed and happy, we returned to our room, opening our books to read before sleep.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

A Gem In The Crown

The World is One Country, and mankind its citizens. -Baha'u'llah

The International Folk Art Market happens once a year in July, in Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA. Behind the scenes, teams of people work on the logistics year round, and it is supported by hordes of volunteers. It is truly a HAPPENING—the world's largest exhibition and sale of works by master folk artists. In ten years, over 690 artists from over 80 countries have participated and generated $18 million in sales while taking home 90 percent.

It is truly a gem in the crown of Santa Fe.

I go each year to browse and buy. Heidi Of the Mountains and I buy each other gifts. This year she also worked one day as a volunteer. Also, I photograph the rich diversity of the human family. With 10,000 patrons a day, it can get crowded, but the mood is festive with many of the browsers dressed gayly in folksy style, along with the artists. The artisans are proud, wearing their native garb, and readily pose when asked. They are happy. Each have come to America for a visit and to gain prosperity, all while being loved in return.

“Ye are all leaves of one tree and the fruits of one branch.”
“By this it is meant that the world of humanity is like a tree, the nations or peoples are the different limbs or branches of that tree, and the individual human creatures are as the fruits and blossoms thereof. In this way Bahá’u’lláh expressed the oneness of humankind, whereas in all religious teachings of the past the human world has been represented as divided into two parts: one known as the people of the Book of God, or the pure tree, and the other the people of infidelity and error, or the evil tree. The former were considered as belonging to the faithful, and the others to the hosts of the irreligious and infidel—one part of humanity the recipients of divine mercy, and the other the object of the wrath of their Creator. Bahá’u’lláh removed this by proclaiming the oneness of the world of humanity, and this principle is specialized in His teachings, for He has submerged all mankind in the sea of divine generosity. Some are asleep; they need to be awakened. Some are ailing; they need to be healed. Some are immature as children; they need to be trained. But all are recipients of the bounty and bestowals of God.” -Abdul-Baha

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Orchid Extravaganza

I am developing a special fondness for orchids. I have them in my home, and they are a joy. The blooms grow from stout, leafless twigs, and are spectacular for their form, color and delicacy.

They are often sold in grocery stores, and in garden shops. After blooming, when dormant, they can seem dead, and some people throw them away. I had a few like that and my wife thought they were no good and should be tossed out. But I kept them by my kitchen sink, near a window that only received a bit of morning light, and since I cannot stand dying plants, watered them regularly, until lo-and-behold, months later, blooms re-emerged from shoots arising from leaves. My wife thought I had performed a miracle and re-resuscitated the dead. 

A woman, who with her husband owns a collection of my paintings, recently contacted me to do a commission for her. She wants to surprise her partner with a birthday gift—an oil painting to go in his huge dressing room. We tossed around ideas, and came to the conclusion of a big, horizontal painting of orchids. The piece will be 2 feet high by four and a half feet wide. 

I went around to local plant stores and photographed specimens, took pictures of my own plants, downloaded photos from the web, and then photoshopped them together. The result is the prototype for the painting I will make. 

When my art collector saw the mockup I sent her, she wrote back, “Literally! I gasped! How beautiful!!!!!!”