Sunday, November 23, 2014

Between The Eyes

While preparing to show photographs at an exhibition, I have come across pictures I took in Kashmir. They are among the finest in my collection. Something marvelous must have been occurring that day while I visited the remote highlands of northern India near the Himalaya Mountains. I was in a village that held a loosely clustered group of maybe a dozen families. The autumn weather was getting colder each day, and from what I learned, the people were planning to leave and go to lower elevations before long.

I had set up an easel in a communal gathering place in the midst of wooden homes and started an oil painting. Folks came around to watch, while a wood fire blazed. Especially the children were entertained. Several times, I stopped to take pictures of them as they watched me. Although I was not using a tripod or posing my subjects, a remarkable clarity and beauty came through the lens and as the shutter clicked, all the elements were in my favor. The pictures came out superbly.

I never tire of looking at the faces. They are bright with natural goodness and show a rugged lifestyle close to the earth. The confused, glazed look of modern life is absent, and instead, candor and curiosity are apparent.

On closer inspection, I see that between the eyes, on the brow of some of the young people, a slight furrow exists. They seem intense in looking at me. What is this concentration that gives depth of expression to their face? It is a forthrightness that lets me know that I am being watched as much as I am watching. 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Go With The Magic

A current of cold air has swept down from the arctic to announce winter has officially arrived in Northern New Mexico . . . and is here to stay. Snowflakes are falling and a blanket of white covers everything. It happens every year, and for some it is almost unbearable, but for others, it is magic. I go with the magic. 

A few photos to share the mood . . .

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Patrick's Light

A young man with something wrong and a big spirit, he filled the corner of the restaurant with an ebullient gayety and light. He seemed too open and forthright, unaware of his disability. I was working as a waiter while trying to get my art career going and for a moment, we looked at each other, and he positively gleamed. Later, another waiter remarked privately that he noticed something unusual in the young man—almost pitiful. On closer observation, the fellow could not use his right hand, and lacked full brain function . . . as if damaged very early on in life.

Kathleen and Patrick, circa 1967
Later, to my surprise, I learned that this person, Patrick, was the brother of the young woman I was marrying, Kathleen. The marriage lasted five years and produced my daughter Naomi, who died at age nineteen and whom I wrote a book about; A Heart Traced in Sand, Reflections on a Daughter's Struggle for Life. And now, just over a week ago, Patrick died at age 69.
A couple weeks ago, when I learned Patrick was in the hospital in critical condition, I was surprised, and then after he died two days later without many friends or family, I offered Kathleen to write the obituary. It appeared in the newspaper, and a small but interesting group of people showed up at the graveside memorial when Patrick's body, in a simple wood casket was lowered to its final resting place . . . only a few yards from Naomi's grave. 

Among the comments heard from mourners, a simple thread of testimony developed; how Patrick's unassuming sincerity, humility, and lively good humor meant a great deal to those he touched. A former Santa Fe City mayor was present, and remembered how Patrick would often arrive unannounced at city hall and walk straight in to the office with a big smile to say hello. This was when he had a job standing on a nearby street corner selling newspapers. The local paper he sold ran his obituary for free. Another man at the ceremony, a fellow paper vendor, was hit by a car, and when Patrick, who never drove a car, showed up at his bedside, he asked with surprise how he had arrived at such a distance in the dark. “I walked!” 

Another man tearfully remarked that Patrick was the truest human being he had ever met, and had a special inner light. And to this, I added, “Unlike most people who's light flickers on and off depending on if they are happy or sad, frustrated or angry, Patrick's light was always on.”
Patrick lived alone all his adult life, and when his cousin, a lawyer in nearby Albuquerque who arranged the funeral, was cleaning out his apartment, she said that among the memorabilia, were volumes of notes, written on scraps of paper—sometimes paper napkins—detailing the days events when he had been out walking and in stores, including the hour. Especially, Patrick wrote about people he met, friends and strangers, and noted them and how they touched his life. 

Now Patrick, I am writing for you, to say, you touched my life too.

This is the obituary I wrote:

Patrick White, age 69, passed away at St. Vincent Hospital, Wednesday, October 29. He was born in Panama, August 18, 1945, and came to the United States with his mother and sister in 1968—first to Florida, and then to Santa Fe in 1972. He was born with disabilities and did not finish high school, completing the eleventh grade. During the past two years, he took courses to get his GED but couldn't pass algebra.
Patrick worked as a janitor at De Vargas Mall and Paper Tiger, before working as a New Mexican newspaper street vendor.
Mr. White was a true lamb of God, without negativity, anger, or ill will. He was cordial, genuine and friendly with everyone, and had a child-like innocence that uplifted the people he met. He did not drive a car, so could often be seen walking in Santa Fe. He never had material riches but in spirit he was always full—never complaining and cheerful until the end.
He is survived by his sister Kathleen White of Santa Fe.
Graveside services will be held on Monday, Nov. 3 at 10 a.m. at the Santa Fe Memorial Gardens at 417 Rodeo Rd.  

Sunday, November 02, 2014


I wondered if I could draw the figure—it has been so long since I last was in a drawing group. I went Tuesday night and the regulars at the studio were surprised to see me. Our model was a young woman named Maribou, who I have drawn many times. Without much effort, the artwork came . . . as if my brain had been longing to get back to it. I have been drawing for four decades and made a thousand figure sketches.

It is the same when I go skiing in winter—I wonder if I will fall on my face going down the slope . . . because I had not been practicing.

This group likes to mix up the poses in short bursts of time during the three hour session. The poses range from 2 - 45 minutes. The participants are evenly divided between women and men. Most models are female, but men model too. 

Some groups follow a strict code of silence during work, but these people carry conversations while drawing; about art and culture, and occasionally personal stuff. I usually chime right in, it is part of the fun.