Sunday, December 29, 2019

Grace Of A Touch

Her words touched me and opened floodgates of memories. Profound recollections from July 5, 1999 and the three days immediately following my daughter Naomi’s dying at age nineteen. The article, Living With Death, by Maggie Jones, describes the social movement that helps families spend more time with the bodies of their deceased loved ones. 
The New York Times Magazine article of December 22, 2019 follows the life of a “home death-care guide” as she assists at the death of loved ones. She enables the bereft to keep a body at home for days longer than usual.

Naomi held out to the last. She had adamantly refused to leave San Francisco, having vowed not to go home “to die”. We had been inseparable during her two year struggle with cancer. Then her lungs failed and when I had to carry her on my shoulder up the stairs to her appointment with a healer for what would be the last time, I told her I couldn’t do it anymore and please, we must return home. She agreed reluctantly.
Four days later she died in her bed in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

As I sat bewildered with my wife in our living room, a friend gently tapped my shoulder and asked if we would like to keep Naomi home for three days. I had a moment of confusion, then said yes, but feared a bad smell. She promised all would be well—and so it was. Our family and close friends prepared her body lovingly, dressed her nicely, anointed and packed dry ice around her. We brushed her hair and created a halo of rose buds around her head. She lay peacefully in her room, amidst flickering candles and fragrant flowers. We were with her day and night. My ex-wife Jean Tobias visited her in the predawn hours and wrote this poem: 

Blessed be the angels sing,
With joy they guide you in a ring,
Like a halo ‘round your head,
Gently tuck you into bed.

To mighty realms your spirit flies,
Through puffy clouds and deep blue skies.
So sweet the peace within your heart—
With God’s love your journey start.

Many others came and went as well, saying goodbye and praying for her soul’s peaceful transition.  I had time to buy her gravesite and then with close family lay her to rest peacefully.

The grace of a touch on my shoulder and offer to help is forever remembered.

A Heart Traced In Sand

Sunday, December 22, 2019


At the corner of a public parking lot on Water Street, adjacent to an expensive downtown hotel is a small stone fountain with patio and stone benches. It is where vagabonds hang out. The parking lot offers public toilets. I have passed by the motley congregation many times because my little gallery is in a building nearby. They don’t harm anyone, but sometimes show signs of mental instability—talking to themselves or shouting. They are disheveled, unkempt—mostly men, but sometimes females are in the midst. 

It would be easy to write this band off as vagrants and ne’er-do-wells. But something remarkable happened not long ago that confirmed the fact that we cannot judge people.

The circumstances involved my wife Amy. She said, “I work downtown, but park at the free Capitol lot and walk the blocks to the Plaza. I was schlepping several items and as I approached Water St. Parking lot, I set my bags down to rearrange them for easier carrying. I was running late . About an hour later, I wanted to make a phone call , but discovered my purse was NOT anywhere in my possession. I had gone to the bank prior to coming downtown and had taken out 600.00 to purchase tires for my car. My wallet contained all my credit cards and I.D. ...I was horrified. I ran outside to Water St. near the lot—the last place I recalled seeing my purse. I realized the odds of it lying there were 0 to none. Three homeless men were sitting near the area. At first glance, my heart sank. I asked them if they had seen a blue purse, which I may have left near the place where they were seated? "Why yes, we took it to the shop across the street for safe-keeping." I ran into the shop, and after a brief Q and A from the clerk, I had my purse back! Not one cent was touched. All cards and ID were there. The phone, too. I crossed the street and gave them each some cash in thanks. One replied, " People don't acknowledge us as human, when actually...We are gentlemen.”

I spoke with two of the fellows, Leaton, in the picture above, and Robert who said he found the purse. "I was startled seeing all the 100 dollar bills! I am not interested in a reward or recognition." 

There is love abiding in these beings, though it may not be apparent at first glance.

"…consideration shown to the poor is one of the greatest teachings of God."

"Join yourselves to those who work for the poor, the weak and the unfortunate; this is greatly to be commended." – Abdu’l-Baha

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Light and Dark

Shopping is not at the top of my list of pleasures. Nowhere close. The other day Amy and I came out of a department store at sunset and the sky was ablaze with fiery light in a spectacular way I seldom see. I was elated for the sight yet remorseful I had been inside. A miracle sky and my camera was not at hand. The mall parking lot view was not great but I took a picture with my phone. 
On the way home, I ruminated as if I had gone fishing and the “big one” got away. 
Buying pants and a shirt with Amy was fun and then getting her leggings that fit. But that could be done anytime. A striking sunset is rare.

The drama between earth and sky is always greatest at sunrise or sunset. Clouds are necessary to make the best poetry. They dance on fire, proclaiming the dawning day or the approaching night. I am not an early riser. Sunsets are what I watch. Santa Fe, New Mexico has great unobstructed skies with clear light and just the right conditions for plenty of dramatic sunsets and sunrises. I have studied them for decades and made many paintings and shot myriad photos.

When my daughter Naomi died at age nineteen, the drama of light and dark became more poignant for me. 

When we want to hold this beauty we realize it is fleeting and ephemeral.

It is true for all of life. 

Another blog about sunsets: Drama

Sunday, December 08, 2019

A Reason To Celebrate

"Santa Fe Winter" oil on board, 6 x 6 inches, by Steven Boone

It is nice to have a reason to celebrate during the darkest days of the year. Amy has a stack of presents wrapped and ready to send to her sons and their families. I used to do that at Christmas but stopped years ago. My children became adults, I became single and my parents died. My religion is Baha’i and it has its own holy days.

Hand painted gourd by Amy Cordova y Boone

Neither of my parents had a religion. Growing up, my family always observed gift giving traditions but not the religious practice or commemoration. We were poor and lived in a tenement building in Chicago. My father worked several jobs to support his wife and five children. When Christmas came around, my mother would make popcorn chains to decorate the tree. Gifts were meager. But Santa Claus would show up at the door Christmas morning.

Ralph Caprio was the best friend of our family. A few years younger than my dad, he always worked alongside my father professionally. He came from Italian immigrants who were close knit. A confirmed bachelor, he loved us Boone kids. I can remember on Christmas morning a knock at the door. My father answered and there he stood, arms full of gifts. “Ralph!” All the children shouted, and he came inside beaming with gladness and basking in warmth. His presents were always the best—better than my parents could afford. For years he was the Santa Claus in our house at Christmas.

My father has passed away, but Ralph will see another Christmas day this year in Chicago. About ten years ago he began going by the name Raff. I am forever grateful for his generous presence from the beginning of my life. Happy holidays Raff!

Sunday, December 01, 2019

Touched By Magic


An ineffable feeling greeted me upon returning home to Santa Fe. Yes, my work responsibilities are coming at me again and the weather is freezing. Yet I have often felt charmed, as though touched by protective magic. 

The three weeks with Amy on the Big Island of Hawaii relaxed me and stimulated my imagination. Reflecting on the excursion, Amy and I agree it was governed by SOUL. On a cellular basis I felt in relationship with the vast Pacific Ocean, swimming and playing in it, seeing its awesome expanses and feeling its power. The island is quite complex. Volcanoes rose from our feet, dry coastal areas contrasted with tropical seasides, black lava fields stretched for miles and lush coffee plantations offered some of the worlds best coffee. Indigenous original people kept ancient traditions intact and transplants mixed in to Island life, creating unique flavors. 

I told Amy in advance that we needed three weeks to get “the feeling.” I know from experience that the first week is spent decompressing and adjusting. 
After Hawaii we turned up in Los Angeles and then Santa Barbara (see A Heartbeat). 

Arriving home in Santa Fe late at night, snow crunched underfoot and the first thing we did was turn the heat up. It felt good to be in our house amid our familiar and cozy surroundings. And then the feeling of being blessed came, and it has come often since.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

A Heartbeat

Hawaii is about 2,300 miles at a distance now but just a heartbeat away in our mind and heart. This is what experiences do when they enter our psyche. They abolish time and space and become immortal, i.e. they live forever in the vault of memory. Now I am very happy to have the last three weeks immortalized within. 

As Seals & Crofts sang in their song, “We may never pass this way again.”

My earthly existence has not been all roses. But I know that when I fully experience life unfiltered, even when it feels unbearable, it is better.
We are writing the book of our lives as we go along.

When we landed in Los Angeles friends took us in. We toured around together and visited the famous Laurel Canyon—of movie, artist and musician fame. Then lunch on Sunset Blvd, and an afternoon at the Getty Museum.

Now we are in Santa Barbara. My two brothers live here. The town has many memories for me. I lived here at one time, and my parents had a home in Santa Barbara for thirty years. My daughter spent some of the last months of her life here—with me beside her.

Today after a family breakfast we went lawn bowling, then I took Amy to see the home my parents lived in. It is close to the Old Mission, so we visited, then walked to the rose garden across the way. Remarkable that roses are blooming. The most fragrant we decided upon was called Peace. 

Meanwhile back in Santa Fe it is snowing. We will be there tomorrow. 

I have to learn to live with shoes on my feet again. 

Sunday, November 17, 2019

A Path of Flowers

I like having flowers strewn around. Here on the Big Island I notice that when I come out to my car it is bound to have a colorful  flower dropped on it. Walking on a path, flowers are on the ground. 

When we arrived at our bungalow on a little farm in Hawi on the north coast, we passed through a row of hibiscus trees. Each time we came or went, flowers were falling upon us or the ground. Like a wedding. 

And so too we have found people on the island who are gifts. Many strangers have been charitable and gracious with us. 
Also, Amy and I are both Baha’i and as it is a close-knit international community, Baha’i’s on the Big Island have been sure to see that we meet the right people wherever we go. This has been like the unexpected showering of flowers.

The angels get involved too! 

Driving between towns on the way to new accommodations, we stopped before noon to shop for necessities and have coffee. Earlier, we had been on a arduous hike down a mountainside to a secluded beach and then back up. In the parking lot at a drug store in Waimea, I changed shirts, taking off my expensive sunglasses and then forgetting I put them on top of the car. After the drug store we went to Starbucks for coffee and then to a Natural Grocer for supplies. 
About two miles out of town we had to stop. I looked for my sunglasses but they were not to be found. We pulled off the road and looked everywhere. I have lost these glasses before (that’s why I don’t buy expensive sunglasses. I end up losing them). We discussed just letting them go but Amy insisted we go back and retrace our steps. I was dismayed a bit at the hopelessness but went—with no luck. The last place was the drug store. Giving up, we drove out of the parking lot and headed out of town on the highway. After about a quarter mile Amy yells, “Stop here, that man just picked up your glasses and is getting back in his car!” I managed to pull part way off the road. “Did you just find sunglasses?” The old man in his crumpled, rusted car said, “Yes”, holding the glasses in his hand. “Those are my husband’s. We have been driving around looking for them!” “Well, here then” he said, “better pull off the road.” Traffic had stopped behind me so I pulled over and Amy retrieved the glasses, thanking the man profusely.
I had my glasses back, a bit scratched but we were both incredulous that I had them at all. We found them in an odd place on a busy highway in the hands of a stranger, just as he picked them up. The timing had to be absolutely perfect—down to the last second for this to have happened.

I pray often and commune with angels. And my wife has a knack for finding what is lost. She calls herself the “Finder of things.”

Another beautiful flower dropped at our feet.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Slipped Away

I knew that I would become very lazy in Hawaii. Sure enough, within a few days of balmy, hot air, salty humidity, crashing waves, immense ocean all around, chirping birds, insects, myriad flowers amidst lush vegetation—all my ambition to work sort of slipped away.

I have managed to make a couple paintings, write, and take plenty of photos.

It is very pleasurable to be with Amy as she experiences Hawaii for the first time. She appreciates the magnificent ocean from the shore, just getting her feet wet on the beaches and maybe splashing in the shallow waves. Amy almost drowned twice in her life and does not swim.

I swim, but the Big Island is mostly rocky coast. Nonetheless a few very good beaches are to be found and I have relished the water and surf. Both of us have had bloody gashes from slipping and cutting our hands on rocks. I was surprised at how quickly mine healed. I had thought I might need stitches. Salt water speeds healing of wounds.

We explored the Kona region for nine days. That is the middle of the western coast and relatively dry. The best beaches are on this side. Now we are at the far north of the island, staying in a cottage on a small farm by the town of Hawi. We will be here for five days and then follow the eastern coast south to Hilo—the rainiest city in all of America.

Amy is passionately involved in culture and all things native. We went to an international Hula competition at the Marriott Waikoloa Resort along the coast between Kona and Hawi. I was surprised how many Japanese were present. It seems hula dancing is very popular in Japan. About a third of the groups performing were from there.
 The ladies in the audience wore corsages of fresh exotic flowers pinned in their hair. A woman sat next to me and I was intoxicated with the scent of gardenia, plumeria and ginger.

"Hula is a dance that is completely unique to Hawai’i. Although in these modern days it is often performed to entertain, in ancient times hula played a critical role: to preserve and perpetuate the stories, history, culture, and traditions of Hawai’i. A hula dancer visually conveys the meaning or story behind a particular chant or song." See more: Hula

 I am posting a video from YouTube of what it looks like at a competition.


And women:

Saturday, November 02, 2019

The Big Island

Aloha, mahalo, hula and humuhumunukunukuapua’a. Those are the four Hawaii words I know.

We have just arrived on the Big Island, at Kona. I’ve lived on the islands numerous times while Amy has never been before. To her credit, she knows more Hawaiian. A week before we were to leave, a book arrived in the mail—the Hawaiian dictionary. Now she is teaching me words.

Yesterday I wrote my first entry in my island journal:

It feels good being back to Hawaii. Our bungalow in Kona is sweet. It is back of a home high on a hillside facing the ocean. Can’t see much from our windows because we are in a backyard surrounded by lush vegetation. The place is private and clean. I like the sounds of birds and unusual rich smells of earth and flowering things.
Today we found a quiet beach, Kaloko-Honokohau. It is part of a National park which protects remains of dwellings of original people. It has many sea turtles. 

Once in the water, I had the luscious feeling of not wanting to leave. Amy does not know how to swim, but I enjoyed seeing her in her bathing suit and coaxed her into a a wonderful protected cove where the water was not over her head.

As I swam and floated, looking out to sea and the endless horizon, I realized the vastness of water—then pondered upon all the souls who perished on voyages when they became lost and lacked water. This led me to think of a metaphor of countless people who have all the water of life they need, yet are thirsty.

Humuhumunukunukuapua’a is a reef trigger fish.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

The Secret

 “I want to be inside your darkest everything.” -Frida Kahlo

The idea for making a painting of Frida Kahlo (Mexican, 6 July 1907 Р13 July 1954) came to me after I watched the movie of her life; simply called Frida. Mexican-American actress Salma Hayek played Frida and the movie is brisk, engaging and colorful. I watched it at home with my wife Amy Córdova.

Amy and I recently visited Mexico City and went to places that Frida and her husband, Diego Rivera left an indelible mark upon. Rivera has immense murals in various places in the city. Kahlo’s family home is now a museum.

One of the highlights for us was visiting Museo De Arte Moderno, and seeing a seminal work by Kahlo, called The Two Fridas. It is a big painting—almost six feet square. To stand in front of it is almost breathtaking. Kahlo’s fame grew rapidly after the 1960’s and now this artwork is iconic.

I researched Frida’s work and chose a painting she made early in her life, just before her terrible accident that left her crippled and in pain. It is called Self Portrait in a Velvet Dress. She made it in 1926 when nineteen years old. I copied it exactly and then put in the skeleton, as if embracing her and whispering in her ear, or about to kiss her cheek. It symbolizes death that speaks to her.

Just before she died at the age of 47, she wrote “I hope the exit is joyful and I hope never to return.”

At the top:
 "The Secret" oil on linen, 24 x 30 inches, by Steven Boone
Limited edition print available. Click here: Frida

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Good Luck Trolls on St. Paddy's Day

Recently Amy finished a round painting that included an extra-terrestrial riding a unicorn, surrounded by “lucky” symbols. Near the bottom are two trolls, also known to be good luck charms, (see: Troll Doll).

Trolls remind me of an episode from my youth that has always stayed with me. In the early 1960’s our family of seven were becoming upwardly mobile and lived in a lovely neighborhood in Washington DC. I was almost a teenager. Not quite. My father, Richard W. Boone,  worked in the field of social reform and was quite active leading an organization called Citizens Crusade Against Poverty. Mother had begun working as an independent insurance broker. It was decided to hire a live-in domestic helper. Mother nixed any applicants that were young and pretty. The choice was Mrs. Smith; a homely middle aged black woman who came to live with us and took a bus home to a black neighborhood on weekends. Mrs. Smith was treated with deference and became part of our family. She ate at the table and if any child talked back to her they would hear it from father. Her duties were cooking, keeping the home clean and tending to piles of laundry—everything my mother would be doing if she had not begun working as an insurance agent.

In the early 1960’s troll dolls became one of America’s biggest toy fads. Boys as well as girls collected them. I had several. I liked the broad round face, the hair that stood straight up, the glass eyes with the half-wild stare and the gooey feeling body that would bend and spring back. When I started keeping them in a private place in my clothes drawer, the trouble began.

One afternoon I was in my room and Mrs. Smith came in. She made me open my drawer, revealing my trolls. Two dolls were resting gently on their backs looking up at us. They smiled mischievously with their big eyes, resting contentedly upon a pile of clean, folded white t-shirts.

“What are these?” she demanded. I could not explain exactly what they were . . . “Well, take them out of the drawer. I don’t want to see them again! And I am serious!” I was flabbergasted but removed and hid them somewhere else.
A week or so later, after the storm had passed, my little trolls went back to their home in my drawer. Mrs. Smith took clean undershirts and pants to my room, opened my dresser and got a shock. This time she was almost furious with me. “I told you not to put those in your drawer!” I knew this time she meant it and my dolls absolutely gave her the creeps. Secretly, I was happy my trolls had such huge hidden voodoo powers—after all, I had thought them to be harmless pet toys.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Full Of Opportunities

“This world is so full of opportunities that one can hardly keep up with them all. Life is so beautiful; I cherish it and want to be able to see every part of it.”

My daughter Naomi wrote these words in her journal when she was seventeen.  This was at the beginning of her intense, two year struggle with cancer that ended with her death.
As with so many of her thoughts she wrote during that period, they hold wisdom, especially since life turned cruel and painful for her but did not dim her love.

Now, nineteen years since Naomi’s passing, I find it useful and transformative to use the word “opportunity” as a mental concept during activities. Especially in situations that might be annoying or perhaps I don’t relish.

Here are recent examples:

I am sitting at the wheel of my car, stuck in traffic or at a red light that seems too long: Thanks for the opportunity to wait peacefully.
Cleaning debris and trash out of the back of my van: Thanks for the opportunity to do something simple and use my body to make the environment better.
Obey the Baha’i fast, abstaining from food or water from sunrise to sunset for nineteen days: Thanks for the opportunity to strengthen my will and offer my body joyfully to my Lord during these special hours.
Doing the paperwork to file my taxes: Thanks for the opportunity to be organized and see my transactions spanning the last year.
This practice can be used for everything—from doing dishes, to cleaning a yard, being in a crowd, lost, at the doctor—anything.

Almost any occasion can be turned to advantage when we see it as opportunity.  Naomi did. Even her end was an opportunity. Having lost her battle to win the “acres and acres” of life she so longed to have, then suffocating as her lungs failed, she said to a friend who stood behind her wheelchair massaging her shoulders, “I love my body, it has been so good to me.” Naomi took her last moments as an opportunity to give thanks before leaving her physical frame forever.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Go Jump In A Lake

When I go to bed, I always see her—a redhead woman leaping, arms stretched in front, about to splash into a pool of water. She is dressed in white, with white stockings and no shoes. The foliage behind the figure is lush green on the banks and reflected in the greenish water. There is no sky.

I think, “Yes, this is what I am about to do. Jump in the great pool of the unconscious world and drown there for a while.”

The artwork is above my bed. A mirror above my dresser directly across from it reflects the image. My mother made the painting and signed it simply, Chloris. It is titled Go Jump In A Lake.

She died in 2016 at the age of 84.

Chloris Boone, age 27

When the family estate was being disbursed, I wanted it more than anything. To me, it does not get old . . . it stays fresh and lively, telling its story with vigor and gayety, though there may be some darkness in it.

Mother and me

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Sweet And Satisfying

It is a sweet and satisfying ritual. We read aloud to each other in bed each night. Then Amy and I kiss goodnight before sleep.

These are books on the bedside table now:

Baha’i Prayers
Songs Of The Soul, by Paramahansa Yogananda
Leaves Of Grass, by Walt Whitman
Psychological Reflections, by Carl Jung
The Complete Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm

Brief excerpts from each:

“Oh my Lord! Make Thy beauty to be my food, and Thy presence my drink, and Thy pleasure my hope, and praise of Thee my action, and remembrance of Thee my companion, and the power of Thy sovereignty my succorer, and Thy habitation my home, and my dwelling-place the seat Thou hast sanctified from the limitations imposed upon them who are shut out as by a veil from Thee.” 
—Baha’u’llah, Baha’i Prayers

I have nothing to offer Thee, For all things are Thine.
I grieve not that I cannot give;
For nothing is mine, for nothing is mine.
Here I lay at Thy feet
My life, my limbs, my thoughts and speech;
For they are Thine, for they are Thine.
—Paramahansa Yogananda, Songs Of The Soul

Youth, large, lusty, loving—youth full of grace, force, fascination,
Do you know that Old Age may come after you with equal grace,
Force, fascination?
Day full-blown and splendid—day of the immense sun, action, ambition, laughter,
The Night follows close with millions of suns, and sleep and restoring darkness.
—Walt Whitman, Leaves Of Grass

“The manifestations of the spirit are truly wondrous, and as varied as Creation itself. The living spirit grows and even outgrows its earlier forms of expression; it freely chooses the men who proclaim it and in whom it lives. This living spirit is eternally renewed and pursues its goal in manifold and inconceivable ways throughout the history of mankind. Measured against it, the names and forms which men have given it mean very little; they are only the changing leaves and blossoms on the stem of the eternal tree.”
—Carl Jung, Psychological Reflections

“Once upon a time there was a king and a queen and they had a son and a daughter loving each other very much. The prince was going hunting very often and stayed in the forest for a long time, but one time he didn’t come back home. His sister was crying so badly that she couldn’t take it anymore and decided to go out in the forest to look for her brother. After an extremely long journey through the forest she was very tired and looked around and noticed that a lion was next to her. He was very polite to her and she climbed on top of his back and they carried on their journey. After a while they came to a beautiful garden. Everything there was awesome and the sun was shining bright, in the middle was a gorgeous palace. The lion spoke to the princess for the first time: “In this palace you should live but you will be my servant and you will do whatever I say. Otherwise you will never see your brother again.” From then on the princess would serve the lion and fulfilled all his wishes. Once when she was walking in the beautiful garden of the palace she noticed a pond. In the middle there was a little island and on top of it a tent. Underneath the tent she noticed a little frog. The frog turned around and spoke to her: “Why are you so sad?” “Oh”, she said, and told him her torment. The frog replied very friendly: “If you need anything you just speak to me and I will help you anytime and anywhere.” One day the lion told her: “Tonight I would like to eat a mosquito pie. You have to prepare it, but it must be tasty.” The princess thought, where should I get all these things? It is nearly impossible. She then ran outside and told the frog her sorrow. The frog replied, don’t worry I will bring you a mosquito pie. He then sat down and opened his mouth wide, once to the left and once to the right and caught as many mosquitoes as possible. After that the frog jumped up and down and collected wood shavings and made a fire. As the fire was burning, he made dough for the pie and put it over the fire. He replied to the girl, you only get the pie if you promise me that you will chop off the lions head as soon as he is asleep. “No way”, she said, “I never will do that as the lion was always good to me.” The frog answered: “if you don’t, you will never see your brother again and you don’t harm the lion either.” She took all her courage, took the pie and gave it to the lion. “The pie looks very good” commented the lion, sniffed on it and ate it all. As the lion was sleeping the girl pulled out a sword, closed her eyes and took off his head with one blow. As she opened her eyes again, the lion had disappeared and next to her stood her brother. He kissed her and spoke: “You unburdened me from the spell because I was the lion until a girl’s hand will chop off my head out of love.” After that they went together in the garden and wanted to thank the frog for his advice. As they arrived, they saw the frog franticly jumping around looking for wood shavings to make a new fire. As it was burning bright he himself jumped inside. Out of the fire came a beautiful girl, as she had been under a curse as well. All three returned to the castle and the prince and the beautiful girl got married. It was an awesome celebration with lots of food and drinks and nobody went home hungry. And if they are not dead they are still eating and drinking. “
—Brothers Grimm, The Complete Fairy Tales

Sunday, February 03, 2019

I Can't Find Words

Over ten years and there are times that I can't find words for my weekly blog.
None the less, there are 630 now.
Click on the picture for an interesting mosaic view:

Sunday, January 27, 2019


The image, called The Traveler, is blurry. The mysterious human subject is a man but has been mistaken as woman. Strange light and shadow are all around, with golden luminescence falling from above onto the lone figure who is otherwise dark. The scene is absent of color and the landscape is so amorphous as to be almost anywhere . . . including another world.

The image is popular in my gallery. 0riginally a photograph, I manipulated it somewhat in photoshop. I print it on canvas, stretch it on stretcher bars like a painting, and work on it with other materials so that in the end it is called mixed-media on canvas.

To take a photograph is often called, “the capture.” Usually but a split second. I like the term because it describes indelibly recording a moment in time and preserving it for viewing later in the form of a picture. Most photographers are trained in camera fundamentals and techniques, then use fine equipment to set up shots that are esteemed for detail, contrast, proportions of light and dark, as well as subject matter that is universally acknowledged.

Not so this photo. In October 2008 I was living in Kashmir, India on a houseboat on Lake Dal, at the foot of the Himalaya Mountains. One day I set out with the owner of the boat to ride horses in the mountains and trek. The day was marvelous and included a stop in a village where I painted and met locals. On the the way back, as the sun was going down we drove on a primitive road that twisted down along a river. Occasionally we went by homes and people. I was rather delirious with joy, feeling the air streaming against my face, full of happiness for the encounters of the day and all the beauty I experienced. I had experimented with using my camera for shooting pictures that included my movement and the turning of the earth . . . in other words, taking photos that did not try and stop movement but rather used it in the composition. We passed a man in the road. He wore a phiran—a native costume that is like a cloak that goes to the ankles. I leaned out the window, turned back to look and took his picture. A “capture” that took half a second. The moment proved serendipitous for the image has been enjoyed by many.

When one sells, I make another and add different strokes and textures so that each piece is unique and the art keeps refreshing. Prints on paper also are available.

For more on this photo, see: Footprints

For more on Kashmir, type it in the search field at the top of the toolbar to the right.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Eager To Be There

Before Amy and I set foot in Madrid, Spain, I was already eager to be there. It is one of the great destination cities of the world for many reasons, but I hungered for the art in its museums.

I grew up in metropolitan areas, especially Washington DC where there is a plethora of world-class museums. Furthermore, my travels have taken me to wonderful art museums around the world. Usually I am in my hometown of Santa Fe, NM. It is an art mecca in its own right, but this is because of living artists that work and exhibit in its galleries. My gallery is in Santa Fe.

There are three fabulous museums in Madrid that are above the others: The Prado Museum, Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, and Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia.
We went to all three during our week in Madrid. There are many highlights in each that would take pages to describe.

Center panel

Left panel
Right panel
The Prado Museum is the most famous and has the richest collection of art in Madrid. There are always lines of people outside the doors queued at the ticket booths. We bought our passes online and did not wait long to enter. The first room we went in was devoted to paintings by Hieronymus Bosch, ( Dutch, c. 1450 – 9 August 1516) described as a “hugely individualistic painter with deep insight into humanity's desires and deepest fears." A crowd stood in front of perhaps his most famous work, The Garden of Earthly Delights. We were able to edge our way in front of it and stand mesmerized, studying its mysteries.  The painting is full of curious, magical and meticulously rendered imagery and to me, was worth the price of entry if only to stand in front of it. “The inner centerpiece is flanked by heavenly and hellish imagery. The scenes depicted in the triptych are thought to follow a chronological order: flowing from left-to-right they represent Eden, the garden of earthly delights, and Hell. God appears as the creator of humanity in the left hand wing, while the consequences of humanity's failure to follow his will are shown in the right.” -Wikipedia.

Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza is a gem of a museum and incredibly, built upon the collection of one family. When we went, there was an in depth exhibit featuring the work of Max Beckman, one of Germany’s leading 20th-century artists and among those the Nazi’s mocked during the infamous Degenerate Art Exhibition (Munich, 19 July to 30 November 1937). But the knockout that was worth the price of admission was a gem by Rembrandt, Self-portrait wearing a hat and two Chains (ca. 1642 - 1643.) Rembrandt painted numerous self-portraits throughout his long career and this is among his finest. I was impressed by the excellent condition the work is in. Lushly painted in a style that many have copied since but none have achieved, the painting breathes—as though you stand in front of Rembrandt and are in conversation with him.

Another day, from our Madrid downtown apartment, we walked to Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia. It is the “modern” art museum. There, we found one of Picasso’s most famous paintings; Guernica. He painted it in Paris in 1937 in response to a vicious bombardment on a Basque village in northern Spain just prior to the outbreak of WWII. Although the piece is immense, measuring 11 feet high x 25 feet wide (349.3cm × 776.6 cm (137.4 in × 305.5 in), a crowd stood in front. It is absent of color, but profound and absolutely daring—“regarded by many art critics as one of the most moving and powerful anti-war paintings in history.” — “for Picasso: ‘The women and children make Guernica the image of innocent, defenseless humanity victimized. Also, women and children have often been presented by Picasso as the very perfection of mankind. An assault on women and children is, in Picasso's view, directed at the core of mankind.’ (- See article)

Amy and I felt as though Picasso painted our emotions about conflict and its disastrous result.

While Picasso was living in Nazi-occupied Paris during World War II, one German officer allegedly asked him, upon seeing a photo of Guernica in his apartment, "Did you do that?" Picasso responded, "No, you did."