Thursday, October 14, 2010

Trees of gold

Of all the beautiful seasons here in Santa Fe, autumn is the most beautiful. Colors seem to distill and increase in saturation- strong contrasts of yellow and dark green, softer palettes of lavender, gold, sage, sienna. Fall colors in New England are beautiful, too- the reds and oranges of the sugar maples reflected in lakes. But fall here is breathtaking. From down here where I live, I can see the wide swatches of aspens in the mountains. At sunset especially, they glow. But to really be surrounded by them, you need to drive up towards the ski area, about 15 miles above the plaza. It's about another 2500 feet up, but it feels like more. The road is long, with switchbacks that take you up and up. I hadn't been up there for many years, not since I used to come up and paint up there, just as many people were doing today. That was maybe 15 years ago. Now the altitude and the windy road are a bit much for me, and happily, my friend Tina offered to drive us up there.

I learned today that the reason there are so many aspens in the sangre de christo's is because of a monumental forest fire that occurred around the turn of the century (the last one.) It burned down the fir trees, and the aspens, loving sun as they do, were the first to come back. Eventually, the firs could take over again. Meanwhile, this is one of the largest groves of aspens in the country. Also, aspens are connected by roots underground, so they keep spreading. I had some in my backyard, but they weren't watered and they died. One "orpan" grew in my next door neighbor's yard. They don't really love it down this far, but they will grow if you baby them.

Photos can't capture what they look like. The small coin-shaped leaves flutter in the slightest breeze. So when you're up there you see this shimmering golden sight. Even Christopher Hitchens might call it God's country.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Gringo excursion

Normally I don't like to go to artists' studio tours. This might be selfish of me, since I am an artist after all- but I find it awkward sometimes to walk into someone's studio and not see anything of interest, and then I feel obligated to talk to the person and say nice things that I don't really feel. I want all people who make stuff to feel good about what they make, and well, especially here in this neck of the woods, where there are scads of people following their bliss and taking ceramics and printmaking and book arts and glass blowing and on and on, there is just a lot of not very good stuff out there. So I don't go on studio tours except when asked specifically, as I was yesterday, by my friend Lisa (seen in photo.)

We went up to Pecos, about 20 minutes north of Santa Fe, a small town, very cute, surrounded by lovely landscape. The ride up there was beautiful as you go into forested hilly country and then into a valley. Lisa has a painter friend named Richard Sober who lives there, so we went there first. He had a lot of small landscape oils on masonite all around the studio, which was his large garage and which made me wish I had more room in mine. But then, he's in Pecos. Which, by the way, is pronounced PEH-kohs. Not PAY-kohs. If you pronounce it the second way, you are obviously a gringo to be sneered at. I liked Richard's little paintings. They reminded me of how I used to paint when I was doing landscapes. I ended up buying a small gouache that was framed, and I can't believe I spent the money because God knows I need every cent to try to finish furnishing this house, but I felt like it was a "pay it forward" kind of thing because I did sell one piece in the NY show at McKenzie Fine Art.

We went to one other studio but it was kind of -eh- so we went to lunch. We drove into what I suppose you'd call the center of town. There was a general store and a restaurant, Frankie's Casanova. There was no traffic light. It was a four way stop. Now, back when I went to Marfa, Texas in 2000, it was a really small town, but they had one traffic light. Probably more now. I'm anxious to go back there.

We ate an enchilada casserole at the waiter's suggestion. We split it and it was delish, just enough and very fresh tasting. They were closing soon (it was about 1:30) so we scooted out to check out the general store for tzotchkes espanol, but the store had groceries and liquor and useful things. There were two young girls having a little bake sale in the portico in front. We chatted with them a little. Lisa said it must be nice to live somewhere that is so pretty, and the girls had blank expressions of mild tolerance. We bought a delicious coconut chocolate square for one dollar and wished we had more.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

The not so missing manual

I had heard that I needed a copy of the "Annual Manual" that the Santa Fe Reporter publishes every year. Subtitled "The Locals' Guide to Living in Santa Fe." Happily, they put that apostrophe in the right place. Can't stop reading things with a professor's critical eye.

I learned a lot reading this today. I learned for instance that the average first frost is on October 10, and the average last frost is on May 1. That's a pretty long winter. Average snowfall is 32 inches, average rainfall 14 inches. I think we had about a third of that last night in a spectacular storm which washed away a lot of my street.

There are a lot of interesting display ads. has educational videos about everything "from beekeeping to using algae for food and fuel." More gardening in the desert, ads for waterwise plant greenhouses, and hydroponic indoor gardens. Ads for clay wall installation, bioshield healthy living products, and of course stone. Under the Health & Wellness section (ampersand used) are ads for a dentist who has a picture of a seated buddha, and the text "Not Dental Chair. Seat of Knowledge." Mercury free dentistry, Rubenfeld Synergy training (what on earth is that?) Herbal Medicine, natural skin care products ("Never put anything on your skin that you wouldn't put in your mouth.") There are 20 public elementary schools, four middle schools, six charter schools, three high schools. Numerous prep and Indian schools. A school called "The Gentle Nudge School" and one called "Academy for the Love of Learning."

In the Media section, 16 publications produced here, newspapers and magazines included. Twenty-six different websites having to do with Santa Fe, including blogs. I will be checking some of these out but most of them seem to be whining about what doesn't work in government here. What else is new. Two women are running for governor to succeed Bill Richardson. Neither one looks too appealing to me.

Sports, transportation, museums, restaurants, places to do and get things, all are in the Annual Manual.

Saturday, June 19, 2010


June is the hottest month here. That's what they say. July and August you get the monsoons, but June, just sun, sun, sun. It's been hot, 90-ish some days, like today. In New York 90 is brutal. Here, it's dry heat, but it's still pretty brutal. I heard on the radio the humidity is 5%. It reminded me, oh yeah, we're in the desert. Quite a change to adjust to. It makes sense to do things early in the morning- midday is very quiet. And people get up early here.

I have a swamp cooler and I turn it on usually around 3 or 4 o'clock when the day is as hot as today, which is a thing on the roof that works by pumping water through a fan in some way and blowing it into the house. It's pretty effective, actually. I have to turn it off after a few hours when it gets too cold. Nights are cool and I leave the windows open and hope that I'm not woken up by barking dogs or neighbors getting up at the crack of dawn. Like this morning, there was thumping and conversation at 6:30 AM. I didn't go back to sleep. I thought about how hard it is for me to get up at 6:30 for school- but this morning the sun was streaming in and it hardly seemed early.

Water is the answer to almost anything. When I'm feeling tired or dizzy, I drink water. Staying hydrated. That's the key. When I first got here someone told me to drink and drink and drink. It helped, because I didn't get the usual altitude headache, or at least, not too bad a headache. But I still get lightheaded. You don't realize how parched you are or how hot you are, because you're not really sweating. But you are parched, and you are hot, and the sun is relentless, and so you have to keep drinking water.

When I first got here three weeks ago, there was water in the river and it was beautiful. Now it's dry again and I wish I had taken a photo. It snowed a lot this winter, all the way into April and even early May, so there was a lot of water run-off. They've just about finished the river walkway and I've been running on it in the mornings.

Lots of art world luminaries in town this weekend for the opening of the SITE Santa Fe Biennial. This year the whole show is animation, but they didn't want to call it a show of animation because that sounded like something you'd see on Saturday morning TV. I'll post more about it when I have a chance to spend some time in there. I've been volunteering and last night my job was to keep people from touching the scrims hung throughout the space which hold the screens. It was a cocktail party for the big givers, so no one touched the scrims. I did direct a few people to the restrooms.

I'm pretty sure I saw Shirley MacLaine there.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

So long, nightmare highway

I'm in the throes of packing and my apartment is such a mess that I decided to write a post on my blog before diving in to more work. I had a disastrous day yesterday. It started out fine and I was getting my car ready to be picked up. The trucker, Arthur, who was coming to get it, is the same one who brought it to New Mexico last year and also brought it back here. He lives in Brooklyn and we've kind of gotten to know each other and I trust him, so I've tried to work my schedule around his. He has a new rig and brings cars back and forth between New York and California, back and forth.

I live near a major New York highway, the Brooklyn Queens Expressway. It's officially Interstate 278 but everyone calls it the BQE. It is truly the most hideous road ever. Always jammed up, big trucks spewing exhaust, crazy vans cutting in from one lane to the other. It's woefully inadequate for today's traffic, twisting and turning with lanes coming and going, connecting with the Brooklyn Bridge and with the Verrazano to New Jersey. The photos on that page I linked show it probably at four in the morning when there was no traffic. The BQE was one of the projects pushed through by Robert Moses who probably did more damage to the five boroughs than anyone has since the Dutch bought the place from the Native Americans. The highway cut right into Brooklyn and Queens neighborhoods with the force of a cosmic cleaver- these neighborhoods have never recovered and have to live with the highway and its noise forever. You can imagine having a giant freeway put in in front of your nice little row house. And to get from one side of the neighborhood to the other you have to walk under this giant monster highway- a psychological barrier that stops a great deal of interaction within the same few blocks. It's interesting that Brooklyn Heights, with its more involved and wealthier residents, managed to get the highway pushed away and under the promenade, leaving the neighborhood intact and lovely.

So Arthur was to meet me right by the BQE, which would be easy for me and I could walk the couple of blocks home. He was to come around 2, but was driving from New Jersey so I told him to call me when he got to our meeting spot. Then I did a stupid thing. I decided to put my printer in the car and I was running late with him coming soon, so I just started pulling plugs out, then took the printer to the car and continued packing without paying much attention to the plugs. But it turned out I had pulled out the plug to the phone. So Arthur, who only had my home number programmed into his phone, called and called and no one answered, and finally left. Around 3 I wondered what happened so I called him and that's when I realized my phone was off. I called on my cell and he asked me had something happened to me because he'd been trying to call and had been parked illegally for 40 minutes trying to get me and now he was on the BQE on his way to somewhere else.

And that's how I found myself, in the midst of everything else I had to do, driving on the dreaded BQE. When he told me where he was going, which was the Mercedes dealer in Bay Ridge, I looked on Mapquest and tears came to my eyes. So very far. I knew it was doable, that I could get there and then take the train home (somehow) but the thought of it almost threw me into a severe panic attack. I grabbed my purse and a bottle of water and jumped in the car and went to meet him.

The other little tidbit of this story is that it was 95 degrees in New York yesterday and on the highway it reached 100 degrees in parts. I watched this on the thermometer on my dashboard. I had to take the BQE to the Belt Parkway which connects with south Brooklyn. It was a 14 mile drive. Actually once I got on the Belt, it was pretty. You go along the water and pass the Verrazano. So I got more philosophical about it. I met up with Arthur and he said Donna how can you make such a mistake on a hot day like this? He got in the car with me to do the paperwork. At this point Arthur once again told me how many times he had called me and showed me on his cell phone all the calls he made. He said he ran down the battery on his phone making calls. Wise guy. Then he asked me if I could give him a little piece of art, something I "might throw away anyway." Because his daughter wants to be an artist (this is a whole other part of the story with Arthur, how I went to his house to get my car last time and met his wife, and looked at his daughter's paintings) and he said he wants something to remember me by although he thinks I'll be calling him again. In my mind, I thought, oy, never again, but you never know, maybe he's right. And I didn't say, Arthur, people pay for my work, you want to give me a discount? But I didn't. I was too worried about how I was going to get home. Which required a very long walk to a very long subway ride, but at least it was airconditioned, and above ground, so I could sightsee some more until after we went over the Manhattan bridge and down into the darkness.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

**** or get off the pot

I had thought I'd only post on this blog while I'm in Santa Fe, so it's been months, during which time I've lived my New York life, teaching up in the 'burbs and navigating the subways. Life here has a choppiness that you just don't get out West. Sometimes it's pleasant, and you get into the rhythm of it, like when you're stopped in your tracks by something crazy or wonderful. Usually there are other people, many other people, watching the same thing. So as a short person, I often have to climb on something to see what the fuss is about. Like the other day, I was walking through Union Square and there was a huge crowd watching a Korean guy do interesting juggling tricks with a soccer ball. You have to give yourself a little extra time here for everything, not only because you never know when the subway will stop and you'll be sitting there for 20 minutes with no way to inform whomever you're meeting that you'll be late, but also because there are always distractions to slow you down. But at the same time, you can't arrive early for things, because that's just not cool and people will be slightly annoyed because they may not be ready.

Anyway, getting to the point, I'll be going back to Santa Fe on May 29th and will be living in my very own little HOUSE! A long boring story on how I found the house and the machinations I went through to get it and to finance it. The owner's name is remarkably and comically close to the two names of Rocky and Bullwinkle. I won't post his name because I don't want it to come up on google searches- you have to be careful about these things. And he seems like a nice guy, if a bit high strung. But the house is really sweet and he landscaped it beautifully, and I'll be enjoying all the nice things he did to it. Here is a photo of the backyard a few weeks ago, taken by my friend Rob:

So, after all these years of saying I was going to move to New Mexico, I'm actually doing it. It's a little scary for a lot of reasons. People say to me, aren't you excited? And I am, but I'm also nervous. I have an option, though, of coming back to teach next spring. It will be interesting to see how things go.

Unfortunately, the last time I went there, on spring break, I stayed in the house with very little furniture except for a bed, and I got very sick and spent the whole week in the bed, in my guest room. I had a TV that could mostly only pick up NBC and Fox. You can probably figure out which channel I watched the whole week. But I couldn't find my favorite daytime shows, the shows I watch when I'm sick- Ellen, or Oprah, or even Dr. Oz. It wasn't a fun week at all. I need to get the bad juju out of the house when I get back, and I think it may be gone anyway because Rob's construction guys worked on the place to do some renovation and get the garage converted for studio use with skylights and stuff, and also painted the inside white so it will be much brighter and cleaner looking. My neighbors on either side are a midwife and a massage therapist. Can't ask for more nurturing types! Dogs are abundant- too much so in the middle of the night I think. No noise regulations there- I don't mind the roosters but I hate the sound of dogs barking endlessly. It's always something.

I haven't made any art for four months and it's amazing how much free time you have when you're not an artist, when you're a normal person who takes time off to do whatever. Yet I was very unproductive, spending far too much time on Facebook and other internet time sucks. I'm feeling antsy to make some stuff and I'll be really happy to have a work space again. As well as being able to bike five minutes to the food co-op or go to the Chavez center.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Twenty ten

I like the sound of the year 2010. It sounds a little sci-fi, like we're really entering a new age of technological advances and space travel. Except that was really what the last decade was about, even if space travel is not really something that most people think about much. Every once in a while we hear about the space station, or the Hubble telescope, or what's going on on Mars.

And what was the last decade called? Some call it the aughts, but that really means "lack of anything" rather than zeros. The New Yorker has a piece examining this difficulty. A decade is a long time when you think about it. If I say (as I do, but only if I don't care if you know how old I am) that I was born in the 40's, it might suggest that I was around during W.W. II- but actually was born well after that was over. If you're born in the 60's, you could be the same age as our president, or you could be just barely turned 40. You could say you grew up in the 60's, and that might suggest you were born in the 50's. Anyway, it's not particularly important, except that we like to put the decade in a package that is easily described. No problem describing the 50's, 60's, 70's or 80's...but the 90's, the 00's? It's too pluralistic to make those generalizations anymore. Or maybe things just move too quickly nowadays. Maybe we should break it down into groups of five. Or maybe three, or maybe just talk about years individually. What was 2001 like? Well, it wasn't a bad year until September, and the morning of the 11th was a day of blue sky and pleasant weather. Now anything good that happened that year is obliterated by what happened later. Maybe we should just talk about months!

I'm starting the year on an optimistic note. After a slight scare that entailed a biopsy that I much rather would not have had to go through (although, like most things here, it was about as not-unpleasant as it could be) I am living into the 10's (now that does sound ridiculous) with hopefulness and energy. This past week I had a meeting at William Siegal Gallery, and it went very well. They took two pieces, and will see what kind of response they get. So everybody, tell your wealthy art-collecting friends to consider buying one, or both! The gallery, as you'll see if you look at the website, is a little unusual in that they mix ancient artifacts with contemporary work. It's really a gorgeous space, and I thought it would be an interesting context for this new body of work, which was framed beautifully by Beth the mad framer. I had such a nice meeting with the gallery director and her assistant, who is a wonderful artist himself and is a Yale MFA. We talked about the presentation, the imagery, the content, the scale...all things to consider as this work evolves. I'm really happy to get away from the constrictions of the symmetrically patterned pieces, although I may bring some of that back in at some point. For now, I'll be in New York with no studio and four classes a week to teach (involving four days of commuting) so with months of not working on this series, it may change a little when I get back to it.

I was invited to a Buddhist ceremony for New Year's eve, but I decided to go out to dinner with friends (allowed myself a margarita for celebration, and had very good fish tacos and sopapillas) then watched a movie (500 Days of Summer---eh) and fell asleep after my neighbors tooted those awful sounding plastic horns for a few minutes around midnight. My car was picked up this morning to make its journey back east, and my days here are winding down.