Can’t beet that

Gregory Blackstock,  Automobile Classics, 2011 Garde Rail Gallery Austin, TX

Gregory Blackstock, Automobile Classics, 2011 Garde Rail Gallery Austin, TX

Got a fav up there? Which car did you lose your virginity in the back seat of? (Or wish you did) These come to us courtesy of outsider artist Gregory Blackstock whose title for 25 1/2 years was “dishwasher.” (my title most of the time too) I can’t draw as well, but we both share a love for lists. His meticulous hand draws and colors lists with a verve that engages the white-hot desire of collecting.

Remember those childhood collections? Lined up rows of matchbox cars, funny shaped rocks or sandy shells bouncing around in my pocket. Sacred-sleeved baseball cards revealed only to best friends or that cute neighbor girl. My sister’s candy cigarette stash. Ah the devotion.

We have adult-sized shoe boxes now. Collections give us a crystalline goal. The luxury of being utterly unique. No one else has a matryoshka doll gathering like mine. Or a stack of LP’s quite as eclectic. I set loose my inner Lewis and Clark to find worthy additions, nose to the ground. When I score one, I hold a dream fulfilled right in my hot little hands. Can’t beat that.

Speaking of beets. Here’s a sweet bevy. Love their invigorating roundness. Bulbous planets of vibrating color, crowded together, yet precise-perfect. Stubby-hair heads look like gap-toothed grins. A taxonomic chart with soul– not so taxing.

I like the name of the first beet. Early Wonder. And that’s what Blackstock does for us doesn’t he? Encourages us wriggle our fingers down deep, past the adult-worried flotsam, to discover again our early wonder. And draw it out, silver shining.

Gregory Blackstock, The Beets. Garde Rail Gallery  Austin, TX

Gregory Blackstock, The Beets. Garde Rail Gallery Austin, TX

Currently on display at STAG on South Congress. Austin, TX

Cry, Cry, Cry

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Onions, 1881. © Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Onions, 1881. © Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute

Legend tells that when I was a tot, my mother placed a slice of onion and a piece of candy side by side on my highchair.  I reached for the onion and ate it every time, candy be damned.  (The bright beginnings of masochism.) But today I don’t have to choose. Renoir paints these tear prone alliums like luminous cotton-candy meringues. Onion candy.

This man could make anything breathtaking. Though he usually picked lovely subjects, innocents. Smooth-skinned children and freckle-free women washed in pink serenity. The layering of beautiful style on beautiful subjects curiously turns me away. Sweetness too saturated.  The too painful re-telling of the monumental beauty myth.

For being yellow onions, there is a paucity of that color. Instead, pink, cerise, and salmon rule highlights of green and yellow.  The background, in strong diagonal strokes, rains down patches of green and blue. A storm, tossing bulbs about. The onion tops wave like flags in a gale. The curve of the table  forcefully pushes out the perimeter of the painting  and the whitecap napkin catches onions and garlic in a blue ribbon net.

Renoir plays cruelly with us here. Making us desire these blushing onions, this Venus candy. Knowing full well the bitter wince if we bite. Tears will flow. Some will burn. Finally he tells us the truth about beauty. So fearsome, so lovely and so deeply desired.  It will bring us to tears.

And you can buy it in the Kimbell gift shop to hang in your kitchen.


Susan Jane Walp, Bluekberries in Black Etruscan Cup with Xerox, Knife, Cork and Two Bricks, 2006

Susan Jane Walp, Blueberries in Black Etruscan Cup with Xerox, Knife, Cork and Two Bricks, 2006

Stillness. Easy to overlook. In fact, I usually pass right on by without a thought. Some could call them boring, but a still life is a meditation whispering a secret. A trade secret to most of the all time greats.

Meditation, like this painting, offers keys and hinges. Quiets the banging on our obstacle doors.  A key, unlocking. A hinge-supported swinging. I hold this idea that if I am still, I can find the key and fashion a hinge that swings my problemdoor open.

The key is usually an observation, finding the root cause, the heart of the matter. If I take the time to un-ego myself enough to finally see it.  The hinge is working with the structures of things, of organizations, of people. Finding out how they swing.

The structure of this still life reveals a beautiful hinge. A circular center holds roundripe berries. Forms a circular mass filling a cup of layered circles. In motion but still — the hinge around which all the other shapes turn.  A series of squares radiate out, overlapping. Each piece receiving motion from its texture or position. Your eye follows the outside objects, starting at the knife,  swinging around to the cork to the orange brick back and around to the knife. A slow revolution.

This work is more than structure, it is also a speaking key. Speaking not of berries or of brick, but of foundness. Of deeply touching the those things around you.  A tender word embraced, a heartfelt thanks given, time to understand offered. Finding the keys at your fingertips.

Special needs mom

James Rosenquist, White Bread, 1964, National Gallery of Art, Washington DC

James Rosenquist, White Bread, 1964, National Gallery of Art, Washington DC

My teacher asked me the other day about you. We were making cards. I said that you were a “special needs mom.”  They say that kinda stuff about kids all the time at our school, but I think they mean the moms really.

If I had to pick a painting for you for Mother’s Day, I’d pick this one.

Because of the white bread and butter. The butter stick that you told me I can’t eat like a popsicle. I’m still mad about that, cause I can’t figure out why. It seems like a great idea to me.

I like this painting because it shows the middle part when you make me cinnamon toast — my all-time favorite breakfast. You taught me how to make it myself, but I’d rather have you do it. So I can watch my Lego movie, Clutch Powers.

I’ll try to eat it in the living room when you’re not looking. And I know that’s against the rules. You will probably find the crusts underneath the couch or between the cushions in a month or two, and make a fuss. But I can’t think about that right now cause it tastes sooo good and Clutch Powers is getting eaten by a Lego troll. . .

Happy Mom’s Day.

Your son (and my brothers too, but I think they would pick waffles)

Hanky panky

Still Life Ingredients 1976 by Patrick Caulfield

Still Life Ingredients 1976 by Patrick Caulfield, Tate Britain, England

Is it true? Sex starts in the kitchen? The men in my family are hardworking at the sink, and “dishwasher” was my partner’s first real job description. Suds and sponge. Then hanky-panky.

Since when has a scallion looked so sexy? How provocative the ladle. The redripe tomatoes in the corner set a beat, ready to groove.  A ravishing coral honeysuckle vase deserves a smooch or two.

Don’t miss the interplay of masculine and feminine here. Heavy black lines, stolid and strong, delineate the forms. Maybe taking themselves a bit too seriously.  Light blue leaves overlace the scene, frilling out the feminine qualities. Playful titillating.

It fact, I don’t think any cooking is happening tonight. Skip the kitchen and head for the bed. Dishes can wait.