Sunday, July 19, 2015

Pressure cooks

In response to Lorenzo's editorial:

"At its heart, Aspen is a tourist town, a ski resort. The focus should be on short-term visits Recently...there has been a paradigm shift from renting to selling Aspen — as in permanently.   Personally I’m a little more comfortable with renting Aspen — when you’re done with it, I want it back."

Yep, at it's inflated squeaky balloon 2008 level there was a realtor in every other downtown building.  By the  2009 we'd lost over 40 of those downtown businesses realtor and retailer alike.  It's even simpler than penthouses vs hotel rooms it's putting all your eggs in one basket and those of us with Depression era parents  know all about the wisdom of putting all your eggs in one basket. Don't. Just don't.

Yep, I'd rather have tourists for 6 months high service industry pressure followed by 6 months of glorious I can turkey bowl down Durant off season than 2 weeks of second homeowner cyclone followed by 50 weeks of  dark dusty silence. 

Oh but there is soooo much construction now and everybody wants to tear down and build something new and it's sooooo tempting just to try and monkey wrench it all. Monkey Wrenching is nothing new.  Fritz chained himself to the tree in front of the Miner's Building construction site.  For years we've waved our zoning code stick in the face of the great big development elephant.  How is that stick waving strategy working for the "no development" contingent? The Miner's Building went up, the Ritz (Saint Regis) went up, the Art Museum went up. 

Now we're going to spend $20K on a public vote on Base 1Heaven forbid we should spend that time and money on developing a community with more diversity or on fixing the draconian code- but that's different letter.

Saying "NO" to development now only means bigger and badder development next time. That's our track record. 

FYI Lorenzo, AirBNB- not so bad. Of course you can't advertise there if you're in affordable housing so the chances of it being "affordable" lodging in Aspen is nil.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Ofili opening

I went to the member's preview of the Aspen Art Museum Chris Ofili exhibit. We started in the second floor gallery.

This is the gallery where 6 Scenic Artists (including yours truly) painted the background mural. Details on that process can be found in an earlier post. 

I'd never seen Mr. Ofili's work before and was pleasantly surprised.  This is stuff you really need to see in person. He plays with gloss and flat- one of my favorite things. He plays with opalescence and opacity- another one of my favorite things. His drawing is solid. His color sense is solid.  He isn't afraid to dive "down down down where the iguanas play"

He has guts. It takes courage to stand out in a room of purple and these paintings take focus.

Heidi Zuckerman Aspen Art Museum Director  and Massimiliano Gioni Artistic Director of the New York New Museum of Contemporary Art (co-curator) gave the tour. The New Museum held first US exhibition of "Night and Day"  We learn that these paintings are based on the myth of Artemis. We learn that the darkest painting was hung first (this one screams Goya's Cronos devouring his children..). We learn that Mr. Ofili used 59 colors in the renderings for the background murals. (hmmmm…. we did not mix 59 colors…. we had 6 majors and riffed off of that… such are the dangers of print reproduction for artist's renderings… it will limit your color palette to the ink in your printer.. but then we only had 6 days...). Mr Gioni told us that "theatrical painters" painted the walls. Oh Mr. Gioni, so precise in so many other aspects… we are "Scenic Artists". Sigh, it's a losing battle. Nevermind. On to the next gallery…. I'll be more objective in the next gallery...

In the second gallery comes the controversy - the elephant dung , the virgin and the pimp.  Here we have "Pimpin ain't Easy" and "The Holy Virgin Mary" side by side on the wall for the first time in the US.  Okay, I have to smile.  Anyone who collages Tiger Woods into a painting of a smiling penis with word pimp in the title does not lack for humor. Oh, if we only shared the same penchant for porn… but without that hook to hang it all on I become distracted.  "Mr. Shithead" reminds me of the Pulik.

I start analyzing my fellow museum members by their foot ware (Jeanie Button's advice surfaces soto voce to look at the shoes on the subway and see if you can guess what that person is wearing).  For the women jewelry is out, you are now judged by the height of your stiletto.  The men may have a Patek on their wrists but they're wearing kicks. It's summer.  I think of a recent comment by a visitor who  returns to Aspen because  "Aspen is more diverse than the Hamptons." Hmmm…. 

The dung ball feet on each painting bring to mind Mythbusters. The difference in "polishing the turd" being that Mr. Ofili has used glitter and what I must assume is the same extremely toxic marine resin we used to seal the "Cats" dance floor.

Sadly, for me it did not shock. Perhaps if there had been mobs of protesters blocking the entrance as there were at the Brooklyn Museum, maybe if there was the threat of mad vandalism  (TG for that toxic resin but it does beg the question how much more would the vandalized work have brought at auction?)

maybe if the Aspen Art Museum were faced with the same tooth and claw legal battle for funding then this exhibit would have more punch, more "frisson". But no, here we reserve our protests for tortoises with iPadsHeidi did draw parallels between the tortoise protests and the Ofili protests in her preview talk.  Where are the tortoises of last summer? Oh, where have they gone?

"Frisson" is different in Aspen.

On to the next gallery where the the paintings celebrate Aboriginal dot painting… and I do mean celebrate.

There are too many people in the room these paintings need to breathe. I want to get close. I want to see the light grazing the canvas from an acute angle. I want to back away and see how things change at a distance. I will need to come back later to feel these paintings when there are no stilettos in the room.

There are two more rooms. I don't have pictures for either because as difficult as it was to get a feeling for the first three rooms it's impossible for the next two.  The paintings after 2005- the ones he did in Trinidad- those need time. You need time for your eyes to adjust  from the green glow of the Exit sign in the corridor. You need to be alone so that the amber glow from the other visitor's iPhone doesn't punch the chroma too high. Your brain needs time to decalibrate. This room begs for silence.  It is a closet of the mind. Your mind should be flooded with amber when you walk back into full spectrum light.  It's not a room for preview night.

The final gallery is a room with small portraits hung in a floor to ceiling checkerboard with large squares knocked out. The scale of the room to portraits is perfect.  It's very 18th century. It reminds me of Steadman's Ghosts of Gone Birds.

After revisiting the first gallery I walked down the stairs past the  black velvet rope which cordoned off the upper tier where members of a less modest caliber would be served dinner "with the artist". I flash on Robertson Davies dinner scenes …. the exotic specimen on display…. oh which fork to use... a room flooded with multisyllabic jenga towers…the tightrope of pretension and restraint... perhaps baseball filet mignon caramelized to just the right shade of elephant brown…. little red and green jewels of coulis dotted around matte black desert plates and a bright yellow custard with sugar crystal sparkles … brûlée with a crust you have to  crack with the back of your spoon … tooth and tongue ….???  It did smell delicious from below stairs. Not even cubed crusty cheese and flat sparkling wine for us punters.  I flash back to days in Aspen when privilege was something you hid.  I think back to the days when the punters wouldn't be somewhere they could smell the steak. I flash back to days when circumspection was prudent.  Bread and cake.  Oh well. 

Classism is not a theme in Ofili's work. Sex, Death, Myth those are all there... but upstairs downstairs ?… not so much… Now that would be a brave show for the Aspen Art Museum to intentionally curate in this town. That might reach the level of "frisson" to which the Art Museum aspires.  

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Purple, it needs more purple …. murals for Chris Ofili

I got an email from Scenic Arts Studios in March asking if I knew any painters in Aspen. Now that's a loaded question if there ever was one…. There are all kinds of painters but when it's a Scene Shop calling the question is "Do you know anybody who knows which end of a paintbrush to hold, how to mix colors without a swatch book, can climb a ladder, distrusts tools invented after Cromwell, shows up on time,  can paint in the dark, watched the Tony's (all the way through) , can quote lyrics to at least 3 Rogers and Hammerstein songs and knows what "a dead kitty on a stick" means?"

My response was predictable, "What do you need?"

My good friends at Scenic Arts did a full room mural for Chris Ofili's Night and Day at the New Museum in New York and now the show was traveling to the Aspen Art Museum.

Work in my hometown… with friends I hadn't seen in 25+ years?  Kidding myself that I could still work like a Scenic I said "Sure." Just my luck it dovetailed with the Aspen Ideas install. Well, at least that meant I could snag the inimitable Mr. Trumpler for a little work before we started at the Aspen Art Museum.

The concept is the film "Black Narcissus" …

1947 with Deborah Kerr in glorious Technicolor,  Production Design by Alfred Junge for which he won the 1948 Oscar  and Cinematography by Jack Cardiff who also won the Oscar.

Six Scenic Artists,  

Ron Gottschalk charge, 

and me (photo Allan Trumpler),  

four 14' high walls (40x70) and six days… 

here's the sequence:

Charlotte arrived early on Wednesday and mixed all the colors.

Full crew shows up Thursday morning. The walls have been base coated by the Museum and protective flooring has been laid down. We start by making a thread grid of 4' squares around the room. Joe and Deb Forbes - owners of Scenic Arts Studio and Studio and Forum of Scenic Arts show up for lunch in Aspen ….

Some cartooning (sketching with charcoal) is done on Thursday. On Friday we start laying in the first layer.  The trick is dark/ chromatic/ translucent over lighter opaque tints which keeps the glow in the paint.  Want the complete explanation of both the chemistry, the physics and the color theory? Go to your copy of Ralph Mayer or you could go to a personal favorite The Practice of Tempera Painting

Friday Sketching  and lay in continues….  

here is a video of end of day Friday:

Saturday… RAFT TRIP!  (No Joe, we did not die on the river)

Sunday… day off for the crew and a chance to see a little bit of Colorado.

photo Allan Trumpler

Meanwhile,  I plant some late potatoes with help from a couple of local young athletic gentlemen- could I sell this as "more than cross-fit"? Surely flipping a tractor tire isn't as difficult as breaking up my clay "garden" with a broad fork. It is the ab workout from hell.

Monday through Wednesday we continue with layers of color, glaze upon glaze to get that rich Technicolor glow… 

Ron giving us some direction:

Here's a video of the end of day Wednesday:

and some finished details from Thursday:

crates of Art ready to go on the walls….

All done… 
Time for an evening snack on the Mall… with some Folklórico music and dancing.

Aspen Ideas… 2015

They're baaaaaack…..

The logo leaf sculptures from 2014 came back for 2015 but this time they migrated to Anderson Park instead of lining the entry to Paepcke Auditorium.

They "grew" nicely

I particularly liked the way they were reflected in the water…

with ducks… of course….

Anderson Park was also the display area for an exhibit by J.R.

… and now a little bit about this year's process …. because… you know… it's always a process…..

One sculpture needed a repair which involved aluminum welding (beyond my poor welding skills) so the fine folks at Myer's took care of that for me.

As any painter will tell you white comes in many colors- thanks the The Paint Store in Carbondale there was an exact match…. (they don't do web much- they don't have to)

Then it was a matter of cleaning and resetting any plexi pieces which were missing…

…and finally for something a little different… the bases were covered with sod last year but that yellowed pretty quickly and wasn't at all attractive so I decided to go another way with the bases for this year.

Give them a nice degreasing and then suit up…
which is what you need to do when ever you're playing with heated plastic.

with some donations of old CDs from the Aspen Thrift Shop
Thank you Jeannie Walla for collecting them for me!

heated up a bit- hence the respirator…
cut up a bit…
and cut up a bit more….

then glued to each base…

and a bit more…. 

The CD bits reflect different colors which echo the "stained glass" of the leaves. 

There we have it- leaf logo sculptures 2015 safely back in their crates waiting to be called out for next year if needed…. (Back to Back Trucking is da bomb)

Thanks to the inimitable Allan Trumpler for his help with the crate repair and install…. 


The experiment continues….

Last year, inspired by Alan Savory's TED talk in 2013,  I attended a grazing clinic in Boulder. Okay… you who know me can stop laughing now… I know I know … a "glazing" clinic you could believe but this was a *grazing* clinic.

So, in May 2014  thanks to Strang Ranch there were cows on the ranch ...

41 "sets" of heifers and babies to be exact. 
Yes, that's the Pulik barking ….

This year we repeated the experiment with 81 heifers, calves and yearlings … and one rather impressive bull…. 

who seemed to like his lone bull status very much….

What is the benefit of cows on a "ranch"? 

We've had an exceptional year for rain this is the gauge since May 1, 2015… in 2013 there was 6" for the entire year including snowmelt. The trick is to keep the moisture in the soil instead of it all running off and that is what mob grazing helps you do- keep the water in the soil and improve soil health.

Here's what I learned at the grazing clinic….

1. Their cloven hooves break up the hard pan and make divits where rain can soak into the soil instead of running off.

See those little puddles? Those are hoof prints.

2. They break up the old gray dead grasses and allow air and water to get to the soil.

Behind the fence there were no cows- in front of the fence- cows. 
See the dead grass around the ungrazed area?

3. They leave behind free fertilizer (which the potatoes loooooove). A friend tells me she is paying for cow patties… obviously I need to explore this possible new revenue angle….

4. They're a great fire mitigation crew- mowing the grass down to a manageable height.

5. They stimulate new grass growth- as long as the grazing period is brief and the rest period is long enough for a full growing cycle in the grasses. 

compare the ungrazed area new growth grasses (green bits)
to the grazed area new growth grasses (green bits- with my shoe as a reference size)

Conclusion: the moo babies can come back and knock on the front door every spring.