Tuesday, December 29, 2015


A little cross pollination here... yep this is my new venture... Uber Tesla.


Monday, December 21, 2015


The Nutcracker and Christmas... Sugar Plums, Mice,  and a chance for hundreds of little kids to wear leotards and slip into dance slippers. It's easy to be an audience member when it's your kid in the cute little bee suit spinning with the lady in the tutu. It's easy to fall in love with the audience from behind the footlights when that audience is holding you in a warm safe place... when that audience is your family. This is the place where love of dance starts for so many of us...

It's enduring and not just because of the music.

The Aspen Santa Fe Ballet asked me to repaint their Nutcracker 'book" for the 10 year old production of Nutcracker.   No one could tell me the name of the original designer but this Nutcracker is a pastiche of Victorian wedding cake lace architecture and a carousel complete with some glossy painted pony's. It's a bright colorful production with all the whimsy intact.

The Book does tricks. Each page is a little over 8'x6' and the entire book flies in. Six pages are painted muslin but the seventh is a gag page. It's spandex with a split for the Nutcracker to "break" through during the pyro.

They wanted something more colorful.

Seah Johnson , lighting supervisor for the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet redesigned the pages and Danny Bachelor Production Manager had them printed to scale on bond.  This helped a lot with all the lettering.

The printouts where then pricked and pounced onto the pages.

 pounce wheel used to prick holes into the printout.

bag of charcoal attached to a stick to pounce the design onto the muslin

the charcoal transfer

inking in the design so that the charcoal can be flogged off prior to painting
laying in the design
stencil for the decorative border on the book cover

laying in the border
to get  a velvety richness some into the blue book cover I used a dot roller 
alternating between green shade blue and utramarine
laying in the decorative border for the text pages
the 6 muslin pages in the shop
text pages

laying in the text on the spandex (you can see the split at the top)
Thanks to Isabel Rubio for finding the fabric.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Flow, letter to the editor

What good is more if it's not better?  It's not about growth, it's about the neighborhood.

Everyone wants to use the word "growth" and "economic development" as if they were synonymous. Let's get one thing straight- they're not. You can grow yourself into poverty just as easily - we have ghost towns all over the West to remind us of that. In fact we had a little dip 2008-9 which proved it beyond all doubt. The faster you grow the faster and bigger the fail. This is why I wish I heard the phrase "managed growth" more frequently, heck, I'd settle for just hearing it once at any City Council meeting in the Valley.

So what makes for "managed growth"? This is growth which takes into account quality of life. You don't separate out where you sleep from where you work from where you shop from where you eat or drink a coffee with a crowd. You make neighborhoods which have all the things people need within walking distance. You make these neighborhoods small enough for people to know one another, to see each other every day, to become a community. Small communities can live inside larger ones but without the sense of "neighborhood"  we lose connection with the big picture. It's linear, our family, our block, our city, our region, our State, our Country, our Continent, our World flows like water- from a droplet to the ocean merging into a sense of responsibility and belonging.

More simply, if you don't plan for a cohesive neighborhood with the butcher the baker and the candlestick maker you get a lot of disconnected people who don't give a damn about who is living next door.

The "tree farm" is a poster child for the disconnected life.

Atlantic Article thanks to Marina Rainer

Thursday, August 20, 2015

IRL, letter to the editor

What's the value of IRL? For those of you who are not internet addicted that stands for "in real life".

At the heart of it that is the question before two of our local Roaring Fork Valley Governments. Both Aspen and Basalt have citizens who are asking for a Community Center. There is a coalition in Aspen proposing an Armory Building renaissance back to it's Community Hall roots and there is a groundswell bubbling up in Basalt calling for a Community Center Clearshot to the river.

The economics for the Aspen proposal are irrefutable. The Armory Community Center is the clear winner but Aspen being Aspen there will surely be roadblocks to common sense. The economics for Basalt are less clear. The tantalizing prospect of a cash in hand condo sales tax can easily blind even the most far sighted civil servant.  I never thought I'd hear the words "dog park" used in a derogatory manner in the progressive halls of the Basalt City Hall but hey, as mom used to say, "All you have to do is live long enough…."

But let's think about this a bit longer and look at what these two proposals have in common and what each of these groups is trying to tell their representatives.

"Socialization" is such a soulless word for such a soulful activity; but that's what is at the heart of both these proposals. The community is asking for a place to commune. The neighborhood wants a place to be neighborly. We want to heal our hearts with shared laughter. That in itself is priceless but this it not  all "touchy feely" there is also a huge potential for  economic benefit (the boring explanation).

One of my favorite TV shows was "Connections" which showed that serendipity has driven more innovation and success than just about anything else.


 A similar  theme can be found in Walter Isaacson's "Innovators" which diagrams connections between teams of scientists. Yo Yo Ma gave the clarion cry for "STEAM" not  "STEM" at Aspen Ideas.

Collaboration, interconnectedness, diversity these are the touchstones of a healthy community and a vibrant economy. You want to revitalize a community? Let the artists frolic and see who comes to watch….Feynman played the bongos after all...

Sometimes we think that Aspen is only a ski town or Basalt is only for fly fishermen but look at our locals and you will find artists, scientists, engineers, farmers, cowgirl poets and philosopher kings. Six degrees of separation? Ha! Not here.  Not in the Roaring Fork Valley.  We just don't connect with each other much.

We just don't get the opportunity to flow gently into conversation and let the extraordinary juxtaposition of thought and possibility  merge into something concrete, into something you can touch, into  reality.

In both cases- the Armory and the River Park- these citizen driven initiatives are asking for a place where we- the people who live here- can meet and socialize in real life. The time for compartmentalization and cubicles is over.

People don't move here for the condos.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Tarantella d'Aspen

"Opportunity" normally when I hear that word and it's connected to anything in Aspen I start looking for snake oil and a word which is normally paired with "shinola". 

This time it's real. This time it is actually an opportunity to do something for the community instead of something to the community. 

This bas-relief of "Kairos" god of opportunity was once at the Palazzo Medici in Florence, but now has been lost. 

I've groused for years about how we've stripped the heart out of town by moving our essential services outside the City Limits. We moved the public schools out of town, we moved the hospital out of town, we put our Rec center a bus ride away,  we've  isolated our human services from the humans they serve.  At what point do we decide to stay inside the City limits? Why when government would have to relocate of course….. and there's the opportunity… not to compound the problem but to sneak some of the humanity back inside the S curves. 

The Armory has always been a lousy City Hall building. It's a warren of depressing isolated little offices filled with fluorescent lit hell. The City Council meeting room is configured for confrontation either coming through the doors into the lions pit or sitting behind the desk waiting for the predators to  arrive. The City Hall option offered for the Armory places a lot of bandaids over open wounds but it certainly does nothing to heal them. There is no flow. There is no grace. There is no joy.

Say  *yes* to the Galena Plaza option. First, it costs us less money. $9 million dollars less money. Second it means no down time during renovation. Third we use the real estate we already own instead of feeding free market landlords. The potential sales tax increases from converting our current government rentals to retail/lodging hasn't been figured into this but I'm betting it could make that $9 million in savings jump a bit higher.  Finally and this is the really important lightens my heart gets my toes tapping perks up my pointy ears and raises both eyebrows reason … it sets the Armory free. 

A Community Hall located in the community? A place where we might be able to sneak some of those essential services which have been exiled to the bus routes back into the walkable zone?  Science Center,  Performing Arts hub, TV studio, medical clinic, ACRA out of the garage, soda fountain, Folklorico, Tarantella,  basketball,  banquets, roller derby, bingo, bowling, what's your wish list?

Here's the kicker, it costs us nothing. What's the hitch you say? Well, it's a big one. We have to stop fighting each other, we have to poke a hole in the smothering shrink wrap of divisiveness long enough stick our noses out into fresh air and smell the potential.  

Let me tell you, we used to dance in this town. We used to dance a lot. We could dance again.  Bring back HIldur and her accordion and let's all dance a polka till we drop or they kick us out the door , set the Armory free.

Let my people dance.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

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.