Monthly Archives: March 2009

Looking for the Perfect Hole in the Ground

I’ve spent the last two days looking for the entrance to a mine shaft or a cave, a setting for a new painting I have in mind. Yesterday I hiked back into the valley behind our house to look at the entrance of an old mine — this being Mineral Point, where the earth beneath is honey-combed with tunnels. I hadn’t been there for at least ten years. In the meanwhile, the valley had changed; the ground was cultivated, where before it had been only grazed; there was a house and yard where formerly there had been only an intervening patch of woods.

Now, I haven’t a memory for landmarks or a decent sense of direction at the best of times. I took the most rugged of all paths towards my goal, first slogging across a muddy field past a bull-pen, finding a place to jump the creek, scrambling over mossy and ice-covered boulders, crossing and re-crossing barbed-wire fences, climbing in and out of gullies and past the twisted vertebrae and scattered ribs of a cow or deer (I didn’t linger). By the time I didn’t find what I was looking for, I was exhausted. I’d lost my sweatshirt somewhere among the brambles and scratched my wrists. My boots were caked with about five pounds of mud per foot. On the way back, I hadn’t the energy to find a place to leap across the creek. I just trudged through it. That’s what I bought those hiking boots with a Gortex liner for afterall!

Today, my daughter led me directly to the mine shaft via a much more direct and obstacle-free path, but it had been entirely stopped up with earth. I contemplated bringing a shovel to reopen the hole a bit. Would that work? Even though I’d brought my camera on both forays, I forgot to even take a picture. It deserved at least that to justify all the effort. After we walked back home, Geneia said she knew of a “shaft” that might suit my purpose and we drove straight to it in the lingering daylight. Here it is (above). It is waaaaaay easier to get to. Romantic as the inaccessible is, I think I’ll opt for easy.

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Santa Fe, Fifth Installment, Scroll Down for the Beginning of the Story

Here are Andrea and I at the San Jose de los Jemez Mission church ruins.

We tried to reach another National Monument before the end of the day, but ran out of time. We did drive through Los Alamos and saw the US Scientific Research Center and the Valles Caldera though. Remember that volcano I mentioned with reference to the “tuff” in Frijoles Canyon? The Caldera was once the crater of that megavolcano, 600 times more violent than the eruption of Mount St. Helens. It’s now a natural preserve, a grassy valley with elk herds.

On my last day in Santa Fe, Andrea and I went back to the galleries along Santa Fe’s Canyon Rd. I want to particularly mention Meyer Gallery, where I saw another Dan Gerhartz painting called Renewal, and Downey Gallery, which will shortly be hosting an exhibition of a Russian artist, Natashia Milashevich, who paints women and girls in Russian folk costumes. I love her subjects and her technique. I wish I could find images of all the paintings I saw of hers. Perhaps when the exhibition is actually mounted, the Downey Gallery Site will have them all available to view online. At Mclarry Fine Art, I enjoyed the figurative paintings of Johanna Harmon.

That’s all we had time for. Thanks to Jordan at Meyer Gallery and Dennis Downey for directing us to paintings we loved.

At that point, we had to go grocery shopping and I needed to drive Andrea to meet her family in Abiqui, about an hour north of Santa Fe. We entirely filled the back of my Rogue with groceries to feed her family for a week. They certainly couldn’t have found room for both their luggage and their groceries in their own vehicle. Abiqui was in the mountains. I just had a chance to see what a gorgeous place it was before I had to turn back towards Santa Fe.

Farewell to a part of the country I will be anxious to return to. The next day I drove to Albuquerque and flew back to the frigid Midwest, a bit of a shock.

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Santa Fe, Fourth Installment

After we’d taken a hike up the Frijoles Canyon, amidst Ponderosa Pines and along a narrow, but constant stream, we drove to our next stop, Jémez State Monument, which preserves ruins of the 700-year-old Giusewa Pueblo, an ancestral home of today’s Jemez Pueblo and of the San José de los Jémez Mission church, built like a fortress in 1621 by the Spanish. Again, wow! Its octagon-shaped bell tower and eight-foot-thick walls were constructed by persons with no formal training in architecture or building. It is the second — only the second –oldest church in New Mexico. I hadn’t known that the Spanish colonized a part of the later United States permanently so early in the 17th Century. This is a whole new period of history for me to read about.

n 1540 the first organized Spanish exploration,the Coronado Expedition, reached New Mexico. Neither Coronado nor his men reached the Jemez area. Other explorers also came and went, but in 1598 a Spanish colonizing party under Don Juan de Onate came to New Mexico to stay. By 1609, a priest had been assigned to the Jemez, and a few years later work began on a mission building at Giusewa. The building was complete by 1621, as well as a convent, built to house the priests and other religious figures.

The Jemez people living at Giusewa were asked — nicely, I wonder? — to convert to Catholicism, but were not much interested. I read (I think) that the mission church and convent were built with the help of Catholic converts from the Chaco Canyon pueblo rather than Jemez, but don’t quote me. (I had to photograph the plaque above. The missionaries found crosses, a very popular pagan symbol for millenia, everywhere amongst the native pueblo dwellers.) San Jose de los Jemez was burned and the pueblo was abandoned for some time. It was later re-occupied, but was abandoned for good by the Jemez by 1700. In 1680, all the Pueblo peoples of New Mexico united and drove the Spaniards completely out of New Mexico. In 1692, the Spaniards came back and easily reconquered the Natives because of their lack of unity. In 1706 the Jemez people rebuilt an old village of theirs further down Jemez Canyon, which became the village known today as Jemez Pueblo, or Walatowa in the native language.

New Mexico remained a Spanish colony until 1825, and then a Mexican province following Mexican independence. In 1846, the United States took possession of New Mexico from Mexico during the Mexican War, and in 1848, New Mexico became a US Territory. New Mexico became a state in 1912.

From left below, Andrea, Eramis Estee, Ellie and Jack Momchilovich.

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Santa Fe, Third Installment

In the picture above, you can see the holes where ceiling beams for pueblos built on the outside of the cliff were lodged, so that would have been ceiling level of the external pueblo. From there, one could step into a man-made cave. Notice, on the upper left of the highest cave entrance, there is a pictograph of man with a square head. There is another pictograph above the beam holes on the left side of the picture.

Looking back at the foundations of pueblos and clefts carved into the tufa to enlarge the rooms….pantries? closets?

Here I am at the edge of what is called the Alcove House. Alcove refers to the natural cleft in the cliff wall. We climbed 4 ladders to access it, as well as some steps carved into the stone. The stone feels hard to the touch, of course, but there were passages over the rock that had been depressed as much as three feet by the passage of visitors walking on the “tuff.” So it is soft!

This is a reconstructed Kiva. You can see the hole in the ceiling which serves an entrance. We all climbed inside…Who could resist? I’d like to do some research on the native inhabitants of these pueblos. I’m wondering why they wanted to have their ceremonies in a hole in the ground…..Since they were perfectly capable of constructing comfortable structures above the ground, what was it that made them want to worship from a pit? I don’t get it.

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Santa Fe, Second Installment

On the first day, Andrea and spent the day checking out galleries on the Plaza: Joe Wade Fine Art, Sage Creek, where we saw an absolutely stunning painting of Native American horseman by artist, Ed Kucera — I wish I could show it to you, but I can’t find an image online, Manitou Galleries, Wadle Galleries, Peterson-Cody Gallery, where I was most impressed with the landscapes of Peter Holbrook. We took about an hour’s break to spend on an orgy of embroidered-blouse shopping in a wonderful store, Natural Fashions (hint: you can shop online, link provided). Andrea had already bought four and bought two more with my encouragement. I bought a sun dress and two off the shoulder blouses. Andrea was able to sport hers in Santa Fe, but I will have to wait for warmer weather to wear mine. From there we walked to Canyon Rd. and had delicious salads at Cafe des Artistes. A bonus was listening to the proprietor’s French accent — I’m inclined toward things like that — after which, the Gerald Peters Gallery and Nedra Matteucci Gallery. Both of these were more like museums, as their collections were by vintage Southwestern painters, often deceased. The Nedra Mateucci had the most beautiful sculpture garden I’ve ever seen. (Hint: Just click through the views of the garden to see the pool and fountain.) I wish that was my backyard.

On the second day, we took a break from Gallery hopping and went exploring ruined pueblos. Our first stop was Bandelier National Monument in the Frijoles Canyon, dating from the 12th Century. The picture above is a Kiva, a subterranean chamber in which the natives held religious ceremonies and village counsels. The top would have been overlaid with wooden beams and covered with clay. A hole served for a ladder to descend and a flu for smoke to escape, the fire pit being situated on that end of the kiva floor.

The walls of the canyon are composed of basalt and “tuff” — I’m more familiar with the term, “tufa” –rock made of accumulated ash from an ancient volcano. It must be similar to the conical “mounds” of Cappadocia, Turkey, in which a warren of ancient domiciles and churches were carved into the rock in the early centuries (5th and 6th) of the Christian era. You can see the man-made holes in the cliff in the picture above.

A closer look at the cave-rooms, accessed by ladders.

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Santa Fe, New Mexico

Greetings from the Bandelier National Monument! After the workshop in Scottsdale, I drove my rental Nissan Rogue to Santa Fe, another Art Mecca. The historic city has over 100 galleries. Absolute bliss! Fortunately for me, my friend Andrea, her husband Jack, and daughers, Estee, Ellie and Eramis were going to be there at the same time. Andrea found us houses — actual houses! — called Casitas to stay in. They were located on a quiet street just two blocks from the Historic Plaza, where the Palace of the Governors was built in 1640! (I’m a history buff, but I had no idea.)

Jack and Andrea’s Casita….Very nice.

My Casita.

The Patio behind my Casita. It was in the 50s in Santa Fe. This would have a great place to have dinner and a bottle of wine if the temperature had been about 20 degrees warmer. As it was, it was about 40 degrees warmer than Wisconsin.

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Jeremy Lipking Workshop in Scottsdale

Jeremy is the tall one in the center. On the left side of the picture is Tim Perkins, a still-life artist whose work is for sale at Scottsdale Fine Art. Next on the left is Marci Oleszkiewicz, from Illinois, who was having a one-woman show of her work at the Russian Gallery in Scottsdale. The woman in the white tee shirt and apron is Tess Olson from Alexandria, VA.

Watching Jeremy Lipking paint was a surprise. He spent a considerable amount of time posing the model, looking for pleasing shapes, planes and shadows, not beginning his investment in paint haphazardly. Second he took careful measurements from his easle, making certain the figure fit well onto his canvas. He made some very subtle marks on the canvas Thus, he made no mistakes in draftsmanship and avoided the need to spend time scraping paint and painting over them later. Looking at the figure, he analyzed what was the most important part. Since the face was visible, it was the focal point. He began by painting her head, and developed it to a pretty high degree, painting wet into wet, before he moved on. In fact, being the most complicated portion of his figure, it was all he painted on the first day. He was careful in his color judgments. Again, painting deliberately and with due consideration, he didn’t have to correct anything later. Unlike other painters, he didn’t really draw the entire figure in ahead of time.

The model was lying on her side, facing him, her face slightly averted, bent at the pelvis and the knees, so the significant planes were her face, her neck, her chest, her upper waist, her lower waist, her thighs and knees and lower legs. Her upper arm lay behind her back, tilting her upper torso at an angle backward, and her lower arm was thrust forward, embracing the pillow upon which her head lay.

Jeremy kept in mind his tonal range from darkest to lightesas well as the temperature range of the skin tones and tried to nail the correct tone right from the start, making it darker, rather than lighter, if anything. One can always bring out the highlights later. Again, he finished a section before moving on because the next day it would be harder to blend the colors. He uses a palette of skin tones cooler than most other figure painters. He analyzed the light coming through the high windows behind them, identifying it as cool, even blue. I couldn’t see it myself. I can tell when light is warm, as it is in late afternoon, but I couldn’t really tell, and honestly, I thought her skin tones more creamy and warmer than he initially painted them. The end result of his color blending was gorgeous though. See below.

He said that at home, he paints with a mirror behind him, so that he can see the reflection of the painting backwards. It helps him to see whether there are any non-proportionalities (my word, not his). As it was, he took the canvas, turned it on it’s side or upside down to check his measurements.

The palette Jeremy used was:
A lavender mixture made up of Ultramarine Blue, Alizarin Crimson and White
Lemon Yellow (Rembrandt)
Cadmium Yellow, Deep or Medium
Cadmium Orange
Cadmium Red
Pyro Ruby Red (from or Alizarin Crimson
Transparent Oxide Brown
Burnt Sienna (Windsor Newton, because it is less opaque)
Ultramarine Blue
Cobalt Blue
Golden Green (like Sap or Terra Verte, by Old Holland or Windsor Newton)
Medium Gray, made up of Viridian, White, touch of Cad Red and Yellow

His typical medium is 1 part Stand Oil, 1 part Damar Varnish, 5 parts distilled turpentine

He painted on L600 Traditions, linen covered panel (from

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My figure study from the Lipking Workshop

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In Scottsdale, I stayed at the Homestead Suites. It was half a block away from the Scottsdale Artist School and within easy walking distance of the Main Street Galleries. I had a refridgerator and a microwave in my room, so I could eat breakfast in, then make a quick run to Starbucks before class began. After class, I would whip home, change into shorts and tee shirt and hit the galleries before they closed between 5:00 and 6:00. On the first day I visited Gallery Russia, where Marci had her show (see workshop show for link) and the Legacy Gallery, where I was very impressed by an artist from Australia — sorry, I mean Traverse, Michigan — named Jacquelyn Bischak. The painting “Velvet Cape” was especially stunning. I don’t think the image online does it justice.

On my second night out, I popped into Scottsdale Fine Art to see Tim Perkins work (see workshop blog for link) and again into Legacy to take another look at Jacquelyn Bischak. The Gallery had just mounted a new show of Daniel Gerhartz though, which was hanging in the same spot. I LOVED these paintings, especially “Their Journey Together.” I was thrilled to learn he was from Wisconsin. I also discovered Romel de la Torre at the Willow Gallery. I thought his flesh tones were lovely. He reminded me of Richard Schmid, painting the figure more tightly, then semi-developing the rest of the painting with bravura brushstrokes. I met Marci, Elizabeth Pollie and Catherine Mamola at contemporary restaurant called AZ88 and we talked art on the patio…..It was in the 70s in Scottsdale. Sigh. The restaurant was especially memorable for the johns. They were difficult to find, first of all. The door was set into the wall without a frame. From a distance you don’t even notice it except that across the foot of the door in red letters it is labeled SHE. Once inside the stall, you can view yourself on the throne from three walls of floor to ceiling mirrors. An experience.

On my third evening I retraced my steps to Main Street to check out the paintings of Michael Malm at the Trailside Gallery. His subjects were very appealing, but more loosely painted than Dan Gerhartz, whose work I like more. I discovered an absolutely stunning painting by an artist named Bryce Cameron Liston in the Rive Gauche Gallery. It was called “Gather Ye Rosebuds”. Look on his website for a girl holding a backet of roses with candlelight glowing through her hair. That painting, in person, will stop you in your tracks. I liked the fact that he borrows themes from myth and literature for his paintings, as I do. All in all, I would say that “Their Journey Together” at the Legacy was the painting I would have taken away with me from Scottsdale. If only I’d had $34,000 in a bank account at home….