Andrew Romanoff

In the spring of 2003, our party  entered Gallery 16 to entertain the vivid images made by painter and multi media artist Andrew Romanoff whose one man show was being celebrated at the opening party. The paintings in this exhibit come from the Vita, from the heart and everyday  realities of an  awake aware and gifted being, one who has lived on many levels, in many dimensions  and recorded impressions of the domestic and cultural life of several eras, countries and  continents.

Romanoff enters the ordinary world with extraordinary perceptivity, recording this moment and that….the images,scenes and scenarios that we inhabit,encounter and create without registering import or value. He sees what most of us overlook or ignore as too unimportant or mundane or which we simply miss because we take such events, juxtapositions and incongruities as the given. Often we dismiss what we assume as obvious or take for granted and thereby miss out on what’s really going on before our eyes, but hidden from view, from conscious awareness. Clearly he sees what we profoundly experience and barely notice…and the gift of these images is the restoraration of our lives made whole to us.

His work ranges from the minutia of ordinary even typical daily life of anyone anywhere ( see the Shrinky Dinks on the perennial theme of the complex relationships of men and women ) to the idiosyncratic images that reflect or chronicle the unique life of a man born into the world of royals but who has become an uncommon commoner who wears blue jeans, cultivates his garden and makes resonating art..His work shuttles from cartoonish trivia to exalted sublimity, the full scope of human experience.

In his paintings, the seemingly inconsequential moments vibrate with emotional intensity.Themes and motifs come from the smallest stuff, the least threads that together comprise the fabric of existence, that take us into the largest places of our lives. The gallery goers pause before each of the works,taking them in in long salubrious draughts. We are all palpably affected by the work . How do I know this? Because the heart beats,the skin remembers, the mind rouses, the self giggles in the shock and pleasure of recognition.

I have long known that mortals have a debt of gratitude to our artists. I want to say to Andrew Romanoff:  Thank you, thank you for your deep and abiding humanity, loving kindness and the great good sense to share with us what you  see from the deep well of who you  are.

My symathetic understanding goes to any biogtrapher of an artist who has little time in which to gather information and limited acquaintance to understand the themes and motifs of a life that surface in perusing the particulars. What to include and what to exclude?  When we inscribe this happend followed by this, the effect is too choppy. Rather a slant or tack is needed, an overarching theme or idea that can be demonstrated through the relating of currents and experiences. A bio needs shape and focus. An arc is needed. Perhaps a good strategy would be to trace artistic antecedents and early influences.  It’s often a good idea to summarize rather than detail in chronological order what actually happened.


El Radio Fantastique

Holy Wow! Art of the first water. If you admire Le Cirque de Soleil, you will recognize the edgy craft, magic, and ingenious Wabe-Sabi of El Radio Fantistique whose Vaudevillian numbers were fascinating, funny,  outrageous and moving by turns. Many of you probably already know and love them, but I, always the last to know, sniffle, finally caught their act… the 7:30 show on Saturday night and was temped to stay for the 10 o’clock which I heard was an all stops out, full tilt boogie performance. But since I missed it, you will have to see through the lens of my perceptions which aint half bad, Charlie. My neighborhood pen-pal saw it on Friday and as he wasn’t as enthusiastic, I opined that Friday’s wasn’t fully cooked, still raw….only explanation possible: More rehearsal needed. And there’s the rub in repetitive performances. The longer the run, the better the show…what with improvement, mastery, the reach for greatness. And while I may have missed the bawdy bravura of the 10 o’clock, I’m here to Testify, dear brethren and Sistern, we have creative genius and gifted musicians and performers in out midst. I was so excited by the show, I couldn’t sleep and became the night owl some of us dawn rising wrens yearn to be.

The audience adored the spoof on Health Care and collectively cracked up when we saw what really goes on behind the curtain.[ The young woman…forgive me I don’t know everyone’s name yet and I do so want to give her credit…]Melissa Claire who played the dumb blonde nurse has a phenomenal comedic gift and she can twirl a baton to boot as can Yasmine McCudden. [I don’t want to single her out, though, because ]The principals, Johnny and June DiMorente, were brilliant … fire and light. Sharron Drake’s fiddle spieling and Maggie Levinger’s Charleston, the drummers, wind players and singers  were hot. The troupe of musicians and dancers as well as the guest choir directed by Laura Alderdice and visual artist, Nancy Stein, were ab fab. Individually and ensemble, these Cabaret artists are brave and engaging, and a pleasure to behold. If you haven’t seen Nocturne, don’t miss the next rabbit they pull from the hat.

All right. Some of the jokes were as old as Vaudeville itself. My fav : What are a bass player’s worst three years?

Second Grade.

But then again, shtick und schmaltz make us laugh, and like chicken soup, good for what ails. That’s how they got through the depression. So will we.


Anti War Opera

In his review of Glass’s opera, Appomattox, Joshua Kosman noted “the anguished singing of the women in the prologue and epilogue, bemoaning the “sorrowfulness” of war, takes on the depth of a Greek tragic chorus.” This is the key to the opera which begins and ends with the women’s lamentation. They are willing to sacrifice their beloved men if this means there will never be another war. We need to read the opera as poetry and not prose. The subject is not just the Civil War. That is the vehicle, not the tenor of the trope. The subject is war itself, a worthy subject in time of war.


Bruce Mitchell

I don’t know how many of us read and remember the Teachings of Don Juan and the other Carlos Castaneda books that surfaced in my ( Agemates, read “our”) formative years. I have kept two sustaining notions from the oeuvre and refer to them when I am tempted to be slack and lazy. The first is to keep Death over one’s left shoulder, which I take to mean: know that it’s coming. We know but don’t quite take it in when we’re younger. If we’re going to do whatever is in our provenance and deep hearted longing to do, we had better do it or the doing will be another good idea lost on the highway. So, yea, do it. Don’t wait until you are as old as some of us Grandma Moses wannabes  staggering and limping up to the starting line, huffing and puffing before the mark is even set…before you toe the line (Me? Never!) and make a desultory amble to the Finish which is something like: One minute you’re rocking and the next you’re off your rocker. But I digress.

The second  concept, encased in a word to live by, is impeccable and the whole point of this exercise in allusion and my raison d’etre. Impeccable is the word that comes to mind  when you look at the extraordinary body of work made and displayed at Toby’s Gallery, a milestone exhibition for the sculptor and the town. Bruce Mitchell has been messing about with wood for at least a couple of decades. I didn’t check my facts and could be off by a few years, but who’s keeping score?  He made the gallery “Pop” as the smart- set cognoscenti say, fitting the gallery with new track lighting and installing some baseboard interest he was staining with Minwax the morning of the Opening, Sat 11/7/09. He told me that in preparation for the show, he made a scale model of the gallery and miniature replicas of his sculptures  in order to create an environment which shows off the stunning and accomplished, nay masterful work to perfection. Every detail has been taken into account, not an eyelash out of place. Bravo.

This is an artist who really understands his medium. Read his Artist’s Statement which lets us see how many gears he is using. Of our four endowments:  sense perception, reason, emotion and intuition, he’s operating on all four. Impeccable work comes from a synthesis of all our faculties. How many of us can say the same? Mitchell’s craftsmanship is admirable, exemplary, nonpareil. Moreover, he reveals the gorgeous organic features and forms of grain in every wood he works with and finds shapes both classical and modern, masculine and feminine. What he has made is pretty close to sublime, if I remember my Art History aright.

I haven’t mentioned the work itself. Benches, tables, bowls and trays are all for sale. Those words and objects are all so ordinary but what Mitchell makes of them is not. If you visit his studio during the Open Studio weekend on the horizon you will find much more to admire, functional objets for the dining room table, etc. And if you start saving your greenbacks, moolah, spondulicks, what have you, you may become a fortunate mortal living with and enjoying something a master wood worker/sculptor/artist has conceived and executed, no easy task. It was Michelangelo who said: How do I do it? Simple. I chip away all that is not David. But in these post modern times, Mitchell chips away all that is not Madonna or the Solstice Gate…which, believe me, are as riveting, thought provoking and compelling as anything I’ve contemplated at the Louvre or Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Or don’t believe me. Go and see for yourself.


Edmund Paul Halley

A light has gone out. The sun rose red on Thursday, September 6,2007 and Edmund Paul Halley slipped into the great by and by, having relinquished the life he loved and was so interested in. He plumbed and probed the earth’s treasury of secrets, the particulars of the cosmos that open to a curious mind. Like his famous forbear, the astronomer Edmund Halley, friend of Isaac Newton, for whom the comet is named, he had an extraordinary ability to focus, concentrate and get to the heart of things.  He was interested not only in Marine Biology, the object of his graduate study after his B.S. from Stanford, but in the general principles of biology and physics that address the processes and systems of life on the planet as well.

He was well read in the cutting edge scientific texts of the last century and loved to discuss them with everyone who visited him. He was a Skeptic by inclination and subscription, but was willing to entertain ideas compellingly argued. He was fair minded and generous. That did not make him immune to the slings and arrows, the hard- core vicissitudes of life. For all the great joy he was capable of generating and embracing, there were powerful losses and sorrows in his life he stoically bore.

This was a man worth knowing. He used to say he was a lover not a fighter, though he took a bullet for his country in the Korean War. Born in Chicago, March 14,1932, he was raised in Stockton, the younger son of a pioneer radiologist and a loving mother, Edmund and Jane Ann Halley. He made his way to the coast and North Shore Boats in the late 1960s where he raised his family and rented boats to people who wanted to fish or float on Tomales Bay.

He was a genuinely gentle man. Without having studied the sacred texts of the East, without sitting on a pillow, he knew the content of the wisdom traditions. He was both father and mother to his four bright and beamish children and his parenting skills were remarkable. He bought his daughters a sewing machine and when they asked what they should do, he asked what the directions said. Having read the directions, they manufactured their garments, certain their father had taught them how to sew.

His family members are vastly competent and accomplished which is attributable in part to the industrious hive of activity he generated to do and make do. Independent thinking, strength, confidence, self- reliance and accomplishment were once considered defining American characteristics. He was the epitome of handy, could make just about anything in shop or kitchen pot and was never seduced into thinking margarine was better than butter.

He was drawn to things intelligent, interesting, or beautiful and was himself a fine craftsman. He built splendid rowing boats that were sea worthy and beautiful. The house he built in Tahoe is fine  architecture and the unique house  he crafted in Marshall overlooking the water is very much like the boats he loved. This he built from the great wood stash he collected, along with just about everything else. He was an ardent sailor, a talented and savvy racer and  sailed the “Dos Amigos” under the flag of the Corinthian yacht club in Tiburon in in 1968 with his son, Pete. Sailing the family boat, the Lahlia, a Crocker Ketch, he  won The Master Mariner’s Race the year his grandson Aaron was born, 1981. A brilliant strategist, he could outfox nearly everyone on deck or game board.

He had a lovely singing voice and had a line of song for any occasion. He knew a gezillion poems and his recitation of Vachel Lindsey’s “Congo” was intoxicating. He loved music and appreciated everyone’s creative efforts and activities. He was a great hugger.  He was a marvelous being who was, like any of us, a sojourner on earth and will be missed.

He is survived by his brother Richard, his son Hugh, his daughters Anne and Mary, his grandchildren Shasta, Ryan, Aaron, Joe, Jessica, Thor and Jasha, and his nephews Rick and John. His son Pete died before he did.

Contributions in his memory may be made to Spaulding Wooden Boat Center, Foot of Gate 5 Road, Sausalito, 94965 or the San Francisco Symphony.


Creation Lorraine Almeida 8.10.07

Lorraine Almeida’s show, ”Then, Now, and Beyond,” opens at Toby’s September1st and runs to the 30th. I’m struck by the profound connection that links three of the paintings in the exhibit, painted years apart. Her theme is the cosmos and creation and these spirit flooded images invite the viewer to apprehend and meditate upon the great mysteries. “The Presence of Light in the Cosmos #2 (1985)” which  is gorgeously colored undifferentiated matter, fiery particles, pure energy, can be read as first in a series, though she painted it after “The World Emerging into Form “which can be construed as the aftermath of the Big Bang, the emergence of matter, a riveting concept evocatively rendered. She painted this in 1973, the era of psychedelic experiments and transfiguring visions larger than the bound worlds of institutionalized religion and status quo reality. There’s so much motion and energy splitting apart, a kind of macro version of cell division contained in this piece. The last panel of this ‘triptych,’ “Flower of Flames” (2007) is a mandala of realized matter, the specificity of individuated form pointing to the universal.

Almeida’s work is mythic. In her paintings are the play of opposites and the interconnected unity of all things under the masks of differentiated being. The images are metaphoric of  the essential, awe-inspiring, ineffable mysteries that surround us, easy to overlook in a prosaic world. Her images reawaken and compel us, if we’ re willing to suspend disbelief, to open up to the numinous.

Almeida has led a profoundly spiritual life informed by meditation, which, she says, is connected to her state of mind during painting. She first experienced meditation as a child sitting next to her grandmother during night service in church. During the meaningful and seminal retreats she has taken, the work she did there led to paintings currently on exhibit. In the “The Presence,” for example, we see unfurling clouds opening around a sphere of light, the eye of creation.

In the presence of the cosmic garden she tends, she is humble, signing her work on the back of her canvases to leave the images unalloyed. She says: “The images are given to me. My goal is to express truth whatever way it comes to me…. I discovered whatever is in my heart has to go through my hand before my mind knows what my heart is saying. It’s when I make things I understand. “ She wants to inspire others to follow their bliss as she has, to do whatever allows them to meet and fulfill themselves.

The Opening / Reception of her show is Saturday, September 8, 2-4pm. The artist will give a talk, “The Process of Creation,” along with others who will read their work on Wed Sept 3-5pm. Sun, Sept 15, there will be a country music performance by Michael Harmon and Ingrid Noyes at the site of her exhibition at Toby’s. Take your time. Be prepared to encounter eternity in a wildflower, the still silent place, the beating heart of our dreams.

Farmer’s Market

The grower of trees, the gardener, the man born to farming,whose hands reach into the ground and sprout,to him the soil is a divine drug. He enters into death yearly, and comes back rejoicing. He has seen the light lie down in the drug heap, and rise again in the corn. His thought passes along the row ends like a mole. What miraculous seed has he swallowed that the unending sentence of his love flows out of his mouth like a vine clinging in the sunlight, and like water descending in the dark?     –Wendell Berry

Let’s face it. Most of us love to eat. Many of us are foodies who love to cook and talk about food and think about the next meal while still chewing on the one set upon our plates. In a macro culture that blurs the distinctions of the actual and real by rounding out significant dates to the nearest Monday and importing seasonal foods out of season, it is a pleasure and relief to live where we still remember the natural seasons and cycles of the year. We await with growing excitement the annual Farmer’s Market in Point Reyes which begins with the first trickle of root crops, strawberries, spring greens, and whatever else has ripened, given the circumstances of weather wind and fortune. As the season progresses, we can expect the abundant cornucopia of orchard and field.

This year’s market opens Saturday June 23rd at 9 A.M. with a toasting of the wonderful wine produced by Point Reyes Vineyards. Supervisor Steve Kinsey and his aide, Liza Crosse  join us in raising our cups with appreciation and gratitude to the hard working producers and purveyors, the many volunteers, Chris Giacomini, Amy Whalen, Ed Strausser, market manager, and all who make the market possible. At 9:30, Charlie Morgan, Doc Armstrong and friends play music until 1 P.M.  KWMR will broadcast live from the market.

We’ve all come to love the many dimensions of community life this market occasions. In addition to the main attraction, the freshest possible local produce, we mingle with friends and neighbors, hear remarkable music, learn about the earth’s produce, enjoy the fabulous culinary coups of the guest chefs, support local and sustainable agriculture and completely enjoy everyone and everything, thank you very much. Best of all, we get to meet and commune with the people who grow our food, those warn and weary yet stunningly cheerful mortals whose devotion and effort cannot be praised highly enough nor sufficiently thanked.

I spoke with a few farmers to have an idea of what’s to come and what they’ve been up against in cultivating their crops. Peter Martinelli of Fresh Run Farm said that while some believe we are experiencing the conditions of drought, he thinks we are closer to a normal spring than the last five very wet springs. This allowed him to get into the ground a month and a half earlier than last year and will mean more successive plantings and a more consistent supply. Look for Swiss chard, kale, potatoes, beets, carrots and strawberries at his booth. The onions are getting close to harvest. It’s a little early for summer squash, but much more will become available as the days lengthen, the season deepens and vegetables grow ripe on stalk and vine.

Margie McDonald and husband, Jack Corwin grow vegetables and fruits on their “Wild Blue Farm,” in Tomales with hard work and devotion. devotion “It’s a calling,” she said. Jack gets up at 5:30 or 6:00 and she’s on board shortly after. She loves to see people’s faces light up with delight and takes enormous satisfaction in giving something she’s grown. As coastal farmers beset by fog, they have to choose their varieties carefully. Her passion is strange and wonderful winter squash … the weirder the better. Remember their yellow and purple cauliflower? They’ve rediscovered and revived many heirloom varieties which bust through the white bread white food barrier. and bless them for doing so. She sells small inexpensive bouquets of flowers, so everyone can afford beauty.

Peter Worsely is an avid experimenter who tries new varieties and goes a long way to find them. While attending a conference on apples in New Zealand, he visited former Point Reyes resident, Alan Scott, in Tazmania. He dried seeds from tomatoes he ate in Scott’s kitchen and is growing four plants. Peter has about ten varieties of potatoes and tomatoes this season as well as two kinds of garlic, always a plus! Peter is growing a variety of corn he remembers from his childhood in Maryland, Silver Queen, distinguished by its glorious flavor.  He’s working black- eyed peas, red white purple and yellow spuds as well as Gala Fuji and Cameo apples.. He  too is expanding our range and palette of vegetables. I’m looking forward to his fava beans, Moon and Stars watermelon as well as the green and orange cantaloupes and delicate greens. Did I mention the garlic?

Russell Satori is the strawberry guy from Tomales and Mimi Luebberman will be back with raw and died wool skeins and sheep pelts. Many more returning popular farmers  are joined by   newcomers. Angelo Ibleto of Petaluma offers smoked salmon and trout and Lori Stanton is vending savory tarts you can pop in the oven when you get home. And those of us who need to know where our next meal is coming from will be thrilled to note that Christian Caiazzo is serving hot sandwiches at the market. He will be using Brickmaiden Bread’s organic country loaves and cheeses from Cowgirl Creamery. Butter by Straus,olive oil by McEvoy…. Mmmm mmmmm

There will be a 10% discount for seniors and those involved in the food distribution program. Carolyn Strausser says volunteers are needed and welcome. There are small jobs  and larger ones that need commitment for the season. Call 669 9945. We’ll all appreciate your contributions to an annual ongoing event not only frequented by majestic personages from foreign shores, but by the fortunate and blessed beings lucky enough to call this our home and this our market place.


Joyce Kouffman Music at the Center 10.07

In honor and celebration of her Jubilee year, which in the Kabala is the Half Century birthday dedicated to truth telling, Composer Joyce Kouffman at fifty began to tell stories of a musical life that has been richly productive and rewarding. She started drawing other artists into her scheme and “Music at the Center,” a month long series of events, concerts, and collaborations with visual artists, poets and other musicians this October 2007, is the exciting result of her meditations and preparations. Toby’s Feed Barn and Gallery is the site of what she calls a participatory and educational exhibit of music art and poetry where she will perform solo or in concert with others in planned programs and improvisational encounters.

Kouffman was born in Brookline, Massachusetts into a musical family, had the good fortune of attending public schools in an era when music was positively embraced as core curriculum and had many opportunities to play in ensembles on her many instruments. She played classical cello, which she studied with members of the Boston Symphony, in chamber groups and orchestras including several performances with Yoyo Ma when they were classmates at Harvard/Ratcliffe. After falling for the drum as a girl in a time when few if any drummers were women, she accompanied the exciting rhythms of Motown greats in her room. After college, she pursued African-style drumming and jazz drumming for 10 years with trips to Senegal to study with master drummers and dancers. She studied with jazz master Alan Dawson (Brubeck’s former drummer) in Boston while teaching at Harvard where she won several awards for excellence in teaching.

Kouffman has said that great musicians make space for the audience, reveal the feelings we may not know we had.  She cites two musical experiences as germinal in the development of her creative life and career, events that changed her life. She went to hear Aretha Franklin perform for the first time and was astonished and thrilled to find the audience calling out in response to the music. At the Symphony, we politely fold our hands in our laps and applaud at the end of the work, not at the close each movement, a scripted response. But at the rhythm and blues and rock concerts, everything (and everyone) is alive and on fire. Second, the night Martin Luther King was assassinated, James Brown held an all night concert in Boston which was broadcast by WGBH. Boston was the only  metropolitan area that didn’t have riots because people stayed home to watch, and they were fortunate” to have a healing force that Brown provided to keep everything calm.”

Since moving to the Bay area, Kouffman has been composing. Inspired by Kouffman’s music, 20 West Marin artists (verbal and visual) have  been creating work from the center, the very heart of things and visitors to the gallery will be invited to explore the creative process by creating a piece of art, writing a poem and or playing music with the Maestra who is to be musician in residence at Toby’s for the entire month of October and present for special events, spontaneous happenings and other unplanned great occasions. For weekly and daily updates, check <> .

The first Special Event is Friday,October 5, 7:30 p.m at Toby’s. “A River of Words and Music” will  benefit  “River of Words”, the program that brings poets into classrooms founded by our own and the nation’s own Robert Haas while he was US Poet Laureate. Haas will read from his newest book. He is joined by award winning and much loved poet, Jane Hirschfield and  National Book Award Finalist, Linda Pastan. Kouffman will premiere several new compositions inspired by their poetry, notably Pastan’s  “It is Raining on the House of Anne Frank,” dedicated “ to all the children in war torn areas of the world.” Kouffman will accompany Hirschfield in a reading of her poem,”Percolation,” and inspired by Haas’s line,”the melancholy beauty of giving it all up…” from Praise,  Kouffman has created a “chant-like theme  for cello and classical guitar “ she will weave through the evening’s offering, binding the cloth whole. Co-sponsored by Point Reyes Books, the tickets are $15-25. Reservations and tickets are available at Point Reyes Books.

Sunday October 7 is a bonanza. Reservations are recommended  for “Art, Music, and Poetry in the Moment  ” limited to 45 seats ($10-$25) in the Gallery where Kouffman will be joined by Pasten, former Poet Laureate of Maryland will read from her newest volume, ”Queen of a Rainy Country,”  and guest composer and pianist, Mary Watkins who along with Kouffman on multiple instruments will play music to inspire paintings created in front of the audience by gifted local artists Toni Littlejohn and Ane Rovetta. From 2-3 pm, refreshments will be served and donations for the project happily received at the Opening Reception with all the artists and poets contributing to the jubilee.

The Farmer’s Market on Saturday October 13  is the place where “Joyce Kouffman’s Drum Class Alumni Reunion will meet from 9:30 a.m. -1 p.m., promising to be a lively and,er,unbeatable entertainment. This is also “Community Music and Poetry Day” and is open to all ages and levels of experience and will be in the Gallery from 2-5p.m either free or with a donation. The local talent will be out in full force. Sky Nelson, Bill Horvitz and Charlie Morgan are a few of the musicians and beloved local poets Julia Bartlett, Nancy Bertelsen, Kris Brown, Joan Thornton and others will step up to the open music and  poetry mic. Kouffman says Kids over 10 and teens especially welcome. This is an inclusive and intergenerational event and for both seasoned players and novices.

The closing Reception for all artists/CD Release party is Saturday October 27 from 2-5 pm likewise at Toby’s Gallery. Special guest Percussionist Barbara Borden will Join Kouffman  in a short performance of her newest CD which she describes as “casual and soft Latin style dance music”  inspired by Bach and she invites us to dance. There will be archival videos of Jazz, documentaries with Kouffman’s film scores and other gifts from her thirty years in her beloved profession.

This is an extraordinary musical offering and an opportunity for the whole community to participate. Brava Kouffman!


Tracks and Prints: Two Photographers

There is a flowering of culture in our time and place which I’d like us to contemplate and relish. For several decades we have been watching members of our community develop and grow.  That is one of the great pleasures of finding a “dear perpetual place” (“Poem for My Daughter” WB Yeats): watching and being part of the great cycle of being… coming in, growing up, flourishing, declining and departing. Many of us have been impelled to record and represent the people and animals who live here, the places we inhabit and the land that abides.

Art Rogers has been recording the bedrock institutions of our place  long enough to establish himself as the chronicler / photographer of Point Reyes Nation, known and loved locally, known and  admired everywhere. His iconic images of farmland, wetlands, ranches, local places and people have helped us hold in our hearts what is truly ours. He has recorded every day lives and milestone occasions. His generational family portraits taken and retaken to mark time’s wake and his group photographs of our community gatherings have memorized who we are, our connections and intersections, the new year’s first baby, our beloved cows.  There are so many migrations of us who claim kinship here, palimpsests that never erase or take the place of the original settlers and their descendents. At the core of his many portraits are those of people closely linked to the land.

So it should be no surprise that his current show at Point Reyes Books, in conjunction with the Stegner Conference, pays homage to the quintessential elements of place. His photographs are made with a wooden 11×14 field view camera, about 100 years old. Art has left us some notes to understand and appreciate what he’s done. The Contact print, he says,” is made from a negative the same size as the original camera. Made out of metallic silver, the silver print produces intense Hi Fi images that will last hundreds of years.” I can well understand the desire to make durable images because so many of the colored photographs made even thirty years ago are fading fast. There is a wonderful photo of his wooden camera with attentive dog alluding to another cultural icon, from an era as old as the camera, a dog listening to   “His Master’s Voice” on a  trumpet Victrola.

Art wrote: ”One hundred years ago, photographs told the story of the American West and an era when life was simpler. They highlighted the beauty and tranquility of the western frontier  and captured the intimate relationship of humanity with the land and animals. But it is not just a cultural memory, it is our American identity, an identity we are still connected to today.”

The11x14 gelatin silver contact prints  were all made in 2006 and gems, everyone. I particularly loved the only vertical shot in the collection, Halleck Creek Valley which is a brilliantly composed landscape with a painter painting at its heart. Perfect.

Another fine photographer we are so fortunate to have in our midst is Marty Knapp whose exquisite succinct collection can be seen in the little room at the Station House Café: EXPRESS Knapp on Nature – the Exhibit. On the little flyer available there, Knapp has written:  “ I spend countless house walking the trails, ridges and beaches of this precious world. Every once in awhile, I’m blessed to see and record a moment of light that fills me with wonder. I hope these moments will do the same for you.” “ Blue Oak Group. Briones Regional Park strikes me as the essential California  landscape, with the golden lion’s mane grass of summer. On the evening of the opening and his articulate and compelling talk about his work, Marty pointed to the barely burgeoning blossoms on the trees and I knew I had my seasons skewed. It’s the infra red lens that wheatens the grasses…to beautiful effect. His landscapes, trees and moody portraits of fog are strong, delicate and lovely.

We who love his work are grateful for his annual calendars and his small affordable prints. It is fitting that he who loves and evokes such lyric and majestic beauty should be part of a collection of exhibits honoring Stegner. It was great to see his lens change focus from the largest view to more minute particulars, as if having addressed the Vast Immensities, he can expose the more intimate and familiar details of landscape, the way fog curls around these specific trees in this light, this season, this time of day. I haven’t yet seen his show in conjunction with the conference, but I plan to soon and invite you to see for yourselves the fine work of two great photographers.


Quality of Life

I went to see a preview of “Quality of Life,” a brilliant play at A.C.T.  written and directed by Nicassio resident Jane Anderson.  It’s a play about unbearable loss, the power of love, what really matters most in life and death. Dramatic tension arises from the divergent perspectives and world views of two couples, one whose lives and values reflect much that is embodied in a cutting edge community informed by acceptance of life as it is and the mind opening wisdom of perennial philosophy.  The other couple  reflects the cultural biases and more conventional and traditional views of the very decent true believers from the Midwest. The playwright’s genius lies in her making a container for all, a noble and timely vision for our red and blue house divided society. The music is haunting, the set and costumes just so and the acting superb. The script is  breathtakingly beautiful, poignant, anguish making, elevating and very very funny. The audience was audibly moved. There was nothing sentimental or sensational about the play. We laughed and cried because of its soulful and profound honesty. Our laughter and tears came from the depth of being, a recognition of the terrible truths, complexities and dilemmas of human existence.

Go see Quality of Life.

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