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BEAUTIFULLY APOCALYPTIC BEAUDELAIRIAN IDIOCY…

APOCALYPTIC OMNIPRESENCE 1968

As I make forays into my archives I can sometimes be reminded of what I live with everyday… I see this painting, inspired by the lotus napkin-fold I used to make, as I move up & down the stairway to our bedroom at Soundcliff & rue the too-visible damage from too-many, too-casual moves. It is, in so many aspects, a very complicated canvas… a story beginning in damage, as I recall.

I still own it because it was never offered for sale after the vinyl sheet in which I wrapped it [a bit prematurely] for protection while being submitted to the first juried show for which the Denver Art Museum began considering canvases without frames. I had been experimenting to build more sculptural stretchers for my canvases. I had been lobbying for freedom from the constriction of frames. The mauve of its imagery wraps over the edge onto the slanted side defined by the angled stretcher which no frame could enhance… 

Rather than protecting my work, the film damaged it, fusing to the surface just enough that it could not be considered… fortunately only to the not-yet-cured color I’d used for touching-up that edge. I could repair that, but… So much for losing a win!

I had long been absorbed by the study of black & white even before the assignment given for one of my last painting classes… I thus could easily celebrate being encouraged to “let-go of color! Indeed that became part of the gestation of Leo Toye. [https://www.grbbells.com/leo-toye-returns/g]

Paint & pigment had been my life becoming much messier as a student of Abstract Expressionism. I wore jeans which hadn’t been changed for weeks… their denim thighs having become the repository for several painting’s worth of finger wipes & brush swipes… joking that they could stand-up on their own… becoming the messy badge of my identity as a painting major walking across campus. [Now, don’t I wish I had more than a mental a picture of that drag ?!]

As well around this time I learned about technical pens from my then new & now lifelong friend Francie Kendall… who is an un likely source for the use of such tetchy tools requiring to be held vertically so the ink flows smoothly flat! I need to ask how she learned about the Rapidograph she used to keep her journal… her “beautiful book” of quotations… with the beautifully dense permanence of India ink

The BEAUTIFUL BOOK painting 1967

FEK became my first patron… beginning my jewelry career with her enthusiasm. It was she who branded me GRB, as she also dubbed others in our curass with initials: WEB, FWK, SELaM. I appreciate her as “EffieKay” & she gifted me so much of my identity as “GeeHarBee”. 

I fell under the thrall of the India ink those pens feed on… seduced by the notions of precision & archival permanence. 

I grew up a rather simple rural classicist. I’d made a reputation even before high school for lettering the posters for school elections & the signage at the retail store where I worked. I fell in love with colorless clarity & shadows as I followed my creative roots… leading me ever closer to the sculpture l love.

Somewhere along the way I had become enamored with the sexy ink drawings of Aubrey Beardsley… very much about black & white.

All these became fertile ground for a body of work exploring richness without color. After several years of “education” in the messy color of abstract expressionism, I finally found permission for my innate sense of precision!  Black, white & atonal grays fuzzling deep-light-shadow-sharp into what comes from ink-nib flow or strokes of graphite.  Contrasting light & shadow. Graphically sharp or soft with sculptural chiaroscuro. Ink & pencil.

Posters. Beardsley, Daumier. Rapidograph pens encouraging calligraphic precision which eventually morphed into my own journal habit,  jewelry & eventually bells!

I remember lackadaisically discovering, the evening before my final critique, that I was one painting short of the requirement. I had this abandoned canvas, pained in oil as being draped over one corner with a yellow cloth, with the implication of a border inviting me to play with the calligraphic notion of embroidering poetry  a rapidograph painting… I hurriedly finished it before dawn.

BAUDELAIRE BROCADE 1967

That canvas had the usual rough texture of woven surface which most painters love for it’s “tooth” to grab the paint, but leaving brush marks which affected the quality of the pen strokes. In spite that it was made in such an impulsive rush & in spite that it used color, Baudelaire Brocade was not only accepted for class credit, but immediately whisked off by the school to be entered in the 1967 Colorado Intercollegiate Exhibit in Pueblo where it was awarded first prize in the painting division. Nice vindication!

Dorothy, Kansas & OZ… B&W & color… So many stories come as images to my mind!

For years I worshiped at an inky shrine… carrying the pens for writing my journal even when I flew, cradling them open, handkerchief in hand to catch the leaking ink “burped” while the cabin pressure equalized. I still collect those icons.

So somewhere in that period I was inspired to develop a technique to prepare a stretched canvas, as support for a ground with a surface smooth enough to accept ink from one of those Rapidographs or the subtlety of a pencil drawing. I applied several coats of gesso [a plaster-like paint] to the stretched cotton canvas, as was the usual technique, before sanding them smoother than most painters bothered or wanted. I then embedded well-worn cotton sheeting  into several more layers of gesso. That sandwich of canvas, muslin, labor & gesso was then carefully sanded that surface until the tautly stretched canvas took-on the texture of nice writing paper.

In many ways, for the tightly detailed work I was doing, some variety of a more rigid board might have been a better choice, but… I guess I enjoyed the challenge of flex from the tradition hallowing that antique design. I painted several of these ultimately rather fragile wood & canvas constructions…

One of them hangs at the top of this page. Remember my mention about damage? It’s a deep indentation seemingly made by the corner of a box… stretching the fabric[s] & cracking the gesso. I’ve been loath to attempt its repair for several decades. It has hung in all my homes, even nicely on the ceiling in the Sedona house I called Up-Willow. It will eventually collect better attention…

One of those smooth canvases was a hexagon, framed in plexiglas, which I named The IDIOTS MANDALA for its complexity of pencil & ink.  There is no white pigment… meaning that the network of white in the background is made of black blocks inked closely together… begging the question which positive was dancing as negative?

I was obviously working quite madly to prove my own idiocy.

The IDIOT’S MANDALA 1968

Jingle Crotals…

JINGLE BELLS… are they wrong?

Please, don’t get me wrong too! I’m just an artist, a maker of resonant small silver bells who loves also to play with words… in this case the Latin word CROTAL, which means rattle.

Thus, all “jingle bells”… because they have a pebble or bead rattling loosely inside them to make the sound, are actually Crotals… unlike bells, which have attached clappers. Most ”sleigh bells” are thus also crotals!

So… lets sing this song properly… all together now! “JINGLE CROTALS, JINGLE CROTALS, JINGLE ALL THE WAY!”

While timber rattlesnakes then are Crotalus Horridus, I’m not a killjoy! Not even my sometime pedant would be so foolish as to suggest such un-melodic English as that! I just find such holiday tidbits too delicious to ignore !

View the Crotal Bell in the Botanicals Collection…

CROATIA-VENICE-AMSTERDAM… PART FOUR: SPLIT…

The first morning in Split I was awakened early by several long peals of bells… I counted 100, then a bit later dozens more all around 6 or 7am! Those were soon followed by the brushing sound of a miniature street-cleaner…  soft humming whine of electric golf-cart-sized trucks… small enough to negotiate the narrow stone streets we walk, often brushing shoulders with other tourists. Squeals of their brakes… delivering goods or luggage or hauling trash? The ancient inner city of Diocletian’s palace begins to rouse from one more diurnal slumber out of several millennia worth. Then an annoyingly loud basso human voice [Russian?] obviously loving to hear his own theatrical importance resounding & echoing between stone walls & pavement.

Bells, & a classy chandelier from the gilded ceiling made me happy!
 
Our boutique hotel is tucked above a 19th century theater fronting a square just off the central agora, the heart of the ancient summer palace of the Roman Emperor Diocletian. There is delightful further wealth at these links:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Split,_Croatia
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diocletian%27s_Palace

The small lobby was enlarged by a mural-sized image of the street below…

My journal observed:

Yesterday we did several of the museums inside the walls of the late Roman pleasure palace of Diocletian which has subsequently been built & rebuilt into several evolution of medieval cities… outer fortifications & ramparts rising in times needing protection, then razed for more peaceful periods of expansion… always a center for trade, education & now enjoying revival as destination
for tourists like us.

Sporting palm trees & the beaches of which we probably won’t avail ourselves, being more interested in other culture, one appreciates how northern Europeans arrive for a sunny holiday with nightlife… a bit of which we did discover in a small adventure last night inside the bustle & throb of its heartbeat, walking the canyons deflecting crooning cafe singers, courtyards of jazz & disco, coming into soundscapes as corners were rounded then receding as quickly as entering another alleyway. We discovered a warren of venues, mostly under awnings sheltering outdoor tables served by small restaurants barely more than tiny kitchens hidden inside the nook of a thick wall… often down, or up! shadowy nearly invisible steps.

The bar we were seeking has the rare reputation of being gay friendly, if mixed… fine with us!

It turned out to be a long wide passageway gently-stepped &  furnished with an eclectic collection of cushions, stools, benches & small tables served by a waiter from a bar sending a fine collection of the last fifty years of music with which we have long danced. I enjoyed hearing forgotten memories from my twenties as we people-watched what was a parade rich for mostly inventive stories we share between ourselves…

The man sitting across the way from us was a bohemian author of
an intensely seamy novel on his phone which we might read in several years… 
not searching Grindr! 

The handsome Frenchmen with female companions… 
one sitting with his ass on a cushion thrust so far 
into the middle of the stone step supporting it 
that everyone passing had to try not to touch him… 
were secretly lovers…  
in spite of their female companions… 
not married couples.
The scene was quite unlike what we think of as a gay bar in the States!  As we prepared to leave we explored deeper up that passage & into a warren of spaces ever more exotic, filled with who we might have been looking for earlier in the evening, but seemingly only now getting started in their own nights’ bacchanal. Our choice was to return to our fine hotel not so far by foot… or perhaps ages away in the richness of this old district.

This city began as the late Roman emperor Diocletian’s summer palace in 300 AD or so. Centuries later it has become a museum chronicling its strategic situation along the Venetian trade routes, Further fortified walls were added, then torn down in peaceful times…  medieval houses were built into nooks & crannies of the various ruins. The emperor’s tomb became the small cathedral with its bell tower added, the town buildings rose, tumbled & were remodeled or rebuilt over the centuries until it became iconic enough to be declared a UNESCO Heritage site. 

Our hotel has been newly remodeled inside what we could observe had within the recent memory of one of the youthful staff housed a cinema, probably earlier a more proper theater, although she did not know about that. Seemingly the history which draws the tourist trade is not so important to the population who grew-up here, who now choose to stay here. Stephen regularly asked to discover that most in Split are happily native… unlike in Dubrovnik, where they come to work with the intention to go back to their villages.
We began at the formal gate into the palace on the land side…
guarded by theatrical centurions
 The city’s museum explained & displayed visions of the original palace.
 The original footprint… & it’s elevation retains,
even as many centuries’ opportunistic renovations
in-built the grand spaces inside these walls 
into delightful warrens of intimate streets.
Many treasures reward explorers.

The vestibule of the emperor’s apartment was a resonant “whispertorium”. 
Designed to audibly alert the paranoid resident of any intruders.
It has become quite a perfect venue for the acapella groups called Klapa
Climbing up, we discovered the opening of the oculus above the vestibule.
I now wonder how those voices sound up here.
  
In the deep foundations far below at water level these steps show the wear of rough traffic as provisions were off-loaded from the ships in the harbor.
 I might have wished for the support of something like this whimsical hand-rail
which was found in another museum
 Support, even in these stones standing for millennia, takes many forms…
 While some walls need bracing…
 Roman vaulting seems strong…
 The history of here is long. This embroidered fashion reminds that 
cosmopolitan currency was important in this city’s history. 
[zoom-in if you’re into fibre!]
 I was captivated by this stately sink…
Curiously high-up in the roof of the museum… 
Puzzling before i grokked that any kitchen fire 
would better happen atop the stone substructure.
Meaning thus that having any water meant a lot of trudging work.
Now, however, we lunched at one of the many restaurants along the pedestrian friendly waterfront.
Yes, more octopus, although, since telling friends who are more conscious about those animal’s high intelligence than I have been, i am rethinking my gustatory appreciation.
To know ones self is a gift… to become comfortable with that must be one’s art.
Venice & the Biennialle are just a short flight ahead in the next posting…

RE-ENTRY & A PASSAGE…

After an absence nearing a year it seems obvious I cannot just slip back into what I’ve been ignoring… with sadness & to my disappointment. the year is being its own kind of animal… giving a bit of a wild ride!

Winter poured our total annual average of rainfall by April. Inside grey moods, weeding would only make mud wallows. Slip & sigh…

A significant mud-slide immediately to the south of us honed our awareness of our fabulous fragility…

We found some respite in our annual visit to help Mother-in-Love Helen travel to or from her condo on the gulf coast of Florida, Long Boat Key, near Sarasota.

This year we brought her back home to Minnesota. Needing ever more help… after 98 years of vibrant life… she is gradually gracefully slowing down.

The always momentous month of May brings our Vashon Island Art Studio Tour for the first two weekends. ‘Twas the usual scramble to prep both studio & garden for show-time. Mother Nature reliably saves me with her generosity!

So… the year is being good.. It certainly is being very rich… & mostly happy.

Traditionally we visit my mother during May. She lives comfortably in her own apartment, part of our youngest brother’s home in Fort Morgan, Colorado. Much of my family lives along the I-25 corridor, from Rye to Loveland/Longmont.

My Bro-Jon, who lives in Kansas City impulsively flew to join us for a fine bit of family time. We also have other deep friends whom we love to visit in both Boulder & Denver.

We drove a triangle which included time with Brother David, Love-Sis Michelle plus Niece Lisa & her family. A rare feast.

We returned to a summer which brought another record-breaking period… months without any rainfall!

We were planning & prepping to set-up GRB Bells’ canopied booth for the Island’s Strawberry Festival… one of the few out-of-studio shows I do. But, only a few days before that event, it became evident that we were needed in MN. We flew to help Helen by spelling sister Alice & Bro-in-Love John, who because they live close to her, have taken the yeoman’s share of her daily care.

I stayed a month. Learning & loving ever more to care for Helen. She & I developed & honed more deeply useful communication inside our decades of a familial lovingly unique relationship.

We chose each other for this journey.

She blessed our long-laid plans to travel in September & October… even as such “plans” necessarily became more truly improvisations as I replaced our friend Orlando with whom Stephen had planned to travel for the first leg… but who had to cancel because of undeniable back difficulties.

Originally I planned join Stephen in Venice… after their tour of the Dalmatian Coast, Croatia. With only days to change tickets… with a stretch & a splurge … I danced into taking Orlando’s place. We had a wonderful time together.

Now I am working to edit the 1700 photos I made & & stitching & quilting them together with amplifying the few snatches of journal I managed to write along the way into what will become several posts about the trip…

Only days upon our return we repacked to fly to be with Helen again… relieving Sis-Alice & Bro-in-Love John, who have been such reliable… constant & essential caretakers. Now they were scheduled for a week of babysitting their grandchildren…

Helen’s strength had faded to the point it taxed the two people required to help her move inside the the ever smaller radius of her world. We were concerned about safety for us all & she agreed it was time for her to move to the hospice only blocks away from her condo. This small facility takes wonderful care for the whole family. We were gifted richer time to spend together with her as she lived the last few days of her long life.

Stephen & I were with her in the quiet moments of her passing… Stephen sweetly singing hymns to her. They had such an intensely close relationship. I was honored to be where I wanted… holding them both in that beauty.

HELEN FITCH SILHA

Love is reflected in love

— Mary Baker Eddy

Helen Fitch Silha passed away peacefully October 21 
of natural causes, surrounded by loving family.
Helen was born May 21, 1919 in Manhattan, Kansas, the third child of James Burgess Fitch and Alice Rakestraw Fitch. She had an older brother, Dr. William Fitch, 
and an older sister, Marjorie Fitch Shaffer.
Her father later became head of the dairy division of Kansas State University in Manhattan. In 1935, Mr. Fitch came to the University of Minnesota as head of the dairy division there and Helen finished high school at Marshall High in Minneapolis.
A lifelong learner, Helen attended Principia College in Elsah, Illinois for two years, then returned to the University of Minnesota where she received her degree in education in 1941. She taught social studies and English in Tracy, Minnesota schools. She also worked in the Student Activities Bureau at the University of Minnesota.
Helen married Air Force Corporal Otto A. Silha at the Fitch home on September 4, 1942. Their long marriage was enriched by Otto’s media career as publisher and CEO of the Minneapolis Star and Tribune / Cowles Media Company. Together they founded the Silha Center for the Study of Media Ethics and Law, which conducts research and presents lectures. Otto died in 1999. 

I have long respected & loved my Mother-in-Love.

INDONESIA QNE – BALI…

We love escaping     the overwrought holidays 
 with their traditional obligations
[usually involving some gleeful threat of snow…]
Whenever we can free ourselves.
Thank you, my Sweetman, 
for your irritating wisdom 
about planning!
After our last trip four years ago, 
we hungered for a more tropical solstice.
We flew to visit our friends Joel & Nirgrantha. 
They host guests at Villa Vagra
in the village of Sebali, near Ubud, 
an artistic center on Bali, 
only one of the many islands collected as
the country of Indonesia 
in the the south seas.

After nearly 30 hours of door-to-door travel we arrived in Bali just before the solstice… Mostly escaping the frenetic holiday energy, although Christmas is a commercial event with decor widely seen even in Buddhist & Muslim countries.

A 13 hour flight from Seattle, left for Taipei just after midnight Saturday/Sunday, crossed the International Date Line to arrive early Monday. We flew EVA Elite so we enjoyed slightly more spacious seats plus, quite nice service & good food.

Meals on the flight to Taipei consisted by our choice of multiple bowls of mostly Chinese foods, avoid the western load of gluten: pasta & bread]. I especially enjoyed breakfast of “congee”… as written on the menu, but verbalized as “porridge”… a soft rice, more liquid than not, with additions including a packet of fluffy flavoring powder delightfully, aptly called “fish floss”. I want more!

I remembered being introduced decades ago, to a similar breakfast a friend from Singapore called “jook”. I realized too late that the pickled salad was intended to be added, as Tinnee had taught me in those Sedona days. I prefer savory breakfasts.

Memory…

Another 5 hour flight brought us to Denpasar, Bali where our friend Joel met & drove us… while rain threatened… an hour more to their Villa Vajra near Ubud…  putting us, for this visit, in the larger guest villa, which is usually rented out, but tourist times are tough on Bali and much of Indonesia, due in part to overbuilding.

Joel had arranged to have a masseur ready to welcome us with wonderful body-work before a simple dinner. What a delightful treat to have the wrinkles of traveling deliciously ironed out! During my massage there came as well the welcome of a first delightful thunderstorm!

This was the view from the massage table on our bedroom’s covered deck looking down into the living/dining pavilion… two stories of open space with drop-down weather shades.

We had indeed leapt ahead of time by flying over the International Date Line… so we went directly to bed, quite ready to sleep into our jet-lag.

I began a journal on the plane which continued to evolve fulsomely throughout this entire travel. I have a rather checkered history with such travel journals, which often find themselves neglected in all the movement. This one informs this text.

Remember that I am rather a hermit meditating in a fast lane. I’ve become comfortable choosing to miss some excursions to enjoy instead rare qualities hovering ’round the solitude essential to savor  dancing so lively in time & place. Travel has many complexions…

Waking from deep sleep accompanied by intense frog-song, we joined Joel &  their sweetly aging dogs, Abelard & Heloise for their regular walk along the nearby ridge familiar from our last visit four years ago…

The grass growing along the ancient stones is what becomes the traditional material for thatched roofs, which are becoming more rare due to their shorter life span than iron-wood shingles, which, while more expensive last years longer.

A treat was to see a small, low growing, version of Passion Flower…
At the trail head is this demon’s mouth doorway, 
carved from the wood of a tree root system…

Back home for a gorgeous breakfast with Nirgrantha in their delightfully efficient villa. A lovely plate of fruit: banana, kiwi & the incredible, richly flavored mango & papaya which are in high season.

A lovely wild native orchid blooms in front of their sofa:

On the wall of their courtyard garden is a zig-zagging black pepper vine, which I identified in answer to Nirgrantha’s quiz, having seen them in India.

But the rich exuberance of plant life in the tropics is exemplified by simple moss on a lovely pot…

I might wish to attend the sale of his textile collection which Nirgrantha intends, such as this jacket on their bedroom wall.

Or… this sarong patterned guaranteed to make any movement an undulation… I doubt I could afford such treasures as he has collected in his years here.

Joel suggested lunch at a vegetarian/vegan restaurant he’d recently discovered, accessible only along a rough road followed by a bit of a walk, which made it impossible for Nirgrantha to join us.

He is confined to the interior their walled villa’s two roofed sections… living & sleeping… with a garden & pool between. Such architectural incorporation of the tropical bio-system becomes lovely logic.

Moksa is another open pavilion set well above & overlooking its garden planted in the river-bed’s fertility. I was entranced by the graceful swirls creating beds shaped with puzzle-nobs of paths interlocking soil. All bordered with a staccato of coconut husks, sensibly allowing the middle of them to be easily accessed… delighting this gardener!

The plates were deliciously inventive… served in / on pottery made by the partner of the owner who runs the front-end. I got to meet the other partner, who is the chef, to compliment him on the raw squash “spaghetti” I had so enjoyed sauced with a turmeric dressing… which I finished with a spoon!

We ought to have visited the potter’s studio/store, but we had too little time… Joel wanting to get back to check on Nirgrantha. We did stop to change money, each rather instantly becoming millionaires several times over, in the local Rupia, for a $200.00 investment!

Both of us napped more deeply than intended… waking in the jungle twilight just before dinner. Grilled Mahi-Mahi & poppingly-delicious small potatoes roasted with rosemary… plus the Brussels sprouts which we’d brought from home at their request, being impossible to get in the tropics. A holiday feast!

Another deep sleep, with curious dreams, brought me to waking just before dawn, to watch the fireflies blinking like morning stars above the mosquito netting of our bed. I got-up to enjoy the coming of the light on this solstice morning.

Solstice still is important here, almost at the equator… just enough below to make some noticeable difference, according to Joel, as the longest day of the year.

Leaves from their Bodi tree… genetically a true scion of the Buddha’s… hold deep truth.

We decided not to follow our original plan to go into Ubud for lunch & to shop. It seemed it would be too crowded. Instead Joel suggested lunch at a new eco/farm restaurant higher up the road where he’d celebrated his recent birthday. The half-hour drive took us through an area frequented by tourists, so there were numerous open shopping places for all sorts of schlock around a once picturesque rice terraces… now looking too shoddy for that traffic to even want to photograph… illustrating what he explained as the rapid deterioration of local culture.

At Basanta we were met as we parked by a guy with walkie-talkie bringing a young woman who turned out to be our guide [& later our server]  through the rather newly developing gardens, showing us the two strains of coffee [Arabica & Robusta] which they sell as “Luwac”… which I will explain later to those not too faint for adventure. We ate in one of several typically open thatched pavilions overlooking a lush valley.

Joel & I had interesting avocado smoothies laced with chocolate, pretty, but I might prefer a spicier addition rather than such heavy sweetness. They were too much like dessert! Stephen’s drink was made with beets… a lovely color. We were put-off by the plastic straws, after having a more beautifully organic version made from stems of papaya… a clue to how clueless we ultimately found much of this operation.

One starter was deep fried spinach… a variety with large densely textured leaves. I’m curious what was the batter’s binder, making an equally sturdy crispness… eggs, perhaps. The other was a timbal made of fruit & veggies enclosed with long thin petals of sliced cucumbers, another technique I wish to try at home. Main courses were a fruit & vegetable “pate” contained in a collar of banana leaf stitched with a pick of bamboo, a similarly wrapped bundle of batter fried potatoes, perched horizontally atop, floating in an orange sauce. We shared a second preparation of red rice served with a basket of various sauces, small salads & bits of flavorful preparations & sambals, all contained in a tight composition of more stitched banana leaf vessels.

While all was fine in its elaboration, the meal did not seem so well tended as the lunch the day before. The entire experience seemed contrived toward the notion of the curious coffee, which involves collecting the beans after being processed through the digestive systems of civets [a weasel like animal] which supposedly works some wonder worthy of exorbitant price. We did not like the idea, seeing the rather cruelly caged animals & samples of the the end of the process. Such curious excess of obvious & overt-marketing seemed another example of what “eco” & “organic” are not really about. The gammon music was boringly repetitive & the rackety walkie-talkies the entire staff carried at full volume were distracting & disturbingly insensitive.

We would not recommend it over Moksa… or indeed at all!
No matter, 
by the time we arrived home all was again refreshed 
Ganesha…