Thursday

It just doesn’t seem like Thanksgiving was just a week ago…

I worked hard in the studio today. Getting to know what those clayboard surfaced masonite panels are like—I really like them.

Given that I have 15 more surfaces to work on than I planned for I decided that I really had to get going and make three works today. I actually got a really good start on five pieces. I think two are about 95% done and the others are in the 80-85% range, so I’m happy about that. The pieces are done with gray, black and white acrylic, japanese ink and graphite. The clay surface lets me utilize scraping with an X-acto knife and sanding to erase. You can see the pieces here on the wall.

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As you can see, I added one more big table to my work area. These all aluminum (including the work surface) tables are about five by twelve feet and are the most amazing studio tables ever. Unfortunately you can’t buy them. They were made here by two of Bob’s studio assistants, one of whom, Matt, is now the facilities manager here.

 

The lightness of the aluminum along with the high quality industrial casters make them easily moveable with just one hand (well, you need two hands to steer).

I did take one break by the pool (just outside the studio) to read a chapter of Hadrian (did you know that the ancient Romans collected urine from the public toilets to use as bleach for their clothing?).

While there I watched turkey vultures collect on a snag. Bob purposely left snags for birds to roost on.

 

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Thinking about Robert Rauschenberg

Hey, I just had to write this…

I had the good fortune to briefly meet Robert Rauschenberg twice. The first time was in 1979 when I was a 30 year old art critic for Willamette Week newspaper in Portland and he was having an exhibition at Portland Center for the Visual Arts. I was there before the opening to interview him and he graciously answered my questions while he signed exhibition posters. As I recall, I don’t remember much of the actual interview (although I do have the tape somewhere and there is the published version), but I do remember something he said to me during the opening reception in response to something else that I asked: “My work is an invitation to look…out the window.”

So that’s stuck with me for 33 years, and of course if one is familiar with Rauschenberg’s work and all of the writing about him, that statement is not at all surprising. His work and his attitude can teach us about how to enjoy the world that we actually inhabit. Here’s something else he said that I like:

I really feel sorry for people who think things like soap dishes or mirrors or Coke bottles are ugly because they’re surrounded by things like that all day long, and it must make them miserable.

And reading about Rauschenberg leads you to the attitudes of his friend and sometime collaborator John Cage:

Beauty is now underfoot wherever we take the trouble to look. 

But a long time ago—a bit over 1800 years ago—Marcus Aurelius anticipated this kind of pleasure in the mundane:

This also thou must observe, that whatsoever it is that naturally doth happen to things natural, hath somewhat in itself that is pleasing and delightful: as a great loaf when it is baked, some parts of it cleave as it were, and part asunder, and make the crust of it rugged and unequal, and yet those parts of it, though in some sort it be against the art and intention of baking itself, that they are thus cleft and parted, which should have been and were first made all even and uniform, they become it well nevertheless, and have a certain peculiar property, to stir the appetite.

 So figs are accounted fairest and ripest then, when they begin to shrink, and wither as it were. So ripe olives, when they are next to putrefaction, then are they in their proper beauty. The hanging down of grapes—the brow of a lion, the froth of a foaming wild boar, and many other like things, though by themselves considered, they are far from any beauty, yet because they happen naturally, they both are comely, and delightful; so that if a man shall with a profound mind and apprehension, consider all things in the world, even among all those things which are but mere accessories and natural appendices as it were, there will scarce appear anything unto him, wherein he will not find matter of pleasure and delight.

 So will he behold with as much pleasure the true rictus of wild beasts, as those which by skillful painters and other artificers are imitated.

 So will he be able to perceive the proper ripeness and beauty of old age, whether in man or woman: and whatsoever else it is that is beautiful and alluring in whatsoever is, with chaste and continent eyes he will soon find out and discern.

 Those and many other things will he discern, not credible unto every one, but unto them only who are truly and familiarly acquainted, both with nature itself, and all natural things.

[From The Project Gutenberg Etext of Meditations, by Marcus Aurelius, my paragraphing]

I enjoy the great philosophers like Rauschenberg, Cage and Marcus Aurelius.

Wednesday

Today I spent more time out at the Fish House, but before that I made a little notebook of collages (yes, I know I’m not telling about them, but I’m not ready to do that yet), and I received a shipment of supplies that had been slightly delayed. Unfortunately—and fortunately—they weren’t exactly what I requested.

Unfortunately the clayboard surface panels were not the 16″ x 20″ panels that I wanted. I received 15, 12″ square panels.

Fortunately the crackerjack studio technician Carrell got on the phone and ordered the 16x20s which should arrive Friday, and also, fortunately,  I need to make 15 more artworks than I thought!

I did test out the boards as I haven’t used them before and I think they’ll work great.

Here’s a shot of my space as I left it today. You can see one of the panels on the wall and a stack of them on the table:

At the Fish House I worked indoors as it was a bit breezy out. Again, read a chapter of Hadrian and worked in a notebook on the beginning of a project I’ve had in mind for a few years—works inspired (don’t know if that’s the right word) by  Meditations by Marcus Aurelius. (BTW, anyone over 50 should read Mediations, it might make you feel better). Right now I’m thinking that those 15, foot square panels might be part of something that comes from Meditations.

I’ll close this post with this pic that I took on the way to the Fish House (yes, a botanical wonderland and it is late fall)…

Update for Tuesday

[Wednesday night] Well, last night after dinner some of stayed late to watch a little documentary about Captiva. That was fun (and it is the excuse for why I didn’t get around to posting last night). Back in the old days before they built  the causeway to Sanibel (the island just south of Captiva) the place was remote. Things had to arrive by ferry and other boats. Teddy Roosevelt and others liked to fish hereabouts.

One of the important folks to the history of Sanibel/Captiva was J.N. “Ding” Darling, a Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist and very important conservationist. The  J. N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel is named for him. In 1942 he built the Fish House overlooking Pine Island Sound on the east side of Captiva (BTW, in case you didn’t know you can get a big image by clicking on these smaller pix):

The story is that Darling built the place as a wedding present for his wife, but she refused to live there. (See a Darling cartoon about he Fish House: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/SW30000842/00001)

Darling did use the Fish House himself  and is said to have done a lot of his cartoon work there.

So,  the point of all this is that Bob Rauschenberg acquired this property. It is one of the amazing places here. Yesterday I spent a couple hours outside on the east boardwalk (facing Pine Island Sound) reading Anthony Everett’s Hadrian, and doing some drawing in a little notebook over some collage elements.

Earlier in the day I finished my first little work here, a long fold out book of collage:

 

And to close this post, here is where I sit when I am writing this stuff:

 

Setting up in the studio

This morning we (the other artists and me) took a walking tour of the overall property. Bob Rauschenberg (everybody calls him “Bob” so I will, too) first aquired a little property on Captiva in 1970 when much of the island was jungle-like. Wanting to keep it that way he continued to acquire property as it became available and thus saved it from the touristy/sunbird development that is generally seen on much of the island. This is an amazing place, and the property is huge. Most of the buildings on the property are original 1940s-ish small houses—very different from the modern coulda-been-anywhere houses that have been recently built. Maybe more on them later.

However, Bob also built the most amazing studio I’ve ever seen.

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The picture hardly gives a clue as to how big the place is. Maybe I’ll find actual dimensions later and post them. At the far end in this picture is my workspace.

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Just to be very clear, this is a deeply meaningful experience.

Imagine going to Beethoven’s house and playing music on his piano.

I managed to unpack some of my materials and do a little work.Image

I’m expecting a shipment of materials on Wednesday so I can get to work on the project I have in mind.

We had a welcome dinner for everyone this evening. As I get to know everyone more I’ll post about them…and more about the place…and what I manage to do here.

Arrival in Captiva

My wife Susan and I arrived at our little house on the Rauschenberg Residency property this morning.The travel time from Portland, door-to-door was just about 11 hours. Slept for a few hours on the plane overnight.

We met Terri, who is the chef for the Residency and got a quick tour via an really old utility [golf] cart. The property stretches across the island of Captiva  from Pine Island sound to the Gulf of Mexico, and includes several small old-style vacation-style houses like the one we are in. There are large studio buildings as well. Once all the artists are here tomorrow we will get the full walk through tour.

Since we’ve never been to Florida before this is quite the flora wonderland, and bird watching is pretty cool too. Lotsa pelicans and hovering turkey vultures.