Surrealism is the new Real

Saturday, February 14, 2015

A Humble Tribute

2015 has been a year of loss. With the exception of a fantastic trip to Las Vegas to see old friends, it's been pretty brutal. The most poignant loss however was that of my old order Amish grandfather, Lester. I got the call saying he was dying during an already turbulent and saddening time. I admit, I'd hoped it was similar to other times when he'd sprung back from the brink of death. I'd been planning something special for his 100th birthday. Namely, the portrait I wound up doing as his and my Grandmother's final tribute. 24 hours after the first call, he had passed, despite my hopes he might make it another day or so for me to go and see him. It was a 6 hour drive, and I had responsibilities I couldn't simply leave behind, no matter how much I wanted to. My grandmother Mary had passed away many years previous, and I had missed that funeral due to lack of ability to travel, so I didn't want that to happen again.

The night before I left to go to the viewing/funeral, I began the portrait, hurriedly trying to block out the composition and at least get everyone's faces outlined. It was difficult, because it's always difficult to look in to the face of someone missing from your life, but it was also somewhat cathartic. My grandmother's face emerged on the page as I watched Guardians of the Galaxy, (talk about a paradox there) and by the time I was satisfied I'd captured the smile I remembered from my youth, it was time to sleep.

The next morning was a whirlwind 6 hour journey to the church across the street from my Grandparents old farm, which had long since been sold to pay for his care. Everyone commented on the greenhouses the new owners had added, and the interesting set up of allowing college students to come out and work in exchange for a bag of fresh food. It was still the same old farm. Upon arrival I actually drove past the church, and only realized I'd gone too far when I saw the familiar landscape of the farm, the old barn and the 2nd of two houses, the first having burned down Christmas 1985. I had many memories of the farm, which I decided (mid 3-point-turn) needed to be part of the eventual finished product.

As an aside: When I was a child, in the 1st house, there was a metal air vent between the upper hallway and lower living room, where I would sit and watch my older cousins as they rough-housed, or drop seeds or beads onto the unwary. No one was in it when it burned down, and some furniture and a few things were saved. When the new house went up, it had huge bay windows along the side where my brother and I would sit and watch the horse & buggies go by, or examine my Grandmother's seashell animal creations. 

The viewing was long, and hard (see: introvert hell) and I ended up leaving a few hours early for the sake of recharging my already drained batteries, and the chance to spend a couple hours alone working on the portrait, knowing once my aunt & uncle, cousins & parents all returned to the house, it would be distracting and I would likely be part of the conversation and not able to draw. The photo of my grandmother had been sent to me by request from my Uncle, since the one I have of her was hidden in a box somewhere in storage. The photo of my grandfather however was one my mother took on my last visit to see him. We were waiting for the home's church service to start, and as usual, I was drawing to pass the time. He was very amused with my comics, and the photo reflects that amusement. When my uncle sent me the photo of the two of them, I loved my grandmother's smile, but I wanted the amusement of my Grandfather's face from my mother's photo. It wasn't just because it was a better photo - the smile was for me, or at least because of me. There's something far more charming about it, though it was likely a lesser photo than the others I had.

I wasn't really satisfied with it, when it was "done" - I hadn't had time to add the farm, but I did have time to finish the faces, which was really the point. I'd grabbed a frame, and borrowed a few tools from my Aunt & Uncle in order to trim the paper and secure it. I'd brought an easel with which to display it, knowing it was a last minute addition, and it would be better received by the funeral director if I had my own way to put it up, rather than bothering him. In the end, it was what it was - a final tribute in the only way I knew how.

It's very difficult to explain our relationship. We were separated by many years (he was 99 when he passed) and by many cultures. He was an Olde Order Amish man, with simple living and the same 2 eggs over easy every morning for breakfast, like clockwork. I found it difficult to tell him about my life, because I never really knew how much of it he understood. Breast cancer and copperhead bites were within his grasp, but the world traveling to odd museums, colour runs, haunted forests, photo-stories and artistic adventures were well out of his reality, and I'm never sure how much of it he understood when I tried to tell him about it. Then again, at the funeral I found out he liked onion sandwiches, which boggled my mind and made me think I might have inherited some of my strange food tastes from him. One of my 2015 belated New Year's resolutions is to try an onion sandwich on his 100th birthday.

His death was not unexpected (he was 99!) but it's still hard to know that font of love is gone. I miss them both. My only... not regret, but disappointment, is that I couldn't show the portrait to him sooner. He was such a tough old coot, I thought he'd make it to 100, and on that day I'd show up and say "Ta Da! Happy 1 Century!" 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The "Shit" Saga continues.

It's not a bad thing, I promise.

Back in 2011, I posted about traveling hundreds of miles to give someone shit, literally and figuratively. It is definitely one of my more popular travel stories. You'll want to read that post if you haven't already. This post is far funnier if you know the back story.

And then it gets worse. Well, maybe not worse, but definitely continues in true form.

For New Year's Eve I decided to visit the same friends in their current home in Las Vegas. I'd never been to the city, and felt it was high time I worked out a visit. We arranged details in advance, and the trap was set.

Upon meeting up with Justine & Kyra the morning after my arrival (my flight landed late at night) there were hugs all around, followed by Kyra fleeing to her bedroom, to return with a small box in her hand. It was letterpress stationary, with "Shit" embedded in the top of the small cards. This was, of course, hysterical and probably one of the best Christmas gifts I've ever received. She also told me that when she purchased it the clerk behind the counter seemed skeptical of her choice, so she had to explain why it was funny. The clerk was amused.

So was I, for that matter, both that she remembered and that she had actually gone through with continuing the joke.

The joke was on her, however, because her 19th birthday was only a week or so away. Her family was going to Hawaii for their vacation, which would be happening over her birthday. When Kyra was out of the house, I asked Ray & Justine to give her a birthday card from me, with my conveniently Shit themed cards. I did a few doodles on the paper, and left a little birthday message for her, popped it into the envelope, and sent shit to be given to her in Hawaii.

This joke has gotten a lot of miles behind it at this point, from St. Louis, to Vegas, to Honolulu. I'm gonna have to meet Kyra in England or something to top this. :)

Since I should likely comment on something art related as well, I have to admit I was somewhat impressed and fascinated by Las Vegas. I didn't gamble, because I know my luck and if I'm going to throw away money I'd rather spend it on a show or something so I will at least have an experience and memory to take with me. I did quite a bit of photography in Red Rock Canyon, which I found to be beautiful if a little cold. (It's January in the desert. It's not always hot.)

I also got the chance to explore the Venetian, Cesar's Palace, the Wetlands, and some amazing restaurants. There definitely needs to be a repeat trip sometime to explore the Neon Graveyard, and a few other places I missed. Oh, and more Cirque Du Soleil. Zumanity was fabulous, and I look forward to seeing O and Ka sometime,

The Alexander Kush gallery was also a highlight. It's rare I get to see the work of another surrealist up close, so it was a great opportunity.