Tuesday, May 31, 2022

 A day late again


I was going to make some cornball joke about it being a quiet week here in Lake Woebego the suburban hermitage, but it's been busy. Busy for us, that is.

 Over the last couple of years Mary and I hosted quite a few gatherings, and parties here. It was our way of creating a  social life for our friends, and giving us all some relief from the pandemic crap. But things have changed again, and I can hardly say it's for the better. The last party was way back in October, and it ended badly with people drunk, sick, and acting like assholes. 

I wanted to do a gathering for Memorial Day, but Mary wasn't really up for it. She doesn't wear her feelings on her shirtsleeve, but she lost her brother around Christmas, and then his wife died suddenly, just weeks ago. This weekend was a memorial service for Chris, the framer at Clayton's Framing, where Mary and I met. 

 Nonetheless, we had Mary's old friends Suzie, and Steve over Saturday night, and we ate, partied and talked, and the night ran late, and it was good.

Sunday we had dinner for my brother, Don and his son.  Don's heading back to Thailand. His plane is scheduled to depart right about now, as I sit here typing on Monday afternoon. Makes me sad. But I understand why he just has to get out of here. I don't have to go far to get a  reminder. The place is a filthy traffic choked, over crowded, shithole compared to what it was. And the new high density construction is going on, hell bent for Hong Kong everywhere.  The best nursery in the area was less than a block away from my house, and right across the alley from Jordan School where I worked. It's gone. We're getting a condo development, and a few thousand new neighbors in place of the nursery. 

I took the bike out Friday night. Just made a slow, after-dinner cruise around the neighborhood. I saw half a dozen or more homeless on the boulevard. I saw guys passed out on the parkway, haggard women pushing full shopping carts at intersections, two full blown skid row derelicts. All this crap is now in walking distance from my property line.

And yet. I took the bike out again Monday morning, and cruised Old La Habra. Nostalgia mining. I don't know if it's good, or bad for the mental health, but every once in a long while, I'll do it. I cruised over to La Bonita park for a wake n' bake, and then took the Tour de La Habra. I rode past the huge apartment complex where the house we rented used to be. I rode past The Burger-Q, now a Mexican fast food, the Dental office that was once Dan Cotterman Triumph, the used car shop that used to be La Habra Schwinn, the Pollo Loco where the old A&W once sat. And on through the neighborhoods, climbing past the elementary school, and all the way up the steep hill to Pete Hampton's parents' old house. At 69, I can still make the hills, even on the heavy old cruiser. I took in the view and then rolled down into old La Habra, and past the places I lived in back in the 70's.  The nostalgia mine hit a rich vein of memory, a silent yearbook of people, parties, paths, and paths not taken, faces, good times, and not so good ones.

So, I understand. I understand both what holds me here, and why my brother decided to get out. We grew up in The California Dream, but now that California is as dead as a 45 RPM record. And, truth to tell, Mary and I did consider getting out, but we don't have the energy to sell the home, pack up all our belongings, and walk away from all the connections, and friends we have, just to start out new in a new place where there are no friends, and nothing familiar. 

For my part I am deeply rooted here. I'm living within walking distance of where my folks landed almost sixty years ago. So many of our family, and friends back then made the move from the Detroit suburbs to here in So Cal. Most stopped right here where north Orange County meets the eastern edge of LA. Sorta' near Disneyland, and sorta' near the beach. They're all gone. Of course, my parents' generation has all passed on. Everyone in my generation  moved away a long time ago. Sometimes I feel like a remnant, sometimes like a ghost. 

Mon. 5/30


It's Tuesday afternoon as I'm sitting here, now. We were up late again last night talking with our friends Holly, and Glen. Short version: The Lost Canyon Project is on again. More on that in coming weeks.

So finally, here's where we are with the long stone project. I got these pics a few days ago.  These things  look like they just  sort of happened, but there's a lot of planning, and thinking, and stuff that goes into making them look like that.

 So that's about it, for now. Next week- maybe a trip.




Sunday, May 22, 2022

Gray May Monday


 Gray May Monday

 I met Ray Bracamontes at the Santa Fe Springs show. Tuesday morning I drove over to Ray's  studio for an  interview on

Raysflavs Spotify podcast.

I asked Ray to make sure to take a photo that makes me look all skinny, old, and crusty. (Like that's a challenge, or something.) We talked about my stone work for a while, but spent most of the time talking about my work on

 The Lost Canyon Project blog

and especially

 The Lost Era Transcripts. 

I regard The Lost Era Transcripts as the finest work I have done. For those who haven't seen it, The Lost Era Transcripts is a series of vignettes from the early childhood of artist, and showman Pete Hampton. The stories were originally presented in the form of a slide show. Pete's paintings, and his narration tell of life deep in the Puente Hills of Southern California in the early 1940's. The remembrances climax with the grizzly, and terrifying nightmares in The Deep Dark Hole.

And now, back to our usual BS (blog stuff)

 One of the problems in working alabaster is that the stone is always full of fine cracks. It's just the nature of the stone. Most of the time the fine cracks don't cause any problems. But some times the cracks are fissures, actual breaks in the rock. We were looking at that last week.

Small fissures can sometimes be held tight with Starbond, a very thin set super glue. But not this time. It turned out that those fissures on the side of this stone were deep, and they went all the way through. I set the point chisel, and a couple of firm blows with the mallet dropped a big chunk of the material on the table.


If you're going to lose a big chunk of your stone, it's way better to lose it at the beginning of the project than at the end.

So now, I had two very uneven sides, one nearly flat, and the other convoluted with a large bulge.

A little excavation with the point chisel took down the bulge, and now I have a clear idea of where this piece is going. Next up will be getting the whole stone sanded smooth so I can draw on it with a colored pencil.  This is the part where nothing happens. For a while, anyway.



Monday, May 16, 2022

New Week, New Stone

 New Week, New Stone


So, here we go again. At fifty pounds even, this is the smallest of the five Anza Borrego stones. This long narrow blade of alabaster is milky white with purple inclusions. The material looks very much like a stone that I worked a long time ago. I wouldn't be surprised if they came from the same quarry. 
It didn't take long to figure how the stone would sit. Cleaning the surface was quick work with the angle grinder. It was mercifully easy to determine a cut line, make sure the piece sat straight, and saw across the widest point.

Notice a couple of fissures along the top left, and at the crown. I  dripped Starbond into the cracks to prevent them from going deeper, but I'll still have to see how deep and how wide the cracks are. I'll know  early on in today's session if I can save the crown, or if I'll have to bust out a chunk of the rock.
Of course, whatever figure that emerges dwells within the confines of the material. I have a choice between tall and slender, or slender and tall. The first two carvings are ponderous, and dark. This piece, in contrast, will be light, and more delicate, maybe even ethereal. I'll know just how light and free it will be as soon as I get a feel for the rock. This one seems a little more firm than the black stone, but not hard like the red. Tune in next week for more exciting stuff!

Monday, May 9, 2022

Art Show Stuff

 Art Show Stuff

First, how about a flower?


Today is finishing day. Wet, messy finishing day. Next pics will be all shiny.

 It's Friday morning, May 6, and I'm tired. Yesterday was a big day, and today will be bigger.  I've been a day out of joint for a while, now. You know how that is-- you wake up Thursday morning, but it feels like Friday. (That one is always a let down.) Today is Friday, but it feels like Saturday.  Luckily, I have until 3:00 this afternoon to rest up.

Yesterday afternoon turned into a very big deal. It was the opening reception for the Santa Fe Springs Art Fest. I had three stones in the show.

I got there a little after five o'clock. I was rolling through the parking lot, and spotted an opening. "Reserved for Seniors, or Pregnant Women"

Skip that one. There's another! "Reserved for Seniors, or Pregnant Women". The next opening was also reserved. When I finally found an unreserved spot it occurred to me. "Seniors". Uh- that would be me, huh? Too much pride on my part. I ain't takin' no Senior parking when I can walk.

And so I walked down the long column of cars, and down the narrow driveway to the Clarke Mansion where I was greeted by Pam Korporal, from Whittier Art Association. Pam was in charge of the jurors. She sort of took me by the hand, and said, "Come along." Something in the way she said, "Come along" raised a red flag, a little bump of apprehension. I had that sense that something was awry, somewhere.

The festival was a lot bigger than I thought it was going to be, and the fine arts exhibit was the real deal.  The entire mansion had been converted to a gallery, and the work on display was all top notch stuff. 

Of course.

 The biggest local show had been the Hillcrest Invitational, in La Habra Heights, but, like everything else over the last couple years, the virus nazi's shut Hillcrest down. Last I heard, the Congregational Church in La Habra Heights will not be sponsoring the festival anymore. All the artists who would have been invited to Hillcrest were displaying here, and there was some really excellent work on display.

 Of course.

 The lockdowns fucked with everyone. Every artist out there has been going through his own version of this crap, and for these two years no one could display anywhere. Everyone poured their anger, fear, and grief into their work.

I followed Pam down the hallway, and up a flight of stairs to what would probably have been the master bedroom of the big house. The room was reserved for the work of one of the featured artists, Mario Lopez, who had some huge canvases depicting some fantasy tinged Renaissance/ medieval themed portraits.

The middle of the room was taken up with a very long banquet table. Displayed on the table were my stones. 


Attached to the red stone was a green ribbon, Honorable Mention. 

Attached to the Figure in Crystal was the Blue.

 Blue, as in First Place Sculpture. 

I got a little dizzy, then jumped up and down like ten-year-old. Oh holy cow! I toured the rest of the exhibit, and found the second, and third place pieces. I can't recall the artists name, but I've seen his work before. He works in exotic woods, and his animal figures are incredible. The last time I displayed at Hillcrest he had sold a piece for some serious money. This made me feel even better. I would not have had my nose out of joint to have taken second behind either of the carvings.

The opening program featured the city council, the mayor of Santa Fe Springs, and even the state senator, and the congress critter. They were all very good at keeping their speeches upbeat, empty, and brief.

Friday afternoon was festival day. There was music, dance, film, art for kids, all kinds of food. And there were people, thousands of them. We saw the young, the old, families with kids, couples out for a date. The mansion/gallery was elbow to elbow all day long.

After two years of isolation, people were hungry for joy. I heard oohs, and ahhs in the gallery space. I talked to dozens of folks about the stonework. I saw other artists talking to people, enjoying the compliments, sharing smiles. A lot of artists sold stuff, and that's always an extra.

 And here is what struck me: all these people were here for art.  Those of us who produce it invest huge time, effort, and money to do so, and generally speaking, we do so without much hope of ever making a dime for it.  Those who came to see spent their time on our work. They came to see what we did, and they all walked away a little bit happier for the experience.

That's the payoff. We work in isolation. We often have no idea of how our work will be received. We know, in advance, that there isn't likely to be any money in it. It becomes quite easy to take that step back, and wonder if the effort is worthwhile. The people who came to see walked away a little happier.  I talked to many of the other artists Friday, and the next day when we returned to collect our work. We all just had the glow. We walked away with a renewed faith that what we do matters.

Saturday night ended late with the top  musicians on stage. A Norwegian rocker named Rocky Kramer  played some straight up kick ass hard Rock. He closed his act with a guest performance from one Prescott Miles.


Prescott Miles was the bass player for a band called, The Knack.

The Knack? 

These guys:

My Sharona live. And a frying bass solo by Prescott Miles topped it off. Like it or not we all went home with earworm.

 The top billed act was a singer named Trinere. I hadn't a clue who she was. Old and unhip, I guess. Trinere was one of those pop singers from the 90's who did that sort of disco-pop stuff that I hated, and never listened to. We didn't stay for the whole set.

So the week begins on a good note. Time to get out of the den, and start wet sanding.

Monday, May 2, 2022




Friday morning I took these three stones down to the Clark Estate mansion in Santa Fe Springs for the 2022 SFS Artfest show. 

Hauling these things around is a pain in the ass. That's one of the ironies of driving a pickup truck with a manual transmission. I can carry the same number of passengers as a motorcycle. The truck bed is great for carrying furniture, or bikes, but useless for something like a sculpture. I had all three pieces in the cab packed in with blankets, T-shirts, and half the cushions from Mary's backyard furniture. It would have been easier in Mary's sub-compact Yaris.

The one-day festival looks like it's going to be a big event. They're having film, music, dance, photography, and all kinds of stuff. There will be live performances by some pop music performers. I don't know any of the names, but from what Mary was told, I'm assuming they'll be county fair level performers, folks who had a big hit back in the 90's, or something. One of the joys of post-middle age is being tragically un-hip, and out of touch with what's cool. Or even what used to be cool.

The festival organizers are asking the artists to be there for the duration of the exhibit, which will go from 3:00 in the afternoon to 11:00 at night. Sounds to me a lot like getting detention. Too, the "fine arts" exhibit is in the mansion on the grounds. Most of the foot traffic will, of course, be for the videos, and live performances.  Nobody wants to pass up a live act to go look at a bunch of paintings and sculptures. Even so,  I have become unaccustomed to socializing over the last couple of years, and I'm not looking forward to having to make small talk with strangers. I get this weird tingly feeling like I'm going to say or do something horrifying. Maybe spin some ridiculous story just to amuse myself.

 "Where do you get your inspiration?" 

 "Well, it's mostly from drugs, and kinky anime..."

Or start bullshitting in improvised art-speak, and throw in a lot of really esoteric verbs, and high flown abstract nouns.

But I won't do any of that. I hope.

So anyway, here's progress on the second Anza Borrego stone:


A lot of excavation on that top figure!

I'm on the home stretch with this, and it should be on the shelf by the end of next week, maybe sooner.