Friday, November 26, 2010

Smoked Turkey in "The Pit"

I met more of my neighbors in "The Pit" campground when I was unexpectedly invited to a smoked turkey Thanksgiving feast on the morning of the day! No questions asked. My host is the fellow scratching the backs of two dogs at once, he cooked the perfect BBQ-smoked turkey, and Annette made a stringbean and corn casserole in the classic Dutch Oven (coals on top). All the trimmings in a an old washstone quarry. I am blessed with generous neighbors, good food and fellowship for the Holiday!

Monday, November 22, 2010

A Beautiful Afternoon in Baker Creek, Big Pine

Walking the roads through the ranches around Big Pine, in an afternoon so lovely I felt almost frightened: what happens to people who live in a place this beautiful? 

My photos cannot capture the transcendent quality of light, air and space that make the Eastern Sierra my "foretaste of heaven," that drew me here and has given me the endurance to stay.

TRAILER LIFE: Learning to Tow

An abrupt lesson cut short my nervous procrastination. My teacher, a fellow camper named Ben who wanted me to move out from under those four willow trees because a storm was forecast and he prophesied falling branches thrashing my trailer. He promised to help me move.  I had already bought the equipment: Perry Motors had installed the Toyota hitch and a helpful clerk at Kragen chose the correct ball mount combination for me. Now Ben walked over with a huge wrench to screw the parts together.  He rolled around in the dirt showing me how to hook it all up, supplied some small missing doo-dads, and turned me loose on my own for the lurch into the lanes. 

You drop the hitch on the ball (after several backing-up-the-truck-and-checking re-positioning trials), fiddle on the safety chains, plug in the vehicle-to-trailer electrical connection, remove the wheel blocks, get back in the cab, crank the ignition key and step on the gas. Easy!

Some nice guys at the Firestone Store got the directional lights blinking again, greased the bearings, and salvaged a propane tank mount for me off an old trailer bed ("It rolled," he said, "I am going to fix it up to transport cars, so it won't need the propane mount."  --- It what!???) 

So I towed it out of the meadow at Pleasant Valley, to Baker Creek county campground in the gray trees, and then to the bleak, stony "Pit," a BLM campground, where it snowed this pastv weekend, lightly.   Fortunately, I got the separate Mr. Heater array in good order, and am warm inside. Frustradedly, I am still working on the propane lines in the trailer itself, for stove and lamp -- needs professional (safe) help. (coming soon)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Skid on the Kandinsky Banana Peel

Browsing through the catalogue of a Kandinsky retrospective it seemed obvious to me that the painter started out with fairy tales and ended up in colorforms; an illustrator gone rogue. This past weekend I apparently channeled some of his process while overpainting hasty and unconsidered work: my corrective daubs of paint piled up (or pilled up) into the clots and blobs in what I have come to call the "lozenge" effect.

When a painting loses its architecture of reference to a source — such as a crisis moment in a story or depiction of a subject for a portrait, landscape, or still life — it's painterly qualities tend to bead uncertainly into blobs of light and dark that don't amount to much; it's physical properties begin to return to nature, and to the muds and mottling of fractal patterns intrinsic to nature. While engaging the inherent challenge in abstract painting to impose an architecture of human significance on the continuous generation and decay of natural forms, Kandinsky moved through his early timid, derivative and lozenging folk tale illustrations to energetic non-figurative 'scapes of plotted muds and mottling, and finally adopted the depiction of unnatural forms, of geometric ideas such as perfect circles, straight lines, triangles, checkering, etc, arranged in pleasing clusters just complex enough to command attention for a longer time than a snapshot of nature's customary chaos -- in short, eye candy.

While trying to paint from photographs of nature, and to transfer what I find so fascinating in them about grasses and branches with daylight shining through the mass of them, I fell once into fairytale and once into eye candy. (see the two pairs of photo/painting above).

Distracted by the the wind, or rather by my anxiety about the wind ("breezy" according to local weather announcers, but always a hurricane to me) and determined to keep painting even unprepared and unfocused; I imagined that I would be 'free" and paint "playfully," and my results slipped into their common shortcomings. And although I have painted up some nice stuff by vagrant process, these wayward productions become meaningful to me only when I assign a story to the swashes and blobs, no matter how interesting the forms are in themselves.

I conclude that only my paintings that contain solid composition and human pathos can inspire and support the painterly expression that is so pleasing in itself (regardless of the order of application), but only rarely can be separated from picture and story to stand on its own; I could only be an abstract painter if I relied on simple or complex geometric forms, as so many abstract painters have done. I must continue my work to develop bracing diagrams, human stories and pleasing brushwork — the traditional stuff of "representational" painting. 

Back to the drawing board.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Goodbye Horton Creek, Hello Pleasant Valley

When I returned from a visit to Pasadena to Horton Creek on Monday 25 October, I found my trailer nose had been pushed sideways about 6 feet off its levellors up against a boulder and a tough little desert bush--one more foot and it might have gone tumbling down the slope. My neighbor came over and told me about the 80-90 mph winds that had blown the previous night. I was not inside during the slide, ThankYouJesus!

I re-levelled as best I could, digging the tires into the ground (jack'em up, dig out under 'em, lower 'em down.) Then I got another tow from Winfred (handyman at the place I bought my trailer) and his buddies, down out of Horton Creek across 395 into Pleasant Valley, an Inyo County campground maintained on the Owens River as it leaves the Dam and meanders out of the Gorge towards Bishop. (see the Gorge wall bluff in photo). It is a designated Native Brown Trout Restoration Zone, catch-and-release only, barbless hooks and other restrictions.  It seems to attract guys who wannabe fly fishermen and have bought the outfits and the stuff, but aren't up to the hikes, rapids and bears of more pristine habitats. No, haven't seen a woman doing it. No, haven't seen a mis-matched, muddy, used-looking outfit. If you want to eat fish for dinner, you get a chair with a clip-on umbrella and sit by a lake or reservoir with a cold drink in hand until the nice hatchery rainbow jerks your line.

Winfred and buddies levelled my trailer in such a way that the door stuck.  At first I assumed it to be wind-slide damage, but the next day on my own I learned an important levelling lesson: the floor of the trailer is flexible and can skew as well as tilt; experimentally I had raised front right and back left corners about one inch, and lowered their opposites -- and it worked! The door fits its frame again. I also bought a 5-foot long bubble level from Ace Hardware, a truly necessary tool.

Then I got sick with winter's first nasty virus. I was all-over-again Grateful to Be Indoors during this ordinary event. The first night I was sneezing my brains out, some giant River Racoons seemed to think my little trailer was just an especially large cooler, and if they could push it over, all the goodies would tumble out. Resident Magpies and Crows conduct an ongoing intimidation match over campground leftovers, and they relay-perch on the roof of my trailer, not quietly. 

Tommorrow I get a hitch installed on the Tacoma. Next blog: Learning to Tow a Small Trailer.