by YONA C. RIEL

Friday, May 21, 2010

October (dios de los muertos) in March...

     First, I am sorry I haven't posted for the better part of 3 weeks.  I been busy READING for a change.  First I bought the new extended version of Rob Brezsny's book Pronoia.  Then last Saturday I was at the Barnes and Noble fundraiser for MECCA and the only copy of Michael DeMeng's new book was just begging me to buy it.  (Personally I think Michael put a spell on it but that's a whole other story).

And, on top of reading I have been working on a new piece.
     After going to Oaxaca for Dios de Los Muertos last year with Michael and a group of amazing people from all over the country my art (and my beliefs about death) will never be the same.
     In the Mexican culture (at least in Oaxaca) there are two days every year that our dearly beloved dead ones come back to party with the living.  On November 1st the babies and young children come back.  On November 2nd the adults return.  Having lived in San Fransisco for many years with it's large and politically active Hispanic community, I was already familiar with the Day of the Dead and longed to go to Mexico to experience a real Dios de Los Muertos.   Thus I already had a pretty good collection of Day of the Dead skeletons.
          I got this beautiful lady from a fellow who is from Oaxaca but now has a shop in Albany on Solano Blvd.  I pretty much knew when I bought her that for the first time I had no excuse not to go.  So I went.  (If you been reading my blog all along you already know all this....sorry for the repeat but bare with me...)
     That said, I am writing you today to give you a glimpse of what I been working on in the last few months.   It started with a single striking image I saw in Oaxaca.  A half alive and half dead Frida.
     This is not a very good reproduction of the image that has changed me in ways I may never be able to fully articulate.  Of course I love Frida (like everybody else).  She's practically a saint in Mexico. But what struck me was the portrayal of her as half dead and half alive.  Here in the rational northern portion of the Americas there just isn't a place for a reality like this.  In Mexico, magical realism and all it's various cousins are not only alive but thriving.  Frida can be physically dead but her soul lives on forever in the hearts of the Mexican people who love her.   I experienced this again and again while I was down there.
     Having had my own near death experience I knew I had to make a piece of myself, half dead or dying and the other half coming to life.  (Pretty much what has been going on since the brain injury).  I also wanted it to be 3 dimensional. 
     My friend Rogene who I met just a week before I went to Mexico (she was going too) has been working with paper clay making her paintings more 3 dimensional.  The moment I saw her work I knew that was the medium I wanted to try for my piece.
    I also wanted some of the other art in my Day of the Dead collection to influence this piece.  
     I love the floral painting on this vase I bought years ago at the Castro St. Fair.  I also love the flower bursting forth from the eye.
       The picture of this skull was shot through a window so it's not great.  I wanted it so bad but it was carved out of wood and hand painted and way out of my price range.  Alas I came home with a not so great picture of it.  I love all the monarch butterflies.  Is it all the bright colors used by the Mexican artisans that keeps their skulls looking so friendly?   That and all those big shiny white teeth?  It's as if dead people in Mexico are always laughing.
    For my piece I was pretty sure I wanted to use a huge cigar box I scored in Amsterdam.  Opened, it has a book like quality to it.  And that would mean one half would be for the skull and the other half for something else.  But what would be on the other side?   And are all those weird white flowers really necessary?
     It was probably the cover of Rob's book that had me thinking about anatomically correct hearts.  Or perhaps it was the aftermath of the Valentine's show and working with the Americanized version of hearts for what seemed like an eternity.
     Either way last Thursday, sick and tired of the rain, I drove 100 miles as drops the size of golf balls bounced off my windshield to get to my favorite bookstore, Powell's in Portland.  Once there I went to the anatomy section and took several pictures of anatomically correct hearts.  Here's what I got...

The piece is coming along slowly but surely and once I get it done you'll be the first to know...
 Thanks for reading my friends and your comments are always welcome.... and yes I am going back to Oaxaca again this year for Dios de Los Muertos.  And I may just stay a little longer to learn some Spanish.   Who knows..  Here's a few more hearts for you to ponder..

Roadtrip Day 3..Lone Pine to Death Valley and Rhyolite Nevada

     I left Lone Pine by 10am and took my first picture of the day before I left town.  Turns out there was a very cool, but closed, store right next to the hotel I stayed in...
 and it was even for sale (which should be no surprise since I think half of the places I have seen so far had 'For Sale' signs on them.  Another reminder of just how bad the economy is....)

      After mulling over the artistic beauties (skulls, metalwork, old gates, etc) I continued south on HWY 395 taking the turn off for HWY 190 to Death Valley.  Before I got to the park I stopped at a sulphite mine.  Being an old rock hound from the 80's the scattered junk looked pretty amazing from the truck.
And besides I just love it when nature has made art out of throw-aways.  Here's a long shot of the mine.....


    I walked around for a good hour and found several old bricks (great in the yard), a few old blue glass fuses (still wondering why they were out there) and some weird glass like green rock (which I later found out was obsidian.. Here's one more shot of found art...
   
    After I left the sulphite mine I continued up HWY 190 into Death Valley.  I was excited for two reasons.  First there is an amazing ghost town on the border of Nevada and California called Rhyolite.  I had seen pictures and really wanted to go there.  Second, I believed my timing was right on to see a lot of the desert wild flowers in bloom, which they were.
   I took so many pictures of Rhyolite that I am only going to load up about 8.  If you ever get to this area in my opinion it's even better than Bodie if only because it is not as well known.  Okay here's some pictures.  There were several old structures still standing, the most amazing was the old bank.  It was a few stories high, constructed of handmade brick and the closest thing to the ruins I found in Oaxaca.   Another amazing structure was the general store right across the street.  Course it's all dirt roads now....
 
     And then there was the old shack.   I love the textural designs of the old boxsprings against the pale blue wood.  And the rusty old metal tube that once had a wood stove hooked up to it...

     There was one train car that had been left up there. 
The metal on it had a beautiful natural patina...
  
     
    And then someone had made an interesting outdoor museum.....
I presume it had to do with death and bicycles but I didn't get the actual story behind it....
    There is a whole long line of these ghostly persons in the next shot.  The mountains and the strange clouds made for great contrast...
   I also found a tall sculpture of a abstract of a woman..
    Rhyolite is my favorite stop so far.  That and my awesome finds at the sulphite mine removed the disappointment of not getting to see either Bodie or my beloved Buckeye Hotsprings yesterday. 
    Death Valley was really crowded.  Tourists everywhere despite the overcast sky.   It seems to me everyone was out looking for wild flowers (a lot like myself).   At the general store I saw two dykes (shock of all shocks) and at the park ranger station I saw another couple.  The last two looked like they had just finished a shoot of Showtime's L-word. 
    Tomorrow I will post some pictures of death valley, the flowers and the 'artist pallet' drive.... I am headed to Arizona now in hopes that I make Arcosanti by my birthday which is tomorrow.  thanks for reading my friends... it keeps me connected out here on what would otherwise be a lonely road. 
   yona c. riel

Leaving Las Vegas - day four

     The only reason I stayed in Vegas was because Pahrump (which is 'Nevada' for  PO-dunk) had no rooms left.  I arrived late, 8pm and apparently 800 extra men were there learning how to fire weapons.  So Vegas it was...
    I stayed in a huge casino all bright lights, cigarettes and slot machines; both totally the opposite of what I wanted and the opposite of Rhyolite.  In an attempt to make themselves more family friendly there was art everywhere.   Mona Lisa stared back at you as you plugged the machine with quarters.   

     There was a enormous, opulent fish tank...
    I couldn't get a really good shot inside the tank but the next one has a Harley sitting in front which helps with understanding the scale of the thing....
    When I arrived in Vegas it was 9pm and I was hungry so after getting situated in my room I went down to the Sundance Bar and Cafe....
    I was seated next to a (presumably) fake forest.  It was so funny to me I just had to take a picture of it....
     After my quesadilla and beer I headed up to my room and had a great night's sleep.  The next morning I went down to Starbucks (one of the few places in the casino with free wifi) and wrote my blog entry.   (be forwarned everything at Starbucks in Vegas is double the price, unless you are gambling, in which case they offer free coffee).
    After writing the blog I got on the HWY 93 to Hoover Dam.  It was crawling with tourists.  The traffic was so slow I grew frustrated.  Due to the construction I knew the slow traffic would persist for at least long enough to get a drive-by shooting of the dam.   Guerilla tourism I called it...
    Not my cup of tea.  But it had to be done as it was the fastest way to Kingman Arizona.  I made a brief stop there to take a picture of a sign along HWY 66 but I really wanted to get to Jerome, Arizona or at least Prescott so I didn't do a lot of stopping.
     I continued down HWY 93 until I got to HWY 71 which said it would take me to Prescott.

   A storm was coming in and the lighting was very strange so I jumped out of the truck alongside the freeway, took a little hike over a few fences and found this rock outcropping made more magical by the strange contrasting blue-gray sky....
    Once I turned off the main highway there was an abandoned house.  This one was pretty creepy complete with one page of girl on girl porn presumably left for the next squatter ....
    Was somebody buried in that tomb looking thing?  Great place to shoot a horror film.  And it was even for sale....
      I drove on and intersected with HWY 89 and found the most amazing little artists town called Yarnell.  The very first business as you come in to town had this sign.
    I went back to see if they were open but the closed sign was up and the dogs were barking so I meandered slowly threw the town.
    I say meandered because the town was full of strange things to look at even though it was getting late.  (Now that I am home and rewriting this I wish that I had stayed there but I feared no internet.)  This is a town I want to visit again, since it had a lot the artistic looking businesses, yet few tourists...
    Finally about 7 at night I got to Prescott and found a place with free internet.  I had forgotten that Prescott was at such a high elevation.  The whole way up I was remembering the bicycle trip I did on this road when I was 15 years old and the 40 mile downhill stretch of rolling hills and hairpin turns.  I still love going 50 mph down a hill on my bicycle but now I where a helmet.  Again I had a good nights sleep after my long day of driving.  My excitement about Day 5 was two fold.  First the next day (April 13th) was my birthday.  Secondly I would get to be in both Jerome (one of the towns we stayed in on my bike trip) and Arcosanti  (which was my goal for this road trip.)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Day One Road trip...

     I did not leave Eugene until almost one o'clock, admittedly a late start on a 13 day road trip which would take me about 1000 miles away from home.   I got on I-5 south long enough to pick-up HWY 58 which crosses the Williamette Pass.  I jumped out of the car only once and took a few shots, knowing there would be a lot more snow shots to come on this trip.  (and yes there was that anxiety about my late start).
     After that I drove south on HWY 97 till I got to Klamath Falls.  Cute town.  Wouldn't wanna live there.  (Didn't even take a photo).  Good cheap place to get gas though.  South of Klamath Falls is this little road called HWY 140.  I had never been on it before and was not sure whether it was passable or what elevation the summit was at.  It was a dreamy, easy ride because on that weird little road I found a small town called Bly just loaded with the sorts of things I am looking for on this trip.

     This great little bldg was constructed in 1899.  I love that they repainted the 'Wild West Show' mural.
     And right around the corner was a second hand store that probably hasn't been opened in years.
 All this stuff was just sitting outside.  (Maybe it's worth more 'gone' than anything else).  There were several old glass fuses,  3 old clothing trunks and even an old bathtub rusted beyond repair.  Quaint but basically worthless except to summon up that nostalgic feeling some of us adore.
     
     Next place I stopped was on the outskirts of town.  Two abandoned buildings caught my eye, one right across the road from the other.  How could I not stop?  Yes I did see the 'no trespassing' signs but I figured if I am just taking pictures I am not hurting anything.  The first one was cute and small.  The huge old handmade yellowstone bricks and the signage caught my eye.  "South Fork Trading Post" the handpainted sign read...

     I looked around the back and found the door had already been opened by someone else.....and inside was an old piano.  Does this say Jeanette Wall's 'The Glass Castle' to anybody else?  If you haven't read that book it's a short, intense read featuring several old shacks and a scene with a piano that you will never forget.
   The place across the street was once a beautiful country style home with a huge inviting porch.
      It too had an obvious 'No Trespassing' sign.  (I take nothing but pictures and leave nothing but footprints).  I peeked into the hole where the window had once been and found the remnants of a life once there.  Perhaps several lives now located on the other side of town or some new horizon several miles away.  The turquoise chair says 1970's but I have no idea whether this place has been squatted in after it was abandoned by it's owners.
     I took a little hike around the back and came upon this... (the next big windstorm is going to take this down.) 
     After traveling for a hundred or so miles I finally got to HWY 395 and a little town called Lakeview.  Must of been the same guy that owned this place because they too had several 'valuable' items just sitting out there on the dirt sidewalk.
     and around to the side more junk presumably for sale....

    I continued down HWY 395 till about 9 that night.  Tired, I found a Super 8 motel in Susanville.  It was Friday night and I forgot that high school kids in small towns often rent motel rooms to party in.  There was a group of them hanging about smoking cigarettes around the entrance to my room.  I did get some good sleep after the bozo next door turned his TV off.  But the wireless internet was so bad I couldn't download these pictures onto my blog.   But that did give me time to post some pictures on Facebook and mull over Day Two.   (to be continued) Yona c. Riel