Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Scientists Recreate Hidden Van Gogh Portrait

This article brought out the huge nerd in me (as Triumph the Insult Comic Dog would say):

It' so...Da Vinci Code, ya know?

Vincent Van Gogh is also cited as a leader in the expressionist movement (which wasn't really a movement at all), very influential on my buddy Max and his German counterparts.

Poor Van Gogh didn't see a dime or a good review while he was alive, but now it's a race to find old paintings he painted over because he couldn't afford new canvases. Isn't that just the breaks?!?

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

I Wanna Be Like Max

OK, maybe not literally...but my art teacher in San Francisco told me I seemed to paint in the style of Max Beckmann, a German expressionist painter from the first half of the 20th century (this thumbnail is his painting, "Party in Paris", 1931).

After reading the Wikipedia definition of expressionist (there really never was a formal movement called expressionism, but I guess it seemed like a good label for a group of artists with a similar style in a similar era), I'm not sure I could emulate Mr. Beckmann. There's no way at this point in my life I could understand the social upheaval and tragedy that he experienced to make him the painter he was, much less to "express" the emotions in his paintings.

But, I love his bold use of color and his strong, black outlines. I also love that he paints representations of reality without being too abstract (i.e., you can tell the people are people and their noses are where they're supposed to be on their faces, etc.), but he shifts the perspective so that his paintings aren't too realistic--the composition and the placement of things throws you off balance. His paintings are merely an expression of what he perceives as the painter. It's exactly how I think when I paint, and I hope to share my perspective of the world through painting even a fraction as well as Mr. Beckmann someday....

Still Life with Candles and Mirror, Max Beckmann, 1930

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Our Cats Rock

No matter if you're a dog person or can't stand animals at all...our cats Maximus and Alma (also sometimes known as Minimus) ROCK. here are the pics to prove it:

Monday, July 21, 2008

Art Can Wait... least 'til winter. I'm finding that there is so much to do around the farm and with work, I have no time for drawing or painting, even small crafts or household projects. So, I'm placating my creative inner-child by telling it that we'll get started when everything on the farm dies off after the first frost (usually late October to mid-November).

Posting this nude study I did a few years ago in San Francisco as inspiration....

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Village Council Filibuster

Last night, we wasted 4 hours of our lives listening to an elected village official ramble on and on about useless nothings to try and obstruct a decision about a proposed zone change in support of a commercial development in our rural-residential paradise.

The development is an assisted living facility (part of a national franchise called Beehive Homes), and while Jon and I aren't opposed to having such a facility in our neighborhood, the Bosque Farms planning and zoning commission approved the application without seeing nary an architectural plan or schematic! Nary a traffic analysis! Nary a water use projection! Not to mention, nearly the entire community is opposed to the location of this facility (on 4.3 acres of dirt and pasture, formerly an alpaca farm), particularly when there is commercially zoned property available just 1/2 mile up the road near the main boulevard.

What we learned from last night's council meeting and hearsay about the planning and zoning meeting on Monday is that the land sale involves many close-knit cronies--good ol' boys (and gals) who are trying to turn a buck from the sale without regard to the future and sustainability of this wonderful community.

The good ol' gal on the council filibustered for nearly 2 hours to postpone public testimony. It was outrageous and disgusting. All we ask is that the council require the development company (who is applying for the zone change from rural/residential to "special use", which could mean lots of things) to present detailed visual and statistical plans to the public (hmmm...sounds like a case for Building Information Modeling!), to the planning and zoning commission (for pete's sake!!), and to the council before making their best informed decision. But because their loyalties seem to lie with the landowner over the constituents who voted for them, it looks like they will once again opt for unstrategic, aesthetically monstrous, poorly planned development. So typical of New Mexico politics....

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Planting Trees

I needed a break from an intense work-week today. So, Jon and I drove down the road to a native plant arboretum/nursery called Trees that Please in Tome. We had a few trees in mind, starting with shade trees (catalpas, golden rain trees, poplars) since we have not one tree on our 2-acre property yet(!), then fruit trees once we do some market analysis to figure out what might be in demand in 3-5 years, when the trees are mature.

And then, it was love at first sight....

When we walked into the arboretum, we were immediately struck by an enormous shade tree, about 30' tall, with delicate, fern-like leaves near the entrance to the greenhouse. When we asked what the tree was, they told us it was a New Mexico redwood, and it was only 12 years old. Imagine our surprise--redwoods in New Mexico! Turns out, they had a few more mature redwoods around the arboretum, each one more gorgeous than the next.

They then told us the story behind the trees: they're actually cuttings from the only two NM redwoods left standing in nature near El Paso, TX (Spanish colonists logged the area, once full of redwoods, to build their towns in the 1500-1700s). The founder of the arboretum was the one who found the lone trees over a decade ago, and he took cuttings to propogate them. They're now federally protected and the public can't even go to look at them.

We planted four trees in a row about 50 feet behind our house to create a private, shaded picnic area over time (another bonus to these trees: they grow very deep tap roots and thrive on high water tables like ours--no risk of the roots breaking up our house foundation).

They are simply gorgeous--I've never seen anything like them. We're so excited to have them, it's as if they're new members of our family. I never thought I could feel this way about a tree. Welcome, leafy friends!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

5th Annual Lavender in the Village Festival

This weekend we attended the 5th annual Lavender in the Village festival in a small residential-rural area of Albuquerque called Los Ranchos de Albuquerque (the ranches of Albuquerque). Reportedly, more than 7,000 people attended the festival, and it was more abundant and more stunning than we imagined it would be.

It was a warm day, overcast but not threatening rain, so it was easy to leisurely stroll from one shuttle stop to the next. The shuttles carried attendees around a 4 mile radius from the Los Ranchos grower's market to Los Poblanos Historic Inn & Cultural Center with their farm and lavender field, to Anderson Valley Vineyards and Casa Rondena Winery.

All the stops featured lavender-themed treats and music (I loved the local band at Los Poblanos, called Le Chat Lunatique: self-professed "filthy, mangy jazz," a la Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli). Los Poblanos opened their fields for U-pick lavender, and the wineries offered lavender-infused wine and sangria. Personally, I love the aroma of fresh-picked lavender but I can't get past its association with soaps and perfumes when I ingest it. Blech!

The grounds at Los Poblanos were amazing. Neither Jon nor I have had the chance to stay or visit there yet, so it was an extra-special treat. Our fellow fair-goers Jerry and Karen had stayed there before, and highly recommended it for a future overnight stay to really tour the historic inn and gardens. One of the highlights of the garden is the enormous LOTUS POND in front of the inn.

Who knew a lotus pond could thrive in a semi-arid desert?!?! Of course, they require loads of water daily so we're still wondering how Los Poblanos pulls it off while maintaining its status as a local organic CSA farm....(we would like to note that Los Poblano's CSA program isn't so local: we found out last winter that they ship produce in from South America and Mexico to distribute to their local CSA customers around Albuquerque. Doesn't that kinda defeat the purpose? Why wait for your weekly or monthly shipment, when you can just make a short trip to Whole Foods?)

Our final stop was Casa Rondena Winery, one of the two best wineries in the state. It takes a lot of money to source the best grapes, invest in the latest greatest equipment, and build a marketing machine that can promote and sell your wine, thus why winemaker and owner John Calvin has been so incredibly successful--and his wines are amazing to boot.

Formerly an architect by trade, Calvin pursued and achieved his dream of making wine in his hometown of Los Ranchos. Being an architect, he has a fine aesthetic and designed all the structures on the property himself. He's especially fond of Arabic design, and tries to incorporate a theme of cultural harmony across his property (like on the weathervane--kinda like U2's "coexist" campaign).

Calvin's tour was entertaining and informative, and Jon, Jerry, Karen, and I had a chance to talk to him by ourselves toward the end to get some tips on how we might start growing wine grapes on our own properties in Bosque Farms. There's nothing like the inside track from someone like this.

Later that week, as I was jogging along the acequia on our block, I noticed an enormous grapevine growing out into the walking path from someone's backyard. A man passing me on the path told me that when the grapes ripen, they are small, super-sweet red grapes with seeds (aha! the description of a wine grape!), and that the owners just let them fall to the ground.

I picked a leaf to take home and identify the wine grape using our leaf identifier book (nerd moment...). It looks to be Grenache, which makes sense, as the Spanish colonists were the first to grow grapes in the U.S. right here in New Mexico back in the early 1600s--and what else is Grenache than "Garnacha"--a typical red grape that Spanish winemakers still use in abundance to produce excellent Spanish wines.

You know that we're gonna get to know these people and ask if we can pick their grapes this Fall!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Rainwater Harvesting

Introducing our latest addition: a 1600-gallon rainwater catchment tank, which so far is holding about 350 gallons of water from rain that's rolled off the roof of our home the past two weeks. All this without routing from a gutter system yet--just direct drip into the tank and us filling buckets strategically around the house, then dumping them into the tank! Jon will install gutters shortly, and we're already using the water to drench our vegetable and flower gardens and new trees. Just from the roof of our house alone (not including the roof on our detached garage/barn/workroom and the roof on the small guest house and nearby lean-to), we can easily fill the tank within the next two months of monsoon rain!

The tank will eventually reside behind the guest house, and we'll hook it up to a drip irrigation system for the trees. Jon is writing an article on all this for his next installment on Matter Network, so I can't give away too much about our watering plans at this point...Stay tuned!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Article #2 in Our Series...

This time, Jon's article is the headliner!

Or, if you're reading this post after July 13th, it may be posted here:

Can't wait to read the discussion boards on this one. Can't touch this!