Thursday, August 25, 2016

o'keeffe rose

The penultimate piece of O'Keeffe commemoration ... Much earlier this summer, I noted how the garden of the Research Center has been beautifully and carefully planted with all the flowers that appear in O'Keeffe's paintings.  I can't quite find a painting of a rose that looks just like this one (though no doubt it exists - the garden planners knew what they were doing).  But the folding petals - well, yes.  It seems fairly apt that they are slightly wilting and browning at the edges, given how hard I've been working these last few weeks (when, ok, not driving to LA).

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

O'Keeffe revenant

The O'Keeffe Research Center is situated in the A.M. Bergere House on Grant Street, in Santa Fe, which was built in 1873 as an officer's house, for someone serving at the Fort Marcy compound, just up the road.  It was never lived in by O'Keeffe - I've no idea if O'Keeffe ever visited it (that seems unlikely), so there's no sense - unlike Ghost Ranch; unlike her house in Abiquiu - of her spirit still being there among the dried herbs and saucepans and furniture.  That's not to say that the house isn't haunted: when I arrived, one of the security guards told me not to be worried if I heard two small children playing, and pulling things around.  Clearly, I'm still documenting my time there, because I know that my own memories of the actual spaces will become blurry soon enough : these are the stairs down from my office; that's a photograph of Ghost Ranch landscape hanging on the wall (Ghost Ranch itself is named after the ghosts of the Archuleta brothers, cattle rustlers in the canyon there).

But this image is also a reverential nod to James Welling's photograph Revenant, perhaps the most extraordinary image among his photographic homage to Andrew Wyeth.  A canny observer of yesterday's image will have spotted that on the board in my office there are pinned postcards of three Wyeth paintings, so this is decidedly apt.  My colleague Suzanne Hudson, in Things Beyond Resemblance, the catalogue of the exhibition of these photographs, has written wonderfully well about this image in terms of its balance between abstraction and documentary, its refusal to "differentiate the support from the image fixed on it" - the white of photographic paper or, in this case, the white of the screen.  I think of Welling's study in terms, too, of memory, whether real or wished-for: of knowing something, some place; of sensing someone's presence within it yet being unable to have it come clearly in view. In turn, I'm not so much thinking of my own photograph as the image of a haunted place, but thinking about how my own memory of this place will, in its turn, doubtless become hazy and obscure.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

... three more days ...

I'll miss my large and airy sanctuary in the Georgia O'Keeffe Research Center, a lot (at least, now that I no longer register the a/c unit turning itself on and off, on and off, which drove me crazy for the first month.  Or maybe it's just that the weather has turned a little cooler).  I'm bad at chronicling my working spaces - and there have been a lot of them over the past six years - this office; the Chair's Office at Rutgers, my attic room with rutting animals in the wall in a Rutgers house on Union Street, New Brunswick (as rooms go, that was probably my favorite), my English dept office at USC; the Art History Chair's office; my art history dept. office; my office at the National Humanities Center, and now my new Art History office, almost directly underneath the office I had in English (same tree, different branches, same sounds of the band practicing).  And almost every time I've moved on, in this peripatetic catalogue, I'm 2/3 packed up, and wished that I'd taken a picture of it as an actual office in use.  So here, untidied, unemptied, is my downtown Santa Fe retreat.

Monday, August 22, 2016


in NM for my final week in the beautifully peaceful environs of the O'Keeffe Research Center - and coming home this evening to the perennial question at this time of the year: will it rain?  you might think that with clouds like this, the answer is obvious - but Eldorado is a place of micro-micro-climates, so it's by no means a forgone conclusion.  But yes, it rained.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

the flags of all the nations

It would seem that our guess - that this has something to do with the Olympics - was wrong.  Here's Venice beach - we wandered down there after lunch on Abbott Kinney - and, obviously, a lot of flags. It seems (but I'm sure someone will be happy to correct me, or fill me in ...) to be a World Peace Drum Circle.  This illustrates, perfectly, the oddness of being able to Google things.  On the one hand, it would be great if this were a mystery - an installation that had just appeared - a celebration without an origin: in other words, the flaggy strangeness that we happened upon.  On the other ... knowing that this is a World Peace Drum Circle doesn't really tell one all that much, especially as there were no drummers in sight or earshot.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

the invisibility of timid cats

Yes!  LucyFur is present in this picture.  But she's very apprehensive that Walter Gomez will charge down the stairs into my study, and - and - and she's not quite sure what he'll do, and that's probably the point of hiding under a large armoire, so that only the very tip of her elegant tabby tail is showing in this picture.  

Friday, August 19, 2016

new semester

I have a mental seasonal clock that tells me that it's time for the fall/autumn semester when the leaves start to turn color: this didn't really work in New Jersey, and it works a good deal less well still when I'm in Southern California.  I'm going to have to reset that clock so that it clicks into motion when these trees are in flower.  Only I'm not sure what they are ... I've been thinking of them as Plumeria for years, only I've just checked, and that absolutely not what they are ... (and in any case, although I went to two meetings, and did a whole lot of book unpacking (we've moved departmental offices), I'm still on leave this academic year, and hence can only vicariously claim that the semester is flat out beginning.