Wednesday, August 31, 2016

cardiff clouds

Clouds a-plenty, this morning, before the conference here in Cardiff got formally underway - I was, however, in the art gallery.  Lots of Welsh landscapes - but plenty of other great stuff that I didn't know, including this Rodin sculpture from c.1902, called, appropriately, Clouds.  There was a compelling video installation by Shimon Attie, The Attraction of Strangers, about what it's like for the people of Aberfan to live perpetually in the shadow of the dreadful tragedy there in 1966, when a slag heap slid down and buried a primary school, killing 116 children and 28 adults - no one (at least no one of a certain age), the rationale behind the piece goes, can look at someone, learn that they're from Aberfan, and not automatically think of this.  So the inhabitants there are under a form of continual scrutiny.  I remember being on my way home from school that October day, and learning of it from all the people reading evening papers with the awful headlines: it was quite clear that for other people (well, both other people) watching the installation today that it was a memory prompt, too.

So I was too preoccupied when I walked away from this to note who this poignant Victorian piece is by (I'll check, tomorrow - we have our Conference Banquet there);

and this is the part of the museum I didn't get to - dioramas, nature, and a special feature on wriggly worms.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

cardiff city center

I'm thinking that I haven't seen the best of Cardiff, yet - to date, it seems to be all shopping centers and more shopping centers (this could be, of course, because I was looking for some shops ...), interspersed with pan handlers. But here's the outside of St John the Baptist Church;

here's an arcade roof;

here's another arcade, reflected in a rather adventurous home decor shop window;

and here's the back of the market: a great piece of trompe d'oeuil.  Tomorrow - art and conference ...

Monday, August 29, 2016

things to do with wheelbarrows

My father is nothing if not resourceful.  My parents' garage is full of All Sorts of Stuff - like picture frames that might come in useful some day, or small tobacco tins, or different sizes of screws, or carefully stored - I know, because I did this myself, yesterday - apples.  Why keep some things, one might well ask, like an old battered wheelbarrow?  The answer is, of course, is that one rescues the cyclamen that were growing wild on the garage roof (that's another story), and grows them in it.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Wimbledon apple harvest

Yes, it makes me super-nervous to look out of my bedroom window and see my 92 year old father up a ladder gathering apples (whatever happened to that contraption like a shrimp net that he made 50 or so years ago, that allowed one to stand on the ground and twist a wire mini-hoop around the fruit, until it fell into a little net and could be brought safely to the ground?  Must ask ... We had an orange picker that worked the same way, in LA ...).  On the other hand ... it makes me super-grateful and happy to have a 92 year old father who is still happily going up a ladder and picking fruit ...

Saturday, August 27, 2016

DFW (an occasional series)

Once every year or so, traveling through DFW, I'm lucky enough to have a worker or two sit down opposite me and - as it were - unknowingly pose.  They serve as a reminder, of course, that even if Traveling Is Tiring, working in an airport day in day out is doubtless far more so ...

Friday, August 26, 2016

and it's the last day ...

... so one, final, postcard-style shot of my academic home this summer.  I do love their tradition of sending off the outgoing fellow with a little party (involving cupcakes).  I'm super-grateful to the O'Keeffe Center for my time there.

AND NOW commenceth the first time for a whole year that I don't have an obligation to turn up at a research center every day!  I have autonomy!  I am still on leave!  Watch this space ...

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.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

traveling with cats

Cat-traveling at the moment has its problems, since we still have a dysfunctional kitty family (despite DandyLion still being in NJ, en route, we hope, to Connecticut before too long) - since one of the three doesn't get on with one of the others ... so, to avoid carnage (and cat pee), we now have to keep Walter Gomez and Lucy Fur separate.  Two hotel bedrooms, not one ... this gets expensive.  But Lucy F enjoyed her night with me - even if, in the morning, she exhibited her usual complete reluctance to get back in a carrier (and she didn't even know that it would be an extra-long trip, since we were skirting round the Blue Cut fire ...).  You wouldn't guess where she was, would you?  I think she believes she's invisible.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

cowboy art

On my room wall in La Posada, Winslow - doubtless on the trail of the Lonesome something or the other.  I love the barbed wire frame.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

"women are brave"

[artwork by Fae Ordaz]   

I'm always nervous before giving a public talk.  Not throw-up-in-the-bathroom-nervous, but jittery, spacey, not connecting with the rest of the world, self-conscious-nervous.  Today I was speaking at the O'Keeffe museum, in the Education Annexe - and so the walls were covered with all kinds of different art projects from their summer programs.  I took enormous heart from the zines that a group of young women had been making and their affirmative statements - this part of an image (top right on the near wall, below) by Fae Ordaz really spoke to me, for obvious reasons.  My thanks go out to her ...

Monday, August 15, 2016

tub time

An end-of-the-summer treat at 10,000 Waves, the spa - with private hot tubs - up the mountain behind Santa Fe.  Luckily I realized in time that my small camera had no camera card in it ... but you're missing out on some arty Japanesey light-and-shadow-and-the-odd-bit-of-greenery shots.  And I'd forgotten my cell.  So I borrowed Alice's phone, briefly ... here's the wall of our little tub enclosure, and the cracked outer wall of the tub itself.  

Sunday, August 14, 2016

trail markers

These are not the most orthodox type of marker ... Our NM house is surrounded by lots of green belt land and hiking trails (one huge attraction of being here).  This week, we discovered a new little part of a trail, or, to be exact, a new green-belt way down onto a trail - and we did it again today, knowing that despite the barbed wire, the crucial trail-fork was marked with a green plastic bag and a sprig of juniper.  It's also just past one of the local bluebird boxes - there are many along the railtrack trail - but this one is labelled with a very decisive 1.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

August weather

This afternoon's storm was pretty spectacular - a dark, dark sky; wind thrashing the leaves around - and then, at the start of a downpour that placed a small lake by one side of our house, this unseasonable drift of hail ...

Friday, August 12, 2016

time for a sunset

It's too easy to take our sunsets for granted ... but our time in NM is starting to run out, and we'll miss them.  It's a windy, partly cloudy night - hard to tell whether there will still be Perseids visible or not.  I sat outside last night - on the far side of our wall, on an old (and very comfortable) straw bale, with coyotes howling periodically, and I saw about six spectacular ones (despite the bright moon) in the space of about half an hour.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

vallez caldera, and around ...

The ostensible aim, today, was to go to the Science Museum in Los Alamos - to look at the history and images of Big Flashes - in the form of the atomic bomb.  But there was very little on view that spoke to this - apart from a camera, and one of the thick lenses issued to observers so that they could look at the first atomic blast.  I would have loved the museum if I were 9 - lots of hands-on science - but we escaped to the farmers' market and the Los Alamos branch of El Parasol - and then (always on my agenda), to Valles Caldera, a National Park of extraordinary grasslands inside the rim of a very old volcano.  Here's a National Park attendant feeding a humming bird;

here's the bird itself coming in.

Here's the east branch of the Jemez river;

a rock squirrel that we saw on our hike;

here, the road up to Los Alamos,

and here, the road down through Jemez Springs.

All of it - northern New Mexico at its best.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

a third doortrait

There's nothing remarkable about this, unless you want to start considering the oddness of the angles. But it's further documentation of my walk in the morning, from carpark to research center - past a whole street of typical old Santa Fe, with the houses in different kinds of repair (or lack of it) and chi-chi ness.  I wouldn't want to live there (no skies, no view) but for a street just a couple of blocks away from the center of tourist downtown, it's remarkably tranquil and time-warped.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

doortrait #2

You've seen the Russian Sage several times already this summer (still blooming ...) - here's the door into the property that owns it.  Every time I walk past it (during the week, at least twice a day; sometimes four times) the whole house reminds me very strongly of Greece.  I know that in part this is because of its very non-Santa Fe whiteness, but it's also because of this solid, double wood door.

Monday, August 8, 2016


There seem to be a number of articles floating around right now that claim that the latest Instagram trait is the Doortrait - a self-explanatory neologism, and one that is world-wide in its applicability.  So this prompted me into taking this photo from my walk to work in the mornings: it's a gate that's baffled me all summer, because its tone makes it look as though someone's taken a rather basic water color photo app to the door itself ... But they can't have done, and I haven't done - so if this was going on Instagram (which it isn't), it would have, in addition to #doortrait, #nofilter.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

bird on a wire

Outside Cafe Fina, near Eldorado, this morning.  It's a swallow, brown and gold against the perfect blue of the (morning) New Mexican sky, before the afternoon clouds and, this evening, the power-outage bestowing storms rolled in.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

farmers' market, early august

Up early for the Farmers' Market - it's hit its early-part-of-late-summer stride, and it was hard to be realistic about how much we can actually eat - or even freeze - in the next week.  Above, however, my Migrant Mother pose - as ever, one's always very much aware how much this market is often a family affair (I bought my peaches from a young woman who I should think was about 7; the grandmother who used to make the most extraordinarily good tamales seems to have switched, alas, to frito pies.  I know from talking to her granddaughter earlier in the summer that she just seemed to have had enough of grinding the corn to make the tamales ...

It was also a market full of flowers;

some of them hanging in strings;

some alongside other produce.

And, whilst I'm sure this is a recognized breed, who could resist the name of these tomatoes?

Friday, August 5, 2016

caught purple-handed

The mystifying thing about these two purple hand prints (I won't even start to speculate about the small blue ball of sky) is not that they have suddenly appeared.  One sound explanation for that might lie in the fact that this tempting white wall is just opposite a pre-school.  The real and surprising triumph lies in the fact that the purple perfectly matches the shade of the Russian Sage.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

watching for lizards

I won't pretend - we still have some cat dysfunctionality problems: Walter Gomez still harbors murderous intentions towards LucyFur.  But we work a kind of shift system (since everyone gets on with Moth).  This morning, WG and Moth had some quality time looking through the back door's screen at a lizard that - I swear - taunts these indoor kitties.  That's him on the right, Moth on the left.  Hard to believe that they were adopted as kittens at the same time, four years ago.  Walter is, shall we say, big boned.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

evening commute

I like this train so much that I never mind being held up by the lights.  It's the Rail Runner (a pun, for those of you who don't get it instantly, on the Road Runner, New Mexico's slightly absurd, scurrying state bird), which runs between Santa Fe and Belen, 35 miles south of Albuquerque, and was a terrific Bill Richardson project when he was Governor.  Truth be told, I've only taken it a few times (driving to Albuquerque is faster, and it runs at commuter times), but it's the prettiest of routes, and allows one to see old parts of pueblos that you don't see from the road.  Today, as you can see in the wing mirror, there was a spectacular stormy sky trying to catch up with the transportation.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

shedding skin

Yesterday, Alice found a shed snakeskin under a tree near the front door - I brought it in; all paper-white, translucent; fragile.  I've been wondering all day how to photograph it to bring out this fragility.  In the end, I put it on a white board, and, yes, used flash.  The top image brings out its almost not-there-ness surprisingly well.

But also, without flash, and then using Photoshop to make the white board as white as possible, a strange thing happened: it was as though I'd restored some snakiness to the skin, and one can see something like the snake's probable colors coming out. 

All the same, I'm not there yet ... I may try again with natural light tomorrow.  It's an extraordinary and beautiful thing (and I wish I'd seen it happening - how long does it take a snake to get rid of its old skin?).