3 November 2009

Rebirth of a bookstore. Mysteries of life.

  Setting sun, off the big barn window

   Went to the new Battenkill Bookshop on Main St., Cambridge, N.Y. Great bookstore. Will go back and put up some photos later in the week – my shots got messed up somehow. Reading the new Clint Eastwood biography, and also a P.D.James mystery. She is better than warm milk and tea at bedtime. Liking the Martin Beck mystery series. Got a call from a Hollywood agent. There is interest in optioning one of my mysteries, "Death By Station Wagon."
  Most calls like that end up nowhere, but it was interesting, because the series is out-of-print and was abandoned by Doubleday after good reviews and tepid sales. I enjoyed writing them, but I don't really have the patience to write about the same character over and again. That includes me.
  I wrote the mysteries primarily because my wife was working as a reporter, and I wanted to stay home and take care of my daughter. So I kept the calendar, shopped, cooked and carpooled. I have to say I loved that period of my life, even though I never really took to living in the suburbs. Writing, taking care of Em.
  People thought I was having a mid-life crisis, staying home like that. But then, people have been telling me that I'm having a mid-life crisis ever since I was eighteen. Whenever men change, they are clubbed with the idea that they are having a mid-life crisis. That's what they said when I started writing, when I took up dogs and sheepherding, when I wrote about dogs, when I moved up to the farm. I hope that's what they are saying when I croak, because it will mean that I was doing what I wanted to do, rather than what they expected me to do, till the end.

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Rethinking Photography and Art

Considering this photo of Rose working for my photo show, "Portraits of My Life," January 9, Redux Gallery, Dorset, Vt.

  November 3, 2009 – Selling photography is tricky, because it costs so much to take, print, frame and show photos that almost nobody wants to buy them. For "fine art" photographers – that is not me – that's okay, because they believe their photos are worth a lot of money. I get my props off of books and writing, and I don't see selling photos as a way for me to make a living. When Christine Nemec asked me if I would agree to a photo show in January at her gallery in Vermont, I was, of course, pleased and excited. But now comes the practical dilemma. How much to spend on framing, and matting and printing? I don't want these photos to be priced beyond anybody's reach. So I talked with Jon and Carolyn, at the Image Loft in Manchester and I proposed this kind of arrangement: some of the photos will be expensively matted and framed and shown and sold as "art." None will be sold for thousands of dollars.
  Some – especially some of the dogs and farm animals – will be printed small, and framed simply. I hope they can be sold for as little as $150, depending on what Christine thinks and how Jon and Carolyn figure it out. This will offer two ways of showing my photos – the "artistic" ones will be larger and done up, some will be presented very much with cost in mind. Hopefully this is an arrangement that will make the photos more accessible. The photos will be up at  Redux all month, and I will give a talk about the portraits and my photography when the show opens.

The Daily Potholder. Re-Imagining Art

   Maria and I had a lively discussion last night about "high" and "low" art, the idea that some art is "real" art and other art – that not defined by critics, gallery owners and museum procurers – is something different. The potholders she makes provoke a lot of discussion, in our lives and in the outside world. There are now a few mailing lists devoted to talking about them, many berating me for squawking about a pink and green color match. I love it.
  Potholders would not traditionally be defined as art, but to me, they are art in the purest sense of the term. They touch people, are individual works of creation, and unlike most art, people can afford them and actually use them if they wish. Some people send fabric to Maria for her to use in transforming them into art: to remember a mother or father or somebody they love or have loved. I can testify from personal experience it's interesting to be given a quilt or potholder made up of fabric from your own life.
 My old shirts have a new life in quilts all over the place. I think art, like publishing, used to be controlled by a very few who defined art and made most people feel as if they couldn't understand it. Recessions aren't good for much, but they are good for challenging notions of art, photography and writing.
 I don't think there is "high" or "low" art. Art is personal, individualistic, not something for people in Manhattan or academe to define. We are all telling our stories, in the best ways in which we can. If we think it's art, it is. A woman sent Maria some of her late mother's clothes, and Maria is making potholders from it for her sons and daughters and grandkids. She doesn't make her things to custom – she is the artist, and holds to her own view of creation. But I can't think of a better notion of art.

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Beauty and Art. A New Voice

Portrait of Frieda, which I am considering for the "Portraits of My Life" show in Dorset, Vt. in January, an exhibit of my photographs. I'm going to put up some of the photographs I'm putting in the show on the blog, of course.

  November 3, 2009 – I met a fascinating man a few weeks ago – Keith Davitt, an artist writer and landscape designer (he also makes and sells exquisite water gardens.  He has written acclaimed books about landscape design, traveled the world designing gardens and giving talks on design. Like me, he abandoned city life for the country, and loves it, and like me, he loves to tell his story, has a lot of thoughts running through his brain, and is determined to get his ideas out.
  I don't guess he sleeps a lot either.
  He's just put up – yesterday – a new blog called Beauty and Art, in which he will explore design and notions of beauty and art in many ways in everyday life. He is putting together a direction for his writing and his blog, and I welcome him to the wondrous world of the blogosphere, recommend his very original writing and mind, and wish him and his new site well.
  He and I have been talking about blogs over the last few days – he made a lovely water garden for my desk, and it is bubbling quietly and peacefully as I write this – and I told him to be himself, be open about his own creative process and, most of all, put his ideas and energy into the blog, so that his natural audience will find it, as mine has found mine.
  Keith has a very individualistic, credible and creative way of looking at the world – he can dissect the design of a hanging plant, and my talks with him – this is a high compliment, I think – have caused me to look at design in a completely different way, not only in terms of landscapes (landscape designers are not gardeners) but of the everyday objects that surround us, but which we rarely consider. Photography has caused me to do this as well, so I identify with the idea.
  Keith's site is just one day old, and he is still figuring out the graphics, content, and organization. I, for one, will have a lot of fun watching him put it together. And I will be there every day reading.  His interests are all over the place – books, design, culture, art – but beauty and are seems to be his focus.
 This blog will make you think about the world around you, and the objects and structures that comprise your life.

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