This is a watercolor painting. I took a photograph back in Hawaii in 2011 at a local favorite beach and used it to make this peice. You can see the progress of the painting over the corse of two weeks in the studio and below is the final peice.
Saturday, July 12, 2014
Once in Nelson, Canada, a snow-town like Tahoe, I visited an indoor public pool. A massive yellow spiral slide was at the head of the building, along with a diving board and hot tubs that harry men gathered in like something out of The Godfather. I pictured the public pool here in Tahoe to have the basic section for laps and a for pool play, and if I was lucky maybe an Al Pacino. Another charming thing about pools are the older women doing water aerobics bouncing around wearing floral swim caps. This time of the year would make small talk about how they plan to not eat as much this Thanksgiving. Sympathizing with each other and agreeing to be supportive of healthy lifestyles through the holidays. However once out of earshot they would all decide to call their husbands to add that they’re picking up pie for dessert tonight on the way home, because they just can’t wait another month. This is when Al Pacino would say that pie was for babies and shoot the kneecaps of those naughty grandmas.
My own grandmother goes to her morning aerobic classes and would often ask me to join. I knew that if I was to ever tag along I wanted a vintage one piece, a pair of cat eye sun glasses and a swim cap with more than just two dimensions. I hold fond memories of looking through a box of old photos that showed my Mother wearing fluorescent one pieces that hiked up past her hip bones when she taught water aerobics classes while in college. My expectations for the pool were high, as high as one pieces used to hike up in the eighties.
The recreation center also had a weight room, I anticipated that the machine room would be busier than the pool. Weight rooms are commonly full of men flexing their muscles smiling at themselves or women laying out topography maps with their eyes, scanning all shapes of their figures. There would be so much character in these lonely fat people, I couldn’t wait. At the pool there’s always one old man putzing around wearing red board shorts that creep closer and closer to nipple height. He would slowly swim, back and forth in some combination of doggie and froggie style. I sorely came to the discovery that the Tahoe recreation center was not what I had modeled it up to be.
From the cross street I could see the dome covering the indoor pool--a huge white ball plopped on top of a wooden building, like a scoop of vanilla that sits on the top of your shell cone. The parking lot of the South Lake Tahoe Recreation Center was very large and all the aspens surrounding the building had cycled to the sweet yellow color of fall. As I pressed the lock on my vehicle my brain triggered, “Oy vey…You forgot a towel!” With fingers crossed I hoped that they would have some options available for the off souls who leave their homes with an extra cup of tea but no towel for the pool.
I entered the doors where two women were standing to greet me; one eager and the other uninterested. I mentioned that this was my first visit to the recreation center and wanted to gather information about rates, and might even go for a swim. Visible to me through the door that entered the dome, I saw men in jammers swiveling in unison making flip-turns at the end of laps. Seeing this and, being familiar with this, I felt a bit unsettled. Flip-turns usually mean a coach, a whistle, and maybe a little pressure. These swimmers seemed to be a tad more serious than I had thought. There I was with no towel, no swim cap, and no one peice. Who was I? Very gently the desk clerk answered my question about towels with a wrinkle in her brow and a lift of her shoulders, “I’m sorry we don’t have any towels.” The other woman there swiveled around from her computer and added, “Let me check the lost and found. There might be a towel there for you.” So listen, I don’t have squirmy tendencies, but the idea of a moldy towel still wet from the last use, discarded in a bin with all the other towle orphan towels, made me feel faint. I did not want to use someone’s lost towel, I did not want to find that towel. “No luck”, she said. Convincingly, I replied “O darn, well I’ll figure it out.” Relieved, I thought “Thank you, but no thank you.”
The friendly desk clerk pointed out the locker rooms as I heard the chirp of basketball shoes on a court and the gentle drumming of a ball. I walked past a dozen empty rooms. The weight room was empty, the treadmill out of service, and there were no physical spectators jostling around. When I entered the locker room for the pool it was empty as well.
There were remnants of many women undressing in this room. About eleven lockers had dripping one pieces hanging over open metal doors. I wondered if I had just missed the exercise class I was anticipating. There were no other signs that these women were in the building any longer. Their suits however had enough personality for a first impression--bright colorful suits that looked like some acid trip through the eyes of an elderly woman. I wouldn’t be surprised if at the drawing board for all these designs there was a group of women on acid, screaming out ideas, “Flamingos… yes.. lime green flamingos! Orange monkeys, eating purple bananas!” I placed all my items in a locker and walked out under the dome.
Right as I walked through the revolving doors I read to the right the lane arrangement. I hadn’t seen anything like this before. Starting from left to right it read, “slow, medium, fast, fast, medium, slow”. This pool has a cast system, duly noted. The pool arena had very white light that passed through the dome fabric. The kind of stale light that might be in a doctors office. Music was quietly playing in the background, Tom Petty’s “MaryJane’s Last Dance”. The smell of the pool was the classic sour dry smell of some nasty concoction of house cleaners and chlorine. Crystal, water the ice blue color of the sky undulated in its concrete grave before me. Feeling a little awkward with the two female lifeguards staring at me blankly I gestured hello and stepped immediately into the pool. I saw that the men in the fast lane were whipping around, doing fifty yard sprints, and then checking their time. From this I conjured up that they must have a little more planned this afternoon then a sweet dip in the pool. When they stopped you could see their mouths were open, panting, pushing to make a time limit. Sitting to the right above my lane were the two young female lifeguards.
They both stared at me occasionally; perhaps they didn’t see many people at the pool that looked like they came to enjoy swimming without preconceived time goals or plans. I began with breaststroke, so I could continue to spy on all of my surroundings. Like a boat leaving port my head glided across the surface of the pool. My nose submerging and emerging with each stroke, occasionally having a snort of chlorine causing my eyes to burn and spicy water to drip down the back of my throat. Through blurry chlorine eyes I read a sign to my right said the capacity for the pool was one hundred and sixty eight. “Maybe if you stacked us up like sardines in the pool”, I thought. “Outrageous, one hundred and six eight people doing laps, thats way over capacity.” I’d like to see how these two chatty lifeguards would deal with that much responsibility.
The pool had six lanes and all but two had one swimmer in them. I was the only swimmer in a slow lane, and also the only swimmer not wearing some slick aerodynamic suit, swim cap, and goggles. The lifeguards continued to stare at me, blankly, the way you stare at the news when they begin to talk about the stock market. In defense I flipped over to backstroke to receive a much needed break from our dull eye contact. Shadows of birds flying above outside projected across the surface like shooting stars across the sky. On one end of the tarp a large cast shadow was draped of a pine tree outdoors. The cast shadow was about the size of the Christmas tree they dress up like a show-girl in New York City. As I passed the lifeguards again there conversation was muffled by the water producing sentences that sounded like the adults in Charlie Brown, “Thats more like it” I thought.
It was odd. I swam laps there for an hour, listening to the swish and swash of the swimmers making their turns and splashing their arms into the water as they did lap and lap again of freestyle. Every person there but myself was swimming freestyle, I even dared to throw in some butterfly to bring some much needed color to the scene. It turned out that I was the old man I expected at the pool, putzing around, watching everyone else as they seriously worked out. I watched the birds fly by over the dome listening to the sounds of the classic rock station and drowned out the lifeguard’s discussion of the affairs that played out the night before. I thought about this feeling like the only orange fish at a red fish convention. How on earth could a public pool leave me feeling so outside? In the end I bought a punch card to visit the public pool again; after all I wouldn’t put it past myself to acclimate to the situation. On my next visit to the pool a week after, I adapted, arriving in a one piece with goggles ready. I didn’t wear a swim cap, but if I ever do go out to buy one it will say, “Team Haley” just to show off how seriously I take myself.
Another Friday of Portraiture. The sun was out and the music was blaring at the market this week.
Locals were everywhere and I was in the middle of it all. Surrounded by artist like, Molly, Char, Dan, Sebastian, Kristin and a star appearance by Phyllis Shafer. Any day is a good day at the market but being able to see and laugh with all my mentors and friends made this day go from good to great. I had a lot of people who wanted to sit together for two at a time. I think they enjoy being able to talk to each other and it does take some stress off of me. This coming week is the Celebrity Golf Tournament at my work so I won't make it to the market again until the following week and I do believe that will be right when my highschool sweet heart Bryn is flying in from New York.
|Portrait of Charlotte Castillo|
Charlotte Castillo & I. She is a fellow alumni of LTCC and also went to Sonoma State the same school I'm considering for my bachelors. A wonderful addition to this years market and an inspiration to me.
Saturday, June 7, 2014
Street Portraits from my first friday at the Farmers market this summer 2013. There were a few clouds and even the eminent threat of thunder roaring in the background, but we made it through without getting wet. It was an amazing first week, my fellow venders, Molly Mason from my community college was there and I met some new farmer friends as well. A few of the guys invited me and a friend Sebastian to come visit their farm! I was so excited, with the paper I'm writing, and my interest in learning more about sustainable living, I will surely be taking them up on that invitation. Weather or not that happens before or after Yosemite I don't know yet for sure. All I know is life has an interesting way of presenting you with what you seek. I will be at the market again next week and the week after I will be returning back home to Hawaii for my beautiful sister Ashley's wedding. Once I return I will be graduating with my AA, a degree I have been working on for three years and I couldn't be happier to turn the page in the book of my life. To new endeavors, to heightened measures and to enlightened living, happy days.
Friday, June 6, 2014
Allowing this piece to dry out and will be bisque firing early next week. I'm nervous to glaze, last experience with my previous piece, wasn't successful. This is a symbolic self portrait for my intermediate ceramics class at Lake Tahoe Community College. I have been working a lot with Yin and Yang and I see these two characters as being symbolic as two sides of who I am. The eyes convey my absorption of my surroundings and the tree symbolizes my ability to stay rooted. We only have three weeks left in the quarter and today the farmers market starts up again so I am reeving up my summer engines and getting ready for my road trip in October and ready to start landscape painting with Dave Russo this Sunday.
Friday, May 30, 2014
Flipping the Coin
After countless measurements, miscalculations, and stubbed fingers from hanging close to 300 works of art while climbing the epic mountain that is finals week at school; my body was beat. Walking across art department hallways, Molly our art technician stopped me on my way out of the building and invited me to bring some of my paintings to the Farmers Market in town. She explained that if I wanted to sell work, I would have to buy a permit and purchase a slot at the market. The deadline for all this paperwork would be before the end of the month, accumulated to close to a hundred dollars and time that I didn't have to spare. At the time, working two jobs and going to school, wouldn't it be crazy to try to pile more columns on my to-do list? But as some things do in life, this just fell into my lap, and my mind chewed it up like a piece of bubble gum until there was a game plan. My plan was to set up my easel on the street at the market, not to sell work; but to offer free street portraits. This by-passed through the loophole of having to file for permits or pay for any fees. Portraits were a stage for me to indulge myself in my passion and take advantage of the opportunity for reciprocity. It didn't matter if I charged or not, especially when, I usually have to pay for models. I mentioned this to Molly a week later, she thought the idea rocked.
The Ski Run Farmers Market happened for five hours every week on Fridays through July, August and September. Friday afternoons were glorified family gatherings in the park with kids running around and people happily receiving fresh produce and vegetables from the local vendors in the fresh mountain air of South Lake Tahoe. I'd drive up in my little, almost impossible to navigate, Subaru stuffed with chairs, my umbrella, and my easel, usually parking next to the recycled climbing rope rug guy who drove the bright orange VW van. Always dressed in my afternoon disguise shrouded by my biggest hat and pair of sunglasses, I would slowly unpack all of my gear. I eventually became acquainted with many of the people who spent their afternoons at the market, often bartering back and forth for deals. It was just another interesting aspect of being independently employed, with my own intentions and no real purpose of being there other than to enjoy my time and anyone who would join me. It wasn’t hard to fall in love with the spirit of the Market.
On the first Friday, to my surprise, I didn't have a second to breathe. One person after the next, after the next, slipped into my chair for a portrait. Sitting there, perched up, my most common customers were kids, followed by strange wanderers and the occasional fellow vendor. Just before sitting down, adults would ask me astonished, “Free, what’s the catch?”. With every baffled question, I would just smile and respond, “There isn’t a catch, the value for me isn't the money but the time spent sharing art.” This usually stumped the adults who would wander questionably around my back as I drew their children, and they would even still wear expressions of deprecation as little Johnny and Mary-Sue ran off beaming with their very own portraits. For me, the smiles on their faces were all that was needed to satisfy the time put in.
Slowly I became bitter of the suspicious adults. They represented so much that I see wrong with society today. They had locked away the basic instincts of human relationships. It was apparent when comparing them to the children who displayed blissful naivety. Something lived in the children that didn’t have all the experience the adults did living in a world revolving around money. In the best way the children were open to what I was offering them. Both attitudes had a lot to teach me while I sat at the market. Watching people act and considering why they are jaded with goals so rooted in money day in and day out that they never truly get a chance to enjoy what they’re up to. Or maybe rarely ask themselves if what they were doing is to anyone’s benefit, rather than just their own. All of these adults were conditioned; conditioned to the satisfaction of money, conditioned away from what it really means to enjoy life. Value is a very touchy subject for our society, money would lose all its power over people if they ever put it on a scale with real appreciation.
A particular experience at the market hit this reflection right on the head for me. When a sweet little girl sat in my chair one afternoon. The sun was beating down on us, and the breeze gently brushed her hair across her round adolescent cheeks. She was very silent as I told her, as I do everyone who sits in my chair, “Don’t forget to breathe and you can talk if you’d like. But please, if you could, choose one thing to look at and try to keep your eyes on it for the whole time. I’ll work as fast as I can, it shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes.” With a rare serenity, she was peacefully looking out across the road and as soon as I saw her eyes target an object, I began sketching. Most kids look nervous and I have to gently make sure they’re comfortable, but this little girl was all business. I began sketching the shape of her skull and combining the general measurements for the facial features, I closely study the eyes, which are usually directly across the center of the skull. I then payed close attention to what her unique eye shape really was, I’d say, “Alright I’m drawing your nose now.” Drawing contour lines with my eyes I would glide across the highlights of her nose. While watching her she gazed out continuously, with an intent that passed right through her target and back into her own imagination. I stopped to wonder, “What could be passing through her mind?” As I was finishing the drawing up, I said to her, “Almost done”, still she doesn’t twitch even as I said this.
As I finish I ask, “What’s your name my dear?” She replied gently, “Ashley.” I write TO: ASHLEY FROM: HALEY on the bottom right and presented it to her. Her eyes lit up, she looked it over with a smile for a few seconds before she looked up at me and asked, “Do you want to be an artist when you grow up?” I was stumped looking at this precious angel sitting there for me; her life possibly had been based around that question for the past few months. She may be asking everyone, what do you want to be when you grow up? Or asking herself in the mirror, what does she want to be when she grows up? But here when she asked me, even if it had no major significance to her, I swear the smile that burst across my face should have been acceptable currency for a college education. She flipped the coin on me, she had exposed my truest emotions about art and the value of my life. I loved art, there was, indeed, a little girl inside of me who wanted to grow up to be an artist. This little girl Ashley recognized that truth. She had plastered across my face just what it meant to be sharing with her my work, that I was lucky enough to be doing what I loved and share it with other people. I’m not all grown up yet, nor have I fully accomplished what I am to achieve with my art, but Ashley had successfully rejuvenated a spirit in me that had been long undiscovered and discouraged. No one could completely discourage something that brought your life meaning, not even you can completely take that from yourself. The truth will set you free.