Monday, October 20, 2014

Rain: Drizzle

Overnight we had a light rain. Rain is good, but it was hardly enough to make any difference. I found only 0.1 inches in the rain gauge this morning. That brings our total for the 2014-2015 rain year to 0.95 inches.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Art I'm Making: Another New Collage

Chartreuse is one of those love it or hate it colors. It's not a favorite of mine, but, having made some chartreuse paper recently, I started playing with shapes and colors and I developed a composition against a chartreuse background that I rather like. I used bright, sharply contrasting colors--magenta, red, burnt orange--to set off the yellow-green. Untitled Collage No. 77 (Santa Rosa) was born. Visit my studio this coming weekend to see the original (which is rather more subtly colored than the photo here suggests).

Sonoma County Art Trails 2014 continues next weekend (October 18 and 19). My studio is No. 125. I'm also showing photography and printmaking.



Click on the images for larger views. For more, use the Art I'm Making tab to the right or visit my collage website at http://ctalcroft.wix.com/collage-site/ (requires Flash Player).

Rain: 0.1 inches on October 15

The forecast promised real rain on the night of the 14th and into the 15th, but we got only 0.1 inches, at least at my house. It's supposed to rain again at the end of the week, but the long-term forecast is for another dry winter. I miss the big three-day storms and downpours we used to get regularly in the winter months. The recent rain brings our total for the 2014-2015 rain year to 0.85 inches.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Art I'm Making: Sonoma County Art Trails 2014 First Weekend

I opened my studio as part of the 2014 Sonoma County Art Trails event on October 11 and 12 (the event continues next weekend, October 18 and 19) and enjoyed talking about art and making art with the many visitors who stopped by. It was a pleasure to get feedback on work I've never shown publicly before. During lulls, I had time to do a little work and finished a couple of pieces using paper I made to demonstrate my working process, which involves painting on paper or mono-printing on paper and then using the papers I make to create collages.

Pictured above is Untitled Collage No. 75 (Santa Rosa), which uses some paper elements printed using Sennelier's Naples yellow and incorporates some scraps of a sheet of paper with pastel marks on it that a fellow collage artist brought me.

Sonoma County Art Trails 2014 continues next weekend (October 18 and 19). My studio is No. 125. Stop by to see my work in person. I'm also showing photography and printmaking.



Click on the images for larger views. For more, use the Art I'm Making tab to the right or visit my collage website at http://ctalcroft.wix.com/collage-site/ (requires Flash Player).

Untitled Collage No. 76 (Santa Rosa) also uses a scrap of the pastel-marked sheet and some of the Naples yellow paper, but also incorporates older raspberry-colored papers and a peach-colored paper with round shapes.

Wine I'm Making: 2014 Cabernet Pressed, Sangiovese Rosé Racked

I got up early on the morning of October 11 to press our 2014 Cabernet before the Sonoma County Art Trails weekend began. I finished about 15 minutes before the first visitor arrived. I ended up with only 5 gallons of new wine, which will mean only 25 bottles of 2014 Cab, while about forty bottles is normal. The following day I racked and sulphited the 2014 Sangiovese rosé. We'll get only about 15 bottles of the pink wine. The Sangiovese yield has typically been between 15 and 25 bottles a year. I inoculated the Cabernet with malolactic starter on the morning of the 12th, so it should be starting its malolactic fermentation. The carboy in the living room makes a nice conversation piece amidst all the art I'm showing. I still haven't bottled the 2013 Cabernet. Perhaps this week.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Art I'm Making: New Collages (October 12, 2014)

During the first two days of Art Trails, I spent a lot of time on the floor working on collages in between visits by people coming to see my studio. I had time to finish several new collages. Here are Untitled Collage No. 73 (Santa Rosa) and Untitled Collage No. 74 (Santa Rosa). The first of these plays with the space a little. I've left the edges at slightly odd angles on two sides, which gives the piece a somewhat playful feel.

The second uses a rather large swath of green to balance the dark forms at the left and top edges. The green is offset by a beige circle.

Sonoma County Art Trails 2014 continues next weekend (October 18 and 19). My studio is No. 125. Stop by to see my work in person. I'm also showing photography and printmaking.



Click on the images for larger views. For more, use the Art I'm Making tab to the right or visit my collage website at http://ctalcroft.wix.com/collage-site/ (requires Flash Player).




Books I'm Reading: Exhibitionism: Art in an Era of Intolerance

I purchased Lynne Munson's Exhibitionism: Art in an Era of Intolerance (Ivan R. Dee, 2000) several years ago. I read it this week. I wish I had pulled it down from my book shelf sooner. It clarifies a great deal about trends in late 20th century art. It crystallizes in a very useful way lot of what I and many others have sensed about the "art world." Munson looks at the art world using two case studies--the evolution of arts funding through the National Endowment for the Arts (the NEA) and faculty politics in Harvard's art history department. Both cases are instructive, but it's enough here to look at the example of the NEA.

President Johnson signed the NEA into law on September 29, 1965 following a congressional act of August 1964 that had created the National Council on the Arts. The council--an impressive group that included Isaac Stern, David Brinkley, Gregory Peck, David Smith, Leonard Bernstein, and later John, Steinbeck, Richard Diebenkorn, and Sidney Poitier, among others--was tasked with creating an outline of the new Endowment's mission. An advisory panel that set priorities for the Endowment's visual arts program recommended that top concerns should include providing "direct assistance to the creative artist" and recognizing "excellence in artistic achievement." The first group of NEA grantees included men and women from all over the country working in a wide range of styles of painting and sculpture. The grants were based on a combination of artistic excellence and need. In other words, the people who created the NEA saw the Endowment's role as a source of direct support for the best working artists in the country, particularly those who were struggling financially. Many of the artists chosen to receive grants had virtually no income from their art, while producing work widely recognized as superior. Gene Davis, Edward Ruscha, Donald Judd, and Mark di Suvero were among the first group of grantees.

With the election of Richard Nixon came a change of leadership at the NEA that immediately and permanently changed its tenor, propelling it in the direction of the controversy perhaps most associated with the entity today, and, ultimately, creating public skepticism about the wisdom of any kind of public arts funding, sabotaging the original intent of those who brought the NEA into existence, people who took it for granted that quality art was essential to the life of a healthy nation. At the same time, Nixon's advisors recommended vastly increasing the NEA's grants--but mostly for political reasons; they believed spending on the arts domestically would go some way toward ameliorating the increasingly negative impact at home of what was going on in Vietnam. The associated bureaucracy grew and efficiency declined. The NEA's budget was less than $10mn in 1969, but well over $60mn already in 1974, when Nixon left office. The NEA awarded $16 in grant money for every administrative dollar spent in 1967 but only $10 per administrative dollar by 1983.

When Nixon appointed Nancy Hanks to the leadership of the Endowment, a shift in emphasis away from artistic excellence and toward pluralism accelerated. Nixon wanted to expand the audience for art. Hanks wanted that and much more. With growing funding at her disposal, she oversaw a sharp shift away from supporting individual artists (which, as Munson notes, became the Endowment's lowest priority). Public outreach and support for art institutions became the priority while the scope of eligible activities was expanded to include photography, printmakers, videographers, performance artists, conceptual artists, and even art critics. Before long, virtually any kind of creative activity or arts-related entity (many highly controversial) became eligible for NEA funding and the NEA began to feed the fringes of an expanding art world rather than support traditional artists in their studios.

As Munson puts it, "This weakened standard for awardees, together with the increases in funding, encouraged a freewheeling approach to grant making. Instead of painstakingly whittling down a list of candidates to only the best and brightest, the visual arts panels were now handing out hundreds of grants." The NEA was fueling the expansion of just about every new trend that came along, creating an illusion of value where often there was none and debasing itself at the same time. Eventually, the NEA came to sponsor the radical and deliberately controversial almost exclusively, effectively censoring most serious artistic activity. To get a grant, it was more important to be different, "interesting," or shocking than to exhibit any kind of technical skill or artistic vision. The NEA came to foster exhibitionism while banishing what many would still today consider more serious art from the pool of those eligible for support. This is the exhibitionism of Munson's title. The intolerance she refers to is the entrenched institutional hostility toward traditional art forms that has come to characterize the contemporary art world. Her book goes a long way toward explaining how we got where we are now.

The story of the NEA's evolution nicely illuminates the backdrop of public confusion about the visual arts today and deep public skepticism about art and government agencies associated with the arts. It also suggests why the only people that make a living as artists today seem to be those that feed off the arts bureaucracy--the leach-like posers that create "art" for dealer leaches and gallery leaches that foist a great deal of trash on "collectors" who have no taste and have few places to look for less biased guidance. While not everyone will agree with me about the lamentable state of affairs that has resulted from trends in the last 40 years or so, Exhibitionism: Art in an Era of Intolerance is well written, well argued, and hard to put down.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Art I'm Making: Last Collages Before Art Trails

The Sonoma County Art Trails open studio event, held each year in October, will soon be upon us. I'll be participating this year for the first time, showing mostly abstract collages made from hand-printed papers I make myself, but also showing some of my photography and printmaking. The event is on two weekends--October 10 and 11 and October 18 and 19. More than 160 artists across the county will open their studios to show their work and to show how that work is created. For more information, visit the Sonoma County Art Trails website. My studio is No. 125. Stop by if you have a chance. All studios are open 10:00AM to 5:00PM on each of the four days. I've been busy with preparations, but I've finished two more collages in the past couple of weeks--Untitled Collage No. 71 (Santa Rosa) and Untitled Collage No. 72 (Santa Rosa). 

Click on the images for larger views. For more, use the Art I'm Making tab to the right or visit my collage website at http://ctalcroft.wix.com/collage-site/ (requires Flash Player).






Books I'm Reading: Inventing Wine

Two developments in the history of wine and winemaking are largely responsible the quality of the wine we drink today and for the range of choices we have: the development of sturdy glass bottles with reliable cork seals (a combination that banishes oxygen); and temperature-controlled vats for fermentation and storage. These two innovations set the stage for what Inventing Wine author Paul Lukacs rightly refers to as wine's "second golden Age."

Inventing Wine (Norton, 2012) is a history of winemaking from ancient times to the present with an emphasis on how wine was transformed from a highly perishable, short-lived, near accident to a highly sophisticated creation of the human imagination, benefiting from the choices winemakers are afforded today by innovations like temperature-controlled fermentation. Lukacs makes it clear that the global selection of high-quality wines we take for granted today is a very recent development.

Winemaking is believed to have begun as long as 8,000 years ago, but wine is highly susceptible to the effects of oxygen and spoilage caused mainly by the strains of bacteria that convert wine into vinegar. Most wine through history has been short-lived. While amphorae allowed quantities of wine to be sealed against oxygen and stored for long periods if unopened, most wine was stored in casks that, once breached, allow the contents to quickly turn sour if not topped up. Wine was often transported in animal skins (which imparted scents and flavors few would tolerate in wine today). It was typical to add spices, herbs, and resins to wine to mask off flavors and spoilage. Wine has not always been the sophisticated, natural drink it has become. What we think of as wine is comparatively new. Inventing Wine takes the reader on a journey through the history of winemaking with an emphasis on how we got from sour, adulterated wines of little distinction to the highly particular, carefully handled fresh-grape creations we enjoy today.

Serendipitous Art: Loading Dock, Graton (October 9, 2014)

I found this paint-smear composition on a loading dock in Graton, CA. The old warehouse building is now used as artist's studios. It looks like someone was working here.... Unintended art, serendipitous art.

For more unintended art, see my blog Serendipitous Art.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Art I'm Making: September 2014 Collage Work

New collages. These two are further explorations using the raspberry-colored papers I've been making, but also drawing on some of the striated indigo blue papers I've made in Untitled Collage No. 69 (Santa Rosa) above and using the mossy green papers of a few weeks back in Untitled Collage No. 70 (Santa Rosa) below.

Click on the images for larger views. For more, use the Art I'm Making tab to the right or visit my collage and photography website at http://ctalcroft.wix.com/collage-site/ (requires Flash Player).


Visit my studio during the 2014 Sonoma County Art Trails open studios event, Saturday and Sunday, October 11th and 12th and Saturday and Sunday, October 18th and 19th, 2014

Books I'm Reading: Just My Type

We look at letters every day, often all day long. We see them on signs; on computer screens large and small, fixed and mobile; in books, magazines, and newspapers. But more often than not, we ignore their form, choosing instead to concentrate on the meanings they convey--and a good typeface (a good reading typeface, that is, as opposed to a display or advertising typeface) is often praised when it's seen as being "transparent," which is to say that it draws no attention to itself. Just My Type (Gotham Books, 2012) author Simon Garfield is far more sensitive to the shapes of letters.

Garfield takes the reader on a grand tour of typography. The book is an entertaining, often witty look at typefaces--where they come from and what they do for us. You may never look at street signs, billboards, print advertising, or book pages the same way again. Particularly fascinating is the way Garfield puts fonts into historical context. Next time you're watching a movie, you may find yourself looking for examples of lettering set in typefaces that didn't exist at the time of the film's setting--a new dimension in movie error trivia to explore.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Wines I'm Making: Fermentation (September 29, 2014)

I inoculated our pressed Cabernet grapes yesterday, after a four-day cold soak. We picked the grapes on the 24th. This morning, the wine is beginning to bubble a little. The fermentation appears to have begun. The Sangiovese rosé fermentation is now in day four. Having had minor problems with hydrogen sulphide in the past two years I decided to use the yeast nutrients usually recommended (DAP and Fermaid K), although I've never used them in the past. I'm hoping better nutrient availability will prevent hydrogen sulphide problems this year. We'll see.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Wines I'm Making: Harvest 2014 (September 24, 2014)

We picked our grapes on the 24th of September this year, which is about a week to two weeks earlier than usual. The grapes were looking a little dehydrated and rain was threatening. While rain is good for the plants, a heavy rain on soft, ripe skins could have been disastrous and I was worried about mold. With the sugar levels close to optimal anyway, I decided to pick.

The Sangiovese must tested at 22.8 degrees Brix and a pH of 3.47, the Cabernet at 24.5 degrees Brix and a pH of 3.37, both close to ideal, although these are averages of all the grapes in the vineyard. I would like to have let the fruit hang a little longer, but I'm hoping the wine will be at least as good as it usually is--which is not bad at all.

I pressed the Sangiovese grapes on the following morning. I always make a rosé from the Sangiovese. The juice was about 18 hours on the skins, which has been normal. That amount of skin contact typically produces a wine of a pale salmon hue. The Cabernet is still cold soaking (or cool soaking anyway). I usually let the crushed grapes sit for about three days before inoculating with yeast. The Sangiovese fermentation is already underway. As usual, I have used the Epernay yeast for the rosé, the French Red yeast for the Cab. Soon the house will smell like a winery.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Rain: First Appreciable Rain of the Season (September 18, 2014)

There was a little rain overnight. It left 0.1 inches in the rain gauge--not a lot, but it was the first measurable rain of the 2014-2015 rain year, which began on July 1, 2014. We had traces of rain in July and, bizarrely, in August, but not enough to register. So, the 2014-2015 total stands at 0.1 inches as of today.

[Update: Still raining. So far, 0.25 inches as of 5:30PM. The following day we had another 0.3 inches and on the 26th we had yet more rain (0.20), bringing the total for the year to 0.75 inches.]

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Music I'm Listening To: San Francisco Symphony with Leif Ove Andsnes (September 12, 2014)

I attended the Friday, September 12 performance of the San Francisco Symphony. The program included Rossini's overture to La Gazza Ladra, Alternative Energy by Mason Bates, and Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 1. Leif Ove Andsnes was soloist in the Beethoven concerto. Michael Tilson Thomas conducted. The orchestra gave a lively performance of Rossini's very familiar overture (although I would not have been able to name it before I had read the program), getting the evening off to buoyant start before shifting gears to a very modern piece, the Bates, which was composed in 2012.

The program notes say the San Francisco Symphony has done of series of concerts during the past two seasons pairing the music of Mason Bates with pieces by Beethoven, and this was another in that series, but nowhere does it explain why these two composers have been paired. I imagine there is a notional link, but it isn't obvious to me and the program had nothing to say about the juxtaposition, which was a little annoying (the failure to explain was annoying, that is). Personally, I'd rather hear a program of all modern music or all music of whatever period, unless there's some compelling reason to pair two pieces that are very different in style.

Composer Mason Bates wrote an extensive comment on Alternative Energy for the program notes. The piece begins, we are told, on a rural farm in 1896 and takes us to 2222, in Rykjavik, by way of Chicago (in 2012) and Xinjiang Province (in 2112). The piece is described as "an energy symphony" that moves from the cranking of an automobile engine, to sounds of contemporary Chicago, to scenes of a futuristic Chinese energy industry (including a meltdown), and finally to a post-apocalyptic Icelandic rainforest, before ending with "the occasional song of future birds" and "distant tribal voices" that call for fire "our first energy source." A motif played first on the violin (by Associate Concertmaster Nadya Tichman) recurs throughout the piece, often as a violin line, but in other guises as well. The composition includes recorded sounds played back through a surround-sound sound system that were nicely integrated--which is often not the case when electronic and live instrument sounds are used together. Some sections had a clearly Chinese feel (with the violins sounding like an erhu), other sections suggested gamelan music, sometimes the mood was jazzy. There was a cinematic sweep throughout. I thought the piece consistently interesting. I very much enjoyed the performance but didn't feel the need to know the "story" behind it. The audience was very appreciative. The composer appeared on stage to take bows along with conductor Thomas and the orchestra. He seemed very pleased with the performance, which was recorded for possible future release.

After intermission, Leif Ove Andsnes gave a controlled but lively rendition of the Beethoven piano concerto that was very well received by an appreciative audience. The applause lasted long enough to bring Andsnes out again to play two Beethoven bagatelles as an encore. Andsnes looked very sharp in a nicely tailored suit. The quality of the fabric it was cut from was apparent even from the audience (I was seated in the second row and right in front of the piano). The concert was a very nice start to the 2014–2015 season.

(Photograph of Mason Bates by Ryan Shude, courtesy of the San Francisco Symphony website.)

Wines I'm Making: 2014 Harvest Approaches (September 12, 2014)

I did a full sampling of the fruit in our little vineyard on the 12th, the first serious look I've taken at picking the grapes so far this year. The Cabernet vines showed 23.8 Brix at a pH of 3.30, which is fairly close to ideal, but I'm afraid some of the sugar level reflects dehydration rather than full ripeness of the fruit. September 12 is about a month earlier than the usual harvest date. I will continue to monitor the sugar levels. I usually like to pick at about 24-25 Brix with the pH no higher than about 3.5. One theory says that the pH level squared times Brix should ideally be at 260 for picking. My September 12 numbers yield 259--so technically ready, but I will wait at least another week, perhaps two, unless the sugar or pH levels seem to be rising precipitously.

The Sangiovese grapes look a little less ripe, showing 20.8 Brix and a pH of 3.44. I usually like to pick the grapes for the rosé we make from the Sangiovese at about 22 Brix with the pH as low as possible. So, as with the Cabernet, I'll be monitoring the grapes over the coming week or two to see how things are progressing.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Art I'm Making: More Collages (September 2-3)

In the past week I've completed a couple more collages. Untitled Collage No. 67 (Santa Rosa) shown at the top uses more of the raspberry colored papers I've recently made but also incorporates bits and pieces leftover from older work.

BelowUntitled Collage No. 68 (Santa Rosa) uses a piece of green paper with graphite scribbling on it as well as some deep blue papers and a scrap of dark blue mono-printed paper that involved scraping into the paint on the glass with different tools to create lines of various sizes. These two were completed on September 2 and September 3.

Click on the images for larger views. For more, use the Art I'm Making tab to the right or visit my collage and photography website at http://ctalcroft.wix.com/collage-site/ (requires Flash Player).


Visit my studio during the 2014 Sonoma County Art Trails open studios event, Saturday and Sunday, October 11th and 12th and Saturday and Sunday, October 18th and 19th, 2014



Books I'm Reading: The Jim Stringer Mysteries by Andrew Martin

I'm not a fan of mysteries. Most mysteries seem hopelessly contrived. Usually my reaction to reading or trying to read one is annoyance, but Andrew Martin's Jim Stringer--a reluctant detective who really wants to be a steam locomotive driver--was a pleasure to follow through the four Jim Stringer mysteries so far published. The last one (Murder at Deviation Junction) first appeared in 2007, however, which makes me wonder if there will be more. I hope there are. Martin has captured the mood of his chosen setting (England in the early 1900s) so masterfully that reading the books feels like time travel--with a railway-obsessed young man as Cicerone. The heavy use of railway jargon, particularly in the first book (The Necropolis Railway), is confusing at first, but once you get used to Jim Stringer's language and settle in to the backstage railway world he inhabits, the stories are compelling.

Art I'm Making: Yet More Collages (August 2014)

Visiting a friend recently, I sampled some of his favorite chocolate bars, exotically flavored with green tea, cardamom, and other ingredients. They come in velvety paper wrappers that I just couldn't resist using in a couple of new collages. These are Untitled Collage No. 65 (Santa Rosa) and Untitled Collage No. 66 (Santa Rosa). The wrinkled red paper and the orange paper are from the chocolate bars. I finished these two at the end of August.

Click on the images for larger views. For more, use the Art I'm Making tab to the right or visit my collage and photography website at http://ctalcroft.wix.com/collage-site/ (requires Flash Player).


Visit my studio during the 2014 Sonoma County Art Trails open studios event, Saturday and Sunday, October 11th and 12th and Saturday and Sunday, October 18th and 19th, 2014

Books I'm Reading: The Nobility of Failure


Originally published in 1975, Morris’s influential The Nobility of Failure was recently re-released by Kurodahan Press in a new paperback edition, making it readily available again. I’ve just finished it. The book still reads well after 40 years.

Morris’s central contention, supported by ten extended essays, is that throughout their history the Japanese have been so deeply drawn to sincerity of purpose that outcomes are virtually irrelevant in constructing hero stories—that failure may actually be preferable to success in a model Japanese hero, so long as the hero pursues his cause with sincerity. Morris starts by reaching back into prehistory to identify the legendary Yamato Takeru as the nation’s ur-hero, whose trajectory he sees as a kind of template for the pattern of initial success and subsequent downfall the author presents as common to the heroes of the essays comprising the bulk of the book.

Morris makes his case well, but the suggestion that Japan is unique in this regard may overstep the evidence, at least a little bit. The general pattern of admiration for a doomed underdog is more widespread than the book’s thesis admits, even if heroes in Japan seem to come to their end more than usually frequently by their own hand. Other nations have similarly revered failed heroes, some of whom have been posthumously elevated to near-mythical status. Great Britain has more than its fair share—Boudica, arctic explorer Scott, T.E. Lawrence. Still, the combined effect of reading the stories here of figures who rose then fell back to Earth in a futile struggle, suggests convincingly that the Japanese have an especially deep sympathy for this type of character, even if the author makes no attempt to examine why that might be so. Morris’s writing is clear, precise, and highly readable, in places having the sweep of a novel, despite being aimed as much at the specialist as at the general reader. The book is entertaining and it retains its appeal as a well-written piece of historical psychology that offers still-useful insights into Japan’s cultural history.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Art I'm Making: New Collages (August-September 2014)

I continue to make collages at a fairly steady pace--roughly finishing one a week. Here are Untitled Collage No. 63 (Santa Rosa) and Untitled Collage No. 64 (Santa Rosa). Both use new papers I've created in raspberry and dark blue-black colors with a lot of striping and scratching done with a cake decorating tool and the back end of a paint brush.

Click on the images for larger views. For more, use the Art I'm Making tab to the right or visit my collage and photography website at http://ctalcroft.wix.com/collage-site/ (requires Flash Player).


Visit my studio during the 2014 Sonoma County Art Trails open studios event, Saturday and Sunday, October 11th and 12th and Saturday and Sunday, October 18th and 19th, 2014

Wines I'm Making: Grapes Coming Along Nicely (September 3, 2014)

We're probably still several weeks to harvest, but I tested a couple of berries on the vines today, just to see how things were progressing. A single Sangiovese berry measured 21 degrees Brix, a cabernet berry 20 degrees Brix. In a couple of weeks I'll start taking sample berries from clusters all around our little vineyard to get an idea of the average ripeness of the fruit, but above 20 degrees Brix at this date suggests harvest may be on the early side this year. I like to pick the Sangiovese (for making rosé) at about 23 Brix, the Cabernet at 24-25 Brix. Depending on the weather a one degree increase in sweetness can take a week or more. We may be picking toward the end of September rather than in the second week of October, which has been typical. 2014 will be our 11th vintage. Soon I'll bottle the 2013 Cabernet, which will give us ten years of winemaking in bottle. Time for a vertical tasting soon.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Cocktail Glass Collection: The 500 Club at Night

I've been posting photos of neon cocktail glass signs in front of bars off and on again for about a year now--a low-key project I indulge in just for fun. I've photographed the big sign in front of San Francisco's 500 Club on Valencia street before, but only during the day--until recently. I happened to drive by the place at night. The sign is pretty spectacular when lit up. The liquid in the glass sparkles as the white bulbs there flash on and off.

To see others in this series of photographs, click on the "cocktail glass collection" label. 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Serendipitous Art: Fallen Sign at the Airport

At the outdoor arrivals area at San Jose Airport I found this intriguing pattern on a concrete wall. After some thought, I decided there was probably once a sign here that fell down or was removed. The pattern of squiggles was probably made by the adhesive that once held it up. Unintended art, serendipitous art.

For more unintended art, see my blog Serendipitous Art.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Tidbits--RIP: Robin Williams and Lauren Bacall

I was sorry to hear yesterday that Robin Williams had committed suicide. A sad surprise--but what a shock to hear now that Lauren Bacall died today. One of the all-time greats. To Have and Have Not is the greatly entertaining film that it is in large part because of Bacall (and Bogart and Hoagy Carmichael). What a shame. They say celebrity deaths come in threes. Perhaps the recent death of another Hollywood star, James Garner, makes this the third already.

Art I'm Making: New Collages (August 3, 2014)

Two new collages--these finished last week. Untitled Collage No. 61 and Untitled Collage No. 62. The first is rather gestural as it uses mono-printed elements that were made by scribbling in wet paint on a sheet of glass and then transferring the paint to paper by pressing the paper against the glass.

The second is rather different, as the composition is dominated by the two rows of partial indigo circles at the top. Still, all the elements in this piece are likewise pieces of paper made by mono-printing with acrylic paint, although there are a few lines made with graphite as well.

Click on the images for larger views. For more, use the Art I'm Making tab to the right or visit my collage and photography website at http://ctalcroft.wix.com/collage-site/ (requires Flash Player).

Visit my studio during the 2014 Sonoma County Art Trails open studios event, Saturday and Sunday, October 11th and 12th and Saturday and Sunday, October 18th and 19th, 2014

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

First Home-grown Tomatoes of the Year (2014)

We've been enjoying cherry tomatoes for several weeks now (popping them like candy before breakfast has become a habit), but today I harvested the first full-sized tomatoes from the eight plants we have in the garden this year--mostly heirloom varieties. These pictured are Brandywines and a couple of Dragon's Eyes. They will have been consumed by the time you read this--probably in the form of a caprese salad.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Art I'm Making: New Collages (July 2014)

While it goes without saying that quality is more important than quantity when it comes to art, there's something to be said for establishing a regular work routine. It was in the middle of July 2013 that I made my first collage. It happened that I finished about one new collage a week in the following weeks. I decided that it would be good to try to maintain that pace, so that I would have 52 finished works a year later. I've been able to do that. In fact, I've exceeded that pace. In this, the last week of July 2014, I should have finished 54 collages, but I have finished 60, and here are Untitled Collage No. 58 (Santa Rosa), Untitled Collage No. 59 (Santa Rosa), and Untitled Collage No. 60 (Santa Rosa).

Click on the images for larger views. For more, use the Art I'm Making tab to the right or visit my collage and photography website at http://ctalcroft.wix.com/collage-site/ (requires Flash Player).

Visit my studio during the 2014 Sonoma County Art Trails open studios event, Saturday and Sunday, October 11th and 12th and Saturday and Sunday, October 18th and 19th, 2014


Monday, July 28, 2014

Places I'm Visiting: Sacramento

Made a short trip to Sacramento recently, mainly to visit the Crocker Art Museum again, but took the opportunity also to visit the old Governor's Mansion in the city. The large Victorian house was built in 1877 not for the governor but for Albert and Clemenza Gallatin. Gallatin was a partner in a large hardware firm in Sacramento and had become very wealthy supplying the railways and men who had become rich in the gold and silver businesses, among others.

The $5 tour is worth the time (about an hour). Tickets are sold in what used to be the stables and carriage house, an impressive building in itself (pictured here). Many details date back to the original construction, including some of the original plantings (the palm trees and a couple of very large camellias), but the house has undergone quite a number of modifications that reflect decades of use by the first families of California, many of which were made in the 1950s and 1960s. The result is an interesting blend of late 19th century architecture with bathrooms and a large kitchen brought up to date in a style that's familiar from my childhood. The kitchen looks a lot my grandmother's kitchen did. Thirteen governors used the building as a residence over a period of 64 years from 1903, when the state purchased the structure. It's still used occasionally for special events.

Special exhibits currently at the Crocker Museum of Art include a show of quilts "Workt by Hand: Hidden Labor and Historical Quilts" from the collection of the Brooklyn Museum (through September 1) and a show of African American art from the collection of the Smithsonian Institution's Smithsonian American Art Museum "African American Art: Harlem Renaissance, Civil Rights Era, and Beyond" (through September 21).


Some of the quilts were magnificent. The curators have hung most examples on the walls, but several are shown on period beds and a number are placed on horizontal supports positioned so that the wall behind the quilt can be painted with the outline of a headboard, allowing the viewer to easily imagine how the quilt would have looked in use. The oldest date from the early 1800s, the most recent are post-WWII work, but the majority are from the mid-1800s. A large number of styles and techniques are represented. Particularly impressive were a large patriotic quilt using reverse appliqué, a fabulously flower-embroidered crazy quilt, a beautiful Rob Peter to Pay Paul quilt in red and white, a large Whig rose quilt (detail shown), and a number of "album quilts"--quilts made cooperatively, with a number of people creating panels later sewn together to form a finished piece. Accompanying materials include popular magazines showing how quilting has been interpreted differently in different periods. Particularly interesting were brief discussions on wall panels of the work from a feminist point of view, raising issues of authorship and highlighting the tendency of curators to see abstract quilts as a precursor of modern abstract painting, usually relegating the quilts (made mostly by women) to a subordinate position and exalting the paintings (made mostly by men), positioning them as the culmination of a trend.

The African American art show is notable for a very large collection of excellent photographic work and a range of paintings from the mid-20th century by less familiar artists (less familiar to me, anyway). Among the photographers, I was impressed by the work of New York-born Roy DeCarava (1919-2009), a name I'd never heard before (but should have, considering the excellence of his work). His prints, mostly of street scenes in New York, are dark and atmospheric on the whole but characterized by starkly contrasting details--islands of light in a sea of black. I especially liked "Two Women, Mannequin's Hand (1950). The show includes work by some familiar names--notably Gordon Parks (1912-2006) and James VanDerZee (1886-1983) but mostly by people new to me--Marilyn Nance, Robert McNeil, Earlie Hudnall Jr., Tony Gleaton, and Roland L. Freeman, among them. Among the paintings, A couple of pieces by Benny Andrews are striking. There are two large collages by Romare Bearden, and I especially enjoyed a couple of paintings by William H. Johnson (1887-1967) in an almost primitive style. Well worth the time, especially for the photographs. Finished the day with a very good dinner at The Waterboy.
Related Posts with Thumbnails