Saturday, June 30, 2012

Wines I'm Making: Grapes Coming Along Nicely (June 30, 2012)

This year was the first year in several that we had almost no rain during flowering of the grape vines. As a result, fruit set has been good. Tomorrow is only July 1st--with at least three months to go before harvest--but the grapes are already looking well-formed. The photo shows a cluster on one of our Sangiovese vines.

Art I'm Looking At/Music I'm Listening To: VineArt 2012, in Santa Rosa's South A Street Arts District

Santa Rosa's South A Street Arts District is worth a visit any time. I don't how many artists have studios on A St. at the south end of Julliard Park, but there are more than enough to spend a satisfying hour or two looking around, and, at the intersection of A St. and Sebastopol Ave., is Jeremiah's Photo Corner, a friendly shop I go to for photo supplies. But last night I went to attend VineArt 2012, a gallery open house with wineries pouring some of their wines, food vendors, and music in the streets.

I went to look at art, but stayed to listen to music. I have to say the music was as good as some of the art. I particularly like the photography of Barbara Elliot who continues to make quirky and compelling images of dolls and mannequins. Many of these are Polaroid transfers, which create an air of distance and nostalgia. A young artist who calls himself Mr. Salazar was exhibiting posters (some originally made for Santa Rosa's The Imaginists theater collective) that are digital collages juxtaposing odd assortments of images taken from various sources--everything from the Rubik's Cube to old paper tags appear as elements in the little worlds Mr. Salazar creates. I was mostly deeply impressed, however, by the music I heard.

As I walked down to Jeremiah's Photo Corner to say hello to Jeremiah I did the aural equivalent of a double take as my brain made the connection between the deeply authentic blues I was hearing and the man folded around a guitar, playing on the corner there (Dave Burke). At first I thought I was hearing a recording--"Cryin' Won't Help You." The quiet but relentless beat behind the guitar produced with a bass drum pedal working against an old suitcase and augmented by a foot-operated tambourine immediately reminded me of the likes of Jack Owens and Eugene Powell--and later, R.L. Burnside, when Burke launched into "Old Black Hattie." The real blues are gone, despite the knee-jerk protestation "the blues will never die" that the old bluesmen seemed to fall back on when asked to say something about their art. The deep blues Robert Palmer wrote about, in particular, was the product of a society in America's Deep South that no longer exists. A lot of blues musicians today think they know what they're doing, but few seem to approach the balance of raw feeling, technical skill, and driving forward motion that makes real blues music compelling. Remarkably, Mr. Burke comes very close to achieving the feat. The whole evening would have been worth it just to hear this music. But there was more. 

In a back corner of the gallery buildings an unlikely ensemble fronted by two women playing trombones and a man in a hat playing a giant, bleating saxophone (a bass saxophone maybe?) created an entirely different mood. I never found out who these people were. Shortly afterward, as I was about to leave the event, I heard the sound of Klezmer music coming from South A St.--an accordion, a wistful fiddle played by a dark-haired beauty, a clarinet, and a soprano sax there were weaving magic. A small crowd had formed. Some were dancing in the street. Passersby good-naturedly danced as they slipped through the people who stood listening or, just as often, they stopped and momentarily became part of the crowd themselves. The accordion player switched to stand-up bass and the young man playing the sax ducked under a battered sousaphone as a new tune began. For a while, he played both instruments. There was soulful ballad-singing in a raspy voice. There was a song sung in French. There was singing in Russian or Yiddish. I ended up staying until the end.

The performers told me that some of them were members of a group called Church Marching Band. Others seemed to belong to another group. I wish I could tell you their names. They were wonderful to listen to. From what I gather, some of them do a bit of impromptu performing around town--an article I read on line describes them being kicked out of Santa Rosa Plaza (our downtown mall) for doing a little concert without permission, playing all the while--noble behavior we need more of. Why should spontaneous art require permission? This is the kind of activity that makes people happy, that enriches communities, that attracts people and makes public spaces vibrant. Serendipity. It's the sort of activity that makes Santa Rosa seem like a real city from time to time. 


Thursday, June 28, 2012

Art I'm Looking At: Exhibits at the San Francisco Airport (Jun 28, 2012)

Visiting the San Francisco Airport is always a pleasure. It's not just an airport, it's a museum. There's always something worthwhile to see. The shows are generally small, but always top notch. I was out there yesterday and enjoyed seeing a collection of "pillows" and headrests--made of unlikely materials such as wood, woven bamboo, and porcelain--entitled "Sleeping Beauties: Headrests from the Fowler Museum at UCLA;" a collection of beautifully crafted household items, many of them in silver, called "Form, Function, and Beauty: Design Variations in Metlawork from the Margo Grant Walsh Collection"(through end-December 2012); and a fabulous group of 1950s and 1960s Italian motorbikes, called "Moto Bellissima." The motorbikes are all beautifully restored to show off richly colored paint (mostly red) and a lot of dazzling chrome tubing (through the end of July).

The little Aviation Museum was closed for an event, but a collection of remarkably fine aircraft models was on display, visible from outside (all the work of one man, Jim Lind). The models in the exhibit are a small fraction of his collection of some 1,600 models in 1:72 scale--which makes a Boeing 747 about a yard long. The show focuses on aircraft that flew transoceanic routes and features a number of nicely rendered flying boats (through the end of July). See the SFO Museum website for details. Always something to see....

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Found Art: Iron Grating, San Francisco (June 24, 2012)

A little symphony in shades of rust. I saw this iron grating in the street recently on a trip to San Francisco. Curious about the manufacturer, I looked up Neenah Foundry. The company still exists. It's been making municipal castings since 1872, in Neenah, Wisconsin.

For more found art, see my blog
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